Divinity 2 is one of these games that had been sitting in my Steam library for quite a while. I purchased it during the massive holiday sales as it looked quite interesting, but never really gave it a second look as I didn’t expect it to be all that brilliant compared to other games I had not yet given attention. When I had a weekend to kill without any other outstanding reviews that were urgent, I decided to give it a go – and I was very positively surprised!
Divinity 2 is a third-person RPG, and can best be compared with the likes of Oblivion. The story is slightly more linear as you progress through different areas, but within these areas you are pretty much free to explore and quest in whichever order you prefer. This combination of freedom with a linear progression actually works really well and ensures that you still meet challenging encounters and feel increasingly more powerful as the game moves on.
The game starts in what most would describe as a ‘tutorial village’, which isn’t very large. This section sets the tone for the story and lets you experiment with some of the basic gameplay before being thrown into the game in earnest. It’s a very enjoyable area which explains that you are a Dragon Slayer in pursuit of slaying the last of the Dragon Knights. I don’t want to give away too much as the story is very entertaining and has a few excellent plot twists along the way. Suffice it to say, the story involves Dragons and you will be heavily involved with these powerful creatures.
The game doesn’t really follow the standard class format of most RPGs; rather it lets the player choose from all the skills in the game, in all different class trees at any point in time. Each skill, as well as skill ranks, have a specific level requirement which ensures you unlock the more powerful abilities later in the game. Each skill initially has up to 5 ranks, but as you progress through the game this limit can be increased much further. The nice thing about this system is that the abilities you unlock at the start of the game still have merit much later on as well as they scale very well with your level and the power of your opponents.
The system as a whole is incredibly flexible and allows you to build pretty much any type of character you wish. Personally, I went mainly down the ‘Ranger’ path as archery is very satisfying in Divinity 2. Poison arrows, stun arrows and passive dps increase make for a pretty powerful ranged character. You can complement this with anything you wish – in my case I initially went for the Summon Ghost ability, which allows you to summon a ghost which casts healing spells on your character. The explosive arrow is particularly enjoyable, and does exactly what it says on the tin: cause (a lot of) AoE damage on impact. Later in the game you get the ability to reset all skills for the sum of 5,000 gold, allowing you to rebuild your character in a more appropriate way. I absolutely loved this, as I normally suffer from ‘chronic re-rolling’ of characters in any RPG.
The quests in Divinity 2 are varied, and some of them are obvious references to other games or series. To give some examples, take these quest titles: “Red Ore Alert”, “The Temple of Doom” and “Ghostbuster”. Some quests and dungeons contain puzzle elements which will challenge you, or at the very least put your brain in gear. The game doesn’t blatantly give everything away, though there are always hints when you look long and hard enough. I haven’t found myself truly stuck yet, though there have been 2 times when I literally couldn’t find the hidden button to open a specific passage. Both times involved getting to a treasure chest, so they were not game breaking. (And the answer can always be found online if required.)
The combat in Divinity 2 is relatively action-packed and fast-paced. A lot of different strategies can be used depending on your character, from a ranged dps powerhouse, to a subtle stealth-based archer. Melee works pretty well too, with lovely moves that take on multiple opponents at once, and you have the ability to rush into combat to deal with ranged classes. The magic spells are pretty generic, but they look and feel very nice. For those who prefer to fight with allies, after about a quarter of the game (depending on your choices and speed) you also receive a customisable pet which you can summon in combat. When combined with the priest summon spells, you can raise yourself a nice little army, rather than doing the work yourself.
The UI is very clear and offered me everything I required. The menu structures are well thought-out and easy/clear to use and the backpack system was simple but effective. Much, much better than a lot of RPG’s I’ve played recently! The controls surprised me the most: combat is fluid, and your character moves almost with a ‘World of Warcraft’ style ease. I really enjoyed running, rolling and jumping around in Rivellon. A lot of RPGs have their own little nuisances with their control scheme, but after 5 minutes of practice in the starting village I had no problems whatsoever with Divinity 2. Given that this game also came out on the Xbox 360, the developers have done an excellent job in ensuring the PC platform has a good UI and easy-to-use controls.
The sound in Divinity 2 is very good. I would even go as far as to say the sound is excellent. The music is very atmospheric and at times I found myself listening to the music rather than looking around or playing the game. That type of reaction is usually reserved for The Elder Scrolls theme songs or games of similar quality, so I have to give compliments to the composer(s). The voice acting is also of high quality, with believable and often memorable characters. I was quite surprised by the quality there, as it was vastly better than any of the work that even a studio like Bethesda produce. If I had to criticise anything at all, it would be that your own character repeats the same lines quite frequently – but since her phrases matched my character perfectly I actually found this highly entertaining. (One of the most common phrases of my female character was, “Ohhhhhh shiny!” when looting some gems.)
Divinity 2 uses the Gamebryo engine, which has been popularized by games such as Oblivion and Fallout. I actually didn’t realise this until I noticed the game giving credit to Gamebryo as Divinity 2 looks and plays nothing like those games. The graphics are of very good quality; I would even say they are very pretty and atmospheric. You need a pretty decent computer if you want to crank the graphics up to maximum, and in particular the dynamic shadows will cause a huge hit to system performance. They effectively halved my fps to 30 – and I am playing on a Core-i7 950 with 12 GB ram and 2x GTX 460 in SLI. The dynamic shadows make the game very pretty, but at times when you combine the bright sun with the shadows of the trees and their leaves, it can make spotting enemies a bit tricky, so I ended up turning them off after a while. As an added bonus, this increased my fps to a stable 60+ on absolutely maximum settings. I reckon this game will run on pretty much any half decent computer, by playing a bit with the AA/Shadows and screen resolution.
It came as a bit of a surprise to me, but Divinity 2 is one of the best RPGs I’ve played for a while. It certainly stands head and shoulders above Fallout: New Vegas and I can’t remember any other RPGs recently that came close to the level of entertainment that Divinity 2 managed to deliver. The Dragon Knight Saga combines a re-mastered ‘Ergo Draconis’ with the ‘Flames of Vengeance’ add-on and makes it one smooth experience. The game looks, feels and plays brilliantly and should easily keep you occupied for a good 60-100 hours, depending on how quickly you rush through it. The game can be purchased for £29.99 on Steam, or £29.95 on Gamers Gate, which is worth it if you enjoy this sort of game. Otherwise, grab it at the first opportunity that they offer it on sale again – as it’s a must-buy for any fan of RPGs.
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