January 18, 2010
My first review assignment for RPGamer - I'm so excited! Divinity II: Ego Draconis (for PC) just appeared on my doorstep, so it's time to begin the age-old PC gamer tradition of flipping through the manual while the game installs. I don't have a lot of history with the Divinity series... I remember playing the demo of Divine Divinity long ago and thinking it seemed like a decent Diablo clone. I never bought it, probably because I was po' or something. Anyway, I played the XBox demo of Ego Draconis and was intrigued. They've made this one into a full-fledged RPG, and I can't resist the temptation of a game that allows me to turn into a dragon. I love dragons, and have yet to play a decent game with a dragon or dragon-riding PC.
Nice manual, they don't make 'em like this very often anymore. It has a history of Rivellon replete with overwrought verbiage, full definitions of game terms and statistics, and an encyclopedia of all the skills in the game. My blackened veteran PC gamer heart is warmed. I bet they'd have added a cloth map if they could have fit it into the DVD case.
Downloaded the patch before playing the game, the first patch is supposed to make combat more responsive and solve a number of bugs existing in the first version of the game. Finally started it up, saw the opening cinematic, and got to character creation. It's a simple gender-face-hair choice, no fancy customization a la Dragon Age. Going with an emphasis on the Ego in Ego Draconis, I created a lovely redhead with curly hair, an idealized version of yours truly. I added a dragon tattoo around the eyes, just because it's rad. And now I'm off to enter the world of Rivellon!
I have become a Dragon Slayer. Wasn't hard to do, just had to complete the tutorial area and get my eyes made all spooky and such. There are three basic "classes" in Divinity II (warrior, archer, mage), though you can train up skills from all three of them as the game goes on. You have to start somewhere, though, so I arbitrarily picked archer. I'm sure I'll end up dual wielding swords sooner or later, like I always do, but for now I've got a bow.
On to the first quest hub! It's an idyllic-looking spot where a dragon has been seen by the locals. We're hunting the last dragon in the world, but I'm new so of course I get the scut jobs. Interview the villagers while the other dragon slayers do the fun stuff. Bah. At least I get the chance to voice my displeasure to my commanding officer, who is unimpressed, but I feel better. There are a ton of quests around here, and I'm introduced to a few of what appear to be the major factions in the game. Looks like most towns have their own military order, and representatives from a couple of those orders are here confiscating foodstocks because their towns are dealing with a famine, or something. Most of the sidequests involve making a choice that pleases one person or group and displeases another, which is pretty cool.
One of the neat features of the game is the ability to read minds. It can't be used willy-nilly, because every mindreading attempt gives you an experience debt that needs to be made up before you start gaining experience again. However, I've picked up a few sidequests by reading minds and following up on what people were thinking. Sometimes it's frustrating, though. I get a sidequest involving two people having a dispute, and one of them has to be lying. I figure, "Hey, I'll read their minds, that should help me figure it out." But nooo, they're thinking totally banal things that don't help me at all. Darn it. Between its hit-and-miss nature and the experience debt, mindreading seems designed to encourage abuse of the quicksave feature.
Hit the first major plot twist and the first major increase in combat difficulty. I got my butt handed to me after I wandered past the newbie questing area, so I ran back to town with my tail between my legs to pick up some new gear. I've put some points into my lockpicking skill, so I also ran around stealing everything from the townspeople. I know I'm supposed to whine and cry when a game allows you to ransack the town as the locals stand meekly by, but I love my RPG petty larceny far too much.
With some better gear in hand, I'm now surviving this new area. I bought a plot of land off a random merchant guy who accosted me on a bridge. He promised me he'd "do the paperwork" and return with the deed. Return where? The bridge? I sure hope he's not actually a troll who lives under the bridge...
January 20, 2010
On the upside, I now have a not-so-cute little necromantic creature that fights by my side, perfect for those fights where 5-6 archers/magic users gang up on me. The creature can be upgraded by collecting parts from certain types of fallen foes, or finding body parts in various places. Now I know why I was carrying around a rotting torso!
On the downside, I was stuck on the main questline for a while because I missed the presence of a jumping puzzle. It wasn't a difficult jumping puzzle, but still, I object on principle.
January 21, 2010
I've acquired a "passenger" in my mind, who makes sarcastic comments whenever I deviate from the main questline. I'm making it a point to complete every sidequest I can, just to spite her. Oh, who am I kidding? I'd complete every sidequest I could anyway. This game is an explorer's dream. There are hidden miniquests and treasures everywhere, and you're greatly rewarded for venturing off the beaten path, sarcastic brain-passengers aside. I know, I know, I should be saving the world, but if I follow this magical bunny it will lead me to a treasure!
Ooh, creepy temple time. And obvious plot twist time. One day I will play a video game starring an order of paladins who aren't a bunch of holier-than-thou, narrow minded so-and-sos. That day is not today. I mean, ok, I'm standing here with this evil-looking creature that's been stitched together out of random body parts, but that's not even what they're objecting to! Actually, nobody seems to object to the little guy. Maybe he's a figment of my imagination?
I'm now in the process of claiming my battle tower, which sets me up to gain my full dragon powers and also gives me access to a whole bunch of cool stuff. Also, on the island where my battle tower is located, I made some of my first actual morally ambiguous choices. Almost every quest in the game has given me a choice of some kind, but most choices have seemed either arbitrary or have boiled down to "I'm a paladin!" versus "I'm a bloodthirsty jerkface!". On the island, there are more interesting choices as you select your future tower staff. Do you choose in favour of someone who is highly skilled and pompous or someone who is nice but incompetent (and lying about it)? How about between a master necromancer who will never truly respect you or his apprentice who will adopt you as a new master?
I've probably gimped my build a bit by focusing on both archery and on dual-weapons melee combat, but I've found both to be useful. I'm now kiting my enemies a fair bit in order to avoid chugging potions like water. Caster and archer enemies are freaking annoying. It is not fun to have 5 dudes pelting you with ranged weapons/spells every 1.5 seconds, especially when being hit causes your character to flinch. Luckily, it's possible to use the terrain to your advantage, so I do a lot of hiding behind rocks and slowing drawing smaller numbers of enemies to me.
I'm taking a break from assaulting the tower to sell stuff and make some upgrades, so hopefully it will be easier when I head back in.
I have claimed my battle tower and my draconicity! The battle tower is pretty cool, I've got all my servants set up and can do things like buy skills, enchant gear, improve my Creature, and create potions. I can port to and from the battle tower at any time, and the battle tower staff have various quests for me. I've completed the quest for my enchanter so far, and finishing it gave me the choice to improve my possible enchants for my weapon, armour, or jewelery. There are also runners who can fetch crafting materials for me. I can improve their gear by buying supplies from my other staff, which means they will be able to get more supplies on every trip. I've actually run out of money by buying a bunch of things, so back to the adventure I go.
I was stuck for a bit after venturing to the first post-battle-tower questing area, but after exploring for a while, I figured out what was going on and was able to advance. For anybody else who plays this, if you get to the Orobas Fjords and are annoyed by barriers everywhere, don't worry. Keep exploring and you'll soon find out why the barriers are there and be able to disable them. It's actually kind of cool.
I've been able to do a bit of dragon combat, and it's ok. Nothing particular epic or special, though, which is disappointing. In dragon form, you can only attack or be attacked by war machines and flying enemies, whereas you must be in human form to attack or be attacked by normal enemies. I thought part of the thrill of being a dragon is being able to roast peons? It seems silly to be completely unable to see those pesky imps and goblins while in dragon form, much less be able to attack them. Ah, well.
Slogging through the latter parts of this game. Dragon combat. as far as I've figured it out, boils down to this: Fly in towards a bunch of nasty siege engines which are shooting at you. Attempt to find the magic angle that allows you to actually damage the siege engine that is directly in front of you. Finally find it, breathe once, damage the enemy slightly. Notice your health is exceedingly low, frantically mash the healing button while flying somewhere safe. Sit in safe spot hitting the healing spell whenever it's up for 5-6 minutes. Rinse. Repeat.
Not terribly fun, and oddly the ability to fly seems to have taken a lot of charm out of exploration. Instead of running around a lush valley finding interesting things in every nook and cranny, I'm flying around a massive series of cliffs landing in the occasional spot and hoping I find something of interest. There are still some sidequests and dungeon puzzles, but overall the world feels more barren now. We'll see how the endgame goes, but I'm afraid that the first half of the game is going to prove far more fun than the second half.
I'm working my way through the flying fortresses of the big bad guy's lieutenants. These are actually pretty fun. Alternating between dragon and human forms, you have to peel back their layers of security like an onion. They don't seem to suffer from the same targeting issues I've seen in dragon form in the outside world, either. It's a slow process, but I like that my dragon form actually feels useful here.
Arrrrrgh, I'm ragequitting for the day. I'm fighting a boss who heals himself in these healing chambers unless I pull a lever next to the chambers first. The problem is, he pulls it back and heals himself anyway. I even gave up and checked a FAQ to see if I was missing something, but I wasn't. I'm not in any danger of dying, just stuck in an endless loop of lever pulling and boss healing. GRRRR.
Having taken a couple days to allow my rage to subside, I've gone back and beaten the boss (by abusing game mechanics, basically), as well as another obnoxious "protect the NPC who, if he is hit ONCE will start the event over again" quest. Now I'm back to flying around and exploring ruined siege-engine-filled lands full of poison and ick. I think I'm nearing the end of the game...
Becky Cunningham, Happy Snappy RPGamer Alum