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Xbox 360 Review: Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga

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Have you ever watched an ’80s movie or any horror movie with bad special effects or actors that had something about which made you come back to watch it over and over? Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga seems to be an action RPG that falls into that category. Compared to other games in its genre, it is technically subpar yet it has enough content, story, and quirkiness to keep hardcore RPG fans coming back for more.

Developed by European studio Larian Games, The Dragon Knight Saga is actually a remastered version of Divinity II: Ego Draconis. Along with slight improvements to the graphics and controls of the game, The Dragon Knight Saga also contains the expansion pack entitled Flames of Vengeance. With the original game released in early 2010, this Divinity release looks improve upon the initial game and bring closure to the storyline that ended the original with a cliffhanger ending.

Developed with the same game engine as Oblivion and Fallout 3, this title features many similar game elements. With an open world style of exploratory gameplay, Divinity II gives you a ton of herbs, ores, books, gems, food, drinks, jewelry, armor, belts, gloves, and so much more to find, sell, enchant, compare, and just plain ogle over. As with many of the better RPGs on the market, Divinity II supplies you with many areas and quests to find that massive sword of kick-butt-ery!

Customization of your hero and how you want to play them is also a big part of this game. There is so much loot and equipment to find and plenty of ways to dispatch the various evils in the land of Rivellon. There are a wealth of skills and special attacks between the offered classes of priest, mage, ranger, warrior, and dragon slayer. This allows you the freedom to dominate your foes with two-handed swords and magic, dual weapons and a short bow, sword and shield with summoning, or any combination in between.

When it comes down to swinging that massive sword, it is pretty similar to a hack-n-slash style mechanic in terms of how the combat plays. You simply map your A, B, Y, and X buttons with whatever weapon combo or skill that you want to use. Tapping the corresponding button unleashes a generic combo with the weapon, spell, or skill that is mapped. Potions and food (which can heal you as well), are mapped on the D-pad. This makes switching from melee to ranged or magic a breeze during combat.

A couple of interesting features set it apart from most other RPGs. Once you reach a point in the game where you’ve taken over the Battle Tower as your base of operations, you get a number of NPCs that help you along your adventure. A necromancer allows you to customize a Frankenstein-like creature by taking ‘monster parts’ and melds them to your creature hoping to improve their battling abilities. Other NPCs will enhance equipment and some will even venture out into the wilderness for ingredients and items needed for potions and such. You’ll even have the opportunity to outfit them with equipment to allow for them to achieve this goal quicker. Also, as a Dragon Knight/Slayer, you learn the abilities of mindreading and Dragon form! While mindreading is given at the beginning of the game, dragon morphing is not. The Dragon form and Battle Tower features require a bit more game time to experience.

In the midst of all of this, the storyline is one that builds like a snowball. Seeming a bit generic and boring at first, the story picks up speed as your Dragon Slayer learns more of the struggle the land faces as well as the amazing Dragon morphing powers that await him or her! This is enhanced by some pretty good voice acting as well. If you’ve played through the Ego Draconis storyline already, you know about the unique and sad ending the main campaign has. Thankfully, this version of the game includes the expansion which completes your character’s revenge within the main plot. Again, this storyline is one that is quite enjoyable.

 

With all of the freedom, content, customization, gripping story, and such you are probably wondering where the ’80s movie reference comes in right? Things concerning the execution of the game seem to keep it from greatness. Graphics, animation, and a slight lack of environmental immersion leave this game feeling as if the enhancements were still not quite enough. It is as if the game is optimized for the PC version and poorly ported over for the Xbox 360 version.

The graphics are fairly good but seem a bit odd at times. Little things like food on the table of inns or doorways turn up looking a bit oversized. Faces come off more like painted wireframes than actual characters. The environment looks decent enough yet feels a bit lifeless aside from the occasional monster or roaming rabbit. There are no weather changes or grass blowing in the wind or even any sense of time passing. For a good portion of the game I felt as if it was eternally daytime and the sun never set in Rivellon.

The painted wireframe people move about with a stale and generic gait for the most part. As you move your character about and perform different actions, I noticed the collision detection is a bit off, forcing the character to jump about or force itself into odd animation sequences at times. Between the untextured faces and the odd animation, the characters and other monsters just don’t seem to have that life-like quality that other next gen titles have. It is almost like they tried for realism in the graphic style but did so on a limited budget (for the Xbox port anyways…this may not be true for the PC version).

 

Additionally, the sound design is rather poor in this title. Aside from the decent soundtrack that plays a theme for each region of the map, there are few environmental noises. No birds chirping, no monsters grunting as they roam in the distance, no footsteps as you jog through the wilderness. Beyond that, the sound effects of battle seem a bit uninspired as well. Launching fireballs and magic missiles not only look no better than colorful mist, they sound just as blah. Swinging that max 10 points of damage cleaver sounds just like swinging that magical claymore that does upwards 50 points per swing.

The engaging story, wealth of content, and hero customization just may not be enough for some gamers to overlook the lack of personality in the graphics, animation, and sound design. Still, with a budget release price of $40 and the promise of +100 hours of good story, Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga just might be that hardcore RPG time killer between now and the next big action RPG of the year.

Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for blood, suggestive themes, and violence. This game can also be found on: PC

 

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