I've never been much of a dungeon dweller. I never got into Diablo or Dungeon Siege, and their myriad friends. I'm not even a massive fan of RPGs. But I liked Oblivion. It was such a momentous leap in open world gaming that the quality and significance of its arrival could not be underestimated, even in the closeted circles of the 'hardcore' fraternity. Even those not caught by the hype would have to agree that Oblivion was an impressive effort.
With any evolution in gaming, copycat titles are not far behind. It's perhaps unfair to accuse developers Reality Pump of outright plagiarism, but Two Worlds smacks of Oblivion's seminal release. To actually play it however, leaves you with different conclusions entirely, as the gameplay offers a more Gothic 3-type experience. Still, with all 'uber'-sandbox fantasy games, it's not long before you're hunting animals, doing side quests and moulding weapons and anything else you'd expect to do within such an example of the genre.
As with the gameplay, the story is a cliched out-of-the-box experience. You play the part of a nomadic mercenary attempting to save his missing sister. At first you're oblivious to the world around you and the conflicts being fought within it, in fact you're actively indifferent. However, as the narrative progresses you become embroiled in an ancient war between man and orc - which began 300 years ago when man defeated the ghoulish orcies and entombed the orc-god, Aziraal, in a magical cell. Your own quest forces you into confronting Aziraal and his minions when you're eventually ready.
Becoming a warrior capable of taking on such horrid foes makes up the crux of the game. While enemies, in similar titles, are capped to fight at the same level as you no matter where you roam, Two Worlds contains no capping. You'll come across enemies that seem impossible to beat only for you to return later, more powerful, and crush them with a single blow. It's an impressively simplistic feature that makes the partaking in side quests and culling of wild animals (and thus levelling your character) a meaningful task. It also culls a massive amount of depth as there are some areas that are just too dangerous to visit, despite the goal of your current quest potentially lying in the heart of such tyranny. By hunting beasts and helping the people you meet you eventually acquire the tools needed to do the job, however this can be many many hours after accepting a given task.
Pleasingly the weapons system, like the world you inhabit, is very open-ended. The weapons you use are not railroaded to a particular faction. You can use knives, swords, shields and spears of any sort, and more importantly an entire magical arsenal. Every warrior in Two Worlds has the capability to use magic, not just necromancers and the like. Half your inventory is dedicated to wizardry and it's a welcome relief to know that even the most ardent of hack 'n' slashers can chuck a fireball or two.
Quests are also varied, both in importance and entertainment value. You'll be asked to do as many menial tasks as you will slay hoards of orcs, but neither are boring. In the first couple of hours you'll be creeping around settlements stealing clothing and food in return for more powerful weapons or money. You'll play detective, solving crimes that the absent law enforcers leave un-investigated. You'll also be forced into taking trips to the surrounding areas of your encampments and towns to dispose of particularly irritable pack of animals. These sorts of missions do become tiresome as you're confronted with the same opponents over and over again, and after the first hour or so you'll be so strong that none of these sorts of enemies provide much opposition. Still, the battles are swiftly dealt with and you're not often left idly clicking your attack button waiting for the bout to end.
So much of the game is based around combat that it's disappointing to see Two Worlds struggle to realise the event in the way you would expect. The environment is perfectly rendered, featuring wonderful mountaintops and beautiful open ranges, but fighting can be a laggy experience. Frame-rates drop, making for a glitchy tourettes style unfolding in battles. Frequent loading screens while roaming also punctuated what should be a seamless experience, it's irritating when walking through an immersive and picturesque woodland to be confronted with the symbol of a spinning disc.
These issues are relatively minor when considering the massive playground you have at your disposal. It quite bluntly isn't as good as Oblivion's (you never thought it would be did you?) but it does provide an awful lot to sink your exploring-teeth into. Indeed, it'll certainly be a lot of fun if you like this sort of thing; its ambition and open-ended nature should satisfy genre fans at the very least. Two Worlds does offer mini-games by way of multiplayer (horse racing, death matches, etc) however disappointingly nothing by way of co-op quests. Still, it's better to have something than nothing and extra marks go to Reality Pump for making the effort.
A well-crafted and ultimately huge slice of video gaming.