Being about a little over a year late ot the party, the original version was for sale for less than the cost of a dinner at the local Red Lobster and being curious, I picked up a copy of Reality Pump’s RPG, Two Worlds. I know the Epic Edition came out this year, but I wanted to try out the first version of the game and see just what all of the bad press might have been about.
Two Worlds isn’t quite that bad, but it isn’t all that great, either. The problem is that you have to put up with a lot of what it does wrong before it gets marginally better, but that’s like asking someone to enjoy beating their head against a wall before going numb.
After tooling around character creation options to change the look of your male-only hero, you’re plunged into the land of Antaloor, apparently on the run with your sister who dresses like Elvira and is promptly kidnapped after the hero turns their back for only a moment. The quest to find her soon wraps the player up in a conspiracy of evil doers along with a legend of a dead god and his missing corpse. It’s nothing that RPG veterans haven’t seen before, but I wanted to see where it was going to go. A dead god? Orcs on the warpath? It could have been exciting.
The game gives the player a lot to work with on the surface. The magic system is based on finding cards that can be added to a spellbook and each one can then be placed in quick slots for easy use as long as your character has the mojo to weave their power. Booster cards can also improve your spells with a variety of limited effects, such as making them stronger or buffs last longer. Weapons and armor can also be upgraded, as long as matching items can be found, by simply dropping them on top of each other in your inventory, miraculously merging them into an even better version complete with any attributes that they might carry over.
Leveling won’t improve any of your hero’s core statistics but they are awarded points instead that can be used to shape them. Skills are also given their own set of points that can be spent in mastering spell categories or certain abilities such as lockpicking. Other skills have to be purchased from trainers that are hiding out in the wilderness. And if you make a mistake in doling out these precious points, as long as you have the gold, particular specialists can roll back nearly everything for you to reassign those worthless horse riding points into something more useful…such as Necromancy.
An open world is also laid at the player’s third-person feet for them to explore at their heart’s content, venturing as far as the map can take them. Important places, such as teleporters, cities, and quest locations are also marked for easy reference…most of the time. The visuals aren’t terrible to look at as some areas such as the capital city and towns located out in the frontier look like fantasy miniatures. Quaint medieval flavored towns dot the land with stockade walls protecting villages deeper in the wilderness Weapons and armor change NPC appearances in most cases adding some welcome variety, especially when it comes to outfitting your own hero.
But while the world doesn’t look half bad, what you hear is another matter. Most of the characters in the game are badly lip synced with hammy dialogue, the opening narration for the introductory movie being the first clue that something is wrong. The main character often says things that are amusing if only because of the overly macho delivery of his cheese laden dialogue. Hearing the hero say lines such as “It’s getting hot” whenever trouble starts up as if it were the first time he’d ever seen danger, every time, gets pretty silly the longer you play.
Moving the hero with the keyboard and the mouse for fighting worked out well and I didn’t have to do too much tweaking other than with the quick save options. But while the tools used in managing your hero’s skills and growing inventory of stuff seemed to give the player plenty to play around with, patience should have been listed as a pre-requisite alongside the system requirements.
The installation of the game uses DRM that wants to know where you live. Most other schemes either ask you to punch in a code or merely require an internet connection to talk back to the server and unlock the game, such as with Steam or even SecuROM. The one used for Two Worlds does the same thing, only it asks for your personal information in the form of address, phone number, e-mail address, and other assorted sins that not everyone will feel comfortable in confessing to some strange machine located who knows where…stuff that even EA’s draconian methods don’t ask for. Fortunately, you can punch in fake information, but you might want to provide an e-mail address you can get to for the free item code that it gives back along with a thank you message from the developers. How nice.
The rest of the game is a murderous sequence of trial and error. While most other sandbox RPGs wisely assume that players are not reincarnated wizards and knights by easing them into their killing fields, Two Worlds can quickly kill you for simply wanting to explore. You will die, and die often, even after gaining several levels, from numerous wolves and boars that should be treated like so much fodder for beginning adventurers to sharpen their skills on. And if that’s not enough, ghosts come around at night to exact vengeance for killing them in the first place and if the player doesn’t have a magic weapon, they’d better start running. That last part makes sense, but in Two Worlds, it happens so often that I’m surprised Antaloor doesn’t have some form of anti-ghost league in place. All that is just at the beginning of the game.
It’s probably a good thing, then, that the enemy’s AI isn’t the smartest sword in the rack. My most often used tactic was in running circles around critters, watching them bunch up into mobs, and then picking at them until they die. Spells eventually become incredibly overpowered, especially at higher levels, allowing the player to reflect massive amounts of damage back at the enemy or leech the life from most everything by simply standing nearby…or by running in circles again until they drop dead. These cheap tactics come in handy in the beginning thanks to how deadly simple animals can be to a supposedly seasoned veteran, quickly giving way to near invincibility much later in the game as some kind of reward.
But the mounts will probably kill the experience for most players when they ride out along the road and nearly get thrown off when the animal comes to a complete stop at any random slope. Even if there’s a road ahead and you can walk up it without any problems, your horse may not be able to climb it. If it does, don’t be surprised to see it suddenly go vertical as if ready to launch itself into orbit. It’s as if any slope greater than ten degrees, or some obstacle like a tree branch or lump of soil, create an invisible wall that the horse can’t get over. I traveled through most of the game without using any kind of mount unless I was reasonably sure that the area ahead was fairly flat. Using portable teleports and the existing portal system to get around was far easier.
Two Worlds’ tale is also filled with an incredible number of bizarre assumptions and easily breakable threads, a disastrous combination in a genre that thrives on strong storytelling elements alongside solid gameplay mechanics. Killing a certain character near the beginning of the game immediately tripped the “good ending” cinema which I thought was a complete mistake at first until I slogged through nearly twenty or so more hours and discovered that it really was how the story ends. I apparently avoided all of the busywork by killing the main bad guy by accident. That’s certainly a sandbox worthy achievement, but it doesn’t do much for the rest of the game. In another instance, I entered a restricted area by managing to climb around certain obstacles. I should have been treated as an invader, but instead, the NPCs immediately went into congratulating me for doing several things for them that I never got around to doing in the first place.
Other similar situations are found throughout the game which can screw up how certain quest threads play out when the game fails to compensate. In one side quest, a woman wanted me to find out what happened to her sister in the temple and directed me to someone that might be able to help me get inside. The blacksmith I spoke to said they would help, but only if I could get rid of someone. Being the good guy, I helped that person instead and eventually got into the temple another way. But the blacksmith was stuck on thinking that I was going to still help him after everything else, and the sister still thought I was trying to find a way in when I already slaughtered all of the bad things inside the temple. The games gives the player nothing to work with to explain their situation, unless they decide to simply slaughter the entire city.
There are also a large number of factions that you can also work to improve relationships with by doing small jobs for their members which is a nice touch. Two Worlds won’t hold your hands, either, in pointing out who belongs to who, meaning that you’ll need to stomach more of the wonderful dialogue in order to find out who represents what. Not all of the quests are very interesting, though, leaving only the hack ‘n loot to fall back on as the only exciting part of the game that works as long as there are monsters to kill. Two Worlds has a limited population of horrors to slay, but there’s more than enough there to create a walking god of your own.
In the end, despite being a complete psychopath or saint-in-training, everything is pretty much decided with one ultimate decision regardless of what you choose to do during the dull story, anyway. Neither ending is very good, one insulting the player and every choice they had made along the way with an incredible cop out. After all of the adventures that my hero had, there wasn’t much closure to be found except to end the game, opening it up to the impending sequel. Multiplayer is offered as co-op for fellow adventurers to get together online and tackle MP only quests, but the scarce number of players that I’ve seen online are walking juggernauts, veteran players, ensuring that underpowered newbies without proper introductions won’t have much to look forward to.
Two Worlds isn’t a horrible RPG, but it feels incredibly unfinished leaving the patches to make up for what should have worked outside of the box upon its initial release. Those band-aids are probably one of the reasons why I didn’t have a terribly buggy time with it, but it still doesn’t excuse how unpolished the rest of the game is making it something of a surprise to hear that a sequel is coming out. Digging past the layers of mismanaged quests, buggy horses, tepid storylines, and hilarious histrionics uncovered some of the fun that Reality Pump hoped to topple Bethesda’s Oblivion with, but only RPG fans desperately hungry for another sandbox adventure might want to brave the journey.