Larian Studios, a small developer from Belgium has only gone and blown my mind.
The first I heard of Divinity II was about a year ago, when the demo for Divinity II: Ego Draconis popped upon Xbox Live. I distinctly remember playing through the demo and coming to the conclusion that it played quite well but looked ugly, with terrible screen-tearing and an uneven frame rate.
I then proceeded to promptly forget all about it.
Fast forward to the present day, and this little gem dropped through my letter box for review. I popped it into the console and instantly recognised the starting area, only this time there was no sign of the screen tear or frame-rate issues and the whole thing nipped along at a decent pace. Also immediately noticable was a ton more detail and polish on all the textures and models. Excellent stuff.
So what exactly is this Dragon Knight Saga business all about then? Haven't we played this game before? Well it seems since the developer finished work on Ego Draconis, it's been beavering away at an addon called Flames of Vengeance which will complete the Ego Draconis story. But instead of releasing this massive slice of game as premium-priced DLC, the developer instead decided to remaster the whole lot, include both games on one disc, and then release it at a budget price - it's under £30 at both Amazon and Play at the time of writing.
So now we've established what it is and how much better it looks, how does it play?
Fortunately for you, and for me reviewing in, wonderfully, is the short answer. Which was a very pleasant surprise.
The world of Rivellon is a fantastic one to get lost in - and you might too, as the map can be a bit confusing at times, even though it does include a way marker system - you play as a newly initiated Dragon Slayer, sworn to kill the Dragon Knights, who are blamed for killing an ancient hero, The Divine.
There are more twists and turns in the first few hours, than most games pack into their whole running length, and to tell you them would be doing the game a disservice, so I won't. Well, j=maybe just this one, seeing as it's so bloody cool, and you can read about it on the back of the box anyway. Later on in the game you get to morph into a dragon. Yep, an honest to goodness dragon. The controls for it are tight, and you can fly about toasting beasties to your heart's content.
The main bulk of the game is spent on foot, and it looks and plays like a combination of Fable and Oblivion, which is no real surprise considering it uses the same Gamebryo game engine found in Bethesda's brilliant open-world RPG.
On a related note, I've just come off the back of completing Fable 3, and I've read all the complaints about Lionhead supposedly over-simplifying the game, and if you agree with that sentiment in the slightest then let me tell you this, you will LOVE this game. Hell, you can even see how many potions you have left by looking at your inventory! Inventories, remember them?
Not only that, but weapons and armour can be fitted with charms, and can be enchanted with extra spells, for even more powerful effects. You have a skill tree with which to tweak your character's path, and though you do pick a class from the normal staple at the beginning of the game, there is nothing to stop you from picking skills from elsewhere when you level up. So if you ever wanted to be a monster-fireball-flinging wizard-warrior, now is your chance.
Another area that this game oozes quality is in its voice acting. Of course there's the odd duff voice that doesn't sit well, but for the most part it is stellar, with one particular lisping character a real personal highlight - you'll know her when you hear her.
And now a confession. I did want to have this review written last week. I pride myself on getting them done on time, but this game didn't give me the time to write it up. I'd be happily powering through the main questline, working to my deadline, but then without warning I'd find a cave, or maybe a trap door in the floor, just behind a tree, and like Alice, I had no choice but to go down into the rabbit hole. And it's in this department that you can see Larian have clearly lavished a lot of love and attention on their game. It's huge. It rewards exploration ten fold, and the storytelling is on a par with the biggest block-busting games today. Hell, in a lot of places I'd even say it surpasses them, such is the level of imagination on show here.
While Divinity II: DKS isn't the prettiest game on the Xbox 360, it's certainly one of the best RPGs I have ever played on the console. And to let my inner nerd show, if Fable 3 is Dungeons & Dragons, then Divingity II:DKS is Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Special Edition.
Yep, it's just that good. Hats off to Larian Studios, I await your next surprise with baited breath.
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