So here we are at the main event. Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity both had their ups, downs and horrendous lows, but they’re basically irrelevant now because Divinity II is a totally different game. Sure, there are a few attitudinal hangovers, and the continuation of the same story arc…
But Divinity II is not a slightly confused tactical/action RPG. Divinity II is a fully armed and operational 3rd person action RPG, and it is glorious.
Divinity II: Ego Draconis
Where can I begin?
Let’s start with first impressions, I guess. It looks a bit like Drakensang, plays a bit like Jedi Knight II… No, that’s not going to help us at all. I need to go back to basics and actually describe things instead of drawing allusions to games you probably haven’t played.
So you control a character with the keys and mouselook. All the doors in the world are oversized to accommodate the third person camera hovering in space (I kind of like this because, though it’s not very “real”, it enforces a certain grandeur in the scenery). The character runs beautifully fast and can force jump with the best of them — he also seems to be impervious to falling damage. Strafing and jumping results in a side roll. Clicking attacks and pressing buttons uses skills and items you’ve assigned to the toolbelt.
Pretty solid stuff.
(I love jumping in games, and I seriously hate it when jump is denied me (especially when insurmountable waist-high walls are involved). As we can attest to infinite hours pumping Athletics and Acrobatics in Morrowind, it’s just more fun to bounce around the landscape. Mountains? Pah!)
Combat, combat, combat. It was the bane of Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity, though they tried their best. Forget all of that now. The player is placed in direct control of the character this time, and that means one click equals one slash. It’s simple and I’m sure that if you examined it in detail it shouldn’t work (“FPSes are just clicking on heads, right?”), but it does. Combos seem to be in place, but they tend to get broken by you trying to move rather than mistiming, as the backswings generously slow down to pretty much guarantee that you can get the next click in.
Jumping plays a good part in combat, too — as well as getting you out of the firing line for quite a few seconds as you sail off into the airy distance, it also allows you to execute a brutal downward slash. I tend to miss the enemies when doing this, but it’s the thought that counts. Combos and options… Love it!
Since I’m an acrobat now wielding a giant two-handed sword, comparisons to Jedi Knight come back in. The previous Divinity titles have never been shy of an environmental puzzle or twenty, and I’ve already encountered a load platforming elements (mostly involving literal platforms rather than just convenient terrain). There is also a lot of dodging by rolling to the sides, as you quite often get peppered by arrows and magic spells from groups of enemies (though I’ve noticed that poison arrows tend to neatly curve and home in if you don’t quite dodge enough). If I can just find a giant two-handed sword that glows, my transformation will be complete.
I don’t have a lot of abilities yet (having sunk all my early points into Lockpicking so I didn’t miss any loot), but the ones I do have are pretty great stuff. I have acquired the Sonic-style Dash ability that allows me to blast up to somebody and smack them in the face from a distance — it’s a great way to get right into a crowd of annoying archers, only to unleash the classic Whirlwind Attack to knock everyone around me off their feet. Oh, and glorious lifesteal…
I also want to give a big shout-out to the art style while we’re here. Although armour does fall heavily towards spikes-on-everything school of design, the helmets in particular are interesting and inventive without being over-the-top or just stupid. (Something the previous titles were perhaps a little guilty of was being a little too down-to-earth in their visual style.) Of course most people don’t wear helmets because pretty pretty faces, but I like to because there aren’t many face options and it didn’t have my beard (and it’s another place to add enchantments and get protection so you’d be daft not to).
(Having said that, there is no shortage of equipment slots — helmet, armour, leggings, gauntlets, bracelet, belt, two rings, earings — to load up on. Pretty-pretty-dress-up-Robbie is eminently satisfied.)
Creature design is also pretty damn cool. The clear winners so far are goblins — at first glance in the heat of killing them they seem normal, but then a closer look reveals that these are crazy single-eyed monsters with glowing veins (like Sylvester Stallone these days), a delicious world away from classic fantasy goblins.
So this is why I paid £35 straight to Larian Studios instead of getting the Divinity Anthology for £20 on Amazon. Not that I regret playing Divinity Divinity or Beyond Divinity — there’s some really interesting and good stuff in both of them, it’s just that they’re both hampered by some less than pleasant elements.
But Divinity II? It keeps the delightfully flippant dialogue, the freeform skill system and the sprawling worlds, but swaps out the shonky combat for something much more visceral, and above all, fun.
… Did I mention you can also turn into a dragon?