Blog 538: Divinity Discourses: More Divinity II

It’s always a nice feeling when you’re too drawn-in by a game to write blogs about it. But I’m sure you have the appropriate intestinal fortitude to stomach slightly longer gaps between entries than usual, dear reader…

It’s also a nice feeling when you can heap praise on something. There’s always that worry when you get a new game that you just might not like it, and that’s kind of awkward. Luckily, there have been no such issues with Divinity II, so let’s look at a few more things that I completely forgot to mention last time

Divinity II: Ego Draconis

One of the big selling points of Divinity II is (clue’s in the subtitle, at least if you were classically educated (I wasn’t)) your ability to transform into a dragon. It takes a few hours of game to get to this point, mind you, before the landscapes open out into flight-friendly expanses.

It doesn’t change the game as much as you’d think. Despite sharing the same world space, the land and the sky are neatly partitioned — huge ballista towers and flying opponents won’t target your human form as you trudge around the ground, and human opponents on the shop floor won’t take pot-shots at the monstrous beast cruising around overhead (indeed, they tend to quietly become completely invisible or at least invincible).

When in the air I am reminded of Giants: Citizen Kabuto, as the smaller details disappear and the world turns to sprays of giant slow-moving projectiles and other airborne combatants, while towers start to explode into big chunky physics objects. The dragon form handles in the same way as the human form, though, complete with its own set of equippable armour parts and a different (rather smaller) set of skills, so it doesn’t ever feel like a carelessly jammed-on vehicle mode.

I hope these blogs don't dragon too much.

I hope these blogs don’t dragon too much.

There are some awkwardnesses to the Dragon form, though.

For some reason, there are shielded areas that automatically kill you on entry dotted around the landscape. They don’t seem to add much to the game, except as they tend to be in bubbles around important locations and enemy structures they just force you to stay back a few feet — your attacks and skills are naturally ranged so it’s never been anything more than an annoyance. The boundaries are also quite hard to see (at least at my graphics settings), so it took me a while to realise why I was dying for no apparent reason.

Another thing that seems missing is using the jump key to make you directly go up and, say, having an extra key to make you go directly down again (the human form does also lack crouch) — the dragon can hover, but you still have to look up to fly up. Gravity is completely disregarded until you transform back into a human, and there isn’t much in the way of acceleration so it doesn’t entirely feel like you’re flying.

On the other hand, dragon mode is pish easy compared to human mode, so it’s always satisfying to cheese a load of experience by nuking every tower on a flying fortress.

I'm just going to wing it, I'll surely claw back a couple of kills.

I’m just going to wing it, I’ll surely claw back a couple of kills.

The next big back-of-box selling point is your unique summon, called simply “The Creature”. Most fights are no push-over, so at the cost of half your mana you can bring a custom-built undead abomination to take some of the heat off you.

I say custom-built because it’s assembled from body parts that you find along the way. In an unparallelled display of pretty-pretty-dress-up power, heads, torsos, arms and legs define the creature’s very statistics as much as its appearence. While most parts affect basic things like hit points and attack damage, heads also convey some special abilities — I’ve been using a Dragon-Elf head to let mine shoot magic missiles, for example. (Because while I go charging in with that giant two-hander, I need somebody on ranged support.)

The main advantage is that, no matter how you build your character, there is guaranteed to be some back-up. The summoning costs half your maximum mana regardless, so you’ll never be locked out of a helping hand for all the fights where you are horrendously outnumbered (i.e. all the fights).

No, this isn't the Creature, I was always too busy using it as cannon fodder to take any screenies of it.

No, this isn’t the Creature, I was always too busy using it as cannon fodder to take any screenies of it.

Quest rewards are another nice feature, and one that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Basically, you get to choose your reward from a small selection: along with a base amount of gold and experience, you can pick a little more gold, a little more experience or something more immediately practical like a potion or a charm. Sometimes the system throws up weapons, so it’s always nice to just not bother with that enchanted axe you’ll never use and go straight for the money.

Dohohoho.

Dohohoho.

Symphonia Divinia & Musica Obscura

Since I’m now a good way through Divinity II (or possibly into its expansion pack, I’m not entirely sure), I decided that it was time to give the soundtrack CDs a spin, seeing as there was little risk of musical spoilers at this stage.

The first disc is just a selection of songs that you can hear in the games. Although, it sadly tends to focus on the music of Divinity II, despite this game having the least good music (it’s not without its charms, don’t get me wrong) — the ethereal synths of Divinity are represented solely by the haunting Council of Seven theme, rather than the floaty Spanish guitar-ridden music that accompanies wandering around the wilderness and that jagged and fearful Dark Forest skit. Divinity II‘s music is a little reminiscent of Unreal Tournament 2004, with orchestral work being backed up by electric guitars and heavy percussion, but it is just so much less memorable than the sweeping Unreal-esque melodies of the first and second games.

So the second CD, the bonus disc of unreleased work, was much more interesting to me — from a lovely piano rendition of the admittedly slightly cheese Divine Divinity menu music to… Well, there’s no track listing so I can’t refer to so I can’t highlight my favourites, but there’s one of slightly lower fidelity (presumably a recovered demo tape MP3 rather than a finished piece, like Ultravox’s Keep Talking) that sounded great. Anyway, it’s full of much more atmospheric morsels.

It does get a little bit tired the fifth time you singlehandedly demolish an entire floating fortress and its army. What do you mean, "optional content"?

It does get a little bit tired the fifth time you singlehandedly demolish an entire floating fortress and its army. What do you mean, “optional content”?

Overall

Still lovin’ it. Divinity II relentlessly charms with its witty dialogue, though it keeps the difficulty consistently ramped up just a bit ahead of your current level (or maybe I just suck; I would hate to play it spending a lot more experience on mind reading).

That’s why I’m a bit worried that I might have stumbled onto the expansion pack rather than just another act of the main game. I want it to keep going on and on and on and on and on and…

Never change, Divinity.

Never change, Divinity.

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