Diablo II Meets Ultima VII

User Rating: 8.8 | Divine Divinity PC
I purchased and played Divine Divinity when it was first released back in 2002. I managed to get my character to around Level 30. Then my son was born and I stopped playing and never returned to the game. That was a mistake. But for those of you who are parents already, you know that an infant in the house sorta cramps your gaming style… With the recent release of Beyond Divinity, completing Divine Divinity became a priority because I wanted to experience the series with the story fresh in my head and the satisfaction of actually completing this first game in the series (considering some of the post-dates of some recent player reviews here on Gamespot, I’d say I’m not alone in this). After loading up my prior save-game from 2002 I quickly realized that I was totally lost because the story and locations of things had all become hazy, I decided to just start all over again. That wasn’t a mistake. While the graphics are a bit dated now being nearly 2 years since its initial release, the graphics are on par with other similarly looking games from 2002 – I would say even slightly better than Diablo II. Your weapons and armor are represented on your in-game character better than Diablo II that’s for sure. But anyone worth their computer role playing salt knows that while nice looking graphics are great, it’s the game-play that really counts. And that’s were Divine Divinity really shines. While Divine Divinity isn’t a revolutionary CRPG experience, it is quite literally an amalgam of many other recent CRPGs in one package. If this were done poorly, it would have been a disaster. But the folks at Larian did an excellent job bringing together a wide feature set and have delivered an exceptional computer role-playing game experience. Outwardly, Divine Divinity plays very similarly to Diablo II. Killing monsters is done in real-time and many times you are swarmed with monsters a-la Diablo II. But not to worry, you can pause the action by pressing the spacebar if you need some time to think. Weapons and armor are also organized very similarly as they are in Diablo II with items having attributes and descriptions (i.e. ‘sword of the owl’) that can favorably (and sometimes unfavorably) alter the player’s attributes and skills. Some items are also ‘enchantable’ to further augment their benefits. While Divine Divinity doesn’t employ a skill ‘tree’ (where one skill is a prerequisite to obtaining another skill), everything from melee abilities to caster spells are handled via the skill system (as opposed to having spell casting broken out differently from non-spell skills). Divine Divinity’s skill set is huge, with each skill capable of reaching five different ranks of potency. Also, unlike most CRPGs, you aren’t restricted from any skills based on your class which allows the player to create a character with a very unique capability set. Finally, my mage can repair items and pick locks! While these points largely defined the game-play of Diablo II, this is just where Divine Divinity gets started. With just a modest amount of time invested into the game, the player will quickly realize that unlike Diablo II, there is quite a good story unfolding with a good measure of (mostly) interesting side-quests that compliment the main story quite well. The story telling is not quite on par with Baldur’s Gate II, but Divine Divinity is a close contender. The story is mostly told through conversations with NPCs. Some of the more important story elements are actually spoken while the player must read the vast majority of the incremental plot progressions. The voice acting is average with a few notable exceptions both positive and negative. The story is also perpetuated by infrequent out-of-game cut-scenes beginning when you first start a new game. Another feature worth mentioning is the use of books to create atmosphere and history – this is done on the scale of Morrowind. If you love immersing yourself with the fiction of a game-world via in-game books, Divine Divinity is quite satisfying in that department. And like Morrowind, some books can improve your skills. And some books can actually initiate quests… While Baldur’s Gate II told a terrific tale, it’s static pre-rendered and mostly non-interactive backgrounds left a lot of players feeling somewhat disconnected from the gaming world. While the game world of Divine Divinity is pre-rendered, just about every object on that game world can be interacted with in some way. In short, objects you see in the game world are not pre-rendered, they sit on top of the game world and can be interacted with. This interaction is deeper than the interaction found in Ultima VII but not quite as deep as the more recent Arx Fatalis. Admittedly, I am partial to this type of feature as I find an above-average level of object interaction to greatly add to the immersion of a game – even when such interactions have nothing to do with the main plot or side quests. And besides, I think it’s pretty safe to say that CRPGers don’t want their only interactions with the game world to be opening and closing doors or bashing barrels. Don’t like a chair where it is? Move it. Boxes covering up that hatch? Move them out of the way… maybe you’ll find an enchanted ring under them in the process. But Divine Divinity goes a bit further than just that. There are several unique one-of-a-kind-quest-related object interactions that can be performed in the game that are quite satisfying and really add to that ‘this world is alive’ feeling. The alchemy skill can also be used to interact with many of the flora and fauna found throughout the game. I’ve purposefully avoided giving specific examples because I don’t want to spoil anything for would-be players. But this is an area where Divine Divinity really shines. Like Morrowind, the player will eventually be able to acquire a house in the game. It’s a bit expensive to get the house, but that’s the way it should be! This is a great feature because once you have a house, you have a place to horde your loot. Since Divine Divinity is a 2D isometric game, it’s also inherently easier to decorate and organize your home. Though certainly doable, I found this to be a bit difficult in Morrowind. I found Divine Divinity’s user interface to be very well done. The quest log conveniently organizes your quests into complete and incomplete categories. You can view your inventory and your ‘paper doll’ at the same time so that you can easily compare statistics of items in your inventory to those you are currently wearing. Setting up your function keys to potions or skills is a breeze (it’s done the same way as in Diablo II). In short, the interface gets the job done quickly and is then out of your way so you can get back to playing. If you passed up Divine Divinity, you might want to consider giving it a try. I’m still quite amazed by this game and the wide feature set it delivers. I’m equally amazed by how little fanfare and recognition it received. It’s a shame that such a thoughtful game largely escaped the consciousness of the gaming community.

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