You're on an urgent quest to rescue your beloved sister from a shadowy cabal of powerful men who are holding her hostage for your co-operation in their nefarious scheme. The long-lost powers of an ancient god are being brought into the world once more, emboldening marauding orcs in their raids on the kingdoms of man. As the unwilling hero at the centre of this maelstrom, your quest could not be more important.
But on the other hand, there's a man here who needs a hand with some bandits. And if you kill a few more of those bears, you might be able to make a nice cloak or something out of their hides. Oh, actually, you also need to run over to a nearby village to pick up some stuff for a trader. Hmm, and while you're at it, if you hang around here for a while, until it gets dark, there'll be cool zombies to fight! Or perhaps you could forget it all and embark on a life of crime for a while - that open window looks like it's within reach...
Sod it, your sister can wait. Shouldn't have gone and got herself kidnapped anyway, should she?
If you've ever fallen in love with an open-world game, you'll be able to identify with that. It could be anything from Shenmue (I'll deal with my father's killer after I stalk this schoolgirl and play with these kittens) to Grand Theft Auto (sure, I'll sort out that rival gang just as soon as I've driven a truck off this high ramp) to Oblivion (I know there's a Daedric Lord trying to take over the mortal plane, but I can make a damn fine living as a mercenary in the meantime). The idea is the same; here's a world, and here's a storyline you're more than welcome to ignore. Go off and have fun.
Developed by Polish studio Reality Pump - whom you may recall as the creators of Earth 2160 - Two Worlds is the latest fantasy world to be sandboxed up for your procrastinating pleasure. In a canny bit of platform selection, it's on its way to the Xbox 360 as well as the PC, just in time for former Oblivion addicts to forget the pain of fantasy cold turkey and start searching for another hit.
Within minutes of dipping into the world of Antaloor, comparisons with Oblivion are very obvious - and not particularly misleading. While Two Worlds eschews the first-person perspective of Bethesda's seminal role-playing title in favour of a more traditional third-person view, the two share many similarities both in terms of the world and the tone, and the gameplay.
For starters, Two Worlds sits slap bang in the middle of mainstream fantasy lore, just as Oblivion does, when it comes to the setting of the game. Black bears and leather-clad bandits who haven't encountered a Gilette Fusion Razor in their lives roam the hillsides between rural villages full of honest and not-so-honest folk with plenty of sub-quests for you to undertake. Ancient ruined temples are home to unpleasant zombies and feral bands of orcs and half-men. Cities are surrounded by tall walls and gates, and ruled by factions with whom you must curry favour to gain entry. There are greedy nobles, shadowy priests and cruel monarchs to contend with, and skill with swords goes hand in hand with a flair for magic and alchemy.
Like Oblivion, Two Worlds also offers a vast world to explore - with your progression restricted not by the need to pursue a linear plot, but rather by your character's ability to survive the local fauna. After the opening level, where you need to kill a couple of unpleasant half-orc types called Groms in an old temple, you meet with a villager who informs you that a messenger is waiting back in the town; from there on, what you do is entirely up to you.
As far as we could gather, there was nothing to stop you from playing for tens of hours, exploring the entire world, building up your skills to a massive level and becoming feared or renowned across the land without ever bothering to speak to that messenger. Admittedly, you'd be missing out on what seems to be a very interesting, if somewhat clichéd (gosh, you mean you're really one of the only people who can wield this ancient power? How surprising!), storyline, but the point here is freedom of choice, and Two Worlds delivers that in spades.