Divine Divinity is a massive role-playing game in the tradition of Diablo, Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale set in the fantasy world of Rivellon, where the Lord of Chaos is spreading his evil dominion. Containing more than 20,000 screens, 150 non-player characters, and 100 types of monsters, the adventure is played from an isometric perspective. Players create their character (male or female) from three professions, warrior, wizard or survivor (thief or cutthroat), with standard RPG traits and statistics in vitality, mana, strength, agility, intelligence, and constitution. Characters feature a total of 480 skill levels -- 96 skills of five levels each.
Quest-based gameplay features inventory management, interaction with objects, equipment (belts, gloves, rings, amulets, and more) that changes the appearance of the character when worn, trading, conversing with NPCs, and combat. Each character type has a special move, sneaking, swirl attack, and teleportation (survivor, warrior, and wizard respectively), as well as offensive, defensive, damage, armor, resistance, reputation, and weight restraint ratings.
Skill sets are divided into "Ways" and associated with "Paths" for each type of character, which determines the style of play. Survivors can take the path of the thief, lore, or talents, warriors follow the path of specialist, ranger, warrior's lore or gods, and wizards choose from powers of matter, body and spirit, elemental powers, or summoning. Although designed for 3D acceleration, Divine Divinity also offers a software mode, as well as multiple solutions to increase game speed.
With the likes of Neverwinter Nights, Dungeon Siege and Morrowind, you might think that the name of the RPG game these days is 3D. Not so, as Larian Studios, the Belgium-based developers of Divine Divinity have proven. With an extensive skill list, dozens of quests and nearly two hundred hours (!) of gameplay, Divine Divinity is an RPG that combines the classic play style of the best of the Ultima series with the fast-paced action of titles like Dungeon Siege and Diablo. The result is an exciting and addictive roleplaying game that will keep you at your computer in the wee hours of the morning for weeks.
The story behind Divine Divinity is traditional RPG fantasy fare. You awaken in a small healer's town only to find that dark forces are at work in the world. The Lord of Chaos threatens Rivellon and only the Divine One can stand against him. You soon learn that you are one of the Marked Ones, one of the three that could become the Divine One, but the evil machinations of man and magic are determined to prevent any of you from succeeding.
When creating a character, you can choose to play as a warrior, wizard or survivor. Divine Divinity includes male and female versions of each, but you should be prepared to be called "sir" and referred to in masculine terms regularly regardless of which sex you choose.
There are four core abilities (strength, agility, intelligence and constitution) and ninety-six skills that any of the classes can choose from, each with five ranks of their own. Deadly gift allows you to lay traps, including some extremely powerful steel scorpions, and with aura of command, you can then make sure those steel scorpions stay at your side until you rest. Another useful skill, alchemy, lets you combine potions to make new potions and use herbs and mushrooms lying on the ground to make potions with the empty flasks you'll acquire alone the way. By the end of the game, you will probably have a smattering of different skills, such as a few spells you can cast, some weapon specialization, etc.
Divine Divinity is not just a hack-and-slash RPG. In fact, similarities to the Diablo series fade the longer you play the game. When you start the game, you have a reputation, which is set to zero (neutral). Completing quests can raise your reputation, while stealing, pickpocketing or attacking innocent civilians are some a few ways to lower your reputation. People will react to you differently depending on your reputation, and a bad rap may even cost you in the wallet if traders decide to hike up prices for you.
To help you get around the huge game world, teleporters are placed at various locations throughout the game that can be activated once you've obtained the correct scroll. You'll find these teleporters invaluable for quickly jumping to a place where you can sell your gear.
The developers have created a unique trading system (at least for an RPG). Anyone willing to trade has a maximum amount of tradable goods and money -- you may have to visit several different people to trade off all your gear. This more realistic economy system might annoy some, but it was fun to visit different shopkeepers and see what they had to offer. There's also a nice auto-balancing feature that computes the number of gold coins a buyer needs to give you to even out the transaction (or vice versa, in case you want to complete the remainder of your purchase with cash).
Practically everything in Divine Divinity can be manipulated in some way. Your character can eat food, move furniture, sleep in beds and blow out candles and torches to name a few. Books and manuscripts abound, and while only a handful reveal game information, some will actually give you skills if you read the entire series. The rest relate everything from amusing short stories to recipes for orange omelets. You can even purchase or rent a house, and it's this sort of attention to detail that lifts Divine Divinity into the realm of a classic RPG.
To help you keep track of this immense world, Divine Divinity includes a diary that gives you your quest log, full screen map, personality traits, and conversation logs. The game places red flags on your full screen map to show you where your destinations are. You won't learn of a place until you've spoken to the correct person, though, unless you just stumble upon it. The game also keeps track of your quests and lets you filter between completed and incomplete missions, although it doesn't let you change the way you sort them. (Be sure to check out the personality traits; they're quite humorously written.) Sadly, Divine Divinity is single-player only. While the solo campaign is well done, it would have been nice to be able to traverse the game world with a few friends in cooperative mode.
On the technical front, the 2D isometric graphics are nice looking, but dungeons all tend to have a similarity to them -- either brown cut stone or brown cave walls --while most buildings are difficult to distinguish among them. Character images change depending on what gear they're wearing, and monsters are well done, but spell effects and lighting really show off the graphics engine the best.
Divine Divinity is not without its technical glitches. The majority of them are merely annoying, but Divine Divinity did crash to the desktop without warning on a few occasions, and quick save didn't always work, either. The game doesn't always acknowledge when you're no longer encumbered, such as when you would eat a couple of hunks of meat or swallow potions. You can fix this by moving something around in your inventory, but it's a rather bothersome problem until you learn this.
Probably the worst bug next to the occasional crash was the drop in frame rates that occurred in Verdistis and to a lesser extent, the Dark Forest. Whenever the character left an inside area for the outdoor areas of Verdistis, the game would slow to a crawl for a few seconds before resuming its normal speed. It also happened at times without having to go inside a building first. This never happened in the main map, so this sudden change was confusing.
In the end, however, the bugs were rarely more than a minor bother, and Divine Divinity is such a terrific experience, reminiscent of the roleplaying games of old, that hours upon hours would pass with no knowledge of the passage of time. If you like the idea of playing a roleplaying game that gives you such an incredible amount of freedom to do what you want when you want it, you'll want to rush out and buy the game right away.
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