Review | Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga
Great Balls of Fire…
Format: PC/Xbox 360 | Genre: RPG | Publisher: DTP Entertainment | Developer: Larian Studios | Release date: 19/11/2010 | Price: £39.99
On a wing and a prayer, Marco Fiori reviews DIVINITY II: THE DRAGON KNIGHT SAGA.
AFTER THIRTY minutes with Divinity II it’s easy to conclude that it shouldn’t work. After all, video gaming provides such an infinite scope for storytelling, so why do so many resort to ‘ye old adventure?’ “Developers who peddle such traditional RPG claptrap in the year 2010 are outright lazy”, you’ll cry! And yet, for all its goblin slaying, Divinity II manages to do something magical, appealing to the inner child before unleashing it on a fantasy world full of charm.
However, before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s necessary to step back and gain some context. Often when rehashed originals appear it’s a suresign of an underperforming original. Combining both a revamped original (Divinity II: Ego Draconis) with a completely new expansion (Flames of Vengeance), what’s the reason behind The Dragon Knight Saga (DKS)? Did the original merely fall foul of its release date, or was the source material actually mediocre?
If you consider the cult following of 2002’s Divine Divinity, it’s hard to argue the latter. It looks to be just another case of rushing the development to meet the release date. The potential of Ego Draconis has always been evident; it’s just the game didn’t get polished to a presentable standard. Put simply, DKS is an attempt to right the wrongs.
DKS ticks all the classical boxes: swords and swooning maidens, a malevolent evil lurking in the shadows, winged beasts and magic necromancers; the list goes on. It’s not a complicated affair – a simplistic good versus evil escapade through forests and dungeons against an evil that plagues the world. Some would argue it’s a rehashed narrative, others would say it’s a timeless archetype that never loses its appeal. While Divinity II is deeply rooted in a quasi-Tolkien setting, it does at least try to carve out its own presence.
If you can overlook the shaky plot, there’s actually an extremely playable RPG underneath. It’s safe to say that while the execution isn’t groundbreaking, the overall package is finished to a notably high standard. Taking control of a newly christened Dragon Slayer, you play as the latest wunderkind tasked with bringing order to the world.
As is expected with these situations, you’ll choose between a warrior, archer or mage, but unlike many of Divinity II’s cousins, you’re not limited to a single class. Instead, you’re free to advance your skills as you see fit, switching between the three if you get tired of your existing class. The downside to this, however, is if you’ve focused on a specific route; you’ll be noticeably weaker than your previous class choice.
Elsewhere you get the chance to control the mythical beasts that adorn game’s title. These skirmishes into the land of dragondom are generally enjoyable; it’s very hard not to enjoy a firestorm. Mindreading, however, while a nice touch, is a concept that’s sadly underdeveloped – think of the pacifist speech challenges usually found in RPGs. It may be an alternative path through the game, but due to the XP cost, you find yourselfresorting to a less peaceful method of progression. Still, Larian should be given credit for attempting to bring some variation to exhausted formula of ‘grab-weapon-and-kill-nearest-creature’.
Graphically, the game runs on the same engine as Oblivion and Fallout 3. It’s practically a revelation when you consider how fabulous Divinity II looks. Aside from a few ropey character models, the level of detail is meticulous. When trawling through the wastes of Fallout 3, every house is furnished with the same three pieces of flatpack. In Divinity II, the world has been crafted around the player –there may be an unusual amount of similar urns, but it generally feels more alive. The settlements in particular, while sparsely populated, are lovingly crafted. It’s an even more impressive fact when you consider the raw size of The Dragon Knight Saga.
Whether or not you should buy DKS all depends on the original. The expansion pack might tempt those who enjoyed the first, but it’s difficult to justify the repurchase of the original game. However, if you did miss the game first time around, then it’s definitely worth your attention. It might not break away from convention, but this is the game that Ego Draconis should have been.