Not two worlds, but certainly one very big one
The first good thing I need to mention is something you’ll notice before actually starting the game, and that’s the menu song
. It’s a matter of taste, but it really caught my attention since I wasn’t expecting such a song in a game, and especially not at that moment. Several times I just sat and listened to it, and hardly ever loaded my last save to resume playing without allowing the first minute and a half of the song to play. The game’s soundtrack has a few other nice moments, but this really stands out.
Moving on to the game itself, the massive and very open map, containing several very different areas, needs to be pointed out. There are very few places where you’re not allowed to go before reaching a certain point in the story and you’re not really pressured to focus on the main quest either. In fact, since the amount of experience you get for completing a quest increases along with your level, the game actually encourages you to explore as much of the map and kill as many enemies as possible before advancing the story. Sure, strong enemies can theoretically stop you from reaching many areas too soon, but if you’re careful, patient, good at sneaking and at finding alternate routes, you’ll be able to go pretty much anywhere at any moment. You can even find ways to climb mountains that probably shouldn’t be climbed, which will often reward you with nothing but empty terrain and perhaps a nice view, but occasionally you’ll find some useful plants, perhaps even a few more enemies to kill and potentially even manage to reach certain key areas without having to deal with the enemies that would normally block your way. Plus that riding feels pretty nice, and in fact until the very end of the game I almost always chose to ride back and forth across the map instead of using the teleporters, except when I was trying to sell items gathered after a battle and needed several trips to carry them all.
And, as I said, the story gives you an equal amount of freedom as well. You have a main quest to complete and the character usually acts as if in a hurry while talking to others, but in fact there’s absolutely no rush and you can take your time to explore everything the game has to offer and do all the many side quests you’ll get from NPCs everywhere. I’m sure someone could even finish Two Worlds in a few hours if they knew exactly what to do and really set their mind to it, but the game can offer over 100 hours of gameplay just as well, if you’re very thorough and take your time. In addition, many killed enemies leave behind ghosts, which appear at night around the area where they died and can even justify exploring the world twice over if you want to see just how much experience you can gather. (I finished the game at level 95, and I’m sure there were a fair number of ghosts left.)
The fact that the game doesn’t restrict you according to class, allowing you to freely develop your character as you see fit, was another thing I liked, as was the game’s difficulty. This may bother those who want games to be a challenge, and in fact even I chose to play it as a regular RPG, ignoring the fact that you’re resurrected with no penalties at the nearest shrine whenever you die and reloading my last save whenever the unfortunate event happened, but it does encourage you to explore the world more when you know that, once you gain a few levels and a few useful skills, there’s hardly anything that has much of a chance against you. That’s especially true as a mage, one particular spell standing out as ridiculously overpowered, even more so since you increase the power of your magical arsenal by simply putting together identical spell “cards”, just like you improve your equipment by combining identical pieces.
However, this low difficulty and lack of focus can make it rather boring after a while, especially if you’re not as keen to explore every nook and cranny as I am. A game with a great story and nice side quests can greatly benefit from being easy, as that allows you to focus on those elements instead of game mechanics and challenges, but this is not really the case here. There is an interesting twist in the main story and you may be surprised by a few more nice moments here and there, but overall it’s nothing to write home about, few quests standing out and many making you wonder why are you the only person in the world who can do such apparently simple things. Then again, extremely few games stand out when it comes to this…
Another potential problem, for those who are not as determined to always play mages as I am, is just the fact that spells can be so overpowered. Sure, focusing on your fighting abilities and combining powerful pieces of equipment can easily turn you into a walking tank, but enemies will basically never even reach you if you focus on your magical abilities. This is especially important when fighting the most powerful enemies, as those can deal insane amounts of damage if allowed to reach you. And still on the issue of warrior characters, mounted combat is handled quite poorly, the increased speed and damage often not being enough to make up for the significantly decreased maneuverability.
And then you have the voice acting… From what I heard, it was even worse when the game was originally released, but even so it just doesn’t express anything. It’s all too obvious that the people who recorded the voices were simply reading lines, without caring or even knowing what it was all supposed to be about. At least you may amuse yourself a little when the camera closes in during dialogues by noticing that the character models tend to have heads that are too small for their bodies… Anyway, this is a game that should have done without voice acting, as the text alone would have often been better.
The Bottom Line
If writing a review just after you finish a game is hard, writing it nearly six months later is even worse. But waiting longer wasn’t going to make it any easier, and I think it needed to be done because this game received far less attention than it deserved. Or at least that’s the case for the fully patched version, because all I heard about the problems the original release had made me keep my distance until they got around to working them out.
Of course, fixing most problems later doesn’t make releasing a game in such a state any more acceptable, but I can only write about what I saw when I played it, which means this review dealt with how the game was in version 1.7 and not before. And it was split rather awkwardly into good and bad parts, because there are good and bad things about most aspects of the game but I have to make it fit the MobyGames review format.
Overall, Two Worlds is not a game that you must play, but certainly one that you can play without fearing that you’ll be too disappointed. If you like exploring a large and diverse world, and especially if you like doing it with the help of spells and cloaks instead of weapons and armor, it should provide a fair amount of entertainment and keep you interested for quite some time, despite never excelling in any area.