Polish developer Reality Pump Studios doesn’t have the best track record.
They’ve spent the last decade developing various RPGs of ill repute. Two Worlds, Two Worlds II, Raven’s Cry, and then Two Worlds II again in the form of an upgraded version that leads into a new sequel.
Raven’s Cry is particularly notorious for its employment of shady business practices. Started by another studio, it languished in development hell for years. When it came out, it got trashed with both poor reviews and low sales numbers.
Reality Pump and their parent company Topware made a few patches, de-listed the game, changed the name slightly, and tried to sell it again as a brand new product.
That didn’t go over well.
In 2007, none of this mattered. Their slate was clean.
Reality Pump was just an obscure studio that mostly made strategy games, and they had decided to cash-in on the hype and fan base around The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. They ran out and licensed the exact same pile of middleware that Bethesda used to make their big hit, and cobbled together a “more-exciting” clone.
I was all-in for this game before I played it. Thanks entirely to the trailers.
It had open forested landscapes, with the same promised level of freedom that older RPGs had. If you could find the final boss right away, you could try to fight him!
It had explosive action combat. It had a goofy weapon-combining system where you’d slap two swords together to make a more powerful sword, which was weirdly ahead of its time if you look at the way loot systems work in today’s mobile games.
It had music by the epic legend of synth himself, Harold Faltermeyer, composer of some of the most iconic film soundtracks of all-time.
And oh yeah, its other ace in the hole was full multiplayer on both console and PC.
The trailers for the game were incredibly exciting. I remember this one below very well. So well that the music from it still randomly pops into my head.
What an awesome-looking game!
Unfortunately, it turned out to be completely terrible.
The story is hastily and badly explained in the first few minutes, and the plot never falls into place. The controls are awkward and the menus nonsensical. The graphics are plagued with random pop-in and what can only be described as intense jerkiness.
It constantly feels like the whole thing is about to fall apart under its own weight.
On PC, the game was finished enough that you can find some fun in it. But on Xbox, it’s plagued by issues. Most frustrating for me personally, the game has an awful sound bug where every effect and voice in the game is hard-panned all the way into the left or right channel instead of emanating from the proper direction.
That bug, and many others, still remain in the Xbox version to this day.
The weapon-combining system quickly made your character overpowered. If you found the right gear, you’d go from barely standing a chance to crushing all nearby enemies in a handful of minutes.
It was a disaster. I found some aspects of it charming. But like many initial customers, I sold my Xbox copy before finishing it.
Two Worlds still sold well enough to spawn a deeply weird sequel with much better graphics, sound, and…everything.
It’s not a great game but it’s at least one that you could finish if you like it enough to play past the first four hours.
In Two Worlds II, the story is presented more clearly and acted with Power Rangers-like melodrama (which I enjoyed).
The opening desert area then has you fighting a lot of….ostriches and chimpanzees (which I did not enjoy).
It presents a strange first impression and somehow just keeps getting weirder. The marketing images for the second game you’ll find on digital stores wisely exclude the first area.
Mimicking the baffling success of the first game, Two Worlds II has sold well enough that it received not one but two entire engine overhauls, and got new expansion content as recently as last year. And a third game is now in development.
It’ll probably sucker me in all over again.
I never played Raven’s Cry but after hearing how horrible it was I’m not broken up about it.
Neither of Reality Pump’s other questionable RPGs had anywhere the hype of Two Worlds. Or the awesome trailer music.
This above trailer is always the first thing I think of when I’m skeptical of game marketing. Never before or since has such a terrible game been presented so delightfully and in a way so pointed at my specific tastes.