Divinity II: Ego Draconis Review

By Paul Semel - Posted Jan 11, 2010

While the creators of Divinity II: Ego Draconis should be applauded for trying to make a deep and epic fantasy role-playing game, they really should have tried harder to make the basic mechanics work first. Basic combat feels dull and uninspired, while ranged combat is difficult to control.

The Pros
  • You get to be a dragon (eventually)
  • Deep class customization
  • Kicking chickens: +1 XP
The Cons
  • Map navigation is a mess
  • Disappointing combat
  • Annoying targeting

With the ability to go from 0 to 60 in 2.6 seconds, top speeds in excess of 253 miles per hour and a sleek design that makes it look like something from the not-so-distant future, the Bugatti Veyron is a marvel of mechanical engineering that might just be worth its $1,700,000 price tag. Well, unless the spark plugs are bad. Or the starter is faulty. Then you just have a very pretty, very expensive paperweight. The point is, if you don't get the basic mechanics right, it doesn't matter what you layer on top of it.

It's a lesson I'm hoping the makers of Divinity II: Ego Draconis learn, and learn fast. Although they've created a game that's grand in scope and deep in options, fundamental problems derail the entire thing, turning this game into, well, a lemon.

Divinity II

Divine Intervention

Having recently graduated Dragon Slayer University (“Go Badgers!”), you are almost ready to go out into the real world and slay some dragons. But when a battle with one goes horribly awry, you find yourself newly empowered with the ability to turn yourself into a dragon (oh, irony). You then set out to master your new skills so you can rid the world of an evil Dragon Knight.

Such begineth Divinity II: Ego Dragonis, a fantasy action/adventure role-playing game that, with an emphasis on adventure over action, is decidedly more like Oblivion than some Baldur's Gate dungeon crawler. It comes complete with all the trappings: numerous main and side quests, random battles, looting, chatting up strange women (and men, and beasts), sweeping classical music, British accents…the whole lot.

Divinity II

Admittedly, the game adds a few interesting wrinkles to its well-worn formula. The most obvious is that whole “turning into a dragon” thing, of course. The biggest feature and the one that might get ripped off by other RPGs, is that you're not locked into a single class. Instead, you can pick and chose abilities from a variety of disciplines to create your own hybrid career (though, at first, you are limited to a single style of combat). The game also lets you read people's minds, which means not only can you find out when they're lying to you, but this reveal can help you gain quests you might otherwise have missed, as well as give you different ways to complete certain quests. Mind reading isn't free; however, doing it takes experience points, and while you won't go down a level, it will take you longer to rank up if you constantly probe people's thoughts.

Unfortunately, these additions don't mask what is basically a flawed game.

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The Divine Miss…

For starters, the combat in Divinity II isn't very good. Using the sword may be effective, but it lacks any visceral thrill because you never feel like you're actually hitting anything. Ranged weapon or magic attacks are also faulty since the game's targeting reticule is so oversensitive and has such a small area of contact that it is rather difficult to aim accurately. Adding insult to injury, the targeting reticule is also used to pick up items, choose who you want to talk to, and other actions. That means the simplest of tasks can be rendered unnecessarily difficult.

The health system is also problematic, more so if--like me--you're accident prone. While health can be restored with food or potions, both do so rather slowly, which gives your enemies time to inflict more damage before you get healthy. You also can't eat or drink more than one item at a time, so if you're in the middle of a battle, you have to wait for the first piece of cheese to work before eating another one.

Then there's the balancing issue. Some enemies are real wimps, but sometimes they attack en masse, with a couple of guys tossing things at you from a distance for good measure. Other enemies, especially bosses, are far stronger than their level would have you believe -- and they often attack en masse as well. As a result, even the most minor of skirmishes can be majorly annoying. Thankfully (especially in light of the infrequent checkpoints) you can -- and should -- save whenever you like. Still, be prepared to die. A lot. And needlessly.

Divinity II

The map is also rather useless. For starters, neither the world map nor the one on your HUD will tell you where to go for any side quests, even when the side quest involves going somewhere you've been. The map can give you a location if the locale is connected to the main quest -- though given the map's muted color palette, you'll have trouble finding anything on it -- but even then, it's just on the world map. It doesn't add any kind of directional indication to the map on your HUD. And while you can add a marker on the world map, which will put a directional arrow on the HUD map, this only works if you put the marker on a specific place. If, for example, you place a marker on a pathway, it doesn't put an arrow on the HUD map.

If it sounds convoluted, it is. It's almost as if the team intentionally made Divinity II's navigation counter-intuitive in an attempt to weed out all but the most hardcore adventure fans. Not that you're rewarded for making your way through. The story is epic, for sure, but it feels padded out in areas, and really slow in others. Because of this, you'll probably grow bored of it long before you actually get to be a dragon (assuming, of course, you haven't already quit because of the aforementioned issues).

Mondo Trasho

While the creators of Divinity II: Ego Draconis should be applauded for trying to make a deep and epic fantasy role-playing game, they really should have tried harder to make the basic mechanics work first. Basic combat feels dull and uninspired, while ranged combat is difficult to control. Enemy balancing doesn't do you any favors, either, since enemies are individually weak but tough in large groups. Adding insult to injury, the world navigation is a mess. Because of these issues, Divinity II doesn't feel so much epic as just really, really, really long.