Two Worlds Review
Written : Saturday, November 17, 2007
By: Joshua Wirfs (GT: dz Bluntman)
There was a lot of hype surrounding Two Worlds leading up to its release. Trailers and screenshots gave the viewer the impression that Two Worlds would be a pseudo-sequel to last year's phenomenal Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. With a similar concept to Oblivion's in the form of a massive open world RPG that would take months to fully explore, and even a similar artistic style, everyone was expecting a game that would steal hundreds of hours from your life similar to the effect Oblivion had on players. Sadly, Two Worlds isn't even in the same league. The two should never even be mentioned in the same sentence in fact, unless the sentence is being used to describe how much better Oblivion is. Two Worlds misses the mark on every level, from the poor graphics, to the simply unacceptable framerate, to the awkward interface and jerky animations. Developed by Reality Pump Studios, a company whose only other claim to fame is a game called Earth 2140 which was popular in Turkey and had a small cult following in the United States, Two Worlds looks more like a college project than a full fledged next-gen title. In 15 years of gaming, I've never been more let down by a game. In 15 years of gaming, I've also never played a game that's literally put me to sleep, more than once.
The story revolves around the protagonist on a quest to save his twin sister Kira and prevent the Orc god Aziraal from being freed from his prison. The ending varies based on the moral choices you make in some of the game's key quests, but chances are you won't care too much about anything that's going on in the story anyway. The characters are all bland and generic, made worse by the absolutely terrible voice acting. First off, it sounds like every character in the game was voiced by the same three or four people. Everyone sounds the same, and they all sound monotonous, with no emotion expressed through their voices at all. It's as if Reality Pump got a few of the programmers together during their lunch break, stuck them in a recording booth, and had them read lines of dialogue off the script. Speaking of the script, it seems Reality Pump somehow got it in their heads that in order to make an RPG, you have to use as much Old English speak as possible. The dialogue's literally filled with words such as "perchance", "forsooth", and a generous portion of "ayes" and "nays". Perhaps the only good thing to come of this is the resurrection of the word "mayhap", which has been spreading around the internet like wildfire over the past few weeks.
Nearly every town and its inhabitants looks exactly the same.
Other aspects of the audio fare a little better, but nothing really stands out as good, or even above average. The sound effects are mediocre at best, and due to the repetitive nature of the combat, you'll be forced to hear the same sound effects over and over again in the span of a few seconds as you mindlessly hit the left and right triggers. The musical score on the other hand is quite good. The opening song in particular is superb, and most of the other tracks are well done, although the combat music is a little on the generic side. The music does a great job of drawing you into the game's atmosphere, but unfortunately some ambient sounds such as footsteps are sharp and jarring and take you right back out of it.
The first thing you'll notice after popping Two Worlds into your Xbox 360, is the absolutely horrendous framerate and the myriad bugs and glitches. Never in my gaming career have I ever played a game this unpolished. I couldn't stop laughing after playing for five minutes, out of pure shock that Microsoft would allow something this terrible to be released on their platform. It's almost as if Reality Pump just gave up on Two Worlds halfway through development and released the Alpha build. The framerate isn't just occasionally choppy. It stutters constantly, even if you're just standing still. Imagine playing Oblivion on a Pentium 2 with a 32mb graphics card and you've got a good idea of just how bad it is. It's simply appalling to me that a company could release a product this flawed to the consumer.
The gameplay is at its best mediocre, and at its worst mind-numbingly boring. Reality Pump made a big deal out of the skill system and how deep the character customization is, and quite frankly, it's piss poor. Sure, there's dozens of different skills and spells you can learn, but they're all generic and most of them are utterly useless. Combat revolves primarily around mindlessly tapping the right trigger to swing your weapon and tapping the left trigger to use whatever skill or spell you have selected. Chances are, you won't even bother using the left trigger much, as it's much simpler to just tap the right trigger until whatever you're fighting keels over. Spells are incredibly under-powered, to the extent that they're almost useless. The combat reminded me of MMORPGs; mindlessly hacking away at various critters until you level up. Once you level up, you're given a few points to spend on attributes such as Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, and Vitality and one skill point to apply to whatever skill you wish to build.
Death is little more than a nuisance, since you'll be revived at the closest Shrine of Maliel with no penalties whatsoever. And chances are, you'll be visiting the shrine quite frequently. Aside from incredibly unpredictable hit detection, some enemies will often knock you down and proceed to beat the tar out of you while you're getting back up. Even if you do get back up, you'll likely be knocked down again as soon as you get on your feet. Damage also almost seems random sometimes, with enemies barely hurting you with one attack, then scoring a critical hit with the next attack, killing you instantly. Reality Pump also did a terrible job of adjusting the difficulty curve. In one area you'll be killing Grey Wolves and Giant Spiders with ease, but if you walk a few hundred feet away you'll run into a Cyclops or Dragon that will kill you in one hit. It's clear that a lot of thought went into that one.
The controls are a mixed bag. On foot, it's relatively easy to get around, although wrestling with the camera can be a hassle at times. Switching between spells and skills can be a chore as well, although that's mostly due to the Xbox 360 controller's touchy directional pad. Health and mana potions can be quaffed at the touch of a button by pressing the right and left shoulder buttons respectively. The camera's controlled using the right stick, while movement is handled using the left. The controls are solid for the most part. That is, until you jump on a horse. Not only are the mounted controls hard to deal with, they're downright broken. Half the time, you'll press the stick to move in one direction and your horse will stubbornly move in the opposite direction and won't stop until you come to a dead halt. In order to get through narrow passageways such as gates and the like, you'll have to get off your horse and summon it by clicking the left stick. On top of that, you can't bring your horse with you when you teleport, so you'll have to hoof it on foot once you get to your desired destination.
Although Two Worlds boasts hundreds of different towns, dungeons, towers, and other locations to explore, most of them are nearly identical and so small you have to wonder why you even bothered going there. Many dungeons take less than two minutes to run through, and most of them look exactly the same. The towns look nearly identical as well. I climbed up a tower overlooking miles of countryside, and the three towns I saw from there looked almost exactly the same. Each one sported the same building structures, same colors, everything. Upon closer investigation after entering each town, they were indeed carbon copies of the others. It looked as if the developers simply copied and pasted the same textures to nearly every town in the game. Sure the layout may be different, but it still looks the same. RPGs are fundamentally about exploring, but what's the point of exploring the world if everything looks identical?
The horseback controls are completely broken.
Two Worlds features a massive world to explore, however navigating the game world is a chore. The world map available in the menu is hard to navigate, because like everything else in the game, it runs at half the speed it should. It can take several seconds for the map to zoom out after you click the right stick, and then navigating between different points is made overly complicated. Your quest log is located on the same screen as the map, and you scroll between your quests by using the right stick, while navigating the map with the left stick and the directional pad. There's a minimap in the top right corner of the game's interface, but it's hard to tell where you're going on the map sometimes because every location on the map is marked with a large glowing circle, with a different color based on its purpose. So the minimap is essentially a mess of glowing circles, and it's nearly impossible to distinguish where any given location is.
Graphically, Two Worlds falls flat on its poorly-rendered face. Everything here could easily have been done on the original Xbox. Even in HD, every texture in the game looks dull with a noticeable lack of definition and polish. The characters and monsters range from flat out bad, to fairly mediocre. There's a large variety of different monsters to fight, a feature Oblivion was lacking, however none of them are very interesting. Generic Dungeons and Dragons fodder for the most part, and since they're as poorly rendered as the rest of the game, you won't really be too awestruck by any of them. Even dragons, the staple of any good RPG, look horrid. Every character, monster, and environment in the game looks generic. Most of the environments look almost identical to Oblivion's, but not nearly as good. And Oblivion came out almost two years ago. Just like the rest of Two Worlds, the graphics look as if there was absolutely no effort put into them whatsoever.
Cheap Trick lets you kick dirt in your enemy's face. Awesome.
Two Worlds supports online multiplayer compatibility, in the form of a versus mode and a co-op mode. It should be noted however that you can't bring your singleplayer character into either game mode. That's right, you need to start over from level one if you want to play online. I'd love to give a more indepth explanation of each game mode, but sadly, the lag rendered the game entirely unplayable in the numerous attempts I made to play it in order to write this review. Although that's not surprising, considering the singleplayer game lags worse than most online games I've played. Combine that with rampant latency issues, and you've got yourself a recipe for failure. The co-op mode is barely worth mentioning, since you'll be hard pressed to find a group over Xbox Live willing to play it for more than five minutes. And good luck trying to find anyone on your friends list willing to subject themselves to the level of boredom you'll surely experience.
Two Worlds does boast some decent achievements, albeit generic. Thankfully, all of the achievements are gained through the singleplayer game and none are achieved online. Most are fairly easy to unlock, and you'll likely have at least 600 points by the time you finish the main storyline. The rest are a bit tougher, requiring you to completely explore the entire game world to find every location. I doubt this will come as a shock to anyone who's read the rest of this review, but several of the achievements are bugged and as of this writing, impossible to unlock. I guess Reality Pumps QA team couldn't bare sitting through the game long enough to unlock all of the achievements either.
Two Worlds is the epitome of what an RPG, or any game for that matter, shouldn't be. Unbearable framerate, a boring and lackluster narrative, terrible graphics, poor audio, and a general lack of any interesting or fun gameplay mechanics. I've never, in 15 years of gaming, seen a game this incredibly flawed. There's nothing here to keep you entertained for longer than 15 minutes at a time, unless you're a diehard RPG fan. If that's the case, you should probably just play Oblivion again and leave this one alone. If you absolutely must play this title, rent it first. Don't say I didn't warn you if you spend your hard earned cash on this game and walk away feeling like you just got robbed. How this game got past Microsoft's certification process is beyond me, but someone owes me $60 for buying this crap.
The voice acting is offensive to the ears, and you'll likely skip over key parts of the storyline just to stop the pain. Other aspects of the audio fare a little better, but none of them are any better than decent. The opening music was pretty good though.
I've seen better graphics in XBLA games. Nothing here belongs on the Xbox 360. Character models are dull and generic, towns and dungeons all look the same, and the environments look pretty much identical throughout. There's also a great deal of clipping in the environments, with bushes and other foliage popping up all over the place literally 10 feet away from your character.
With a framerate that never stops stuttering even when you're standing still, downright broken mounted controls, a useless minimap, and incredibly hard to navigate menus, it seems like Reality Pump got nothing right here at all. The difficulty ramps up to ridiculous levels, with monsters that can kill you in a single blow seperated from things you can kill yourself in a single hit by just a few hundred feet.
Two Worlds looks awesome when you boot it up and you're greeted by an excellent opening song, and a fairly cool loading screen with some interesting art. But as soon as you move a couple feet, talk to anyone, or try to navigate your inventory and other menus (which can take several seconds to switch between), you'll immediately realize just how flawed everything in this game is.
The achievements are generic, with only a couple that go outside the standard "hit X level" or "get to X point in the story" formula. It's also impossible to unlock the full 1000 points, since several achievements are bugged and unlockable at the time of this writing.
Two Worlds is arguably the worst game to date on the Xbox 360. Perhaps if the developers had spent more time polishing the game, or maybe developing a game engine that wasn't entirely broken and nearly unplayable, there may have been a good game here. But I assumed that's what they were doing during the multiple delays of the game's release. Apparently they spent that time playing a better game or something, because they certainly didn't take the time to finish this one. Abhorrent framerate problems, unimaginative storytelling, dull and rough graphics, terrible voice acting, and uninspired gameplay secure Two Worlds as one of the greatest letdowns in gaming history. Two Worlds is at best worth a rental, if only to see just how terrible it really is.