E3 2002Divine Divinity impressions
Divine Divinity is a role-playing game like Diablo--but the plot is heavier, and there are more than 90 skills to master.
Divine Divinity is a role-playing game set in the fantasy world of Rivellon. The story loosely follows a fledgling hero--that's you--on a quest to rid the land of a group of evil wizards known as The Dark Side. In typical RPG fashion, players must battle monsters, gain valuable experience, learn new skills, and participate in many hours of plot development.
Initially, the game's formula seems to duplicate that of Blizzard's Diablo or Interplay's Baldur's Gate series--primarily due to its isometric viewpoint and point-and-click gameplay--but project leader Swen Vincke is quick to chastise such comparisons.
"Our goals aren't to lead the player with a story, limit their collection of skills, or give them a finite number of in-game quests, but to make a game that offers them so much to do and so many options that they ultimately only experience those aspects that are in tune with their own style of playing." Vincke capped off this description with a not-so-subtle statement as to the game's core idea: "Divine Divinity is absolutely not, not, not a Diablo clone."
His comments do warrant a certain level of trust, as Divine Divinity certainly seems to offer a great deal of innovation compared to stalwarts in the RPG genre.
The game's six playable characters hail from three different classes: warrior, magician, or survivor. In all, there are 96 different skills, and while each class has its own stereotypical skills and traits, players from one class can learn the spells and skills of another. In all, there are 96 different skills. The survivor can easily learn how to sneak and steal, but that doesn't mean that powerful magic and skilled sword combinations are outside the realm of possibility. Similarly, warrior players can absorb telekinesis and lightning spells after a modest learning period.
At the same time, your own play style dictates the kind of game you experience. If you spend more time fighting monsters and less time interacting with nonplayer characters, you won't develop relationships with the story characters, and your physical attributes will rapidly evolve. Thus, you won't need many spells or weapon upgrades, but you'll also experience an action game. Conversely, those who talk to villagers and help them with their own side quests will observe Divine Divinity from the prototypically literary vantage point common in traditional RPGs--and they'll also require their help more as well.
As you can see, reputation may or may not be important to your progress in the game. "Each nonplayer character in Divinity has its own opinion about the player," relates Vincke, "and that opinion is shaped by the actions of the player versus that NPC. It's easier to get them angry than earn their respect, but once you earn their respect, you'll feel it in a number of things." He illustrated this point by stealing a number of items from a local shopkeeper, who in turn raised prices and eliminated certain items from his stock list. The inability to purchase high-level items can stall your quest, and it is possible for villagers to become so angry that they attempt to outright kill your character.
Between talking to residents, learning skills, traveling between Rivellon's nearly 70 villages, or exploring the more than 2,000 individual rooms and dungeons, there is simply not enough time to either fully master Divine Divinity or experience it in the same way multiple times. "So the player does what they enjoy," says Vincke, "which tailors Divine Divinity to each individual player's own expectations."
Whether the above ideas significantly differentiate Divine Divinity from Diablo and its many imitators remains to be seen, but the game also shows promise in other areas.
Its visuals are a mixture of 2D sprites and 3D models that present a crisp world that is full of flowing streams, reflecting puddles, and nonplayer characters that are constantly moving. Even with day and night time shifting and random weather changes, 20 monsters and a huge lightning spell did not slow the game one iota.
Likewise, the interface is noncluttering and malleable. You can create tabs to hold spells, items, weapons, and frequently used commands. You can create new potions and meals by overlapping items into various recipes. If need be, an automated world map and the complete inventory of spells and items are available from menus as well.
Divine Divinity is 90 percent complete and scheduled for release in late September 2002.
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