Divine Divinity Review
There's much more to Divine Divinity than its impressive graphics and music and its combination of hack-and-slash action and pure role-playing, and that says a lot for the game.
The worst thing about Divine Divinity is its title. Strange name notwithstanding, Divine Divinity from Belgian developer Larian Studios is a well-designed, open-ended, lengthy role-playing game sporting impressive graphics and sound and a lot of replay value. Combining many of the best aspects both of action-driven RPGs like the Diablo series and epic, open-ended RPGs like the classic Ultima series, Divine Divinity is a real pleasure to play. And even despite its conventional fantasy setting and how it clearly takes inspiration from other games, Divine Divinity manages to have its own distinct style--thanks in large part to a truly incredible musical score. For all these reasons, Divine Divinity mustn't be overlooked amidst the stiff competition from this year's other great games in its category.
The story and setting of Divine Divinity are typical of what you'd expect from a fantasy role-playing game. The land of Rivellon combines magic, monsters, and medieval sensibility under one roof and is populated not just by humans but also by dwarves, elves, orcs, the living dead, and other fantasy archetypes. That the game takes place in an immediately recognizable fantasy world is evidence that Larian Studios didn't take risks with every aspect of Divine Divinity. The designers were wise in this--if you've played other role-playing games before, then chances are it won't take you long to get accustomed to Divine Divinity, and you'll appreciate that.
You'll appreciate even more the massive amount of detail that lies underneath the game's superficially generic style. This is one of those uncommon role-playing games where the world actually seems rather alive. Political tensions, social disorder, secret factions, and various guilds, cults, and pockets of resistance can be found all throughout Rivellon, and in large part it's up to you to decide whether or not to involve yourself in any of it. Alternately, you could just as well roam the countryside slaying villains and other wicked creatures, earning riches and using them to buy better and better equipment. The game does have a cohesive central story to it, but like many classic computer RPGs, Divine Divinity is just as much about creating your own adventures as it is about following a linear plot.
You begin play by choosing from a male or female version of one of three character types: warrior, wizard, or survivor--the latter is basically a rogue. These characters look distinctly different and begin with different skills, and each also has its own special attack: The warrior is capable of performing a whirlwind attack that damages every adjacent enemy, the wizard can perform a magic trick causing him or her to switch positions with an enemy, and the survivor can sneak about, unbeknownst to nearby creatures. These come in very handy for each respective character and will probably govern how you play them.
Interestingly, each character type's special attack and initial starting abilities are all that distinguish that character from the others, because characters from any class can later proceed to learn any other class' skills as they gain experience levels. For example, a warrior may learn the wizard's restoration spell and the survivor's ability to gradually regenerate health. A survivor may learn the warrior's crossbow specialization skill or the warrior's repair ability. A wizard may learn the survivor's lock-picking and thieving skills. This system actually works very well and encourages you to create a multitalented character. Each time you gain a level, you'll find yourself facing a tough decision on which skills to learn or which skills to upgrade--but it's a tough decision not because there are many wrong answers, but because there are so many right ones. Most every skill in Divine Divinity is useful.
Right off the bat, Divine Divinity looks very similar to Diablo II, though it looks much better. The gameplay itself also seems quite similar at first. Controlling the game is simple using just the mouse, and occasional pathfinding issues and a few slightly awkward aspects of the interface really aren't much of a problem. Hotkeys are available for revealing all items of interest onscreen, and you can attack your opponents just by clicking on them once. Actually, the game has a very handy feature that lets you automatically target the nearest foe, so you don't even have to click on it directly.