Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Available on: PC and Xbox 360 (Xbox 360 version reviewed)
If you’re a fan of sword and sorcery then you’ve probably played an RPG or two, you’ve undoubtedly spent a good few hours setting up your character, making sure their facial features are exactly to your specifications (even though you’ll be looking at the back of their head for the most part, or it’ll all be covered by some glorious helmet you found on a corpse), making sure their stats are perfect, perhaps you’ve even consulted the internet to make sure they’re all correct and as good as they can possibly be. After all that’s said and done you more than likely went out and spent countless days killing goblins, looting corpses and just about everything else that would, in modern days, be considered abhorrent. But you’re one of the good guys, so it’s all cool. Right?
Say hello to Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga, the game that takes everything you loved about normal RPG’s, makes them a little more tedious in some places but then redeems itself by letting you turn into a dragon. I fear that calling it “The Sine Wave of Gaming” might be a little too geeky, and reveal my love of number crunching and statistics, so I’ll just say that Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga has it’s ups and downs. Read on to find out more.
STORY: At the start of the game you are tasked with completing your training as a Dragon Slayer, a very elite group of people who are given the sole responsibility of rounding up and killing the last remaining Dragon Knights for the crime of siding with the “Dark One” and helping to kill the Divine. That’s the story as the good people of Rivellon see it anyway, that’s not to say that it’s exactly what happened though. The true story will be unravelled over about 100 hours of gameplay and varies greatly in how interesting it is. At some points it will be the one of the most interesting stories you’ve played in a long time, things will happen that you really weren’t expecting, and then there are the times when it feels like the writers have just ripped out pages from The Lord of the Rings and pasted them into the design document. You’ll groan and complain at these moments, but it’ll get back to the interesting stuff eventually. Sadly you’ve just got to persevere as the good stuff really is worth waiting for.
GRAPHICS: Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga makes use of the Gamebryo game engine which has been seen in a lot of other AAA titles dating all the way back to 2001. The most recent uses of the engine have been with Fallout 3 and the recently released Fallout: New Vegas. This game engine isn’t the best looking one out there by a long shot, in fact it’s downright horrid in some places, but it does its job of engrossing the player in a massive game world that some game engines, while they may look a lot better, simply would have a hard time managing.
Simply put, the graphics in Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga give just about enough to keep it interesting without looking too dated. If you’ve played any of the recent Fallout games or Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion you’ll know what I’m talking about. To be honest though, these games are so deep and engaging that if you’re looking for a game to play for the graphics alone, you were never playing the right game in the first place.
SOUND: When I’m playing games, especially RPG’s such as this, I don’t really take much notice of the sound as I’m usually too engrossed in the story itself to notice them. Music, sounds and the overall design is something that are usually taken for granted. You only really notice them when they’re not there any more, for whatever reason. The sound in Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga really did stand out to me though, sometimes for bad reasons but most of the time for good.
The only problem I had with the sound realtes to the little quips the character comes out with when he has taken care of an enemy. I know this is supposed to add a little bit of depth to game and a little bit of humanity to the character, but when all you’ve done is punted a chicken across a field the hero shouldn’t feel the need to exclaim “Take that!” to the entire world. For God’s sake man, it was just a chicken! For the most part, however, I enjoyed everything to do with the sound. The music was good and fit with the style of the game, adequately swelling when the tension was mounting and subsiding when nothing was really going on. After all, you don’t really need a massive orchestral score when you’re just talking to random character. Speaking of the characters, every single one of them is voice acted and that’s something you don’t see every day, especially in an RPG of this magnitude. I expected to read at least a little bit, but even though the quest text is displayed at the bottom of the screen, all of the words are spoken out loud. Quite a feat from such a small development studio.
GAMEPLAY: I wasn’t expecting much when I fired up Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga for the first time. Perhaps, I thought to myself, it would be something worthwhile enough to pass the time until something else came along. To be honest, when I found out it was over 100 hours in length I was a little daunted. I instinctively assumed that the game would struggle to keep me interested for such an extended period of time. Already disliking the game, for no real reason, I watched the introduction video and set about my first quest. Learning how to become a Dragon Slayer. This was my first “wait…what was that?!?” moment of Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga, of which there are many. I knew that the back of the box mentioned that I would be able to play as a dragon, even the title of this version of the game was “The Dragon Knight Saga” and here I was training to kill the very things I wanted to become. That was when I realised that twists and turns in the story would become standard throughout the game, when you thought one thing was certain, something happened to reveal why the other option was right all along. You, the player, are almost always wrong, despite what your character may arrogantly go on about to other people in the game.
The way the game plays is nice and fluid, I personally played a warrior class, my usual bread and butter when it comes to an RPG. Yes, you may think it’s because I like to hit things but I thought about it logically. The less spells my character has to learn, the less of them I have to attempt to map to the buttons on the controller. After 25 hours of gameplay I only had 3 things mapped to the buttons and one of those was a health potion. I can only imagine the fumbling that would have occurred had I chose to play the mage class. Every battle would have devolved into which button I could hit the fastest, and which spell had the shortest cooldown timer. As it was I was able to hone my abilities as a warrior, dodging and weaving enemy attacks, charging into them, knocking them to the floor and doling out swift and decisive justice. Just how I like it. The option to pause the gameplay while you work out a strategy is nice too, not very original but still a nice addition. Things can get pretty hectic pretty quickly and it’s always nice to know you can get yourself a couple of minutes rest while you take note of the battlefield and possibly rework your attack.
There are plenty of quests to keep you occupied in Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga, quests that range from the standard, mundane, “go get me X amount of Y” quests to the less mundane “go kill that 1,000 year old, extremely powerful, necromancer”. You can probably imagine which are the most interesting, but that doesn’t mean that the simpler quests don’t have their charm. Some of the character conversations are genuinely amusing and some of the strange stuff the villagers get up to at times is just plain ridiculous, but it all adds to the entertainment value. My only major problem with the way the game works is the saving system, there is an auto save feature but it saves so infrequently that it becomes almost redundant. Using the ‘Save Game’ feature in the start menu is a must for anyone attempting to play the game. There’s nothing more frustrating than charging headfirst into a single enemy only to find he has friends that you didn’t see because there was a rock in the way. In order to continue playing once your characters life has been abruptly ended, you must load a previous save file which, if you were only using the auto save feature, could have been literally hours ago. All those nice quest rewards and experience points you’ve just been gathering? Gone. I speak from experience.
LONGEVITY: With 100+ hours of gameplay you certainly are getting your money’s worth out of Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga. Playing through it again will yield the same results at the end of the day, but there’s nothing stopping you trying alternate paths. Maybe you will try and attempt things in a different order or just play the game as a mean spirited old wizard instead of a kind hearted young warrior. Either way, it’s totally up to you. As with any RPG there’s more than one reason to play the game through over and over again, but with the aforementioned 100+ hours of gameplay replaying it is not a decision to be taken lightly.
VERDICT: Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga is a game that’s worthy of anyone’s gaming shelf. The sheer length of the main quest line makes it value for money, then there’s the amount of time and effort that clearly went into it’s development. Yes, there are certain point where it’ll frustrate beyond all imagination, but that just makes it feel all the more epic when you get to those really good bits because you know that some people will have given up on it, but YOU didn’t. You stuck with it and look at you now.
Spread those wings Dragon Knight. Be the legend.