Before purchasing Two Worlds, I’ve read reviews ranging from “Solid, albeit hardcore RPG” to “A poor man’s Oblivion” to “Utter Garbage”. This is a rather wide range of opinions that really doesn’t say all that much about the game. Reality Pump, a small Polish developer, certainly had high aims with their first RPG. Did they meet all expectations? Possibly not, but nevertheless they still managed to deliver a game with an epic scale – and several very clever game mechanics which should have been part of other games. (Oblivion I am looking at you!)
Your character is a human male mercenary, which is an important part of the main storyline and is something you can thus not customise. You can change aspects related to the look of your character, such as his eye colour, hair, height, etc – but in practice it doesn’t make a big difference. Your armour and equipment will have a much bigger impact on the look and feel of your character. You don’t choose a class, skills or anything of the kind – the starting character is always the same. Once the game starts and you start to level you can however develop your character any way you want – but more on that later.
The game starts in the land of Antaloor, 300 years after a war between men and orc. These orcs were lead by their god, Aziraal, who was imprisoned in a magical tomb at the end of the war. There isn’t anything particularly special about this story but then again, we don’t need it to be. You play a mercenary who is more concerned with finding his missing sister then with general world affairs. This often leads to amusing comments made by your character, which unlike your character in Oblivion, has his own voice during conversations.
Similar to other open-world RPG’s you are completely free to ignore your sister and the general peril the world appears to be in – and simply dive into the massive world. The world itself is very densely populated and the side-quests are varied.
It is important to note that there is no level-scaling like Oblivion. This creates several major differences to that game. First, you will not be able to complete some quests right away – as the enemies you encounter will be too strong for you. Second, it also means you cannot actually rush through the main quest without exploring a fair amount of the side quests and locations.
I found that it works very well in practice. I confined myself mostly to the Northern section of the map at first, which appeared to mostly contain enemies and monsters which I can ‘handle’. It must be noted that the game is very challenging when you are in your lower levels as virtually anything can kill you. Luckily, on “easy” and “medium” settings you resurrect automatically at the nearest shrine whenever you die, without any loss of experience or equipment. And the nearest shrine is generally always only a minute or so away from where you died.
There appears to be no level cap – though it takes a long, long time to get to extremely high levels. The highest reported level in multi-player is 250. In single player people will generally not get beyond level 100 as there just wouldn’t be anything left to really do and leveling takes absolutely ages at that point. Still it is very nice that there is no artificial limit like many other games tend to impose.
The skill system is somewhat different from what you might be used to as well. You do not increase skills by using them over and over, so no artificial grinding. (Phew!) Instead, every time you gain a level you gain 5 ‘attribute’ points and 1 or 2 ‘skill points’. There are 4 attributes: Vitality, Strength, Dexterity and Willpower. These are fairly obvious. There are a great number of passive and active skills – allowing you to customise your character in any way you desire. You could play a spell-hurling mace-wielding necromancer, or an archer who dabbles in dual wielding sword, or anything else you desire.
At the very start of the game you are somewhat forced to pick up a sword and shield while you put skill points towards making other weapons more viable – but I found this a fairly rewarding experience. I felt I was really working towards something.
It must be noted that you are not able to put skill points anywhere right from the start either – most skills have to be trained at a skill trainer and those first have to be located. That said, you do start the game with a fair number of useful skills already. Given the limited skill points you have to distribute – it is probably a good thing that a lot of the other skills are not available yet.
Two Worlds does not impose any restrictions upon the player when it comes to the use of various weapons or magical items. Some items might have attribute or level requirements, but you aren’t bound to having to choose between one type of equipment or the other. If you want to be a barbarian axe-wielding maniac who goes around in a wizard’s robe – you are perfectly able to do so.
Another nice touch is that all equipment can be “stacked”. This means if you find two or more identical items, you can merge them to increase the base stats. This is called the item’s “class” – a class 5 item would relate to 5 basic items of this type having been stacked. You can create items up to class 50, meaning you will rarely encounter an item you can’t use in one way or another.
The amount of variety in items is absolutely massive – sometimes you actually hope to find an identical item to what you are wearing but it isn’t always that easy!
Your character also has an Alchemy Pot, which you can use to cook meats, plants, brew potions, and create gems, bombs and all sorts of other useful items. You get items which permanently enchant your items with extra elemental damage (or protection) or even potions which permanently enhance your attributes. The actual system is much more in-depth and enjoyable then the Alchemy system in Oblivion is, which I found quite a drag after a while.
Combat is extremely straight forward in Two Worlds, even more so then it was in Oblivion. Blocking is automatic and handled as a percentage like classic RPG’s, with no actual influence from the player. You can however back jump – avoiding blows from especially slower enemies. Generally speaking melee fights require little more than clicking your mouse button repeatedly until enemies fall over. You do however have a fair few skills which allow you to perform ‘special moves’ which can really get you out of tight encounters.Dirty tricks, stun, disarm, pull shield, etc. you name it and the developers have thought of it. You can even equip a torch in your offhand and burn people with it, given you have the skill.
Bow usage is nice, albeit not very useful early in the game as you don’t get many shots off before the enemy reaches you. Once you have put some skill points in to the various archery related skills, things look a bit better. There are skills to increase the basic draw, draw speed, and you can also overdraw your bow for extra damage if you have the time. Combine this with later skills such as multi-shot, disarming arrow and blinding arrow.
Magic is straight forward as well, although you can ‘only’ have 3 spells ready to be casted at any given time. The magic system works through cards – having a card is the equivalent of having the spell in your spell book in any other RPG. On top of this, you have booster cards. You ready three spells to be casted in your magic menu – there are three slots for spell cards and each of those have three booster slots. Now the nice touch is that you can stack spell cards just like you can stack items – thus creating more powerful versions of the same spell. This means that finding the same spell card twice isn’t just useful – it’s vital to becoming a powerful mage! Boosters can be stacked as well, so Reality Pump have actually a created a very simple but incredibly deep customisable magic system!
Given the epic size of the world, I feel there isn’t quite enough variety in the monsters you encounter. All the general things you would expect are there; wolves, boars, bears, skeletons, orcs, etc. and there are even dragons and other epic creatures later on. They just seem to repeat a little too often in certain areas. A little more variety and mixing things up would have lead to a slightly more enjoyable world. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a small criticism but when you fight several packs of wolves in a row it does get a bit dull.
What I did enjoy, is encountering enemies that are sometimes incredibly difficult to defeat. Then returning to that area at a later stage with much better weapons and armour – and taking revenge on that one specific monster who gave you a hard time much earlier in the game. Especially early in the game you can expect a lot of tactical fighting, where you dance around shooting your arrows at an enemy and keeping your distance – or you end up dead quite rapidly.
At night, corpses of various wildlife and enemies you have killed seem to frequently spawn ghosts, which are immune to conventional weapons. Early on in the game these are a quite difficult to defeat. I noticed that this effect carries on inside dungeons/underground – so beware of night-time when you are dungeon crawling!
This is where you can really spot that Reality Pump released their first RPG with Two Worlds. NPC’s don’t quite have the active daily cycles as NPC’s in Oblivion did. They generally make a different between night time and day, most vendors not being available at night – but that’s really as far as it gets. NPC’s also don’t seem to require food, and have no need for the various items you might store in THEIR cupboards. You could throw 10,000 gold pieces in front of their eyes and they wouldn’t even blink.
There are few options in dialogue – most of it is fairly straight to the point. In a way this is actually enjoyable, preventing needlessly long and boring conversation. All conversations are voice acted – with the quality of the voice acting reminding me of the American Idol / X-Factor auditions. It literally ranges from cheesy to absolutely hilariously bad. You will get some laughs out of it – personally I found it quite amusing, but it can also lead to massive frustration.
You’re own character does make some very sarcastic comments from time to time, often saying exactly what I was thinking. (“I am sure the vendors will be pleased when I pay them in REPUTATION instead of GOLD COINS.” – expressing his ‘pleasure’ with a reward.)
The interface is functional but not fantastic. Again, it shows that Reality Pump was on a tight budget, with inexperienced developers. The inventory itself is a poor affair as well and you will often end up having to scroll left or right in your inventory to find some basic items. However, these are fairly minor issues that I found myself getting used to quite quickly. Basically, expect the UI to do it’s job and the controls to work but nothing to be smooth and fluid. It essentially all feels a little dated.
Traveling around in RPG’s like Two Worlds is a very important aspect of the game. Often, being burdened by loot and having to travel back and forth between vendors and the dungeons or other locations of the world can get incredibly tedious. Two Worlds contains a few game features which largely solve these common issues. You can acquire a horse fairly easily, either by completing one of the early quests or by simply killing any group of bandits which happen to have a horse. Once you mount their horse it becomes “yours”. Each horse can carry a decent amount of items; especially early on in the game this vastly expands your carrying capabilities. It’s a little fiddly as you have to be on the horse to access this inventory – but you get used to this quickly enough.
Additionally, there is the teleport network. Scattered throughout the worlds are various teleports which –through an early quest- you can activate by simply walking near them. Once activated, you can teleport to these from any other teleporter in the world. Now the useful thing, is that the same quest line rewards you with a portable teleporter. Once you have this (and we are talking VERY early in the game) you can simply enter a dungeon, loot to your heart’s content, throw the teleporter on the floor and teleport straight to your nearest favourite merchant location. When done, you simply go back to the nearest teleporter and teleport back into the dungeon. Grab your portable teleporter from the floor and off you go!
Personally, I think the visuals are quite decent given that this is Reality Pump’s first RPG. Sure this isn’t Oblivion but it certainly doesn’t look bad either. In many places it is even quite pretty. Given that graphics aren’t the first consideration when playing an in-depth RPG, going into this fully knowing what you are expecting really results in a pleasant surprise. I expected the game to be horrible after some reviews and I actually quite enjoy the graphics. A few glitches here and there, but alas we forgive them for that. Don’t expect crysis, simply go into the game knowing that everything is a few years behind.
The sound is a mixed bag. Some sound effects are excellent and atmospheric, others are less good. The soundtrack isn’t anything to write home about – although the main theme is decent. The only music piece which springs to mind of being above the rest is the one that plays when your character nears dead. And this is something players generally avoid. Voice acting is of a quality that removes the feeling of immersion – so being able to laugh at a game’s flaws is pretty mandatory to enjoy Two Worlds.
All in all, if you appreciate epic RPG’s which ambitiously attempt to do things just that little bit different then I’d advice to give Two Worlds a try. The game can very easily be purchased for under £4 (new) if you search on Amazon – and will give any serious RPG fan anywhere from 50 to 100 hours of game play.
The game might not be the blockbuster triple-A title that it aspired to be, or in fact, COULD have been if the developers had a far larger budget – but it gives you a solid role-playing experience nevertheless.
This game is not mainstream, you have to enjoy this type of game and you need to be able to look past some flaws in Two World’s interface, design and technology to appreciate what the developer is trying to do with the skill and equipment systems. The positive part of all of this is that the developer is making a second game which looks and feels MUCH more like what this one should have been – and then some. Keep your eyes open as Reality Pump will surprise us sooner or later with a true gem.