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Two Worlds (Xbox 360)

Rated: 12.

Story: Forsooth! Thou art a mercenary in a fantasy land where orcs and humans are at war. Malevolent, yet mysterious, forces have kidnapped your beloved sister who verily doest wear too much make-up and not enough clothing. Prithee, knave, go track down the rogues and rescue her before it is too late, lest the god Aziraal be freed from his tomb and the world turned to darkness! Ye gads!

Gameplay: Yep, it's a role-playing game. Wander towns and countryside, talking to people and getting sent on quests, in an effort to increase your character's level, improve skills and get your hands on really big swords. You can go pretty much wherever you like from the start, choosing to stick to the main story or to merely explore.

There are various political factions in the game and completing quests for each of them raises your reputation with that faction, opening up new quests and possibly putting you at odds with one of the other factions.

Fighting is a mix of archery, spell-casting and hand-to-hand, and takes place from a third-person viewpoint.

Save System: Manual save at any time. There's no auto-save but this usually isn't a problem since, when you die, you immediately come back to life at the nearest shrine without any other penalty. Shrines are seldom far away. You'll want to save often, though, in case the game crashes. (It does that quite a lot.)

Comments: As with Mass Effect, it would be easy to fill a review of Two Worlds with a list of all the elements of it that are broken. Once again, I will try to resist, however. Two Worlds should be applauded for it's ambition and the freedom of choice which it gives players. The game provides an open world waiting to be explored and leaves you to get on with it. There's very little telling you where to go. Pick a direction and see who you meet and where you end up. Even the main story missions leave you to your own devices most of the time. For once, you really do feel like an adventurer heading off into the unknown, trying to make a name for yourself in an unfamiliar land.

Er, apart from when you're feeling totally lost or simply annoyed because you're looking for something in particular and you've no idea where to find it. The trade-off for all the freedom is that it's very easy to walk right past vital people and information. For instance, most of the faction members in the game won't give you missions until they trust you, but the only way to gain their trust is to complete missions for their faction. The few members who will trust you early on are often standing behind a rock in the middle of nowhere. If you're really unlucky, when you do stumble across them, they tell you to go infiltrate another faction, whose trust you'll also need. This can be irritating.

There are other issues. I should probably just write that list:
  • Eye-wincingly awful graphics. It's not so much how they look; it's the constant, headache-inducing juddering.
  • Questionable design choices. You can't use lots of skills until you find someone hiding behind a rock who's willing to train you. This limits your combat options for ages for no good reason. On top of that, lots of the skills are useless. (On the plus side, for a relatively small amount of gold, you can regress your character and spend all your experience from scratch, allowing you to change tactics halfway through the game once you know what works and what doesn't.)
  • Fiddly interface. The game was designed with a keyboard and mouse in mind. Navigating the inventory can be a chore, the map screen's a mess and selecting spells is far too much hassle.
  • Dreadful dialogue and voice acting. Forsooth! Mine ears are bleeding! Me thinks I shouldst turn on the subtitles.
  • The reputation/trust system is broken. Deliver three packages for one faction and they consider you a living legend. Obliterate the rivals of a different faction and they still barely acknowledge your existence. Eh?
  • Buggy. Crashes, glitches and odd events.
  • Uneven difficulty. In some sense, the game is pretty easy - death is only a minor inconvenience. Unfortunately, it's a very frequent inconvenience. Early on, even the lowly wolves wandering the landscape will eat you for breakfast by attacking in packs. Run away to pick them off from a distance and you'll just bump into another pack and maybe some bandits and possibly a bear. Before you know it, you've got a Benny Hill chase scene on your hands. Later in the game, when you're big and tough and have excellent weapons and armour, many enemies can still kill you with a single hit. What's the point? Quests descend to running in, grabbing the required item and running out again pursued by a line of angry monsters. (Added amusement can be obtained by humming the Benny Hill theme tune, however.)
  • Annoying mounts. Horses are infuriating to control and won't go through teleports, so they're often more trouble than they're worth.
  • Unremarkable Collector's Edition. The bonus disc is lousy and isn't designed for the 360 e.g. it contains PC desktop wallpapers rather than Xbox dashboard themes. The pen-and-paper role-playing game is merely a D&D clone and the rulebook contains almost no background information on the world. It's unplayable in itself and doesn't give any insight into the computer game.
  • The list goes on...
Overall, the list of Two Worlds' faults is longer and more instantly damning than the one for Mass Effect. I came much closer to giving up in disgust with Two Worlds. It really shouldn't have been released in this state. The truth is, though, I actually enjoyed Two Worlds more than Mass Effect. It's better paced and has far more to it.

I suspect that both development teams ran out of time. The Mass Effect guys plugged up the gaps and polished and tested what they had. The Two Worlds devs continued putting in all the interesting stuff they'd planned, sent it to the DVD factory at the last minute and crossed their fingers. Two Worlds is always intriguing and always has something new for you to find but it just feels like a beta version. It's buggy and barely works at all. That said, if you can put up with the horrendously jagged edges, there's a decent game underneath.

Conclusion: If you absolutely loved Oblivion, you might tolerate this long enough to appreciate its charms... a bit.

Graphics: Quite nice on occasion if you squint and don't try and move your character at all. Actually start to walk around, however, and it's a disaster. Stuff materialises out of thin air on a regular basis and the whole thing judders along like it's just going to give up and die at any moment. The frame-rate dips into low single figures every time you attempt to turn the camera around.

Length: That depends. It's possible to whizz through the main quest and reach the end of the game relatively quickly but, then again, it's also possible to spend countless hours exploring. So, anywhere between medium and very long, really. Somewhere in the middle is probably best - explore a fair amount to get the most out of the game and then hurry along to the end before the graphics make you go blind.

Rating: Very nearly 3/5.

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