A poor man's Oblivion. This description may seem a bit damning, but it puts the game in awfully fine company when you consider the sheer greatness of Bethesda's role-playing game opus. Reality Pump's RPG certainly has it where it counts in the aspiration department, even if, largely due to some design quirks, the first-time RPG developer can't quite match the gold standard established by Oblivion last year. With that said, the epic scale of the game, along with outstanding character development, free-flowing action, and good quest variety, make it a worthwhile play for any RPG aficionado.
In an exact reversal of the problems that Oblivion players on the PC griped about in 2006, Two Worlds' biggest issue on the Xbox 360 is its PC-centric design. This is actually a welcome surprise in some ways, as PC RPGs typically boast more depth than their console counterparts when it comes to storyline, character creation, and sheer scope of the gameworld (and that is certainly the case here). However, this focus is a big problem in other respects.
Riding a horse sure looks majestic, but the damn nags are about as easy to control as a unicycle on a tightrope.
For example, everything about the interface is geared for a close-up monitor. Even on a large HDTV, it's nearly impossible either to read the minimap on the main adventure screen or to determine at a glance what the icons are on the big map when you pull it up to full size. This can be a serious problem, as the gameworld is so huge and the number of points of interest so tremendous that it's easy to get lost or backtrack for miles without realizing that you got turned around somehow. Text is so minuscule that it might as well be the fine print on a mortgage. Furthermore, the inventory is a clunky affair in which you have to scroll across all of your items every time you want to use a potion or swap out a weapon. You can pretty readily tell that the whole thing was designed with a mouse, keyboard, and monitor in mind, not a gamepad and TV. Regardless, you do grow to tolerate these drawbacks after an hour or two of squinting. The game beyond the interface is worth the eyestrain, and if you happen to be playing on the PC, you won't run into any such issues.
The story is stock-standard for this sort of RPG. The backdrop deals with a war in the land of Antaloor between man and orc that resulted in the imprisonment of the orcish god Aziraal in a magical tomb. When the game opens, 300 years have passed and a dwarven mining expedition has possibly uncovered the big guy's final resting place, which doesn't bode well for relations between humans and orcs. You're a mercenary just trying to get by, one who is more concerned with rescuing his missing sister than saving the world or even looking into what's got the orcs all riled up as of late. As with most open world RPGs, you can dive straight into this main storyline and take on all of its quests, or freely wander the world while helping people and killing monsters for fun and profit. It's important to note that there is no level-balancing or similar gimmicks present here, which means that you need to finish a fair number of side quests to gain the experience and equipment needed to send Aziraal and his orc pals packing.
So the plot isn't going to set the world on fire, although the personal angle with your sister and the overall character design and development are somewhat innovative. There are no classes here, so after creating your male protagonist (there is no option to roll up a member of the fairer sex) and customizing little things like hair color and arm length, you're left to place the attribute and skill points awarded with level increases wherever you want. If you want a fighter, for example, you have to buff strength and vitality stats, and increase scrapping skills like damage and critical-hit chance. For a mage, you go with willpower and magical skills such as necromancy and the four elements. Or you could try a jack-of-all-trades and distribute points all over the place so you can whip out a sword or a spell depending on the circumstances.
There are no restrictions when it comes to the use of weapons, magical items, spells, and the like, at least in comparison with the more closed D&D-style systems. Nevertheless, most hardware does have attribute requirements that limit the really good weapons to fighter types, the really good magical staffs to mage types, and so on. On the other hand, all characters can use the alchemy pot that forms half of the inventory screen. Items like crystals and plants can be gathered throughout the game and brewed into health potions and various other elixirs that can buff your stats, or even add poison or flame damage to weapons. Overall, this is a nice extra touch that opens up the game and lets even a hardcore fighter play mage every now and then.
Enjoy that mead, little orc. It will be your last.
Fewer options are available when it comes to developing your character in the game itself, because NPC interactions are pretty blah. While it's refreshing that you're an out-for-himself mercenary instead of the usual RPG saint or dog-kicking villain, there are few choices in conversations. You always hit up passersby with the same bland questions depending on your location, and you always get the same canned responses. When being asked to undertake a quest, your choices generally include only "Yes, how much?" and "No thanks, not interested." At least the NPCs are designated with colored icons, which means that all you have to do is look for green to know if they have anything of value to say before you even start flapping your gums. Conversations also get right to the point, and can be skipped through quickly if you've heard it all before. All lines are delivered by voice actors, which adds some life to the chatter. Quality is all over the place, ranging from cheesy to dull monotone. You're guaranteed to get some chuckles out of the action-hero quips of the lead. Lines like "Say hello to death!" and sarcastic comments about the weather when it rains don't seem entertaining on paper, but the bombastic delivery is so hilarious that they work in spite of themselves.
Combat in Two Worlds is similarly straightforward. The third-person camera (you can switch to first-person on the PC, but only when you don't have any weapons equipped) allows for quick, button-mashing action that doesn't require a great deal of thought. Melee fighters can take advantage of combo attacks, although battles generally require nothing more than hammering on the left trigger as quickly as possible until the bad guys fall down. The magic system is just as basic, with a default attack that functions similarly to the melee option, and spells that can be quickly cast with cards. But even though battles are simplistic, they're far from easy. The only way to succeed when fighting on the medium or hard difficulty settings is to do a lot of dodging and running away, and to time your assaults to land in-between enemy swipes. Of course, considering that the game features a lot of combat, this sort of futzing around gets annoying fast. It's a lot more sensible to turn the difficulty setting to easy (which is still very challenging) and not deal with this dart-and-dodge fighting. Even then, you'll still get killed quite a bit. However, this isn't a hassle, given that you respawn immediately at one of the many healing shrines scattered throughout Antaloor.