Divinity II: Ego Draconis


By: Alan Bell    On: Xbox 360
Published: Monday 30 Nov 2009 10:00 AM
 
 
 
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First and foremost, don't just look at the score and make some assumptions; the number, in this case, is relatively poor at explaining the quality of the game. Even the section numbers alone don't tell the full story. Read on...

Divinity II is, as the name implies, a sequel. The original title, Divinity (and it's expansion, Beyond Divinity), was an isometric (think: Diablo) RPG using a dated (even at the time) 2D engine to spin its tale of magic and dungeons. Divinity II, however, leaps straight into the present, leveraging the same engine used for Fallout 3 and Oblivion and bringing the gameplay into third-person 3D. Unlike those games (and a certain other Dragon-related RPG released recently), the focus of the gameplay in Divinity II is action roleplaying (emphasis on the action).

The story in Ego Draconis, without spoiling it, is very good. The characters have solid motivations for their actions and the story heads in unexpected directions, with the early setup suggesting something other than what happens. The details are good and fun to uncover, so we won't go into them here.

The game is controlled from a third person perspective, using the left stick to move your character around. You can zoom in to a closer, over-the-shoulder, perspective by holding in the left trigger.

Combat is performed by mashing face buttons, which get skills mapped to them as you discover them. Target selection is automatic however you can take direct control by moving your character around to another target or by using the right stick to switch between targets. You can also pause the action at any stage to make some changes or assess the situation and you can even instruct the game to automatically pause (based on a specified percentage of health) so that you have an opportunity and a reminder to consider fleeing or slugging back a potion.

For the most part, the combat controls work pretty well and combat itself is fluid and action-oriented. Some aspects of the control (like, unfortunately, the rest of the game) could use refinement - constantly hearing "that skill is not ready" when you press a button a few times (skills will only fire when your previous attack is finished) or not seeing any indicator as to how long a skill still has to cool down is pretty archaic interface design these days.

Interacting with objects in the environment is a frustrating affair, with precise placement of the camera (and, ergo, your character) required to gain the ability to interact with something. Combined with sometimes numerous interactive objects in the same area, attempting to use a door can often result in opening dozens of empty crates and barrels before you finally pull it off.

The user interface (particularly inventory management) is a perfunctory affair, with the bare minimum of effort applied to the task. There was clearly no artist involved in its creation either, as the clumsy tool is also ugly to behold - Eye of the Beholder on GBA is superior to this effort in every way, for example. Even a glance at this by a usability expert or focus group would have improved it out of sight.

The visuals are a mixed bag. For the most part, the environments are beautifully detailed, leveraging terrain variety and gorgeous lighting to highlight the well laid-out towns, villages and valleys the game takes place in. The animation, however, is almost universally horrible. Your character's gait is an embarassingly ungainly mince and he jumps like, well, something that cannot exist in a physical reality. Massive floating fortresses wiggle through the sky like they weigh nothing at all and in general, movement is a massive visual disappointment. The combination of the (mostly) beautiful environments and the clumsy movement displayed thereon can only be described as awkward.

Character customization is decidedly weak, with only few options available (you can have long hair or brown hair but not long brown hair, for example) and the resultant combinations look rather crude. Instead of trying to find the combination of features that you would like to convey your character to the world, you'll probably mix and match in an attempt to find something that looks least bad together.

Questing is similar to what you might have experienced elsewhere, with quest NPCs clearly identified and their tasks set within the local area you happen to be in. Unfortunately there's very little (typically none at all) assistance in the way of markers on the map, minimap or any other level of UI assistance to help you to your objective. Quest text can be a little vague as well, leading to lots of wandering around aimlessly trying to figure out what to do. Fortunately you can review the full text of every conversation you have (in addition to the quest log) so if you don't mind text-diving for clues, you can often find what you need to nudge you onward.

If you read the above and look at the numbers, you probably imagine that this game is not worth looking at. That's not the case. Yes, it's pretty rough around the edges and yes, it can be frustrating to interface with. What it is, however, is a very good story with an engaging combat engine, lots of content and a good bias towards action. If you think you can handle the amateurish presentation and clumsy interface and are looking for a solid story-driven RPG, you should definitely check it out. Just be prepared for roughness and you'll be happy with the result.


The Score

Divinity II: Ego Draconis
"Good story, average everything else."
6.5
Average
Rating: M   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 30 Min

 

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Comments (2)

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Koopa18 NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Tuesday 1 Dec 2009 2:30 PM Posted by Koopa18
At least that screenshot of the dragon looks cool
 
 
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leopardsqueezy
On Friday 4 Dec 2009 5:19 PM Posted by leopardsqueezy
Um, this game just sounds sh*t. I'm playing Dragon Age right now, and while it is pretty good, I'll soon be over these cookie-cutter old-school dice-roll fantasy rpgs, in the same way I'm completely over Japanese turn-based rpgs.

Looks like if I want to play the next AAA rpg, I'll just have to wait for the next Bethesda game. Those guys are truly peerless.
 
 
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