Hidden behind all the bland characters, unoriginal storytelling and technical problems, there is a really solid RPG.
Let's start analysing this game by looking at its most obvious and easy to describe feature: the graphics. Let me tell you already that Two Worlds is no technological boom. Both Oblivion and Gothic 3 were released a year earlier and look much better. Let's not forget that Crysis also came out in 2007. With that said, Two Worlds has dated visuals - at best. The PC version looks and runs much better than its Xbox counterpart, but it seems that the draw distance we are accustomed to on console games was left in the PC version with no way to alter it through the game's options menu. This is really disappointing and spoils the game's good-looking areas, sometimes even having a negative impact on the gameplay. Seeing foliage, better-looking versions of trees and enhanced environmental textures magically appearing around you as you travel onward is just a really ugly visual limitation that no one with at least a decent computer had to put up with for years now, but when you're riding a horse and a mob of enemies spawns right in front of you - it's then that this issue stops being a minor annoyance. Thankfully, the latter doesn't happen that often.
Character models, horses, creatures, monsters, weapons, armour and everything else look dated in one way or another. I'm not saying that it looks bad, it does have some good points, but it certainly does look like a game that was released by a studio with a very limited budget and small development team. On the bright side, there is plenty of variety in your surroundings. Environments change going south from the north of the map, starting at snowy mountains and rocky peaks, to woodlands and expansive grasslands. Head slightly west and you'll discover a dense bamboo forest, as well as a city, inhabitants and architecture of which were inspired by old Chinese culture. Going back on track and heading southeast, vast regions of the desert await exploration. There's even more to be found for the most determined adventurers. All of this has the usual fantasy charm with some unique Two Worlds atmosphere, but all the little details (such as some of the animations and most character models) look nowhere near as impressive. Fortunately, the PC version of the game has none of the performance issues that plague it on the Xbox 360.
The story isn't the strongest point of Gothic 3 or The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but this applies even more so to Two Worlds. The game is set in the realm of Antaloor, which doesn't really need a lot of description since - much like its environments - it's your mostly typical fantasy RPG land. The plot revolves around fallen gods and kidnapping. Well, to put it simply. You play as a nameless man; a tough mercenary whose sister is abducted by a bunch of mysterious bad guys. It's good that what a personal matter is for the protagonist turns into something much larger and is connected to his ancient heritage. Shortly after, it is revealed that your sister's captors are seeking to resurrect the evil god Aziraal. This story isn't actually that bad, but the game doesn't do much in order to introduce any original form of narrative (or make you care for the good guy's sister). Of course like with any decent open world RPG, there is much to discover and many side quests to complete beyond the main storyline.
When it comes to the good old type of adventuring we have seen in other action role-playing games (where you slay mighty beasts and pick up loads & loads of loot), Two Worlds really does shine. Although it has been compared to Oblivion the most, it actually feels a lot more like Gothic 3. There is an optional first person mode, but the game is best played from a third person perspective and when you engage in combat, the camera switches to a view behind the back of your character anyway. The combat system itself is very well-developed. There are various categories of melee weapons, each dealing a different kind of physical damage. You can also dual-wield any one-handed weapons that you find (something that was certainly missing from Oblivion). Ranged combat with bows feels a bit underdeveloped, but it can be effective as well. Weapons can be enchanted in many ways and no recharging is required. Magic is definitely the most powerful of the three kinds of combat (and there really are some nice spells, much more awesome and less generic than a lot of the spells I've seen in Oblivion or any of the Bethesda games for that matter).
The map of Two Worlds is very large, definitely comparable to that of its two competitors but not necessarily bigger than either of them. Like I've said earlier, it's not all boring green hills, and each area has its own few enemy types. This is something that reminds me of Gothic 3 quite a bit, since that game had achieved amazing environmental variety (both with its flora and fauna), and it seems that if Two Worlds followed Gothic's example even more closely - its set of creatures and plant life would have been even more diverse & impressive. Instead, there aren't that many enemy types but there are some that roam in particular places, whilst others are exclusive to other areas. Something that is very unusual about this game's world is that its enemies do not respawn. Few games do this. Now you may be thinking that the world must feel quite empty after a few long adventures in Antaloor, yet surprisingly that is never the case. Two Worlds has such a densely-populated map that it still feels alive even after many hours of play… but that one camp of bandits you remember destroying will now always be desolate. So it's a nice system that still leaves plenty for you to do, without making you feel like your battles have no impact on the game's world.
As expected, you will want to discover ways of speeding up travel and there are two different options for this. One: get a horse, and two: use a teleport. Horses can be a big part of your experience with Two Worlds, but only if you want them to be since they are completely optional. This is good, because horse-riding feels a lot more realistic that it ever did in Oblivion (but that also makes it a lot less convenient). It takes time for your horse to reach its full speed and it also can't stop instantly before slowing down first like a real horse would. Your horse also won't ride up or down overly steep slopes (once again, simply because a real horse would be incapable of doing so). So, for once, they've made an RPG where it feels like you are riding an actual animal and not some robot that is controlled by your mind. Of course, some will not like this since it can potentially limit exploration, but I thought it was handled very well and much more originally than most other games in the genre did it. One last thing about horses: mounted combat. Yes, you can now feel like a proper warrior as you ride past enemies on horseback; slashing at them as you pass them. It makes you feel badass and it works unexpectedly well. It's also worth noting that this feature was absent from Two Worlds' nemesis: "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion".
Exploration and questing bare the most resemblance to Gothic 3, as do the game's conversations. But the stories and characters that are associated with each side quest are almost always quite bland and uninteresting. It's even worse when the voice acting comes into play, though not the absolute worst I've ever heard in any game. Every NPC speaks using a fairly believable mixture of Old English and the modern language. This wouldn't be so bad if the characters didn't sound ridiculous or too monotonous. Fortunately, the rest of Two Worlds' sound effects are decent to say the least. Music stands out among the game's other unimpressive audio features, as it suits each area very well and feels somehow unique to this game rather than being overly similar to that of others as many of its other features do. What a shame then, that Reality Pump made the exact same mistake which was made by Bethesda when they were creating Oblivion, as there are few different soundtracks and not enough to prevent them from feeling repetitive after you have spent ten or more hours exploring Antaloor.
By now, it should be fairly obvious to you that most of Two Worlds' features are either mediocre or worse - and one of its few redeeming qualities is the gameplay itself (which thankfully makes up the majority of the game). It's not just the combat and the exploration though, but the management of loot as well. You will find a lot of stuff in this game; definitely much more than you'll ever need. If you are into all this loot malarkey like me, then you will want to carry as much junk as you can and sell it all for gold. Two Worlds gives you plenty of options for this.
Obviously, like with most RPGs, the amount of weight your character can carry increases as you level up. In addition to this, you can use your mount as a means of carrying more. One very cool feature is how the game lets you merge two objects of the same type together, in order to create a more powerful version. Physically it makes absolutely no sense, however from a gameplay standpoint it's an awesome feature which not only lets you carry more second-hand goods for trade, but also keep the coolest looking gear by upgrading it and not having to switch to something else as often as you normally would in other RPGs. Unfortunately, if you're determined enough, it can be quite easy to make yourself overpowered with this useful tool. This game also has an awesome alchemy system, which allows you to mix all the different ingredients you have gathered on your travels to create potions and traps. Saving recipes for later and naming your creations is really fun and very useful.
I almost forgot to mention another very important way in which Two Worlds mirrors Gothic 3, which is the fact that it's a classless action role-playing game. Unlike in Oblivion, there are no classes to limit you. This structure has already proven to be superior to a class system, since it gives much more freedom to the player and allows you to play in more unique ways without being restricted to a certain style. Attributes are still here though, so - traditionally - strength dictates your bonus to melee damage dealt, willpower affects the amount of mana available for casting spells and so on. Passive skills which increase your effectiveness in fights and active abilities which dish out even more damage or trap hostiles can be learned as well; be it from trainer NPCs or when levelling up. All of this would have worked even better, if the game was built to be more challenging.
Lastly, the game has a multiplayer component. This is where you can create a more unique character, since you can play as a female here and are not limited to just a male lead. In theory, playing an open world role-playing game sounds awesome but unfortunately, it is not executed as well as it could have been. What you end up with is a mini MMO. You get the same gameplay as you had in the singleplayer, though on a smaller map with only some random fetch & kill quests. The game's online features are basically just a lot of wasted potential, since you don't see many developers even trying this with their RPGs and what we see here isn't as good as it could have been. I wish I could go into more detail about the free roam multiplayer mode in Two Worlds, but sadly I did not get a chance to experience it at its fullest because there's barely anyone playing it anymore.
In conclusion, it's time to rate each of this game's elements and give a final verdict:
GAMEPLAY - 8.5/10
Various features that were taken from other games and some completely new ones make for a fun & addictive experience.
STABILITY - 7/10
Although the worst technical problems have been fixed by patches, there are still plenty of minor annoyances to bother you.
STORY - 5/10
Bland characters only worsen an already uninteresting story, but it's still not the worst I've seen out of the generic fantasy types.
GRAPHICS - 6.5/10
For 2007, this game's graphics look dated at best and the crappy draw distance carried over from the console version plagues the charm brought by its diverse & interesting environments.
SOUND - 7.5/10
The voice acting is really quite bad (with only very few exceptions), but the music is definitely the redeeming quality here.
LONGEVITY - 8/10
It has decent length for an RPG of its kind, but the multiplayer won't keep you around for much longer than that.
Saying that Two Worlds is the "poor man's Oblivion" or the "poor man's Gothic" would be a good way of summing it up. However, it should be noted that developer Reality Pump's team consists of no more than 45 people (according to the company's Wikipedia article), and that Two Worlds was their first role-playing game. Both Bethesda Game Studios and Piranha Bytes have more experience in the genre and more money for their projects (the latter applies especially to Bethesda). So, not all that hate for the poor folks at Reality Pump was necessary. In the end, Two Worlds is a decent RPG that could have been a lot better. There are many superior games of this type out there, but since it's cheap and has plenty of content to offer, Two Worlds might be worth checking out for gamers who have ended their adventures in Tamriel and Myrtana… as long as you buy the PC version, of course.
OVERALL RATING - 7/10 (Decent)