Fans of Larian Studio's "divine" 2002 RPG go Beyond Divinity in this sequel. Originally developed under the title "Riftrunner," this adventure takes place in a new game universe and follows a new storyline. The player takes the role of a hero who has been "soul-forged" to a Death Knight, doomed to spend eternity bonded to the evil entity unless the curse is broken. As the best hope for escaping their fate may lie in the lost practice of "rift-running," the noble hero and the grim fiend set out, together, to learn its secrets. Beyond Divinity is built on an updated version of the original Divine Divinity engine, enhanced to offer a more diverse assortment of enemies, greater interactivity with the game world, a new combat system, and nearly complete freedom in character development.
Larian Studios 2002 RPG game, Divine Divinity, offered gamers something of a conundrum. On the one hand, it gave us a huge, non linear game world to explore, complete with countless quests and subquests to undertake. On the other hand, the clunky gameplay mechanics and numerous bugs shattered your gaming dreams into a thousand pieces. It really was a case of unfulfilled potential, like the footballer who shines briefly in the reserves before missing an open goal for the first team. However, it was clear that the game world had some promise, and it was no surprise when a sequel was announced. So, here we have that sequel, Beyond Divinity. It's a slightly less daft name than the first game, so that's a good start! Can it also make up for some of the other shortcomings and plant its next shot firmly between the sticks? Read on...
Beyond Divinity takes place around 20 years after the conclusion of the first game. However, don't worry if you didn't play the first game. This is another story set in the same game world, but it is not a direct sequel to Divine Divinity, so no prior knowledge of that game is required.
You take on the role of your typical RPG character, the Paladin. These inherently good types have only one real goal in life, and that is to eradicate evil wherever they see it. Imagine, then, your dismay when a mishap leaves you 'soul forged' to one of the most evil creatures you could care to meet, a Death Knight. Your present and futures become entwined and if one dies, so does the other. What results is an uneasy alliance whilst you both figure out how the heck to get out of this mess. This does, in fact, lead to a fair amount of genuine sardonic comedy in the game, and this is definitely one of the title's stronger points.
If you have played many of the more recent RPG's, the gameplay here will be most familiar to you. Think Neverwinter Nights, Diablo or Baldur's Gate and you won't go far wrong. There is a lot of exploring to do and lots of text to read. This is also a truly non linear game, so expect to come up against foes too strong for you and have to revisit those areas later in the game when you have leveled up somewhat.
Characters can be upgraded in the usual ways, with increases in stats and equipment all combining to increase your prowess in your chosen field, be it warrior, thief, mage or archer.
The game is presented in isometric 2D, much like the Icewind Dale titles. This in itself is no criticism as there is still room for 2D away from the drive for all games to be fully 3D. The game world is rich in detail and color and is very enjoyable to explore. Characters move fluently enough, and some of the special effects, particularly the spell effects, are quite spectacular to behold. What did disappoint me, though, is that the game engine appears to have had no work done on it in the 2 years since the original game. It looks EXACTLY the same, and while this was acceptable 2 years ago, the bar has been raised by recent titles such as Knights of the Old Republic.
This is something else that has not really moved on since the first game, although the impact of this is definitely less than the graphical issue. The game is accompanied by a top quality musical score which keeps pace with the on screen action and, surprisingly for a game of this length, doesn't become repetitive. Voiceovers are also generally excellent and some of the interchanges between the Paladin and the Death Knight are genuinely funny and are a joy to listen to. Environmental sounds are also well catered for, with convincing combat and magic sounds.
This is a big game, a truly big game. The main quest took me something like 15 to 20 hours to complete, but that was with ignoring the multitude of side quests that the game offers. I have read that the game lasts over 100 hours should you decide to complete everything, and I would not be in the least bit surprised to discover that that was an accurate estimation. In a game this size, the save function becomes important and I am pleased to report that quick saves are alive and well within Beyond Divinity.
The game does have a fair few bugs out of the box and crashed several times on my PC, making frequent quick saves essential. Once I had updated the game with the latest patch, however, the crashing problem disappeared and the rest of my gaming was trouble free.
This is a much better game than its predecessor. There is more to see and do, less bugs (after patching) and the gameplay has been tightened a little. It's always fun exploring a completely non-linear game world where nothing is off limits, and there's an interesting assortment of friends and foes to meet along the way. The soul forge brings a new idea to the table, and it's genuinely an idea that works well and will raise a smile in most gamers.
However, the game still has its faults. The graphics really needed a facelift to ensure the game looked like its modern day counterparts. It's also a huge time commitment for any gamer to get the most out of this, but it's hard to criticize the ambition of the developers in producing the world they have.
So, is this worth your time? Well, on the whole, yes it is. Particularly if you are a fan of the genre and can overlook the graphical issues. If you approach with an open mind, the game will reward you with a funny and, at times, moving game experience.
People who downloaded Beyond Divinity have also downloaded:
Divine Divinity, Arx Fatalis, Blade & Sword, Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, Bard's Tale, The, Baldur's Gate, Chosen, The: Well of Souls, Diablo 2
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