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Divinity II: Ego Draconis

Score: 70%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: CDV
Developer: Larian Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Divinity II Ego Draconis sets you down in the lush world of Rivellon. It is indeed beautiful, but you may have to stand still to appreciate it, literally. It doesn't take long to notice the jittery movement of everything, and a framerate that wants to take a nose dive as soon as any action starts. Yes, stand still, and you can appreciate the sun streaming through the leaves, the babbling brooks, and the awesome ancient structures. The same goes for the human inhabitants of the world. Everyone must practically dance out everything they say, with huge, exaggerated movements to accompany the simplest, "Hello Slayer." The leader of the Dragon Slayers moves with all the poise of a sassy cheerleader at times. All this takes some getting used to, but it can never quite be pushed aside.

Voice acting in this game is also pretty good, but at times you feel like the actor is trying to space out the piece to meet some sort of minimum time. Some actors really stand out, and luckily, these are the main characters for the most part. The music, however, really shines. There are sweeping, orchestral pieces as you explore the landscape, and intense, dramatic pieces for fighting your way through an ancient tower. There are some very quaint, peaceful pieces in some of the villages, and for mysterious dungeons and secret places, there are pieces of music to match these moods as well. Clearly, there's a lot of talent going into the art and the music in this game, but it seems only the music was given enough time and polish to enable it to be impressive.


Gameplay:

Divinity II: Ego Draconis will throw you into the middle of a story about Dragon Knights and Slayers with little background story, but this can all be obtained through the manual and books found in the game. Still, it would have been nice for the opening cinematic to be a little more descriptive, or at least narrated. Suffice to say, an old war has created a group that calls themselves Slayers, and they're on a quest to eradicate Dragons, or rather the last remaining Dragon Knights. You find that things are not quite as clear cut as the Slayers want them to be. Dragons, labeled betrayers of the Divine, aren't really deserving of the blame placed on them. Even your game's main bad guy, Damian, has his reasons for waging war, for he had lost something quite dear to him by the hands of the hero-god, the Divine. Even your character, very soon into the game, undergoes a change that will defy everything that they are. There's plenty of interesting twists and turns here, if you're willing to invest the time in reading about them.

Divinity II is an RPG that claims to have a classless leveling system. Well, this is for the most part true. You can pump any stat, and invest points in any skill that you like at any time. If you want to be effective at anything, however, you'll probably want to specialize at least somewhat. Still, it is nice to be a mage, and still be able to fall back on the bow, or be a warrior with a few spells up her sleeve.

Things really start getting interesting when you get your own tower and the ability to turn into a dragon, but this is going to take quite an investment of time to achieve. But here, you can satisfy your micromanagement desires and hire runners to fetch ingredients for potions, and alchemists to create those potions for you, among a few things. You'll also get your hands on a new side of your character that can change into a dragon. This other side of you has different abilities and skills, one of the most interesting of which is, of course, the ability to fly.

There are secrets hidden all about Rivellon, so if you're the type that likes to explore, you'll have quite an addiction on your hands here. The downside is that you'll need to have an eye for detail and the details in this game can be very easy to miss. Switches on walls can be very tiny, and with the targeting system, you're not going to accidentally find any of these things. You are, however, given "hints" to help you find these small details. See a room full of treasure beyond a bent iron door that you can't open? There's probably another way around. See something on the map that you can't access? There's probably a loose brick in the wall nearby...

There's something to be said for the humor that Divinity II occasionally tries its hand at. There are the tombstones with funny inscriptions (this will feel way too familiar to those who've played a Fable game), and other rather hokey, narrated events. Where things really get interesting are during the mindreading events. Yes, an added benefit to becoming a Slayer is gaining the ability to read minds. The cost is a loss of experience points every time you use the skill, so you may soon shy away from reading every mind out there. At least, the first time you lose a chunk of experience points discovering how much the guard's feet hurt, you'll think twice. Of course, you just might have to know what certain people are thinking, such as the pig farmer who can't bear to part with his pigs, or the axe-wielding man with two personalities.


Difficulty:

Divinity II: Ego Draconis's manual tells you that this is not an RPG that will hold your hand. They aren't kidding. Try your hand at Normal, and you'll probably be spending a lot more time than you'd like getting started on your quest. You'll have to explore the lands while carefully tip-toeing around groups of enemies that are even slightly higher level than you. Of course, fights must be carefully waged and enemies must be pulled out from the group just up to the range where they reset and run back to their original areas or you'll have to start all over again. Winning fights at this level feel more like you're trying to "trick" the game engine and exploit glitches more than you're trying to develop a strategy.

You'll probably end up swallowing that pride and kicking things down to "Easy." Don't worry about the title. You can still be easily overwhelmed by groups and find yourself pulling stronger enemies inadvertently, but at least it's manageable at this level. The game feels more like a game, and less like a pause-play-pause-play nightmare.


Game Mechanics:

Perhaps you'll be lucky enough not to encounter many of them, but Divinity II: Ego Draconis has some nasty bugs and glitches. I've got to hand it to them, these are some of the most interesting glitches I've ever encountered. My favorite was when I saved in a certain dungeon, ran into a difficult enemy and died, then tried to load from my last save. That's what saves are for, right? Apparently not, as loading this save put me right outside the dungeon door, completely erased the door from existence, and kicked me backwards about 2 levels. Nothing I did could get me back to my actual saved game. Yes, really. There are other glitches with saves or even certain areas that can be "fixed" by restarting the game and loading, or some other simple action. But the fact that these things happen at all can make one wary of going forward at all.

Divinity II also has a targeting system that will take a lot of getting used to. Instead of a system where you walk near something, it highlights, and then you can simply press (X) to pick it up, Divinity II has a tiny reticule that you must use to "target" everything before you can interact with it. There are also some rather odd controller mappings like pressing in the Right Control Stick to pause the game. It will take no small amount of faith to believe this, but it actually does get easier over time. As for the targeting system, when you're trying to target a mountain full of boxes one by one only to discover that most of them are empty, one thing you can do is just destroy them all first. Then, loot bags will conveniently float in place for the destroyed boxes that contained some treasure.

Divinity II also tries its hand at a bit of platforming, as if it weren't stretching itself thin already. Yes, jittery, jumpy graphics combined with a glitchy system and a tedious platforming stretch are about as fun as they sound. Luckily, these areas seem to be relatively limited.

When you get past all the glitches and the odd controls, there is something very addictive about this game. You can just feel an epic game is trying to make its way through, but there's just so much holding it back. When things are going well, you'll be a master of the battlefield, subduing enemies with tricks or dispatching them quickly before they can catch up. When things are going badly, you're stuck in some invisible wall, bouncing around endlessly. Divinity II is the kind of game you just want to be good so you can recommend it to friends, but it ends up being the kind of experience you can only appreciate with a lot of patience.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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