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Divine Divinity Review

Val Sucher, 2002-10-07

I had never heard of Divinity until I came across the RPGDot boards. I never looked into the game much until after I had played the demo. After playing it I stood up and took notice of what Larian Studios is trying to accomplish with this game. Divinity is an isometric 2D rendered single-player roleplaying game full of ambition and promise. In this review I'll tell you if they accomplished what they wanted to do.

Divinity has an open-ended style of gameplay which allows you to go and do what you like as long as you can fight, sneak, or talk your way in. Even the main plot has multiple paths you can follow to get where you ultimately want to go. The game does an impressive balancing act of giving you freedom but also giving you a general direction to go so you don't get lost in the game. You'll always have some goals to work on that will tie into each other and drive the plot forward without making it seem like you're being lead around by the hand. Combine this with fast-paced action that keeps your interest and this game literally becomes a pleasure to play.
This fast-paced action can be overwhelming at times. You'll sometimes find yourself having to retreat, change tactics, cast numerous spells quickly and drink numerous healing and magic potions just to stay on top. This makes victory all the sweeter.

Divinity has a typical fantasy roleplaying settling that is familiar to anyone who is a fan of the genre. Dwarfs who call elves "treehuggers" and elves who complain about everyone but themselves are all here. This familiarity makes jumping into the game and fun and easy. The gameworld is also huge. Literally. It will take you hours to explore the numerous dungeons, buildings, caves, and surface world. Luckily there are teleporters that were built by the various races that can make travel to various important locations much simpler.

The characters

There are three main "classes" you can play. I use the term "classes" loosely since you have the option of building your character any way you like. There is the Warrior, the Mage and the Survivor (Rogue). You can choose either male or female and each character has their own unique look. After choosing a character you can put skill points into whatever skills you want as they advance in levels. You can have a warrior who casts devastating elemental attacks and can pick locks. Or you can have a mage who can wield a sword better than a warrior. Or you can have a survivor that can summon minions to distract enemies and fight for him while he snipes at the enemy. You are not restricted to a specific set of skills. You can make almost any combination of skills work in Divinity. Even if you don't want to spend precious skill points on some skills there are alternative methods of gaining some skills if you keep your options open. For instance, in the first area you are in you get a quest to save two soldiers. The only problem is you only have one healing gem that will heal only one soldier. If you find a method of saving both soldiers then one of the healers will generously teach you the Restoration skill so you can heal yourself in the heat of battle.

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Each of the three character types have a unique ability for their class. Warriors can perform a powerful whirlwind attack that damages multiple enemies when you are surrounded. The mage can literally switch places with someone else within visual range. The survivor can sneak up on their enemies or into places they shouldn't be. Each of these unique abilities can help enrich your gameplaying experience.

The controls in Divinity are very easy to use. If you've played Diablo, then you'll have no problem jumping into Divinity's controls. Don't mistake this game for a simple Diablo clone however. They've taken what other games in the CRPG genre have done right and polished it up. These improvements are easy to notice and utilize. One of the best features is what the 'ctrl' key does. With the 'ctrl' key pressed you only have to left-click on the screen and your character will automatically attack the closest hostile to your mouse pointer. Your character will also attack until said hostile is dead. This eliminates some of the click-fest that some games fall prey to. Unfortunately there are a few path-finding issues that can be a minor annoyance but certainly not game-stopping.

Divinity has many of the tried-and-true gameplay features that all gamers love, like shortcuts for potions and important spells, the ability to switch weapons easily, a pause feature for issuing commands, a command for highlighting all the items you can pick up or use, a built-in screen capture ability, a quest log, a mini-map and so much more. I'm tempted to say that they've thought of everything.

The inventory is very well organized. Different types of items have their own screen or 'plate' as they are called in-game. For instance, all weapons are in one screen, all armor is in another, all potions are in another, etc. This takes the task of having to organize your inventory out of your hands so you don't have to worry about it if you're a neat freak like me. It also makes finding a certain item very fast and easy. The inventory is also unlimited in the amount of stuff you can pack in there. The only limitation is how much weight your character can carry.

This brings me to my favorite feature of the game, the teleporter pyramids. These are a godsend and when used correctly will save you a great deal of time. Simply leave one pyramid near a bed, a teleporter, or your favorite merchants and carry the other pyramid around with you. When you get overloaded, simply drop the pyramid that is in your inventory and use it. You'll then be instantly teleported to the pyramid you dropped near that merchant and you can sell all the loot you don't want to keep. Then you can teleport directly back into the action, pick up your pyramid and continue on your way. The more time a game saves me with shortcuts like this, the more I like that game. No more incredibly long hikes back to town. As your character says, this is "a princely gift".

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Thankfully, Divinity has few load times and can support resolutions up to 1024x768 without bogging down significantly on an average system. Divinity runs smooth and looks good while doing it. The 2D graphics in Divinity are beautifully done. The amount of detail and variety put into the scenery, characters and every-day objects adds to the feeling that Rivellon is an actual place. Different types of armors when equipped by your character will have different appearances whether it's a helm, leggings or body armor. You won't find the same variety as Neverwinter Nights but it is still well done.

There are a large variety of creatures and monsters that you will run into that are also nicely animated.
Taverns look like taverns with patrons, drinks, a bar, bottles of a variety of drinks and more. Military camps look like military camps with numerous soldiers guarding the walls, supplies and weapons laying about. Even dining rooms are complete with plate settings, food, drink and candles. The best part is you can interact with most of these objects. They aren't just part of the scenery.

About sounds and music
I love the music in this game. Any game where you walk into a place such as a tavern or military camp and it SOUNDS like you walked into that place gets a big plus. The only music that didn't seem to fit was the music for the wasteland area near the ending of the game. At times it simply sounded too techno for a fantasy setting. However, I liked the way it changed to a lonely ghost town western theme when you enter the game's last bastion of civilization. Other than that one instance the music fit the surroundings well whether it was the wistful and sad music in the Elf Ruins or the rollicking, feel-good music when you stepped into the Dwarven Bread Inn. Kirill Pokrovsky should take a bow for creating a truly fine soundtrack for this game. Even if you don't buy the game, go to Larian's Divinity website and listen to the game music.

The sound effects were very well done but would be better with more variety. If I had a penny for every time an orc said "rac-cho", then I'd be several dollars richer. There were some great sound effects that do stick out in my mind though. I especially liked the clicking of a skeleton tapping it's club in it's hand while it waited for me to move into range. It almost seemed that it was the skeleton's way of daring me to come closer. That, or the skeleton was just bored waiting for me to show up. Either way, the attention shown to sound gives the game style despite some of the repetitiveness.

The English voice acting is not the best I've ever heard. It certainly isn't the worst though. Often times it seems a bit over-done. I was rather tempted to name my female warrior Feminazi and my male survivor "bad boy". But maybe that's just me. However, the funny dialogs certainly make up for what was lacking in the voice acting. When Zandalor asked if anyone had a deck of cards so the Council of Seven could pass the time while your character was away had me in stitches I was laughing so hard. In this way the game gets points for charm and wit that is quite refreshing. The dialog also isn't tedious and long-winded like a few games I could name.

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What I call fun
This game is fun. This game is addicting. What more needs to be said? Well, I suppose I should convince you its fun. Okay, I can do that. I've been playing nonstop in every spare moment I have since I tore off the packaging and installed this game. With fast-paced action and interesting quests that aren't your normal fed-ex types this game puts a fun little twist on everything. How can you not like a game that gives you quests to wash dishes, blow up supply trains, solve murder mysteries and poison wells?

The game world is alive with political intrigue, shady underworld dealings, threats of war and everyday people who wonder if their crops will fail. The rich atmosphere of the game coupled with a living world work to make the game convincing in it's reality. However, there are a few things that could be done better such as the NPCs having set day and night schedules. While I'm happy that the blacksmith keeps his shop open 24/7, I sort of worry his wife will file for divorce if he doesn't come home soon.

One of the best things I saw in the game was where I was able to pay a street performer to recite some poetry. After a few verses a near-by shop owner came out and applauded the street performer and asked for an encore. This gave me the ample opportunity to sneak into the shop and steal whatever I could lay my hands on before the shop owner strolled back in. This is what I call fun.

The interactivity in the game is a big boost to the fun you'll have in this game. Where else can you make a cozy haystack to sleep on? Want to make honey or even your own potions? It's possible. You can even stack rocks if you really want to. Want to watch a cat attack a chicken? You can even do that.

A good read
Most people don't bother with the manual until they get stuck and then they only look at it as a last resort. The manual that comes with Divinity covers everything you need to know about the game. Everything from explanations about skills and instructions on how to use the teleporter pyramids to troubleshooting and instructions on contacting Larian's support, is covered. They even include a very nice thank you to the player for purchasing their game and a warning about photosensitive seizures! It's certainly nice to know these guys care.

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Something good, something bad
Unfortunately Divinity is plagued by some bugs that can be show-stoppers if you don't avoid them. The first step to avoiding some of these headaches is to install the latest patch which clears up several issues. Another step is to save often so you can recover if you do run into a bug or crash. There are minor spelling mistakes as well. My computer only crashed while using the globes to find the Council of Seven members and when my virus-protection software decided that NOW would be the perfect time to scan my hard drive. I've avoided most of the problems that some people have reported and several of their problems disappeared when they installed the patch. You can avoid major problems simply by following the advice I stated earlier. Of course, these two things are something any experienced computer gamer should do out of habit. ;-)

Overlooking this game would be a disservice to yourself. Larian has done what they set out to do. They've given you simple, fun gameplay and the depth that makes the roleplaying genre great. They have blended the best of both hardcore and simple action roleplaying games. The possibility of creating your own adventure is here. The possibility of playing the game the way you want is here. Hey Origin, this is what Ultima 8 should have been.

The Verdict
Graphics (15%) 85%
Sound (15%) 90%
Control (25%) 90%
Fun (45%) 95%
Overall 92%

The ups and downs:
Huge interactive worldMinor spelling mistakes
Good premise for the storyA few bugs
Open-ended gameplayNo day/night cycle for NPCs
Easy controlsSome path-finding issues
Great musicRepetiveness of sound effects
Two words: Teleporter PyramidsAverage English voice acting
Character development

Reviewer's System
Version: 1.32
CPU: Pentium 3 1 GHz
Graphics GeForce 3 Ti200 Pro (128MB)
Sound SB Live Value
OS: Windows 98SE, DX 8.1

Average Reader Ratings: 7.96 (227 votes)
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