Few in number are the western fantasy RPGs on Xbox 360 that can be called hard core. The last one I played through was the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion which was released nearly half a decade ago. With the disparity of quality western RPGs on the 360 one would think that even a mediocre entry to the genre might be a welcome addition. Divinity II certainly is a mediocre game, but can it stand among titles like Dragon Age Origins, Oblivion, and Fable II? The short answer is no.
The protagonist of Divinity II has a promising origin. As a Dragon Slayer disciple he/she has dedicated his/her life to the eradication of the hated Dragon Knights. Originally emissaries of the ancient and once revered dragons, the knights were given the gifts of long life, power, wealth, and above all the ability to transform into a lesser form of a dragon. The Dragon Knights were very powerful, influential, and in some cases worshiped by the people they protected, but when the Damned One raged war on humanity they sided with him. Their betrayal was never forgiven, and to this day they are hunted by the Slayers to avenge those who were killed because of their actions.
As the game begins we take control of our slayer as they enter into the final stages of their induction into the sacred order of Dragon Slayers. A ritual is performed that gives our hero the mental faculties of the dragon,allowing them to read minds and be protected from the dragon knights’ mental attacks. Before our character can complete the process, there by preventing them from going mad, the team of slayers he/she is with decides to investigate rumors of a dragon sighted at a nearby town. The story only becomes more non-sensical from there on out. You come a cross a dragon who somehow magically imbues you with the abilities of a dragon, but only a fraction of their abilities (i.e. you can jump higher). Then Damian, the Damned One himself, kicks you in the head and monologues in classic bad guy fashion before leaving you to sleep. You wake up to find Zandalar the colorfully dressed wizard informing you that your destiny is to resurrect the soul of Damian’s girlfriend so that he may die. This is only a small taste of the needless complexities and backwards logic that plagues the story of Divinity II.
The next major issue that the game runs into is the control scheme. Jumps are done by squeezing the right trigger, the “action button” is LB, left trigger is lock on (which I used maybe 3 times), and the face buttons are used for spells, edibles (read: potions), and combat actions. Assigning action to buttons is as easy as holding down the button you want to set to open the menu of available actions. Accidentally pausing the game while casting a spell or attacking an enemy is equally as easy. The control scheme for Divinity II is as clever an imitation of a PC’s keyboard on a 360 controller as I’ve seen, and it works for the most part. The problem is that no matter how much I used the control scheme and felt that I was getting used to them I would still have the occasional instances of accidentally pausing the game or using a potion when I meant to jump.
Divinity II is a vibrant colorful game with an art style that sits some where between the realism of a simulation and the campy cartoon style of games like World of Warcraft. There is an impressive amount of detail and the world feels alive and large enough for an adventure game; when it wasn’t stuttering and sputtering during combat. Anyone who has played the demo will know what I’m talking about. Divinity II is not quite a sand box game but there is enough freedom to explore Rivellon to give the impression that you‘re playing in only a part of a much larger world. While large amounts of the game are spent on foot there are teleportation shrines scattered throughout the lands which make it easy travel back to town when you need to trade. Enemies are plentiful and behave according to their roles during combat, making enemy tactics predictable but effect enough to be challenging at times. The variety of enemies is varied enough to keep players from feeling like their beating up the same polygons time and time again.
A major PR selling point for the Divinity II is the ability to transform into a dragon. In the transformed state the controls are similar and the sensitivity of the analog stick feel more natural while in dragon form. Soon after attaining this ability the hero gets their battle tower; a huge structure comprised of various levels used for combat training, enchanting, alchemy (brewing potions), and necromancy. The dragon form and battle tower adds new life in the middle of the game and while enjoyable elements they’re not my favorite. My favorite part of the game is the mismatched pile of body parts you can call to your side. Summoned with a crystal skull (where have we seen those before?) the loyal monster attacks your enemies and serves as a fantastic distraction when facing multiple opponents. While the creature is as useful as say, the dog from Fable II, it is a very effective meat shield or distance fighter depending on what body parts you load it with.
The music of Divinity II is based on location. There are about a dozen different tracks played which were dispersed nicely, and never became too repetitive. Spells have a nice crackle and sizzle to them and special physical attacks have a nice oomph added to the flashy animations. The only sound effect I was particularly disappointed in was that of the dragon’s breath which felt more like air being let out of a balloon rather than the supernatural burst of flame it should have been. Voice acting is barely passable with a few key performances standing out from the rest. Thankfully subtitles are employed so I didn’t have to listen to Zandalar so long as I read faster than he spoke.
I put more than 30 hours into Divinity II from beginning to end and left with all but nine achievements unlocked. With plenty of side quests to complete a large bulk of gamer points are earned through quest completion. This makes this title less than friendly to achievement hunters.
Before I get the final word in I have to give fair warning. I faced more than a few technical issues, bugs, and glitches while playing divinity II. It was a challenge to get through some sections of the game but fortunately the problems were never enough to keep me from completing the main quest. That being said, I cannot recommend this game to any self-respecting RPG fan until there has been a patch released to fix the lingering issues still on the disc. I delayed completion of the game and the review until after the release date, but at the time of this writing there hasn’t been a patch released. [editors note:CDV is aware of the issue and a patch is in the works but has yet to identify when the patch will be released
Whenever I play a new game I always hear the same question asked “have you played this game before?” even though I hadn’t. I have a knack for video games and can often intuitively play them with little difficulty. Divinity II is a hardcore game and does not hold the player’s hand as they progress. As is such even I, with my impressive abilities, had to turn to the internet twice in order to get through the game. Horrible pacing and bad player guidance is a constant issue. This is not a game that is easily accessible to the average gamer and is plagued with technical, story, and design issues. All this adds up to a game I can only recommend to only the most hardcore of RPG fans who possess the patience to work through the issues and invest the 8+ hours needed to get to more enjoyable sections of Divinity II.
There are some enjoyable bits in this forgettable RPG on the Xbox 360 but Divinity II has a lot of vegetables to get through before you can eat dessert. To make matters worse the game is plagued with a few minor and one major bugs which make it incredibly difficult to keep playing. I can only recommend this title to the most patience of the hardcore and even then only after there has been a patch to fix lingering technical issues.