Two Worlds – the best bad game of all time
Two Worlds pic

For this week’s So Bad It’s Good instalment, Keiran Burnett explains why fantasy RPG Two Worlds is the most fun he’s ever had with a terrible video game. 

Ok. Two Worlds is a weird game. But that’s fine, because that’s why it’s worth talking about.

It didn’t sit with critics all too well on its release back in 2007, but take a quick look at its GoG page and you’ll find glowing review after glowing review. There’s a surprising amount of people who seem more interested in bashing the likes of Oblivion rather than reviewing Two Worlds, as if Two Worlds was done some great injustice by being not as good as that game. I’m particularly fond of one gallant reviewer’s opinion that people who didn’t like it “felt threatened by the game’s scope.” As it happens, along with many people, I did like it – but it is terrible.

Even the menu music sets a thoroughly naff tone (wait for it):

Terrible is not an understatement. Calling it rough would barely cover the first five minutes. Frame-rate doesn’t so much stutter as choke, walking animations feel like you’re striding through soup rather than air, and enemy AI is dull and brutish, displaying the sort of single-minded behaviour you’d find in early World of Warcraft. Magic isn’t worth the bother until many hours in, and even then the befuddling combination system you use to unlock powerful spells is, appropriately I suppose, downright arcane.

When I first played it I restarted the game and went through character creation again because I thought something had gone horribly wrong. But as it turns out it’s just that the character you see in the cutscenes is a default model with no relation to your own avatar. He looks like this. He’s on a mission to rescue his sister, or something. There’s also a guy with a hood called Gandohar whose function in the game, apart from looking pretty cool, is to never, ever betray you under any circumstances.

There’s a curious abundance of wolves and bears throughout the world, far more in fact than the local wildlife could sustain. Maybe tribes of wolves eat each other? Who knows. Enemies don’t respawn either. Not one of them. This renders huge swathes of the game world pretty dull if you’ve already cleared them. This is not necessarily a bad thing since the combat system is more reminiscent of Punch and Judy than Lord of the Rings. Thankfully you can teleport, and get around on horses.

There’s a variety of steeds to obtain, the coolest rides being the genuinely legit lizard-horses. The trouble is they tried to be realistic with them, having them steer as if you were egging on a real horse. It’s a little difficult to explain quite how it feels – never a good sign for a game mechanic – but it works like dominoes. You input a command like “turn left”, and this is relayed to your character as normal, who then passes the memo on to the horse, and when “turn left” finally cruises like continental drift into the mind of your bewildered stallion, he’ll do just that. Unless on the left there’s a crevasse, or say, a small bush. Two Worlds is proof that the best thing about cars is their lack of conscious thought.

This has all been a rather harsh, and enthusiastic, criticism. Truly though, Two Worlds is one of my favourite games. It’s not fair to call it a disaster. It’s more like an clumsy labrador unwittingly causing a disaster, panting from room to room catastrophically wrecking the place in its canine excitement. It scampers around slobbering on whatever notion takes its fancy, never taking the time to truly let any mechanic breathe, but it’s brimming with neat little ideas to keep the player intrigued.

There’s a collection of very neat abilities that spice up the otherwise woeful melee combat. For instance you can kick sand into an enemy’s eyes, or if you have an axe equipped you can hook it over his shield and yank it off. It’s one of a sadly small list of games that actually lets you fight dirty. Characteristically these abilities have been worked into the combat in much the same way that a determined infant might work a square peg into a round hole. Their inclusion speaks to a boundless enthusiasm on the part of developer Reality Pump, and a can-do attitude that spits in the face of words like ‘budget,’ and ‘talent.’

It’s also just absolutely stuffed with, for lack of a better description, weird shit to get up to. In an early side-quest you can obtain a personal teleporter by running errands for a wizard. I actually do applaud the game having the gall to include the teleporter in a quest you could easily ignore. If I remember rightly I did just that for a long time. It’s an example of one of the game’s strengths; its confidence that the player will work things out in the end, which is refreshing, if tragically optimistic.

A later quest has you rid a fishing village of a race of crab-fish-hominids. You can even become a Necromancer, but again Two Worlds amazes in its ability to make even dominance over the dead entirely not worth the bloody effort. Younger me however was listening to this album on repeat whilst playing the game, so I was damned if things like tedium and frustration were going to stop me achieving mastery over death.

The true star of this game however is the dialogue. Really it’s the only memorable thing about it. Its world is completely devoid of any personality. I cannot remember the name of one single location other than the unfortunate village of ‘Windbreak,’ but the misguided attempt at Shakespearian prose anchors the world in the subconscious. I still wake up sweating with ‘mayhap’ and ‘prithee’ ringing in my ears.

The script has that magical quality that films like The Room have. It’s something you can’t engineer. Daring to call it ironic should be a capital offense. It’s the fevered work of someone completely oblivious to their own twisted genius, a monument to the hilarity of a completely straight face. It lends the game a unique character that was sorely missed in the entirely pointless Two Worlds II. Please take a few minutes to watch the video below. Skip around a bit. Explore the daftness. There’s no better way to remember Two Worlds.

Pick it up on GoG. I hear there’s less bugs in it these days, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

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