It was a masterpiece of smoke and mirrors. Owing to a barrage of clever PR, a trickle of rather swish looking screens, some decent-looking in-game footage and more spin than a Shane Warne flipper, Reality Pump all but convinced us that they'd achieved the impossible - transforming the bilge that was Two Worlds into a sequel that genuinely had the cojones to challenge an aging Elder Scrolls IV
Hmm. The truth? This is another whiffsome mess of role-playing rubbishness - despite what those bafflingly positive reviews sneaking out of the European press might be suggesting.
Yep, those sneaky Polish funsters almost suckered us in right good and proper. The cads. One of this horrid adventure's principle gimmicks is that - rather than have to make the early sacrifice of plunging points into various skills and attributes (and therefore, say, ruling out any chance of being a mage or ranger class without another playthrough) - our hero is able to wield blade, bow or mage's staff with equal gusto.
Or at least that's the idea. Unfortunately, even on lowly 'medium' difficulty, Two Worlds II is nails - and we mean really, really hard. We've never seen a baboon with a health bar that long.
So, we ended up having to plunge all our points into levelling up our health and melée skills as it soon became painfully clear that range-based attackers were in line for a right pasting from the eclectic selection of zomboids, mummies, rhinoceroses and... erm, ostriches that roam Two Worlds II's wilderness.
So while it sounds decent enough being able to kick off a scrap from far away in mage regalia before flicking a hotkey to instantly switch over to sword and armour, ready to mop up the grisly remnants... the whole set-up is borked in practice.
You might as well just stick to hacking-'n'-slashing. Speaking of sword-'n'-shield based melée, we also seem to remember sophisticated mano-e-beasto fight also being promised by Reality Pump, something that no role-player thus far has even half-nailed.
The whole theme of having to duck, dive and generally mix things up is one big wad of bull though, and you either end up just hammering the right trigger and trading blows in traditionally rubbish fashion or hightailing it about while spewing fireballs like Benny Hill in a dress.
Looks-wise, it's the usual fantasy RPG story - with some reasonably purdy looking forest/mountainous/desert areas underpinned by shatto character models.
Rant all you like about Bethesda's dated engine, but a half-decade-old Oblivion still looks leagues better than this. In terms of atmosphere, it hardly helps that the game's princely lead is an obscenely gravely-voiced self-parody of a hero, a voice hilariously at odds with one of the campest running animations we've ever tittered along to.
The guy looks like he's suffering from rickets but sounds like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.
Manage to slog through a spectacularly underwhelming first five hours and things gradually begin to pick up, but then that's never been our issue with Two Worlds. It always presented a sprawling world, bunged in a quiverful of (middling) quests and an impressive amount to mess about with, inventory-wise.
The trend continues here; the magic system (handled through a deck of cards) is a nice touch, as is being able to reduce items to their component elements to reinforce or indeed construct other weapons.
Like we say, persevere and it's not a total loss, but the languid opening is a considerable barrier to entry to all but the most determined adventuring sorts. The bugs don't seem as numerous nowadays, but the AI is still awful (sometimes an enemy follows you to the ends of the earth; sometimes they give up and prance back to their start position even while being pelted with arrows; sometimes they just stand there and take it), while strange events abound (keep your eyes peeled for errant barrels rolling down hills for no apparent reason).