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divinity 2: Ego Draconis

01 Nov 09

Divinity 2: Ego Draconis is the sequel to the 2002 game Divine Divinity; the first game was an isometric   adventure on PC. Divinity 2 has made the leap to next-generation consoles and landed in full 3D. It’s mostly good, but there are a few concerns.
The game’s introduction looks the part, and the first sights of Rivellon are beautiful, especially bathed in golden sunlight. The character models are adequate enough to distinguish between them, but will not be winning any awards for style.
 After completing the character development section, hopping aboard an inventive flying ship and being treated to a glorious opening sequence, our newly appointed Dragon Slayer is deposited in a lush valley. At first glance through the canopy of trees and looking off into the distance, you can be forgiven for thinking this is an open world adventure. It is not. Any change of location from the current map area, into a dungeon or the occasional house, will generate a loading screen and a wait. Hopefully a hard drive install would reduce that time.
 The game engine runs in third person, and the controls are easy to master with the ability to custom-map skills to your face buttons for immediate use. Fireballs and arrows seem to auto-aim, and sword swinging is at the mercy of the camera. There is an annoying crosshair in the centre of the screen; this is your method of selecting items and people to interact with. Sadly, this means that your character cannot stand near a chest and have the presence of mind to search it; you have to look at it first. This might not sound like a major issue, but running around in circles looking at every bag of loot after a skirmish can be a pain. It is also a hindrance when trying to interact with non-player characters that are walking away; it feels like a leftover interface from the PC version.
 The voice acting and writing are standard fantasy fare, and there are a few grating NPCs that are better muted. Conversation options are presented in a text menu, although there does not seem to be any significant impact for choosing different routes. There is perhaps too much dialogue; this may lead to skim reading and  the likelihood that a key piece of information will go astray, speaking from experience. One interesting aspect  of the conversation menu is the opportunity to read minds. As a Dragon Slayer this is one of your base skills, and you can spend some experience points on a mind read. This is handy to get some inside information on a quest. The trade-off, however, is how much you want to know versus how often you want to be levelling up.
 Physical control of your character improves when you level up some of your key skills, although jumping still feels like floating without any real weight behind it. This is especially distracting when some of the dungeon puzzles turn oddly into 3D platform games.
Along with the epic storyline and deep back history, the game offers a variety of side quests that will keep the ardent adventurer busy. However, it never really feels like you have freedom to experiment within the world. A clever addition to completing any quest is the chance to select your prize from a list. There are some grand set pieces on offer later in the game, along with the opportunity to recruit and control your own followers, not to mention your alter ego that suddenly gives you a bird’s-eye view of the world and changes your chosen path dramatically.
Overall, it’s a ripping yarn and a well-planned adventure, but it feels too much like a structured video game and not a full RPG experience. It’s fair to say that I was playing a pre-release build, so I would hope that there was some more polish applied before the game hits the streets. However, I still feel that Oblivion does it better.