Divinity II: Ego Draconis (Part 2) or I Was Going to Give This Game a Positive Review but…

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… then I finished playing it.

(BTW: this review is going to be so spoiler heavy that it is in danger of turning into a neutron star, so maybe, like, consider not reading it if you don’t like spoilers.)

Anyway, I was really going to give this game a good review. Scout’s honour. Cross my heart and hope to die. Honest. I was absolutely sure that I would give it a good review up until about five minutes before I finished playing.

To be quite frank, it’s not as if the game doesn’t give you enough things to complain about before you reach the final cut scene.

The fighting system is a little bland and being able to target specific enemies would be real swell. While the system certainly works, and you even get the feeling that archery is equal to fighting with a sword, which is rare, the game fails at giving it a sense of reality. Yes, I know, it’s a friggin computergame. Nothing real about it. Still, games like Oblivion (and I am really reluctant to praise the fighting in Oblivion, all I can say to that is level 72 Spider Deadra) manage to make the fighting, especially the archery, more immersive. I guess being able to define the strength of your pull by how long you press the mouse button makes a big difference there. Plus points to the fighting system include that Divinity II is one of those rare games were summoning a creature, especially The Creature, to help you in the fighting really makes a difference. In the end the beastie sometimes did all the fighting while we were standing nearby filing our nails (a note to those who haven’t read my previous Divinity II review: I was playing the game together with my husband. That’s a lot better for people with epically challenged hand-eye-coordination like me.)

Besides the fighting there are other problems. For one there are a lot of puzzles. Specifically the kind of puzzle were you have to jump from platform to moving platform to falling platform and pull levers without having the slightest clue as to what they will do (and while, as the husband rightly pointed out, those are not compulsory in order to finish the main plot and thus kind of alright, I still find this sort of silliness annoying. If I wanted to behave like a grasshopper on a hotplate I’d play Tomb Raider. But I don’t, so I won’t, once is enough.) Doing this kind of jumping challenge once is okay. Twice is still kind of okay-ish. Three times is okay-ish-y if the rest of the game is fun. Four times, when there is instant death lava underneath the platforms and you have no clue as to where all of this is going, is not okay.

The biggest problem for me, besides the last cut scene, was the fact that the game kind of seemed to run out of steam once you have conquered the dragon tower. Sure, it is of fun after that for a while, because there are the Orobas Fjords which you are finally feeling strong enough to explore and because the tower has so many nice little knick-knacks that await your pleasure (and I don’t mean Sassan and her ridiculous … ehm… bra?). But after that you quickly realise that the best levels of your life are over. You’ve met most types of enemies, you’ve seen one flying fortress (and if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all), gone are the nice enemies that give you one or two thousand XP in one go (at least for the most part, there are exceptions) and most annoyingly of all: gone are the interesting quests. Yes, there is still some good stuff, but with a lot of them I was either dissatisfied with the choices that are presented to the player, like with the one were you are supposed to kill the gobin chief for Aurelius, or the quests kind of stopped when I expected them to go on for a bit. Those quests feel as if the developers were running out of time at the end, like many a quest in Two Worlds.

But enough complaining about the minutiae of gameplay. Up until the end Divinity II still was a lot more fun than Oblivion, or Gothic III (sorry if you’re one of these people who get aneurysms when they hear or read that name, I should have warned you. It took me long months of psychological counseling until I could type it without going into seizures). There is still nothing I can say to refute that fact. The game has witty writing that is to this day only topped by Gothic I & II and the early Fallout games. It has lots of sidequests. Diverse sidequests, which pleasantly sets it apart from Oblivion or fetch-me-these-seventeen-polkadot-shrubberies-Gothic-III. You can even find peaceful solutions to some of these (big plus, says Verena the pacifist). Last but not least: Man, is flying fun or what? (Yeah, man, it is!)

But now comes the crux. My biggest point of contention. The denouement. The goddamn final cutscene.

Divinity II had already, before reaching those thrice-damned three minutes of video at the end, demonstrated that futility is the name of the game. After you spend the first 10+ hours of gameplay caring and fighting for the people of the area where you start out (no idea how it’s called in English) they all get wiped out because the evil head-honcho wants to slap your wrist. Tough luck. Want to save that goblin tribe (name also unkown) near the champion harbour (ditto on name) from extinction? Let’s just say that you shouldn’t make a lunch date for the next day with any of them. How about the people on your island? The one with the dragon tower on top? Like them? Well, try not to get too attached. What I am meaning to say that Divinity seems to be rather intent on burning the bridges after you. Big, merry fires. It only serves to emphasize the linear nature of the gameworld. Areas get closed off the second you are ready to enter the next one.

But the biggest, meanest and, not to make too fine a point of this, abruptest thing that the game pulls on you is the last cut scene.

Because, you see, Ygerna wants to be resurrected. Damian wants Ygerna resurrected, although he doesn’t know he does. You, on the other hand, don’t want Ygerna-baby to be resurrected. You want her to continue to rot in hell, especially since the alternative seems to be having to watch her make out with Damian, not an image  I wanted to see.

For some time before the end I had been thinking that Telana (for those of you who have either nor played the game or haven’t played the game far enough: She’s the broad that hitches a ride in your subconscious about five hours into Divinity II) sounds a bit too mean and sarcastic to be one of the good guys. Being dead also disqualifies her from being the love interest, so laying on the raunchiness extra thick was also a little confusing (also this would have made Divinity II the first RPG where the main love interest is a porn star). So, I thought, what’s up with you, Telana?

Not Telana at all. That’s what’s up. She’s Ygerna, incognito. And as the final cut scene will tell you she has just used you to bring about the destruction of what little is left of the gameworld at this point.

Why do I need to write a 1500 words review about this, you may ask. After all Dark Messiah of Might and Magic did pretty much pretty damn exactly the same and that game was by all accounts awesome.

Well, for one thing because Dark Messiah gave you some nice fat hints as to what was going on. And then it gave you a nice fat moral choice at the end. Ditch the bitch or be a daddy’s boy. Whatever you chose, the point is that you could choose. Divinity doesn’t give you that luxury. After investing fifty or sixty hours into the game, and in our case quite coming to like its witty protagonist, you get thrown into a crystal prison with that wet drip from the first game as your only conversational partner and have to watch the world end. Well, okay, be demolished by Damian. I have no doubt that the gameworld will go on after a fashion. Why set up a sequel if it were otherwise?

It’s the inevitability that enrages me so. If there were any chance at all of having the game end otherwise, let’s say by reaching level fifty (probably not possible) or by making only the most pristinely good moral decisions throughout the game (like we did), it would have been okay. But it doesn’t, so it isn’t.

As it is, I guess we’ll have to be content with playing the sequel. Maybe we will get to play Damian and make him command his hordes of imps and goblins in Divinity III: Flying Fortress Keeper or maybe we’ll get to play the dude from Divine Divinity and our dude in co-op mode in Divinity III: Double Dragon. Who knows? All I know is that I do not appreciate getting tricked into believing that I can make a difference in a game when all the developers are out to do is set up a nice cushy sequel.

19 thoughts on “Divinity II: Ego Draconis (Part 2) or I Was Going to Give This Game a Positive Review but…

  1. Pingback: Divinity II: Ego Draconis « Verena Kyratzes

  2. All right, all right, we got the message about the ending ;) But it will come full circle, promise, and when it does, I hope the satisfaction will be all the greater.

  3. All right, all right, we got the message about the ending ;) But it will come full circle, promise, and when it does, I hope the satisfaction will be all the greater.

    I honestly believe that it will – I just think that in this game it was done a little too abruptly. With a stronger emphasis on the characters involved in the fight against Damian, both during the game and in the ending, the tragic storyline would’ve come out better.
    Also, Bellegar should appear and transform Damian into a chicken.

  4. Damn… now I feel bad. Maybe I was nitpicking a bit too much in the heat of the moment. Sorry.
    The game is still very good. Honest. Great game. Better than anything I’ve played in the last two or three years. Still don’t really like the ending though, now that my initial anger has cooled off. Will reserve my final judgement until I play the sequel.

  5. Hey. I loved the ending. Absolutely awesome due to me expecting something different. This is the first time in my long years of gaming that I just was dumbfounded because my character had been played with from the beginning and didn’t even notice a thing. Oh, how I love that.

    So, QED, there are players out there who love that ending. And even if it’s just me…I don’t care. :-)

  6. I’m another of those people with “epically challenged hand-eye-coordination,” so how about a few more details on that. Is it playable for people like us (without using two people, as you did)?

    I really dislike action games, but I could find ways to play the Elder Scrolls games, at least for awhile (in Oblivion, by sneaking with a bow and taking down low-level enemies with one shot). What about this? Can you set the game to “easy” or find other ways to cope?

    I must admit that the ending doesn’t matter much to me, because I’ll never play that far. But the platform jumping doesn’t sound very good.

  7. I’m another of those people with “epically challenged hand-eye-coordination,” so how about a few more details on that. Is it playable for people like us (without using two people, as you did)?

    I’d say yes, especially since all the platforming bits are not compulsory. And the combat system is basically just about clicking, so it should be manageable for non-action players. The flying is a bit more challenging, but since the fireballs are enemy-seeking, it’s far from impossible.

  8. IMHO the quality of Divinity II graphic and game programming can not be even compared with Oblivion that uses older version of Gamebryo engine (I am not a fan of Oblivion):

    1. PC often slides and walking/running animation is paralyzed.

    2. There are many obvious alpha overlay problems, e.g. hair.

    3. Animated grass. Crossed planes are often seen from above. Animation is not smooth enough.

    4. Armor often clips and underling body parts are seen though it.

    5. Long hair wigs are simply skinned to body bones that results in not natural geometry distortions. Short hair also often clips with other body/armor parts.

    6. There are too few options of PC customization. Faces look in-game too “plastic”.

    7. There is no first person view for PC (Oblivion has this option).

    8. I suspect that normal mapping is not used in the game.

    9. There is no (so far) level designer for the game.

    On the other hand Oblivion either has these missing features (e.g. IVTES construction set) or deals definitely better with above mentioned problems like alpha overlapping or character animation.

    I played the game for a couple of hours and was totally disappointed: even technically more challenging Gamebryo based MMORPGs (e.g. Requiem) have significantly better graphics, 3D models, and animation system.

  9. How can you compare this to Oblivion? Oblivion can be whatever you want it to be thanks to the massive modding capability. It literally doesnt have to end. This game is so linear I sometimes think it was designed to be played by a bot. There are alot of aspects of the game i love but these console friendly linear games are doomed to be short lived. I dont think I would bother with the sequal myself. On the bright side Oblivion IS getting mega old now but the sequel is supposed ot be out next year so that is certainly the one I am waiting for. Loved the whole TES series since I first played Daggerfall (was good in its day). But Oblivion was awesome particularly after you mod it with super high rez textures, some brilliant player made content and quest, locations, and of course to address the one major issue many people have with Vanilla Oblivion. The lifeless combat. But personally I dont see how you can compare it to this. I am still playing oblivion now and again years and years later. This barely made it a week before its all done. This is a continuation of the trend in the gaming industry to make games with a very limited playing time and almost zero replayability. Developers need to see the business case for developing a classic rather than just another ok bit of throwaway entertainment for a quiet weekend. Surely the return is greater when you make a classic game which people dont forget and keep buying the expansions for. Developers dont loost out by making a great game like Oblivion. Personally I just cant get into a game I have already got most of the way through in one weekend and I know that other people wont bother to buy a game if they see how short the playtime is and how limited the replay value. This isnt the worst example but its pretty typical of the way the industry in general seems to be heading. Gamers have a choice, MMORPGs for replayability or the odd very rare title. I like MMO’s but its nice to have something like Oblivion etc which are more relaxing and can be tailored to suit your taste. Sorry to keep using Oblivion as an example, its not perfect but it is the most sandbox type of game I have played personally. You can totally mod it to be anything you like so its become almost a world building platform of its own these days. Now thats replayability.

  10. Good gried…. I sound like an Oblivion Cheerleader there. You get my point. Dont get me wrong, this games stands out in an industry that seems to be churning out mediocrity dressed up with massive hype and calling it classic. Its one of the better games I played this year but its along way from what I would expect. It seems that even as the technological capability of my PC gets better year on year the games get shorter and dumber. At 30 something its time I stopped playing games and worked on my golf or squash or something more appropriate anyway I guess hehe.

  11. This game has one of the most outstanding endings. There are plenty of games where you can have good, bad, neutral or even some perverted endings. But ending that throws you off the protagonist throne with simple “I’ve got myself a pet”? That’s just awesome.

  12. “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?” -’WarGames’ (1983)

    Good review.

    You and I are in perfect agreement. Divinity 2 had alluring music, an attractive landscape and the exciting prospect of shifting back and forth from human to dragon and back again at will. The dialog was at best witty and entertaining. The maps were small, but the game found ways to keep you moving around without making you feel like you’re covering too much of the same ground. The combat was a tad on the clunky side, but not cripplingly so.

    What I, and many others, didn’t appreciate was the jack-in-the-box of mass depression that called itself an ending. No matter how you played or what dialog choices you made right up to the last moments of gameplay, it had a sense of inevitability that would put the Borg to shame. I know (from interviews) that they wanted the game to be artsy in the plot department, but where this kind of surprise cliffhanger works well in movies or books, it falls flat on games that take a good thirty or so invested hours to complete.

    Everything we did had no point. We’re locked into a crystal prison like a Superman villain where we get to spend eternity being chewed out by the one and only Divine (who honestly has no right to be whining about someone getting tripped up by the Black Ring), and on another front, we get to spend another $30 or $40 on an expansion or sequel to gamble on a better ending with proper closure. If we’re lucky. If Div2 sales won’t plummet because of the our understandable complaints about the ending, and if they can muster up the budget for a sequel.

    Meanwhile, I can’t replay it. Appearance can be adjusted and skills can be redistributed. Even if I could leave the Hall of Echoes with the unique and epic loot that drops there (the tower portal works for objects, why can’t it work for me?), there’s no point. As satisfying as it is to see your extermination efforts aren’t futile, once you kill them, that’s it. There aren’t any respawning monsters or reinforcements. Nothing to fill the power vacuum, so to speak and by extension, nothing for you to do but brood on the knowledge that by beating the game, you lose.

    “Sorry, Major. There’s nobody left. You’ve killed them all.” -Gen. Decker, ‘Major Payne’”

    Divinity 2 doesn’t even have that kind of clever Shylamending that leaves you surprised and delighted (at least the first time through). It just left me feeling bland, hollow, and wanting to fire up Diablo 2 for a good dose of cheer. I can tell you right now that if I wanted the frustration of inevitability in my video game escapism, I would’ve saved myself the time and effort and just put my hand through a limb shredder.

    I know it’s a long reply from a random stranger, but I’m equally irked. Uwe Boll himself couldn’t have made it any more pointless, and it only serves to reinforce the stereotype of Europeans as a wholly depressing lot.

    /pre-coffee post

  13. this game sucks lol i’m level ten and getting my ass handed to me. currently i’m on the part where i really only have two choices. i can go to that place in the bandit den.. you know with poison EVERYWHERE or maxos tower. here is the bad part i’ve done all the side quests as far as i know and if i missed a few it doesn’t matter because even at level ten, anyone at the same level or one higher can kick my ass without trying. this game has no cheats which is beyond lame. i like to flip on god mode when i can’t do the quests that make you toss your keyboard and yell DONE! the mind reading is cool to a point. do i like knowing what everyone else does? HELL YEAH! do i like choosing between said knowledge that may be useless or leveling up? HELL NO! if there was a construction set like in oblivion i’d mod the shit outta this game lol. i also read that when you become level twelve the game gets easier.. that just seems ass backwards to me. ok i’m done complaining for now but i will be back.

      • I was also stuck around level 10. My ‘mage’ was too weak to complete the regular quests on normal difficulty – however, I visited the the Fjord and quickly gained 5 levels from the goblins at the start.

        The game difficulty isn’t balanced very well. Since the character’s mana and health regenerates depending on intellect, strength and armor, at the start you barely have any regeneration and you have to wait minutes till the health and mana is replenished. It’s the opposite at high levels. When your regeneration is high enough; nothing can kill you.

        About the ending though, I liked it. It’s reminiscent of Game of Thrones and Sword of Truth where often important characters that were built during many chapters die in an astonishingly simple and uneventful way. To me, it makes the story more passionate. I love when my favourite character is betrayed; I want revenge now!

  14. Quote from the game package,”Dynamically unfolding storyline…Depending on your choices and skills”. Hmmm, not really every choice eventually leads you down the same path to the disappointing ending. I was looking forward to replaying some of the other classes, but why bother. I’m just glad I didn’t pay the original $50 (US). They may make a sequel but I won’t be buying it.

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