Divinity 2 Impressions

Battle a dragon--or just become one--in this upcoming action role-playing game.

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Action role-playing fans might remember the awkwardly titled Divine Divinity as well as its sequel, Beyond Divinity. These Diablo-esque PC games garnered a small but dedicated following, and those same fans will be glad to know that a sequel is on the way: Divinity 2. However, there is a new twist for this entry in the series: The game is coming to the Xbox 360 as well. If you didn't play the first game, you should be able to jump directly into Divinity 2 without any troubles. If you did, you will discover plenty of Easter eggs and other secrets designed just for you. We had a chance to look at a work-in-progress version of the game and are happy to report that it seems to be coming along nicely.

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Divinity 2 takes place in the same world as the original. Dragons used to peacefully coexist with humans. However, when dragons attacked the hero of the first game in the series, Divine Divinity, this peace was shattered. Now, humans are fighting dragons, and in their quest to learn how to best take on the giant beasts, they've founded the Dragon Slayers, a society dedicated to ridding the world of the soaring lizards. You are a slayer trainee. Your first task? Find one of these creatures.

To find out information, you'll speak with non-player characters much as you would in other role-playing games. We took a walk around Broken Valley, Divinity 2's first region. The first thing we did was head to a tavern, where we talked to the patrons seated outside. One of them wanted to enter the tavern but couldn't because it was overrun by drunken soldiers. We entered the tavern and had a talk with the intoxicated sods, where we could resolve the quest in one of several ways. In this case, we resolved it peacefully by speaking with the soldiers' lieutenant, which meant patrons who had been avoiding the tavern would now enter, including other quest-givers. Had we fought the soldiers to drive them out, some of these NPCs would not have entered, locking us out of some potential quests. Such choices will drive the game's morality system, affecting potential quests, as well as the items available for purchase from merchants.

In another similar scenario, we met a local farmer's wife named Dana. Dana asked us to deliver a letter to the blacksmith, but asked us to keep it a secret from her husband. We opened the letter to take a peek and discovered that Dana was having an affair with this blacksmith. From here, there were many options available. We could blackmail Dana and deliver the letter; blackmail the blacksmith instead; or perhaps tell her husband and create all sorts of bad will. Instead, we took the most intriguing option: mind reading. By reading an NPC's mind, you can discover important information: treasure locations, enemy locations, and other secrets that could come in handy. The drawback is that reading minds costs you experience, so if you choose that option, your XP bar will diminish. You have to be careful using this option, because you could spend XP only to find that the subject of your mind reading may offer no information of use.

In any case, mind-reading Dana led us to a key hidden inside the farmhouse. We used the key to enter the couple's basement, where we discovered the farmer's diary. We read it to discover that Dana was a bad girl; she'd already cheated on her husband in the past! But the juiciest part was that her husband murdered that gentleman. And again, we had more choices to make. The blackmailing choices were endless! In another instance, we could mind-read a quest giver, only to discover that he intended to pay too little for the items he requested. By refusing the request, he would then be found later in the goblin caves fighting them himself. If he were killed by these creatures, you would then be able to take his powerful armor for yourself, a choice you wouldn't get to make if you simply took the quest. Mind reading should make the already open-ended questing even more flexible.

Speaking of goblins, these creatures look quite hideous, with their single eyes and horns and red veins snaking up their arms. Other creatures looked similarly detailed, such as the red and green imps that we fought later. However, the art style will change as you progress. Divinity 2 looks attractive, if a bit generic. It has that fantasy countryside feel to it, with lots of nice lighting and pleasant backgrounds. The evil influence behind the dragon attacks causes the world to darken and change, and familiar locations will become more sinister and unwelcoming.

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The best part? You can turn into a dragon yourself. Eventually, you'll become a Dragon Knight, which means you will be able to switch between lizard and human forms at will, provided you aren't in too tight of a location like a cave or under trees. As a dragon, you'll be able to move about the world quickly, as well as take on huge artillery weapons with your fiery breath. However, some forcefields will hinder your movement, meaning you'll have to switch to human form to access those areas before changing back. There are no spell or mana limitations to shape-shifting, so you can spend as much time as you want in either form.

According to Claas Wolter with publisher DTP, it should take at least 40 hours to finish Divinity 2, though it could take you a lot longer depending on how many side quests you tackle. Other features include a class-free skill system and item crafting, so it seems there's a lot here for dragon lovers to bite into. Look for this single-player RPG for the PC and Xbox 360 on store shelves later this year.

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