This role-playing sequel is a reasonably good time, but it doesn't nail some important basics.
- Fortress invasions are well paced and enjoyable
- It's fun to fly around as a dragon
- Lots of customizable weapons and armor
- You piece together your own summoned creature.
- Level of challenge is wildly imbalanced
- Bland story populated with bland characters
- Mind reading feels half-baked
- Glitches, bugs, and other oddities.
In Divinity II, the hunter becomes the hunted. You begin this third-person role-playing game as a newly recruited dragon slayer, eager to join a bloodthirsty party tracking down a fearsome lizard. Soon, however, a turn of events transforms you into what you once reviled: a dragon knight who can slice through enemies on the ground as well as transform into a winged beast and take to the skies. The ability to morph back and forth between human and dragon form is Divinity II's best and most interesting feature, though there are a few other elements that also help set it apart from the competition. Unfortunately, these flames of originality are too often extinguished by Divinity II's less compelling facets. This adventure is a hefty challenge, but the difficulty too often stems from imbalanced enemy encounters rather than tough, thoughtfully constructed battles. Furthermore, thin characters and a by-the-numbers plot make it difficult to get invested in the story. Divinity II may satisfy your craving for some looting and leveling in a fantasy world, but it lacks the sparkle and cohesion of the better games in the genre.
Divinity II makes a good first impression. The initial areas are sunny and bright, and the first major town you visit has a nice fantasy ambience that's just off-kilter enough to avoid looking generic. This is Rivellon, the same world in which the first two games in the series--Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity--took place, though you don't need to be familiar with them to follow along here. You play a dragon slayer recruit, still in the process of the initiation stages, when you stumble upon a dragon knight in her final death throes. She transfers her powers to you, you meet a bearded sorcerer wearing a big floppy hat covered with stars, and before you know it, you're a dragon knight yourself. It seems that dragons are not the real enemy; rather, the scowling, monologue-loving, bald-headed Damian has returned to the realm and is gathering a powerful army. But Zandalor, the aforementioned wizard stereotype, has a plan: infiltrate the Hall of Echoes, where the dead slumber, and revive Damian's lover, Ygerna. Due to the powerful magic that connects their souls, doing so will in turn trigger Damian's death.
It's a good premise, but the game does a poor job of making you feel connected to the events that unfold. The transformation from slayer to knight could have made an impact, but scant character development and minimalist dialogue siphon away any potential dramatic tension. Some talented voice actors give their lines energy and enthusiasm, but they're rarely given anything interesting to say, and key characters are simple cliches without much personality of their own. And even should you somehow become caught up in the struggle against Damian and his allies, the disappointing ending will let the wind out of your sails. Nevertheless, there are some clever delights scattered about Rivellon, and Divinity II is best when its tongue is planted firmly in cheek. A quest to stop a troll infestation eventually leads you to a roomful of clucking chickens; you solve a riddle filled with enough silly sexual double entendre to make even the most jaded player titter; and the creature you summon to your side stops from time to time to lift his leg and empty his bladder.
In the first hour you'll be asked to choose one of three classes, but don't give this decision too much consideration: Divinity II features a classless skill progression system and provides a good number of different skills to learn in multiple categories. Weapons and magic skills are what you'd expect to see in a fantasy game. Whether you prefer bows or axes, fireballs or magic missiles, you'll find something to your liking, and the steady flow of new goodies will keep loot lovers happy. The early hours, in which you seek out the objects and knowledge that allow you to take your dragon form, send you across sun-drenched fields and into a looming tower. In time you explore goblin-infested caves, mysterious mines, a beach littered with whale carcasses, and a zeppelin port, among other locales. The technology powering Divinity II is not cutting edge; animations are clumsy, textures are bland, and oddities like boulders that aren't flush to the ground and buildings that disappear when you move the camera betray a certain awkwardness. Yet there are some attractive vistas to ogle, and there is a nice amount of visual variety to the dungeons. The art design is familiar but lovely, masking the technical flaws with flourishes of ivy, the deep red glow of molten lava, and shafts of golden light.
It takes a few too many hours before you can take to the skies as a dragon. Once you reach that point, however, you'll appreciate how freeing it is to fly about the oft-unfriendly skies. You can't soar everywhere, mind you. There are plenty of mountains and invisible walls to hem you in, and certain areas are protected by force fields that will quickly fry you if you try to penetrate them. As a dragon you have access to a separate set of skills and armor, though these options are much more limited than those you get on the ground. Nevertheless, it's a hoot to unleash scorching fury on enemy wyrms and anti-dragon towers, particularly in areas containing flying fortresses. These regions have a nice pace to them, requiring you to switch back and forth between forms, moving quickly from aerial lizard fights to ground-based skirmishes. Oddly, however, you can't see ground-based enemies from the air, so you might exit dragon form only to land in the middle of a bunch of Black Ring troops eager to crush you to a pulp. On the flipside, airborne fiends will ignore you once you're on terra firma.