Divinity 2: Ego Draconis PC Game Review

I have already done a Netbook Gamer for Divine Divinity, declaring it one of my all-time favorite games, so it was only a matter of time before I’d find myself immersed in the sequel, which was released in early January. So does it deliver on all of my hopes and dreams for a follow-up? Read on and find out!

The Hype:
Divinity II: Ego Draconis is a single player role-playing game (RPG) and third game in the Divinity series. Divinity II features a classless character system, designed to allow ultimate flexibility to any created character with the right level and distribution of experience points. Also featured are a choice-based storyline, the ability to fight in human and dragon form, control of composite creatures formed from parts of defeated enemies and powerful strongholds called Battle Towers that can be transported to in time of need.

Key Game Features
* Sequel to an Award-Winning RPG Series – Following the lineage of Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity, Divinity II: Ego Draconis has adapted many of the most famous elements that made these two original games classics. Divinity II: Ego Draconis makes use of the same classless system that was incorporated in Divine Divinity, which allows you to choose your own path as you become a Dragon Knight.
* Fight as Both a Human and a Dragon – Don’t settle for taming and riding a dragon when you can be the Dragon. For the first time, an RPG unleashes the very power of the Dragon on you. Climb high and vaporize all that stands in your way as you strategically use both your human and dragon forms to defeat Damian and become the ultimate Dragon Knight.
* Dynamic Choice-Based Storyline – Divinity II : Ego Draconis gives you a wide range of moral choices when deciding on how to act on quest objectives. When you make these choices, the consequences of your actions appear throughout game play. Consequences such as up to 20 possible quest solutions, new quest chains, NPC reactions, vendor pricing and other experience-altering consequences make Divinity II: Ego Draconis very interesting and engaging.
* Powerful Battle Tower Gameplay Element – Looming like a colossal stone claw over Sentinel Island, stands the Battle Tower, a vast citadel built many centuries ago by Maxos, the Dragon Mage. Become bound to the Battle Tower through a mystical relic known as the Dragon Stone. The Dragon Stone allows you to teleport to the Battle Tower at any moment so that you can utilize the powers within.
* Build Your Own Ultimate Fighting Creature – Conjure the spirits to bring to life a creature made from body parts you have collected during your battles. This creature’s power is literally the sum of its body parts; the composition of various limbs determines its strengths and abilities. Once you are able to assemble this abomination, you may summon it to support you in combat.

The Reality:
When I think of Divinity 2: Ego Draconis I am reminded of D. W. Bradley’s 2005 game Dungeon Lords. Wait! Wait! Before you jump to the comments and start flaming me, let me explain. Dungeon Lords pre-release developer hype talked about bringing the best of his classic Wizardry dungeon design to bear alongside a visceral modern experience that combined the best of games like Gothic 2 and Jedi Knight 2. How could you NOT be excited? With Divinity 2, you have one of my all-time favorite games, Divine Divinity, getting a sequel that brings it out of the isometric world and into a fully 3D 3rd person experience. Once again, how can I NOT be anticipating what the game might deliver?

The problem with making an action-based RPG is figuring out how to deliver a deep role-playing experience that is simultaneously full of visceral gameplay that fans of modern 3rd person action games would find satisfying. I’m of the opinion that the first two Gothic games are perhaps the best examples of such a realization: Fallout 3 and the Elder Scrolls games provide thrilling gameplay, and games such as Drakensang and Dragon Age: Origins provide a deep role-playing experience, but none of those manage to bring together all of the elements in the way that the Gothic games have done.

For the first several hours of Divinity II: Ego Draconis I felt that perhaps I had found a new game to fill that void: the combat is thrilling and there is loads of questing that integrates nicely into the story and overall experience. Certainly the pacing is not too intense, and it is generally possible to extract yourself from combat before you die at the hands of a mob.

Like the original Divine Divinity, the sequel is a story-driven game that takes place in Rivellon, occasionally coming across areas we knew from the past, but mostly taking on new places and characters. Neither the story nor the writing are going to win awards, but they work well enough and make the experience thoroughly enjoyable. The classless structure of Divine Divinity also remains, and there are tons of skills of all types to invest your points as you gain levels.

Graphically Divinity 2 delivers a high quality experience that is generally comparable to Risen, but not quite up to the so-called ‘AAA’ games. Character models are detailed, and the animations for movement and combat are nicely done and varied enough to remain interesting. There is no day / night cycle or changes in weather patterns, something that feels odd in a modern game of this type – especially since they were present in the original Divine Divinity!

Let me talk about the music … ah, the gorgeous soundtrack. I absolutely adored Kirill Pokrovsky’s Divine Divinity Soundtrack, and Divinity 2 lives up to my expectations based on the earlier work. The themes once again reflect a sort of melding of western and eastern European traditions mixed with fantasy genre fare in a way that feels very fresh compared with many of the other recent game soundtracks such as Risen and Dragon Age, neither of which feels like it brings anything new compared to Kai Rosenkranz’s excellent Gothic 3 score.

There are two innovative features in Divinity 2: Mindreading and the Dragon Transformation. The Mindread skill allows you to pay some experience points in order to probe the mind of characters you are speaking to. Sometimes they have little of value going on, but there are many times when you can open new quests by what you find in their thoughts. Generally, but not always, the more it costs you, the more value you’ll get. You can take additional ranks in the mind-read skill, which lowers the experience cost. As someone who is used to scratching for every experience point, I found it difficult to accept giving away experience points – especially when I got nothing of value in return.

As for the major game element of Dragon Transformation, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand it makes sense in terms of the plot and story development, but on the other it felt like the game took a turn once you gained that shape-shifting ability … and frankly I expected something more. I also felt frustration that flying as a dragon puts you into a whole different style of game, where you can’t attack anything on the ground, nor can you ‘free fly’ as you are constrained from above and by ‘walls’ that are visible and ones that are invisible.

I liked the quest structure and the choices you got to make throughout the game. You were typically given more than one way to solve a quest – with the exception of combat-centric tasks – and upon completing a quest you generally got some fixed rewards and also a choice of an additional reward. This choice was nice since it allowed me to spend experience on mind-reading without so much worrying.

Divinity 2 has a third-person real time combat system with jumps, dodges, acrobatics and so on. Personally I love that sort of thing – which is where my Dungeon Lords thoughts come from. I could find myself surrounded and take a running jump over an enemy and run to better cover position and cast some spells from a better tactical position, dodging incoming attacks to allow myself to heal. I actually liked the integration of some of the jump puzzles, but in some cases the design of the puzzles and the precision of the control mechanics were at odds, making for too many instances of ‘fail & retry’.

I very much enjoyed Divinity 2, but I also have to say it didn’t meet my hopes and expectations. After a few hours I truly loved the game, but after a few more the weaknesses started showing through. It is a solid story-driven action-RPG that is a worthy addition to any genre fan’s library, but in a year that saw Drakensang, Dragon Age: Origins, Risen and the Mac release of Avernum 6, not to mention King’s Bounty: Armored Princess, it is hard to push Divinity 2 above any of those games as a necessary purchase. For ardent fans of Divine Divinity, the return to the setting and characters along with the brilliant music might be enough to justify paying full price to play immediately; and for hardcore RPG fans thirsting for another fix I also think there is plenty to like; but for most folks I would recommend waiting for a good sale or a lull in the RPG onslaught to give this a shot. So I am giving the game a weak ‘BUY’ recommendation.

Where to Buy: Amazon.com

Price: $49.99 (currently on sale for $39.96)

What I Like:
+ Nice combat
+ Solid story
+ Gorgeous Music

What Needs Improvement:
– Action sequences lackluster at times
– Dragon play promises more than it delivers

Source: game bought at retail by the author.

Categories: Gaming, Reviews

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