Wheel of Dubious RPGs Episode 004: Two Worlds

Two Worlds

Fun Fact: The only games I played a decent amount of last week were this and Gears Tactics. Plz send help.
Fun Fact: The only games I played a decent amount of last week were this and Gears Tactics. Plz send help.

Release Date: September 7, 2007 (PC, Xbox 360)

Developer: Reality Pump

Time Played: A little under 5 hours

Dubiosity: 4 out of 5

Voice Acting: 10 out of 5

Would I play more? You know what? Yeah. Yes.

The thing that always stuck out in regards to the original Two Worlds was the vague notion surrounding its release that it was “the Oblivion-killer,” a moniker mostly earned because it was a big, sprawling, open-world RPG that came out early in the lifespan of the Xbox 360. For as much as I’ll concede Bethesda’s first big mainstream Elder Scrolls game *probably* hasn’t aged as well as I’d like to pretend it has, that’s not an especially flattering comparison. Two Worlds is the textbook case of a “Eurojank” RPG, punching above its budget with all the earnestness and ambition Polish studio Reality Pump could muster. It’s clunky, awkward, has some hilariously bad voice acting, and managed to crash more than once during my brief time with it. It also seems alright.

I’d actually played a decent amount of Two Worlds II before this, which I’d go as far as to say is slightly too good (albeit, still very Eurojank) to be featured on the same wheel as “the game that killed the Ultima franchise, forever” and “Whatever the heck a Thunderscape is.” The first Two Worlds is somehow even rougher around the edges and lacks its sequel’s inventive magic system, leaving me as the requisite nameless protagonist (a ruthless mercenary type doing his best Don LaFontaine impression while also being slightly too concerned about his sister) to solve quests from the most bored villagers in the world while ineffectually whacking packs of wolves and bandits with a stick. Lots and lots of wolves. Nah, I think it fits in pretty well.

It's nice to know that the game eventually opens up into larger cities and more varied areas than the nigh-endless forest I was traipsing through
It's nice to know that the game eventually opens up into larger cities and more varied areas than the nigh-endless forest I was traipsing through

I don’t know what the trend is with European-developed RPGs and the disproportionate threat of local wildlife, but I spent the first hour or two getting messed up by packs of wolves, boar, and even the occasional bear or two. Once that initial hump was overcome and I had gotten a few levels and some decent equipment (the itemization was aggressive enough that I’d often be picking up better stuff every few minutes in some areas) I could start to see the rough appeal of Two Worlds forming in front of me. The world seems pretty damn big (if a little sparse, once you get off the road) and I’m not opposed to poking around and questing around the environment until I find areas I’m a high enough level to deal with. The game autosaves every ten minutes and will automatically resurrect you at the nearest shrine when you die, making lost progress a non-issue, even if my time with combat thus far mostly consisted of clicking rapidly and hoping for a critical hit against the small packs of enemies roving the land.

The RPG elements in Two Worlds are rather straightforward: there are four stats and a big ol’ bevy of various skills between combat, utility, magic, and special attacks. You don’t have all of the skills unlocked at the start, but you can learn them from trainers scattered throughout the world. (I remembered from the second game.) Some, like critical strike and lockpick, seemed pretty vital, while some of the special attacks seemed, uh, questionable at best. The game was generous enough with the stat and skill points in my brief time with it that I was already starting to branch out from the melee fighter build I feel like is always a safe choice in these sorts of games. I’m not going to claim it’s the most intuitive or interesting character building system I’ve seen, but at the very least it seems, uh, capable?

Horses in this game are roughly as maneuverable as a boat on land.
Horses in this game are roughly as maneuverable as a boat on land.

Now, aside from wandering sparse forests while engaging in wonton slaughter, the biggest thing that stuck out with Two Worlds was the endearingly bad quality of performances. There’s not a single line of English voice acting in this game that couldn’t have benefitted from another read or five, and it’s magical. There’s only so much mileage I can get out of goofing on VAs who were most likely not native speakers, but it’s a lot more evident because of how talky the script is. There was some thought put into the world of Antaloor, but it’s hard to pay attention to any of it when “tell, don’t show” exposition is often being delivered with all the enthusiasm of someone on Xanax at a funeral (and sometimes too much enthusiasm delivered on exactly the wrong words or syllables in any given sentence.)

So yeah, I guess I mostly enjoyed my time with Two Worlds, even if I think I’d probably have a better time revisiting its sequel. I think this feature has already broken my brain a little, because there were a couple times I thought to myself “I could see myself playing 20-30 hours of this” as I swiped away yet another silver wolf and harvested its heart for alchemy. Meanwhile, my brother is over in the next room playing The Witcher 3 and having a great time as I write this. Have I made a mistake? I played the demo for that Final Fantasy VII Remake. It seems like it could be good? Nah. Nah. We're fine.

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