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Divinity II Ego Draconis impressions: awkward yet surprisingly fun

Posted by: Nathan at 12/25/2009 11:35 PM
I saw the news post for the Divinity II Ego Draconis demo, and for some reason my mind connected the title with a different RPG. It's an easy mistake to make given that Divinity II hasn't gotten much press aside from a few scant videos and a contest. When I booted up the demo, I instantly recognized the glossy silvery eyes of the dragon slayers and realized my mistake. My girlfriend was creeped out by the effect but I, being a fan of Dune, was not fazed by the appearance of the protagonist. My disappointment with the characters appearance steamed from the ability to customize the blah looks of my on screen avatar, or lack thereof. Character customization is locked in the demo, which I find a shame considering that RPG players tend to be the type that loves creating interesting characters. What managed to quell my frustration was the realization that something had to be cut from the demo to make room for all the content. I was pleasantly surprised that the demo did not end once my character had a chance to experiment with the different classes. I spent 2 hours playing through a large section of the game and did not see any end in sight. The only thing that stopped me from continuing was the lack of a save feature. Once I have the time I definitely intend to revisit the demo of Divinity II and explore its depths.

The selling point for many gamers on whether or not to by an RPG on a console is the control scheme. Divinity II's control scheme is very rigid and there is no option for remapping the buttons for different functions. I thought it was funny that the jump button was placed on the right trigger. I imagine a scenario where the developers were nearly finished with the control scheme and someone spoke up "what about jumping?" with another developer answering "Oh, just stick it on that trigger thingy those console controllers have". Indeed, the placement of jump (right trigger) and the interact (left shoulder button) buttons take some getting used to but for a very good reason. Holding down any one of the buttons reserved for actions pauses the game and allows that action to be modified on the fly. The directional pad and face buttons are essentially hot swappable keys which, I suspect, would come in handy with you were to focus on casting magic.

The story of Divinity II starts with an intriguing beginning that is a twist on the old you wake up with amnesia and must learn all your skills again cliche. The ritual that allows disciples to become dragon slayers involves receiving the memories and some of the psychic abilities of the creatures you will be hunting. To this end slayers have most of their previous experiences wiped clean to make room, giving the developers an excuse to insert a tutorial. The down side to the ritual is that if it is interrupted at any time, there is a chance that the initiate will go mad. So what happens as soon as you have your new sword and spells? Your group goes off to investigate a dragon sighting and the ritual is interrupted. This plot twist hurt my brain. The game goes out of its way to convince you of how essential your role is as a slayer and then your commander basically says "Sorry, we have to go take care of this. You might die because we have to go check out these unconfirmed rumors, but no big deal right?" Ugh. First impressions indicate that telling a sensible story is not this game's strong suite.

After considering some of the faults of Divinity II I would have to say that the demo was fun and different. This is not an RPG that shines bright next to other, more recent burning torches of role playing goodness but for the price its definitely worth a look. Download the demo between online multiplayer sessions of Modern Warfare II and spend a couple of hours with this solid and quirky console RPG.