You could argue that games like The Elder Scrolls and the Gothic series helped popularize open-ended role-playing games, which take place in a sprawling 3D world. Whatever the case, the genre is set to grow even bigger with Two Worlds, the upcoming PC and Xbox 360 role-playing game from publisher SouthPeak Interactive and developer Reality Pump. This new game will put you in the shoes of an average adventurer who discovers that he is perhaps destined for greatness. This may sound like familiar ground, but Two Worlds will offer some interesting new features that will set it apart from other games out there.
In the game, you'll play as a mercenary adventurer in a fantasy world where humans coexist with dwarves, orcs, and other fantasy races. At the beginning, you're drafted in an expedition to a dwarf mine. But your party is ambushed and your sister, who was also part of the group, is kidnapped. As it turns out, the mine is the gravesite of a dead god, and the race is on to tap the hidden powers buried inside. And somehow, your character is discovered to be one of the few beings in the world with the ability to unlock those powers. As such, you'll spend much of your career in the game not only fighting off angry monsters, but also dealing with powerful figures in the world who may seek to manipulate your abilities or prevent you from using them entirely.
With Two Worlds, Reality Pump aims to combine traditional role-playing mechanics with some interesting new features. For instance, the gameworld will be persistent; burned grass and trees will stay burned until they grow back later after rainfall. Unlike in Oblivion, you'll be able to seamlessly enter and exit buildings with no load times, which means that you won't be able to escape from botched thievery attempts just by sneaking out the door. But you might attempt to escape pursuers by ducking into a house and locking the door behind you.
Two Worlds will also have a deep role-playing system that is based primarily on open-ended character skills. You will need to choose a starting character class but will then be free to advance your character in any line of skills. These skills include picking locks, using various weapons, or casting magic spells from one of five schools of magic, which include elemental sorceries and the dark arts of necromancy. Interestingly, necromancy--the magic of raising the dead and manipulating their undead spirits--won't exist in the world at first; you'll need to undertake a quest to restore it to the world by reactivating a set of ancient towers. If you choose not to restore necromancy, then it simply won't exist throughout the entire game, and you'll never have to swing your sword at a single skeleton or zombie. Fortunately, the game will also feature "skill trainer" characters who can help you learn new skills and unlearn those you've chosen but don't like.
In addition, the game has some interesting features with respect to inventory management. One aspect of role-playing games that Reality Pump sought to avoid is the constant influx of junk you loot from your enemies, even after you become an accomplished and wealthy adventurer. For example, you'll be able to combine individual items of the same type to create upgraded versions; those three rusty broadswords can be combined to create a more damaging and valuable weapon. You'll also be able to combine any herbs or cooking reagents you find using the game's alchemy system; you'll even be able to create unique potion recipes that will carry over into multiplayer.
Yes, Two Worlds is being designed for online multiplayer. Apparently, pending approval from Microsoft, the game will also be playable over Xbox Live for up to eight players in a single game session. You'll be able to create multiplayer saved games that store your characters (and any unique item recipes you've discovered that have your name on them) so that you can hunker down with some friends for a session, save your game, then come back to it the next time your buddies are available.
But if you go the multiplayer route, be prepared for one long multiplayer session. The base single-player game will reportedly offer something along the lines of a 40-hour adventure for players who stick to the "main quest" and try to complete the story as quickly as possible. For anyone who likes to poke around and try any of the game's many side quests, the game will likely last many more hours. If Reality Pump's first role-playing game capitalizes on all of its potential, Two Worlds will offer hours of open-ended role-playing in a highly interactive world. The game is scheduled for simultaneous launch on the PC and Xbox 360 in May.