Xbox 360 Review: Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga



I knew nothing of Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga when the review copy fell through my letterbox. Any word of the game had apparently escaped my radar in the weeks preceding its release, and I’d never heard of the first Divinity game, either. Cringing with expectations of a Z-grade Dungeons & Dragons game as I slipped the disc into the 360, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a rich, deep and engrossing RPG with a great steak of sly humour, albeit one fraught with rough edges and a generic storyline.

Originally released as Divinity II: Ego Dragonis last year for PC and 360, but lost in the wake of BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins and now re-released with similarly unfortunate timing, hitting the same month as Dragon Age: Origins – Ultimate Edition, Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga packages together a tweaked and remastered version of the main game with its hefty follow-up add-on pack ‘Flames of Vengeance’. As the game tosses you into the third-person RPG fray, you’ll be greeted by a familiar set-up: you’re one of the chosen few Dragon Slayers, freshly inducted into the fold and bestowed with strength and powers, ready to use might and magic to defend Rivellon against a looming evil in the form of Damien, lord of the Dragon Knights.
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Yep, the plot is by-the-numbers fantasy fare, without much to separate or elevate it story-wise from the countless other sword-wielding goblin-impaler games out there. But as time passes, Divinity II steadily unveils a huge assortment of great gameplay devices that make its lacklustre story all-too-easy to overlook. The first few hours dragged me into plenty of fun and addictive Morrowind-esque free-roaming adventuring as I wilfully ignored the main quest to juggle numerous involving side-quests around town.

The game quickly introduces one of its more original little ideas as you’re given the ability to trade a chunk of experience points to read the minds of those you chat to, potentially gaining new skills, the location of hidden items or just some gigglesome dialogue. XP, as well as being cashed in to level up your various skills, also provides a form of currency, adding a certain level of risk if you chose to spend some to reveal characters’ innermost secrets, which may amount to no more than some local gossip. The burden of choice also extends to quest rewards, where you can opt to reap a pay-out of XP, potions or sometimes new weapons.
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I was quickly starting to love the game as an involving, if flawed stop gap between Elder Scrolls games, ploughing through all the quests I could find – missions filled with the obligatory moral choice between being a noble sort or a complete douche, dialogue with an incredible sense of meta-humour and an impressive array of regional Brit dialects for the voice acting.

But Divinity II still had more up its sleeve; getting through the first third of the game brings a lengthy quest where you’ll pick a rag-tag crew of assistants to serve you in your newly-acquired tower base. The most notable ally is a necromancer, who’ll allow you to piece together a customisable minion from the collected limbs of fallen enemies and use your new Frankenstein’s monster to serve you in battle. Then there’s the later unlocked Dragon Knight skills which allow you to transform into a flame-breathing beast, take to the skies and reduce your foes to smouldering piles of ash before morphing back to a burly human.
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The wealth of great game design ideas, impressively written dialogue, excellent and abundant quests and expansive free-roam world converge to make Divinity II a wonderful under-the-radar RPG gem, though it’s not without its glaring downsides. An awkward and unintuitive control scheme requires a little getting used to, while the awkward lack of map indicators makes juggling quests a little unwieldy at times (though waypoint shrines, which unlock as you discover them, do add a handy fast-travel option).

Autosaves are too infrequent to be useful and too intrusive when they appear; they usually crop up during major events, signalled with a large onscreen message and load time which sometimes cut into dialogue. There’s also a rather unbalanced difficulty curve; I wrapped up every optional quest I could find around the first town, amassing all the beefy XP rewards I could get my magical mitts on while obliterating camps of enemies inbetween, yet was still disproportionately outmatched when moving on with the game, requiring plenty of grinding before I could reasonably continue.
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The problems are troublesome, and while the flaws and the overly generic larger plot certainly keep Divinity II from reaching the upper echelons of the RPG genre, the sheer abundance of great ideas, character and charm far outweigh the rougher edges. A vast world full of impressively-voiced characters, a varied, engrossing plethora of quests and a surprisingly sharp sense of humour go a long way towards making Rivellon a realm that’ll addictively steal away a huge amount of your time. Throw in the added expansion pack, which improves on the anticlimactic ending of the main game and adds some 15-20 hours of gameplay, and The Dragon Knight Saga gives you plenty of questing-and-slashing bang for your buck. If you’ve finished up Dragon Age: Origins and are eager for some console RPG action to tide you over till the inevitable Oblivion follow-up, then Divinity II is a great little under-the-radar gem well worth your time.

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Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga is available to buy on Xbox 360 now.
Click here to order the game from Amazon.co.uk.