Saturday, January 30, 2010

Divinity 2: Ego Draconis



Naturally, you fight. As a trained slayer, you come equipped with a sword longer than your body is tall, and so you commence the beatdown. Suddenly, the seekers' commanding officer storms onto the scene and interrupts the fight, demanding to know what's happening. You can tell him the truth, that his men are drunken slobs and a nuisance to the village, and the officer will send his men on a punitive mission into the deadly forest. Or you can take pity on them and claim that you were exercising a little "male bonding" that got out of hand. Not wanting to involve the lieutenant in this dispute, you tell him you were just roughhousing with your new friends, and he instead dismisses them back to the barracks. The townsfolk return. Drinking ensues.

But it's not over. You take a visit to the seekers' barracks, at which point they immediately thank you for not turning them in. But you don't play RPGs to make new friends; you do it for the gold. You threaten to tell the lieutenant what happened unless they make it worth your while. They acquiesce and give you the location of the lieutenant's secret stash of goods that he plans to sell on the black market. Do you go pick up the treasure? No, you run straight to the lieutenant, tell him what happened, and he runs out to punish his troops. And then you steal the treasure.

"There's a lot of ways to ruin people's lives in this game," said Larian Studios CEO Swen Vincke.

Here's one more. The lovely Dana asks you to deliver a private letter to the local blacksmith who you've been trading with. You could do her that favor, but instead you open the letter and learn that Dana has been cheating on her husband with the blacksmith. Of course, you return to Dana and blackmail her, demanding money for your silence. But Dana is a strong woman. She grabs the letter, shows it to her husband, says she is leaving him forever, and runs off to see the blacksmith. The husband sulks, alone. Consequently, the blacksmith will no longer trade with you.

Larian estimates that there are 15 to 20 possible solutions for each quest in Divinity 2, no matter how large or small. The "perfect" solution to Dana's letter quest would be to use your mind-reading ability to learn that there is a key hidden on her roof. You can grab the key and unlock the corresponding chest to find a letter that says Dana's husband killed her first lover. If you take the letter to the police, then the husband is arrested, and Dana and the blacksmith live happily ever after. Prices at the blacksmith shop will be considerably lower.

Mind reading is one of the most important skills in Divinity 2, and it comes at a cost. During each conversation, you can hit the mind-read button at any time and gather an extra clue, or perhaps learn that the person you're chatting with has sinister motivations. For example, the champion Richard offers you cash to enter the forest and kill goblins. When you read his mind, you learn that he will sell the goblin hearts for three times what he offers to pay you. If you decline his offer, he'll run to the forest to kill the goblins himself. You can accept his offer along with his paltry reward. Or you can take the hearts to Richard's buyer and cut out the middle man, raking in the gold. Mind reading will cost you experience points to use, and conversations that are more crucial to the main quest will cost even more. But with so many solutions, conversation paths, and mind-reading options, it's almost impossible to play the same game of Divinity 2 twice.
The slayer academy is also where you begin to customize your character, choose your class and skills, and learn the major story of the game. Evil dragons killed the "Divine One," and the slayers have sworn to take revenge. But you must know thine enemy, so the slayers infuse you with dragon memories. You will later set up defenses to repel aerial dragon attacks. However, a funny thing happens. You become infused with the spirit of a dragon lord and gain the ability to transform into a dragon yourself. You can imagine your fellow slayers' anger when they discover that their friend is really the one thing they have sworn to kill. Imagine your surprise when you are battling against the very defenses that you set up to kill dragons.

Such is life in Rivellon, a land plagued by bigger enemies than dragons or slayers. The evil Damian from the previous Divinity games is all grown up and has nefarious plans for the kingdom. To combat Damian and improve your character, you have access to the battle tower, which acts as your home base. Here you can spend experience points to improve in a number of different areas, including necromancy, alchemy, combat skills, and enchantments. You can also spend resources to outfit runners with armor and weapons, and then send them to fetch valuable items so you can devote your time elsewhere. You can upgrade areas of the battle tower, but usually at the expense of another area. This lets you specialize in skills you're most interested in rather than level up straight across the board.

Rivellon is a huge area and it will take you a long time to walk to your destinations. So why not fly? When you transform into a dragon, you can explore the open world at will, and the controls handle like in a flying game. Just as you can outfit your human avatar with different weapons, you can customize your dragon as well. Larian didn't want to give too much away about dragon gameplay, but rest assured that you'll be doing a lot more than shooting fireballs as you progress through the game.

The ability to transform into a dragon also opens up some interesting game-design options. You may be flying peacefully over a settlement when antiair attacks suddenly fill the sky. So you descend, take human form, and eliminate the defenses with your traditional weapons and spells. One effective attack combo is to cast a fear spell to make your enemies run away in fright. After that, you use a bow to strike them down from a distance. With the defenses out of the way, you can transform back into a dragon, take to the skies, and fry the citizenry to a blackened crisp with swooping fire attacks.

We've touched only the surface of Divinity 2, but already you can see how layered Larian's latest project is. Keeping tabs on the quest log is the only way to keep up with the sheer number of possible outcomes in each quest. We'll have more on this exciting new RPG as we approach its 2009 release.

System requirement:
Minimum:
XP/Vista, 1.8 GHz Dual Core, 1GB RAM (XP) / 2GB RAM (Vista) Video Card: 256MB DirectX 9.0c and Shader Model 3.0 support (NVIDIA 1600 or better 7600-Serie/ATI), Sound Card: DirectX, DirectX 9.0 c (XP) DirectX 10 (Vista), 9GB hard disk space

Recommended:
XP/Vista, 2.6 GHz Dual Core, 2GB RAM, Graphics Card: 512MB DirectX 9.0c and Shader Model 3.0 support (NVIDIA 3800 or better 8800-Serie/ATI), Sound Card: DirectX, DirectX 9.0c (XP) DirectX 10 (Vista) , 9GB hard disk space
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