This is not necessarily what we were expecting from a fantasy RPG hero. He's currently legging it - arms going like pistons - as he's chased across the savannah by a rhinoceros, two ostriches and a particularly irate cheetah. It started with a trio of baboons lobbing stones, and by the time we'd piled in to teach our simian aggressors just who's higher on the evolutionary ladder we'd woken up half of Whipsnade. Still, the time- honoured technique of clambering on a rock until the AI pathfinding draws a blank and then peppering nature's noble beasts with arrows should be enough to get us out of our latest scrape. Welcome back to Two Worlds.
Those aren't even the most interesting enemies you'll square up to in this ridiculously rammed, brilliantly broken RPG. Zombies, dinosaurs and man-sized wolves are just some of the nasties stinking up Two Worlds II's extensive bestiary. Fortunately, there's an equally bountiful selection of blunt, pointy and magical weaponry to arm yourself with.
There isn't a facet of Two Worlds II that isn't packed with detail and opportunities for customisation - so whether you like casting spells or simply clobbering enemies with a pair of block hammers, you can tailor your hero to suit.
Spoiling for a fight
The combat itself is actually remarkably satisfying, metal connects with flesh and chitin with a satisfying crunch. If you prefer not to get up close to your foes, the bow and arrow is a devastatingly precise weapon - particularly if you up the accuracy skill for a more rapid rate of fire. There's even a Splinter Cell-esque multi-arrow takedown mode which makes light work of groups of softer foes.
It seems that the design process for Two Worlds II was just one long, extended brainstorming session - you're constantly discovering bizarre but interesting features nestled in among the more traditional RPG mechanics. As an example, while we were flicking through our inventory we spotted an item called The Oculus, which we'd managed to loot with no real fanfare. Turns out this fleshy lump is actually a flying, controllable eyeball that you can use to spy on your enemies before charging in sword-first. It's a tiny addition in the grand scheme of things, but yet another in a long list of neat details.
Where things get genuinely remarkable, though, is in the potion mixing and magic combination system, which turns combos of ingredients or spell cards into items with unique effects. Initially, you'll just be mixing up basic health potions, but eventually you'll find yourself reanimating corpses and creating whirlwinds of rocks. You could potentially lose yourself for hours just playing Delia Smith with the contents of your knapsack.
Multiplayer is similarly imaginative. While there's the standard co-op campaign, which is entertaining enough by itself, it's the village mode that is unique. Unlocked once you accumulate 10,000 auras for your separate multiplayer character, it allows you to build your own township by dropping buildings in plots of land, and roping in your friends to help you smash beasties in the surrounding area. You really do get a lot of game for your money.
Out of control
Inevitably, cramming the game with so much stuff to do leads to problems, the main one being the control system. Don't think you're going to get a tidy context-sensitive system like Fable's - in combat your fingers and thumbs will be wriggling like a breakdancing spider. It also manifests itself in the standard adventuring portion, usually leading to you jumping up and down in front of someone instead of initiating conversation.