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Two Worlds – Xbox 360

01 Nov 2007

A vast, fantasy setting, epic storyline, non-linear game play, dynamic combat system and flexible character development options… bearing such hallmarks Two Worlds was bound to draw comparison to that benchmark of next-gen RPG titles: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Sounds promising, doesn’t it?  Before you rush out and part with your hard earned dollars however, you’d better read on.

The storyline for Two Worlds is not an original one; neither is the setting or the creatures you’ll encounter. However since most RPGs follow a similar formula when it comes to plot, so that in itself no crime.  The cracks beneath Two Worlds’ façade become apparent right after the intro.

Obviously intended for use with a mouse and keyboard, the interface for Two Worlds does not translate well to the Xbox 360, being both clunky to navigate and largely uncooperative.  The controller buttons are not logically assigned and dealing with your character’s inventory is a major exercise in frustration.   I found myself constantly fighting for control of the camera when travelling and during combat.  You can switch between over the shoulder and first person views; however the undulating terrain coupled with a stutteringrate – which is even more cumbersome during combat - means that, no matter which aspect you choose you will probably experience some motion sickness or discomfort.  I certainly did.

Character creation in single player mode sets the tone of the game, offering simplified and limited options at the outset (you are a male bounty hunter). Character development and advancement utilises a simple points system, which you can allocate to any of the skills available to you.  A big ‘thumbs up’ to the introduction of Skillchanger mages who, for a price can reset your skill points, should you decide you want a career change. There are also a number of factions you can join for some additional side quests and benefits.

Two Worlds boasts a decent selection of spells encompassing five schools of magic, using a ‘spell card’ system to acquire spells and ‘booster cards’ to enhance their effectiveness.  A similar concept applies to weapons and armour; you can combine identical items from your inventory to produce a more powerful one… very cool.

Combat is a straightforward affair with minimal skill involved: when a target symbol appears on the nearest foe you draw your weapon – melee or missile – point it in the general direction of your target, and engage in a little creative button mashing (with the right-hand trigger). One-button dodge enables your character to avoid most attacks and before you know it, you’re surrounded by corpses ripe for the looting.  Budding alchemists can chuck body parts from slain animals and monsters into ye trusty olde alchemy pot, along with any flora found on your travels, to create potions.

Sound and graphics… Oh dear, where to begin? For starters, you need to be sitting no further than a metre away from your TV in order to read the tiny text and make out some of the smaller items in your inventory.  Characters and monsters look blocky and bland, as does much of the architecture and fittings. On the plus side the water, light and shade effects look great but let’s face it; pretty scenery alone does not atone for the game’s numerous visual sins.

Dialogue lapses between regular, everyday speech and an Americanised version of faux Old English, with many a “mayhap, forsooth, ‘twas, ‘twould, pray, nay” and “perchance” thrown in for good measure.  This is initially amusing but actually detracts from any realism and credibility the script writers were attempting to create.  Far better, methinks, to choose one style of dialogue and stick with it, forsooth!

It’s not all bad though; Two Worlds does introduce some interesting features with exciting potential.  Foremost of these in my book is the online multiplayer mode, whereby you can play with up to seven other gamers on Xbox LIVE. Unfortunately ‘potential’ is about as good as it gets; the options for online play are limited to competitive arena-style matches, and the lag can be bad enough to put you off, but hey… it’s a start.  Maybe one day some dedicated and enterprising developer will deliver us an RPG of Oblivion’s calibre that we can enjoy online with other gamers.

Despite its potential and the odd standout feature, Two Worlds on the Xbox 360 fails to deliver on so many levels. If you simply must have it however, opt for the PC version, to which it is far better suited.  Just be sure to keep your expectations in check and well within the bounds of mediocrity.