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Divine Divinity

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: CDV
Developer: Larian Studios
Media: CD/3
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Divine Divinity, a new RPG that bridges the gap between diverse games such as Bioware's Baldur's Gate II, Black Isle's Icewind Dale II, and Blizzard's Diablo 2, offers single-player, single-character play reminiscent of those games. The graphics are definitely similar, though they are crisper overall. All of the environments are very detailed, with wonderful features like reflecting water, lots of wildlife wandering about, and excellent, varied dialogue and sound effects.

Divine Divinity supports resolutions up to 1024x768, and the animation is very smooth for the most part, with no real loading between areas. The action does occasionally bog down, but not very often. Sound effects are all top notch, and they match the on-screen effects perfectly. The music is excellent, and fits in well with the storyline and combat. Finally, many of the NPCs have spoken dialogue, and the voiceovers, though occasionally spotty, are generally quite good.


Gameplay:

Divine Divinity offers more robust game play than an action oriented RPG like Diablo 2, although it tends to be a little lighter than games like Icewind II. There are plenty of NPCs to interact with, lots of quests to engage in, an overarching storyline line that is well integrated into the game, and tons of combat.

Starting the game is deceptively simple: Choose a male or female Survivor, Warrior, or Wizard character class, select a difficulty level, a portrait, and give your character a name. That's all there is to creating a character, and from that point on it's just a matter of adding skills and modifying the basic statistics in order to mold your character as you see fit.

Leveling is frequent, especially initially, and each time you level you are given a number of points to allocate to the character's basic attributes of Strength, Agility, Intelligence, and Constitution. Additionally, you are given skill points you can use to add skills and spells to the character's repertoire. It is extremely difficult to decide whether to spend the single skill point you receive on a new spell or on a skill, but this aspect of character development adds great depth to the game.

Besides developing your character, you will also spend a good portion of the game interacting with NPCs. They usually initiate conversation on their own, although you can also do so at anytime. With most NPCs you can not only talk to them and obtain quests, but also barter with them, which includes identifying and repairing items. Bartering is based on the attitude NPCs have towards your character, which can be improved through giving gifts. And although you can obtain skills to repair and identify items, it's very handy to have an NPC available to handle this important task early in the game.

Combat is of course what you will be doing most in DD. The combat system is streamlined like most other action oriented RPGs. Simply click on your opponent, and your character will strike them until they are dead. You can pause the action at any time to give new orders, but as soon as you issue the order, action is resumed. Accessing your equipment, potions, and skills is extremely easy while in combat, and each character class has a special move, which can be used to great advantage.


Difficulty:

Combat can be extremely frustrating in Divine Divinity, although in all honestly pausing the game and using movement to keep high level enemies away, while tedious, can make short work of them. Combat is nowhere near as tactical as the Bioware or Black Isle games, but it is nonetheless quite rewarding. Difficulty levels can change the burden substantially, which should make the game appealing to all levels of players.

The game is easy to get into, and knowing what to do next is not generally a problem. Game play is linear, but this does keep things constantly moving, which is important in a game that relies so heavily on combat.


Game Mechanics:

The user interface in DD is not as refined in many ways as competing RPGS, but there are a host of great features the developers remembered to include. Notes can be added to the map, the journal has a filter that allows you to only see active quests, and while bartering, you can see equipped items as well as those that are not. Setting skills and spells to function keys is trivial, and spawning summoned creatures to your aid is as simple as selecting the skill, and right-clicking where you want the creature to appear.

Divine Divinity has some tough competition, but in a year where the king of RPGs seems to still be unknown, it has a good chance of grabbing the top spot. It has excellent graphics and sound, a great skill-based character development system, solid questing, and compelling combat. It isn't an action oriented RPG; it's a real RPG that has a little more action than the other real RPGs out there. So if you're into real RPGs, it's definitely worth a look.


-Gordy, GameVortex Communications
AKA Gary Lucero

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, 450 MHz Pentium II, 128MB RAM, DirectX 8.0 compatible 8MB (800x600) video card, 100% DirectSound compatible sound card, 4x CD-ROM.
 

Test System:



Windows XP Home, 2 GHz Pentium 4, 256MB RAM, GeForce 4 Ti4200 w/64MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live! Value, 32x DVD-ROM.

Windows Disciples II: Dark Prophecy Windows Druuna: Morbis Gravis

 
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