The Divinity series, if you haven’t head of it, has taken a backseat since 2002, playing second fiddle to other, more viable RPG beasts like Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, and of course, World of Warcraft. Although not gaining instant recognition, Divine Divinity and it’s sequel, Beyond Divinity slowly garnered enough respect to deem a third installment worthy – nearly six years later.
Divinity II: Ego Draconis (Latin for I, of the Dragon) comes at a time where many-a-gamer are still reveling in the expansive bliss that is the world of Dragon Age: Origins. Once again lying in the wake of yet another epic’s release, can Divinity II finally make a name for itself and stand out amongst the competition? Or is it destined for yet another divine flight under the radar?
As the adventure begins, Divinity II drops the player into the world of Rivellion as a recruti for the famed Dragon Slayers that protect the land’s more evolved inhabitants. Yet, as you come upon a Dragon Knight preparing to draw her final breath, she forces her consciousness and powers on the slayer recruit, revealing the truth behind dragons and how their powers are necessary to oppose the one, true evil; tje power-mongering Damned One, Damian (getting biblical, are we?).
With the help of Dumbledolf, or Zandalor as he’s known in Rivellion, you must learn to master the dragon form’s powers and revive Damian’s deceased lover Ygema from within the Hall of Echoes, an ancient sanctuary of the dragons of old. Because of strong magical ties connecting the Damned One and his lover, Ygmea’s revival ensures Damian’s destruction, and peace will once again return to Rivellion.
Yet, like most of the game’s features, the solid plot receives very little support from the game’s cast of characters. Much of the character development is shallow and unecessary to advancing the narrative, and the voice acting is as equally unsatisfactory. When the game comes to a close, a major twist lies in wait for those who reach the end.
While many will not approve of its direction, developer Larian Studios took a mighty gamble and show some serious cajones with the ending, something I’ve been waiting for games and movies to employ more often. The surprise ending displays a more earnest sense of realism seen within the fantasy or RPG genre that games don’t explore, and one I hope to see more of in the future.
The ending may not be your cup of tea, but Divinity II will most definitely have something for everyone, particularly in character customization. While the game will lead you to the believer that you’ll be pigeon-holed to one of the three types of classes, this is not the case. After your initial choice (mage, ranger or fighter), you’ll have access to all three skill trees, allowing for any combinations of skills.
It’s a very solid system, and one of the best I’ve seen in recent memory. Not many RPG’s grant you the ability to be a dual-wielding maniac that can swap to his bow, toss a fireball, or summon demonic warriors and be as equally menacing.
Though the skill system is very deep and inviting, the same can’t be said about the combat. The camera works from a third-person-perspective, much like any modern MMO. Fighting is also done in the same vein, but with a more arcade-y, real time feel more akin to Diablo. It flows well and for the most part provides a genuinely fun experience, that is, until you face your first patch of uber-enemies that rip you a new one before you can cast a spell.
Divinity II suffers from widely imbalanced difficulty across the entire adventure. There are times when you’ll breeze through hours of the story without so much as using a couple potions, and others where an hour of story may turn into two or three; it often gets quite frustrating replaying the same battle five, six, or seven times just to progress one non-essential part
What saves Divinity II from mediocrity is the player’s ability to morph into and fight as a dragon. Though air combat also suffers from the same imbalanced difficulty, the dragon form provides an intriguing addition to the otherwise run-of-the-mill combat. As a dragon, you’ll have high flying access to the skies of Rivellion, as well as new equipment and a dragon specific skill tree. Clearly, flying is the preferred method of travel, but isn’t without its limitations.
Invisible walls and sky-high mountains will keep you boxed in, and the unforgiving anti-dragon weaponry and monsters will require much strategy and agile maneuvers to safely roam the skies. Even with said limitations, flying around and admiring the scenery is a blast. It’s rare that a game give you the option fo fly in a fully 3D environment, and Larian Studios does a damn good job at implementing it.
The world of Rivellion is an expansive fantasy realm filled with your normal inhabitants, ranging from the common human to the not-so-common demon god, Ba’al. While there are only four main areas, three of them are quite large and encompass many sub-areas, providing ample amounts of exploration and bloodshed.
Each area yields different environments, which all look splendid from a far, but as you get in close, pixelated lines and poor detail bombard the eye. While they’re definitely not terrible, the visuals look somewhat dated and do very little to impress, besides the cutscenes, which are very few and far between.
Because of Rivellion’s vast size and quest driven nature, many sidequests and other optional features will become available as you progress the story. As you receive your dragon form, which happens after a third of the way through (about a ten hours or so), you’ll also be granted access to the Battle Tower.
Within your fortress, you’ll be able to enchant your equipment (weapons, armor, and accessories), brew potions, and gain further mastery over your skills.But the best and most interesting feature is also the creepiest. The “in house” Necromancer can create a loyal, rotting carcass to obey your every beck and call. It works much like the pet companion from Torchlight and FATE, except they can’t bear any loads and you know, it’s made of mangled body parts.
The moderate amount of sidequests replaces the atypical grinding for experience, but rapidly becomes a grind itself in order to bypass the unbalanced feel throughout your adventure. Many quests will involve platforming sections that are clumsy and inaccurate due to the finicky jumping controls.
If you’re not platforming your way through quests, you’ll find that the Mindread skill will provide many quest solutions. You can read almost every character’s mind, though a good portion don’t have anything useful. With so many different ways this skill could be utilized, it’s sad that it boils down to nothing more than a gimmick, especially since you’ll be mainly using it to reap “new insights” that grant stat and skills points.
Unfortunately, Divinity II is littered with minor flaws and glitches. There were times I would enter a conversation and only my dialogue choices would appear, which caused some problems in parts where the text was vital to complete a quest.
I saw infinitely spawning enemies that didn’t offer EXP, and more often than not, when I went to close the game, I had to enter Windows Task Manager so I could shut it down. It’s a shame that with two months between the European and Stateside release that these minor glitches weren’t fixed. Oh, and that whole concept of moral choice? Let’s just forget about that one.
If it weren’t for some innovative features and a delightful soundtrack by award winning composer Kirill Pokrovsky, Divinity II: Ego Draconis would be nothing more than something to tide you over between Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2. But given that dragon combat, the skill system and the Battle Tower show signs of brilliance, it’s definitely worth a look-see if you’re one that’s in-tune with PC RPGs.
The plot is stellar, and the environments yield some pleasing visuals, yet it's continuously marred by minor glitches: and the twist ending will either be loved or despised.
|How does our scoring system work?|
While fighting on the ground is nothing special, dragon combat is thrilling and just simply a blast to fly around as, and sure beats the hell out of the finicky platforming controls.
The sound effects and music are top notch, and one of the more polished features of the game. You'll be searching for this soundtrack in no time.
The story may last 30+ hours and the sidequests will come close to doubling that, however they tend to get frustrating and tedious quickly.
Though you could obtain a more polished experience, you'll be hardpressed to find an RPG that offers the same innovative direction. If it weren't for minor glitches and some finicky controls, Divinity II: Ego Draconis could easily sit amongst some of the genre's greatest.