Dragon Slayers, Dragons, and Dragon Knights are all key players in the battle for the world, with Damian as the vengeful antagonist. Divinity II: Ego Draconis‘s storyline follows a newly trained Dragon Slayer, though the process isn’t entirely complete and interrupted with the appearance of a Dragon Knight. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. There’s plenty of questing and exploration on the side as well, and the life of a Dragon Slayer is unlikely to be dull.
Fresh out of training, the player isn’t ready, physically or mentally, to face the Dragon Knight that has appeared, so the hero’s path takes them away from their fellow Slayers. Oddly enough, this actually leads to some more interesting plot points than one might expect, and that’s saying a lot considering the alternative would be an epic battle with a Dragon Knight. Much of the game is interesting and fairly well-written, especially some of the random sidequests. Many portions are quite amusing as well, thanks to a healthy sense of humor largely present in sidequests, books, and little bits of text scattered about, not to mention the main quest to a lesser extent. The biggest disappointment is that choices have very little consequence compared to similar games, and there’s almost no freedom when it comes to the main quest. Unfortunately, some key scenes are pulled off rather poorly. Vital portions of the story that should be very interesting can come off as anti-climactic, especially the ending. These poorly executed sequences add up and hurt what could have been a much better story.
Combat is basically divided into three types: melee, ranged, and magic. Most enemies early on have only one specialty, but most powerful foes have a wider range of talents, not to mention special skills. It may seem simple at first, but the ability to dodge and take on multiple enemies of various types at once, not to mention a fair bit of character customization and a wide range of skills help to vary combat a bit. By the end of the game, it’s hard to avoid feeling like one particular set of enemy types hasn’t been fought a few dozen times before, but equipment enchantments, charms, item-creation through alchemy, customizable summons, and some pretty serious skill customization go a long way to keep things somewhat fresh. Eventually, a dragon form will become available, along with some large-scale battles. Though dragon battles never come close to the level of customization that human battles do, and thus get a little stale more quickly, they still add a fair bit of extra variety.
Backing up the gameplay are controls and menus that get the job done for the most part, at least as far as simple tasks are concerned, but there are some pretty glaring issues as well. Platforming sections are particularly annoying. It’s possible to hotkey skills and items, which is certainly quite convenient, but many of the hotkey options are on the 360′s D-pad, which is rather imprecise, so there are fewer viable heat-of-the-battle options for important skills and items than there might seem at first, unless the player doesn’t mind accidentally un-summoning their creature instead of using a potion, for example. Out of battle, the interface is even worse. Map markers are few and barely helpful since they only show up on the mini-compass if the player is practically right on top of them. Inventory management is a nightmare before the battle tower is unlocked, and it’s still a tad bit more difficult than it should be to compare equipment. On the upside, the dragon form controls very intuitively and smoothly.
Although the player has control over difficulty, even the easiest of settings can be quite difficult in places and vice versa. The reason for this is that a difference in level between player and enemy has a far more profound effect on damage given and taken than anything else. This is compounded with the fact that, except in a few rare cases, enemies do not respawn and the player will be out-leveled for most of the game, especially if they use mind-reading a lot. Late in the game, the opposite is true. The huge number of powerful enemies in optional dungeons may cause problems at first, but the sheer number of them can result in the player gaining enough levels to take next-to-no damage from regular enemies.
Perhaps one of the best things Divinity II does is reward the player for taking the time to explore each area the story takes them to. This comes not only in the form of treasure, but also in other well-hidden secrets, items that can alter the way quests play out in interesting ways, and some things that are just in there to be amusing. Most areas are extremely detailed and offer bonuses to those who take the time to comb every square inch, and though there are a few places that are a tad spare in comparison, these are rare.
With all that exploring, one would hope for some impressive environments to traverse. Visually, the world of Divinity II is fairly pretty at first glance, but a few major issues quickly become apparent. The most prevalent of these problems is a somewhat low framerate which plagues the game from beginning to end, including the more impressive cutscenes. Possibly related to this, although far less common, is the occasional visual glitch when turning the camera which makes an otherwise smooth turn of the camera appear to “tear” the screen. Finally, characters can occasionally vanish during dialogs. For those able to look past these problems, the game does look pretty good, though it is far from being the best looking game on the 360.
On the other side of the scale, Divinity II‘s soundtrack is really quite impressive as a whole. Much of the game has fairly decent if not good music, but most of the key areas have at least one excellent score mixed in that really conveys the mood. Good voice acting and sound effects only add to the atmosphere. The only real flaw with the audio is that early areas lack variety and sometimes the background music may not play properly, though this bug is extremely rare.
Divinity II: Ego Draconis has good gameplay hurt somewhat by a below-average interface but backed up with a deceptively large world that heavily rewards exploration. The story is interesting, though decisions don’t have much impact and many key scenes come off as anti-climactic. It may not be the most technologically impressive title around, it definitely takes some time to get going, and it makes its fair share of mistakes, but there’s a decent game in there for those willing to give it a chance. Sometimes, it’s easy to tell when a game has heart behind it, and this is definitely the case with Divinity II.