Two Worlds has a lot to live up to especially when it’s a game that has a number of similarities with the hugely successful Elderscrolls IV: Oblivion. Whilst Oblivion was well received across the board and garnered much praise as an early game in the Xbox 360’s life, Two Worlds on the other hand is over a year, almost two years down the line and so is it much to expect a better or improved gaming experience?
Two Worlds thrusts you into the shoes of a no name character with a deep history. There’s a big secret from within his family and somehow this has imbued him and his sister with some uncanny resistance to evil. The story begins with you assuming the role of this lone sibling who after losing his sister tasks himself with her rescue. However all is not what it seems as you fulfil your mercenary role because as the plot unfolds you are thrust into a world full of orcs, monsters and other abominations of evil.
On the surface, Two Worlds is a third person free roaming adventure game where you are able to travel the vast lands on foot or on horseback and if you are not a purist then you can use a teleport system to get around. At first the similarities with Oblivion are quite remarkable as things do look pretty similar (although in this case not as nice looking). The first order of the day is choosing your character skin, although the options here are very limited. It’s a welcome inclusion to the game but really feels somewhat paltry considering there really isn’t much to do here and especially as you will be looking at your character’s face a lot during the many conversations with other people you meet throughout your adventure.
So with this distraction out of the way you begin your adventure and are greeted with what has to be some of the worst voice acting in a game for a long time and is most certainly on par with Resident Evil on the Playstation. There’s simply no true emotion here and is hardly fitting to the opening of a supposedly epic adventure. Sure, you can perhaps overlook the voice acting as in reality it’s the gameplay that peaks your interest from the offset.
So you have created a character of sorts (mine was an archer/ranger type creation) and now you are free to roam the lands as you choose and it’s here that the basic formula of gameplay comes to light. Like any good adventure game you are able to talk to the various inhabitants of settlements and towns maybe picking up a side quest along the way and fulfilling elements that are part of a main storyline of which is optional to a point. You can roam the open lands and attack or get attacked by some overly powerful creatures and when I say attack I really mean it as in most cases you might happen across a lone brown bear, who on his own is no push over; yet during this battle your antics might also attract a group of bandits or even worse a group of bandits, some boars and a pack of wolves. The point is, if you stray too far away from your first encounter you are going to attract other creatures and so you end up with a mass of enemies all vying for your blood. I found it quite amusing although at first my underpowered character was no match for any of them, even for the lone brown bear!
Death in Two Worlds is handled reasonably well and at first you are going to be dying a lot; perhaps it was my over confident nature or the fact that my character had some tough words during conversation that gave me a false sense of security, I don’t know? Often I would bite off more than I could chew and with a lack of true understanding of the game during my early hours play meant that my death was inevitable. When you die you are simply teleported to the nearest shrine which not only refills your health completely but can be used when you are alive to top up your health rather than wasting precious potions. I actually conducted some of the tougher battles near one of these shrines (which kind of felt like cheating – ahem) which enabled me to continually boost my health every time I was hit. It’s a shame the developers didn’t see this coming and counter it by allowing enemies to regain health also. I guess with games of this sort there’s always going to be a requirement of self control from the player.
One thing that really bugged me was the fact that you could decide to play the chicken card and just run away from encounters and whilst this is not a heroic act by any means, the fact of the matter remains that enemies will actually give up the chase if you are quick enough. This is fine and helps the game along nicely because who wants to just continually die during each encounter when your character is such a low level half wit? However the process is flawed because at some moments I would be literally a few meters away and they would just stand there confused whilst I filled them with arrows or they would turn around and go back to where they came from. It’s as if there was an invisible wall preventing them from crossing and with me on the other side standing there giving them the middle finger and sticking my tongue out at them or better yet pulling down my pants and cheekily flashing my dangly bits at them!
I found the combat to be a bit of a chore and whilst I did dabble in some swordplay I found standing back and firing arrows at enemies far more entertaining. The hit detection seemed a bit off to me and there really weren’t that many moves to pull off so it made the sword based combat rather meticulously boring. Using a bow was better but then the unpredictable lock on feature was a pain to work with as you really needed to lock on to guarantee the hit. However when presented with a number of targets I could not see any way to cycle through them and so had to deal damage to all targets rather than reducing their numbers one by one as you would expect to be able to do. The lock on also becomes a pain considering as an archer type character you need some distance between you and your target, which means a quick u turn after running away. Sadly the transition wasn’t smooth and resulted in many missed opportunities (my character not locking on and facing some distant tree instead) and some damage, even death on occasion as a result.
Two Worlds features magic as well and whilst my character used basic spells this seemed a lot more fluid. As I levelled up more and was able to summon a Hell demon; this helped a little as the demon would distract targets at the back of the pack. Sadly the AI is such that enemies are programmed to attack each other but it seems only if they strike one other by mistake. So the wild animals obviously had a taste for my blood and spread the word around the animal kingdom to “go for the low levelled cloaked guy with the bow and arrows”. My Hell Demon companion was only so much use as the enemies would ignore him completely with their bloodlust for my hide being far more important than the hellish creature slashing their tail off!
On a brighter note and several hours into the game, my character began to come into his own. After collecting much loot from completing quests and general selling of items I was able to purchase some better gear. Couple this with the fact that my character was developing nicely level wise and things surely turned around. I no longer feared the creatures of the night and became a power house of anger, unleashing my earlier frustrations on the same enemies who jeered and laughed at me (figuratively) early on. Now I was able to kill silver wolves with one hit from my bow and bears became a push over. I was happy and glad that the tables had turned but it took hours of play time to get to this point. That’s not to say all enemies became a push over because that’s not the case – just those early creatures that annoyed the hell out of me got their just desserts.
Taking a look at the menu screen for a moment, I was left dumbfounded for a while as the game is about as user friendly as reading a white paper on advanced quantum physics by Dr L. Argebrain. The whole questing seemed messed up because the map screen was so awkward to use and the in game compass seemed to display coloured dots that related to who gave the quest and quest objectives but in a totally flawed manner. You see, the dots would warp around the compass and only properly highlight if you were close to them and with no way of putting quest markers down meant that you might end up running around in circles. In a nutshell the compass and quest descriptions were so vague that at times it was very hard to know where and what to do next and only through general exploration did I stumble across the relevant areas and thus complete the quests. Ok not all of them were this bad but a lot were and it caused much frustration. I can imagine the impatient simply giving up and returning the game.
There are some things that are unique to Two Worlds and that is being able to upgrade weapons and armour by combining them with other bits of armour or weapons and various items to give them special properties such as fire damage. This was an interesting concept but I didn’t fully understand it and was content merely adding extra properties to my awesome bows; poison damage 20% for the win! I was also able to mix various herbs and items together to create new potions and whilst this is nothing new it was nice to be able to have that level of depth in the game. Again I didn’t spend too much time with this aspect as to me this was more suited to a mage type character.
The levelling system is also somewhat different in that you level by gaining experience as with any role playing game but you are able to distribute points to four facets of your character. Dexterity, Health, Strength and Will power (I think I got those names right but you get the gist). What is more, you gain skill points for completing tasks which can then be spent on various skill upgrades that suit your play style and character. I maxed out all the bow related skills fairly quickly although there are others that can be gained by learning them from various trainers scattered around the land.
Graphically there are two words for Two Worlds – “Half” and “Arsed”. The frame rate is perhaps the worst I’ve seen in any Xbox 360 game to date and if developers feel that the average gamer needs to clear their Xbox 360 cache to get the most from the game then that’s merely an excuse in my book for shoddy programming. Ok for some of you I might have lost you there. Frame-rate issues in laymen’s terms means how smoothly the game moves. A good example is when you pan the camera to view your surroundings; in Two Worlds this is jerky and feels really unnatural. Other complaints are with the draw distance (how far you can see ahead) which was incredibly poor especially as objects, people and vegetation would suddenly appear out of no-where just as you approached them. There were also plenty of poor looking details in the vegetation which although varied just didn’t have enough flair for me. Although I must say the shadows were better implemented and gave some much needed atmosphere to the rather dull locales.
The character models were fairly decent but with no proper movements to the non playable characters meant that everything felt forced rather than natural as you would expect it to be. The character animations during combat were also pretty basic and nothing to truly inspire or make you feel like you were in an epic battle. What also got my goat was the constant loading pause when travelling across open lands. It interrupted the flow of the game and made navigation in conjuction with the poor frame rate even worse.
Back to the voice acting which for the most part was as dull as the graphics. It almost felt like they had grabbed some folks from the street and offered them cups of coffee where in return that they were allowed to read some lines into a microphone. Ok, that’s probably and exaggeration but it really did feel like the voice actors knew the game was poor and acted accordingly. There were so few good performances that it really killed the immersion factor for me especially as the main character sounded like such an emotionless cretin and it was his voice that was heard the most. I can see now why some games make the leading character say nothing at all. However I guess credit where it is due that they tried to give him a voice, albeit a poor one.
The music whilst grand and probably had a lot lavished upon it, failed to inspire me at all and was mere background fodder. In fact the music mix by default was set really low and I guess this could be an admission from the developers that the music is monotonous and uninspiring?
On a plus point I did enjoy the moments where on the fly my character would make comments about things going on around him such as when facing off against some deadly orcs he would say ” they look like the in- laws” or words to that effect. Other sound effects were reasonable and as you expect there are ambient sounds to add a little more life to proceedings such as birds singing and the sound of thunder and rain.
Two Worlds is no short game that can be completed in a few hours and in this respect has lots to do and explore. After my 12 hour stint I hardly scratched the surface as each new settlement I came across had people in need of my assistance and this is also after not really spending much time with the main storyline questing. Two Worlds also features online play where two players can join forces and tackle parts of the game in tandem; and whilst I didn’t actually play online even though the co-op sounds fun but from other staff members who have played they have reported that unless you are playing online with a next door neighbour it’s as “laggy” as hell!
What really killed the longevity of the game for me and a stark realisation that Two Worlds just wasn’t appealing to me any more was the fact that I committed one minor crime in a major city (where there were lots of active quests). This resulted in the guards chasing me down and then presenting me with several options to bribe or pay a hefty price. I opted to offer the guard 15% of the fine (which was around 5K) to turn a blind eye; however he refused and then all hell broke loose. It seems that once this happens the entire town for the rest of the game will attack you on sight and this includes important quest characters as well as guards. There is no way to reverse this although I’m told from other players that by killing the entire town and then using a resurrect spell can reverse it. This really irked me and made my will to play on diminish. This is poor game design at best and considering I ran away from the town hoping I would be able to return and bribe or pay the fine later on; my save file was over written as I adventured elsewhere in the game and so there was no turning back. With no options to do anything about this I can see many people who want to complete as many quests as possible (like myself) simply give up on the game. There will probably be a patch to fix this issue but it’s a terrible oversight and just one of a long line of flaws the game has. So, the question remains, the longevity is basically how long you are going to endure rubbish such as this? Some people might give up after only one hour playtime when presented with such bad design.
My experiences with Two Worlds has been mixed considering there have been times where I’ve gotten into the role and gained some enjoyment from my adventures; however the serious gameplay flaws as well as technical aspects that really should have been ironed out prior to release have somewhat cast a huge dark cloud over the game. In my opinion Two Worlds should never have been released on Xbox 360 in its current state and is not worthy of spending money on. If you are a gamer who has played Oblivion to death and its expansions and are looking for a similar experience then by all means Two Worlds might appeal to you but for any one else I would recommend you avoid like the plague. Two Worlds is like the ugly sister of Oblivion except worse and although it tries to capture the imagination of the player, the steep learning curve coupled with poor graphics and serious glitches totally kills what could have been an enlightening adventure game. I’m going to assume that only the most die hard adventure gamers will defend the game and overlook the faults. I was told on a message board and I quote “this game is fun for people that use common sense.” my reply was in agreement that those gamers would find fun by using their common sense and not playing the game!