In an era where it’s common for publishers to charge sixty dollars for a barebones, six-hour single player campaign, Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga seems like a outlandish outlier. By delivering two separate, protracted adventures, (along with a CD soundtrack and art book to reward early adopters) for a forty dollar MSRP, gamers could be forgiven for assuming the title is another of those middling German RPGs, along the lines of Risen, Venetica, Arcana: Gothic 4, and Sacred 2: Fallen Angel. In execution, the game comes closer to rivaling the ambitions of Bethesda’s beloved Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, delivering a largely gratifying, epic adventure which represents one of the greatest dollar-per-hour ratios in contemporary gaming.
Players who abstained from 2010’s Divinity II: Eco Dragonis will glean the most value from the title, as the fifty-hour adventure comprises the first half of the adventure. Yet, even players who devoted a workweek to the game may want to revisit Rivellon. From a new camera angle which dramatically improves the game’s framerate to tuning enemy placement, loot distribution, and difficulty spikes, nearly every quandary with the first game has been remedied. With a conscious effort toward flexibility, Divinity II shirks the traditional class system, allowing players to simultaneously pursue skills in five skill trees, and even ‘reroll’ their character. As such, the title’s accessibility welcomes repeat playthroughs. Despite my intention to focus on The Dragon Knight’s Saga new material, I found myself lured once more into Dragonis’ depths.
For adventurers eager to head into the sequel, Flames of Vengeance allows players to jump right into the expansion from The Dragon Knight Saga‘s title screen. Players can either import their character from the first expedition, or alternatively craft a level 35 avatar equipped with ample skill points and enough gold to purchase a hearty loadout. Either way, Vengeance picks up immediately after the first game’s dangling conclusion, amplifying Dragonis‘ playful sense of humor. At least part of Divinity‘s charm is determining if your main character is an altruistic sap, passive-aggressive snob, or complete misanthrope through each game’s extensive and well-written dialog selections.
While the protagonist remains exasperatingly mute, his/her responses have a potent effect on the world. Infuriating a NPC may terminate entire branch of quests, while beguiling the local shopkeep can reward the player with a compassionate savings on sundries. Smartly, Divinity II abides by the principal of moral relativism- neither damning or elevating a character to instill some reductionist lesson. One notable perk- by sacrificing a variable amount of XP, players have the ability to read almost any NPC minds, which in invaluable when confronted with the occasional obtuse puzzle. Likewise, the game grant players with a refreshing measure of freedom, signaling an area’s outskirts with increasingly formidable monsters; venture too far off the game’s preferred pathway, and foes are happy to discourage your trespasses with lethal force.
Forgoing the often monotonous menu selection of some RPGs, the title requires players to continually evade enemy strikes, while managing the cool-down periods of their powers. Given the game’s pleasing selection of preliminary vocations- covering ranged, melee, magic and summon-oriented offenses, combat remains absorbing throughout Dragon Knight Saga‘s extended journey. With a myriad of aptitudes augmented by engaging buffs and debuffs, the title’s combat accommodates a wide variety of play styles.
Despite The Dragon Knight Saga‘s good graces, several niggling blemishes are bound to vex gamers. Extended load times divulge the title’s PC origins, pausing the proceeds as players jump to new section of the overworld. Unlike Eco Dragonis expansive realms, Vengeance confines players to a single town. Although it’s teaming with nooks and subterranean chambers, the hamlet of Aleroth can feel confined, as players bound along, performing a succession of fetch quests. For better or worse, Divinity II is curiously restrained in its core payoff- which transforms the protagonist into a fireball-hurling (yet remarkable vulnerable) dragon. When the reward is eventually bequeathed, it certainly feels awe-inspiring. Undoubtedly, some players will feel the ability should have been used with greater frequency.
For players who haven’t ventured through Divinity II‘s ambitious realms, The Dragon Knight Saga poses an irresistible economical impetus. Although Flames of Vengeance doesn’t outshine the scale (pun intended) of its predecessor, the expansion contributes to the disk’s lofty 75 hour+ playtime, making the package a requisite purchase for role-playing enthusiasts.