Version tested: Xbox 360
Forsooth, 'tis oft uttered from the mouths of knaves that to unleash a game upon a console is a much different endeavour to unleashing that self-same game upon the PC. Verily, verily, thine developer should have to be some kind of knave to attempt such a release without great alteration to the very fabric of the game!
If that paragraph made you want to stab me in the face (and frankly, we had to hide all the sharp objects in the room while writing it for fear of facial self-harm), then your path is clear. Close this tab in your browser, leave this review, and never, ever consider playing Two Worlds.
The alternative is that you become another videogame violence statistic, with Jack Thompson carping on about the rampage you'll inevitably embark upon at one of those bloody awful Medieval Banquet tourist-trap nights. Which, despite a few really promising ideas, is just about exactly what Two Worlds turns out to be.
Well met! Or not.
The game sets out with a very clear goal - to be the next Oblivion. Now, simply copying a popular game isn't the world's most worthy goal in the first place, but that doesn't matter. If you're going to copy Oblivion, then at least that means that you're aiming for a certain standard of quality - a bar which has been set remarkably high by the development wizards at Bethesda.
Unfortunately, the team at Reality Pump who turned out Two Worlds seemingly missed that memo. Instead, they have created a game which fails to impress on almost every level - from the hackneyed, annoying dialogue and storyline, to the utterly dreadful graphics, through to the clumsy interface and completely tedious combat. Yeah, I guess we're probably not selling you on this one.
The first thing that will slap you in the face like a sack of rotten crabs upon embarking on your epic quest is that Two Worlds looks like a PlayStation 2 game - and a PlayStation 2 game with remarkably weak, uninspired art direction, at that. The textures are consistently low resolution, which makes most things into a pixellated mess up close. Entire towns and villages pop into existence right before your astonished eyes, as the primitive game engine struggles to keep up with the advanced concept of a character walking around and looking at things.
Here and there, the game attempts feebly to establish its next-gen credentials by throwing around impressively wide vistas. These are normally utterly devoid of any detail - what's the point in being able to see a long way if the terrain is totally barren from about 50 feet in front of your nose? It even splashes the occasional bit of normal mapped lighting in, although where games like Gears of War used this effect to create wonderfully subtle textures and details, Two Worlds artfully applies it to making things look unrealistically shiny. Nice.
It's not that there's much worth looking at, mind. Human characters achieve the near-impossible by making Oblivion's gallery of uglies look attractive and well-formed, while the various beasts which take you on are variations on the "furry shoebox on four legs" archetype which we thought we'd left behind on the PSone. To add insult to injury - or injury to insult, we're not sure which at this stage, but be assured that there's a huge bloody bucket of insults and injuries to choose from - the game struggles to keep up even with such awful graphics.
The framerate is, for the most part, in figures so low it wouldn't be allowed to go out and buy a packet of fags. This is the first game in years (and the first ever on the usually graphically brilliant 360) which has given me headaches and nausea from extended play sessions - although I can't say for sure how much of that is down to the choppy, lurching framerate, and how much is down to having to listen to American voice actors attempting to replicate British regional accents they've clearly never heard. And saying "prithee" a lot.
No lengthy moan about Two Worlds' stunning technical under-achievement would be complete without mentioning that the game also fails miserably at providing a seamless, free-roaming world. Yes, many other games on the 360 (hell, many games on the original Xbox and the PS2) managed this, despite having far better graphics - but that doesn't stop Two Worlds from regularly freezing the action and throwing up a spinning disc icon, as it manfully shoulders the burden of loading in another group of bandits identical to the one you killed 30 seconds ago. Quite often the action freezes for no reason, for several seconds, as the game thinks about something for a while - what colour to paint the ceiling, perhaps, or why on earth you're still playing.
Technical concerns aside (look, we could write a book about technical "concerns" alone, but if you've really got a stiffy for awful graphics and bad framerates, you're probably in the small minority of people who should buy this game), Two Worlds is a sub-par action RPG which occasionally displays flashes of sheer competence.
As is standard for games of this sort, you play a character who has an Epic Personal Quest - in this instance, saving your hot sister, whose imprisonment at the hands of an evil chap who looks a bit like a cross between Darth Vader and a knobbly black dildo hasn't stopped her from applying a lot of gothy make-up each morning. However, you're free to wander around the world carrying out other quests instead - slaying bandits, slaying wolves, slaying more bandits, slaying boars who look very like wolves but make boar noises so we assume they're boars, slaying some more bandits, delivering some parcels like some trumped up bloody Parcel Force man, and slaying some more bandits.
Along the way, the developers insist, the focus is on making choices. Indeed, there are several different factions with whom your reputation can be built up (although this happens remarkably fast - do three quests for some factions and you'll be told that you are a "living legend" among them, which presumably implies that they really, really respect couriers). However, more often than not, the choices you make will be entirely accidental - and downright annoying as a result.