I’ve had my eye on Divinity II: Ego Draconis since I finished Dragon Age: Origins (and I use the term “finished” loosely, as there is still much to do in subsequent play-throughs). I won’t say much about its premise, because that’s unimportant here. Although, I will say that your main character is in training, per se, to become a great dragon slayer, which is a highly honorable, yet horribly dangerous, vocation.
Half of the demo sees you in a small village getting the feel of the game, and I assume this will act as the tutorial in the full release. You learn special dragon slayer powers, such as mind reading (which costs experience points, a horrible idea from the start). You can start off as one of three basic classes, which are your standard fantasy fare – mage, warrior, ranger. (A note here: Unlike Dragon Age, you can eventually learn different classes and go down different paths, but you do have to choose one initially.) As you mill around this village you speak to many different characters, including those who will temporarily give you some basic skills in each of the three classes that you can try out on some unsuspecting goblins nearby.
The visuals seemed pretty solid, although I have to say the frame rate was rather horrid. The cut scenes were choppy and the NPCs movements were very stiff. It seemed all the ambiance the game attempted to provide – with the wildlife bounding through the grass, the wildflowers swaying in the breeze – fell flat because of the frame rate issues. However, if we’re comparing it to a certain other recent RPG, keep in mind that game had significant frame rate issues, as well, which didn’t much impact my enjoyment. However, Divinity II seems to have a more significant problem in this regard.
The dialog, which is all spoken, seems on the mark but awfully subdued. The characters don’t seem to show any emotion at all – in their voices or in their expressions. This would be contrary to what I would expect to be shown given the so-called importance of your character’s job in this game.
Combat seemed clunky, to say the least. As far as I could tell, you can target individual mobs, but there is no clear indicator which one you are indeed targeting, besides watching carefully where your weapon flies. Things are very action-oriented, like a 3rd-person Oblivion. Dodging the enemy’s incoming attacks from a distance is a piece of cake, but it isn’t so cut and dry up close. When I would attack, especially in close quarters, my strikes seemed imprecise, like the mighty dragon slayer had a bit too much ale before trekking out onto the battlefield. It seemed like my spells were just flung wildly into the distance, hoping by some chance they would hit their mark, instead of being able to precisely target a foe.
All that being said, there were some high points. After you finish your training in that initial village, you’re taken to another town, a slightly larger one. Here you’re provided the opportunity to meet some people, do some quests and make some friends (or enemies). There are several quests from which I partook, including ones that give you some minor choices that actually influence the game world – such as a bartender or merchant raising or lowering the price of their goods if you help them (or double-cross them). It was enjoyable doing those few quests, and the quest log and interface is intuitive enough, although will take some getting used to.
This is just the demo, but with the full release only two weeks away (January 5), I have my doubts whether some issues – especially the technical ones – will be patched up in time. But, I’m not usually one to belittle a title on technical issues alone, and I’ve been known to quite enjoy many games that don’t sit well with other people, so we’ll see what happens come release. I did enjoy the demo overall, but there are some glaring issues that I’m hoping to be able to overcome, because the world of Divinity II seems like a nice place to hang out for a while.