In this our second of the Divinity Trilogy Competition Retro Reviews we go back to 2004 and once more step into the shoes of Larian’s Anti-Hero.
When it was first released in 2002 the predecessor to this RPG title, Divine Divinity, was bathed in glory and gradually became something of the underground classic before finally emerging into international commercial success. Hoping to build on the first title’s reputation developers Larian brought us back to the open world RPG with its 2004 RPG Beyond Divinity. Would lightning strike twice for Larian, or would it be that a successful return to the Divinity realm was ‘beyond’ them? Read our second in the Trilogy of Divinity Retro Reviews.
Beyond Divinity, thankfully, begin’s more or less where Divine Divinity left off, in that you are once more thrust into your character’s role and set to task almost immediately. The major difference this time being in the fact that you are the prisoner of an evil Demon and your soul itself has become infused with that of a ‘Death Knight’ This foul and pestilent creature, who not only shares your soul but your dungeon too, offends the very air that you breath and your loathing for him is only matched by his equal disdain at your mortal presence and good nature. The animosity between the two is almost tangible, as is the outright disgust that each feels for the other. However these differences and irrational loathing must be set aside if they are ever going to free themselves from the servitude that they find themselves amidst, and so they have to learn to co-operate and work as one to defeat their evil jailor and break free of the bond’s of their soul-forging. From this you get to understand that in Beyond Divinity you will be playing the majority of the title as two characters.
It is upon their escape from the shackles of their master that finds the pair thrust into the realm of Beyond Divinity. Right from the beginning of Beyond Divinity the first thing that hit’s you is just how beautiful the game looks. The scenes and settings are lovingly rendered by skilled craftsmen to bring you some of the finest locations that you will see even in this current era of ‘Next Generation’ technology and graphics. Though the gameplay does take on a linear feel for the first chapter or so, this is by no means even noticed by the gamer when you have a World so stunning to explore as the realm that Larian have created in Beyond Divinity, and so as you venture forth on your quest be prepared to marvel at some truly breathtaking locations and scenery as the genius of Larian brings the surroundings to life and transports you to a magical ream of limitless imagination.
With the freedom afforded you by your timely escape from the clutches of your Demon captor you are then able to begin to define your character’s starting traits and class. As in Divine Divinity there are three main classes, the Mage, Warrior and of course, the lovable Rogue. During your quest it is then up to you to delegate the bonus points to whichever tier and character that you see fit, as this levelling up system is completely open-ended. A word of advice here though, and that would be to pay heed to the strengths and abilities that each character is naturally blessed with. So maybe adding combat points to the Death Knight and magical bonuses to the weaker second character is the best way to go instead of attempting to make both of them wrecking machines. Balance is always the better option as it will give you a wider tactical scope during combat.
Gameplay in Beyond Divinity is a fine blend of ‘dungeoneering’ and bloodthirsty hack’n’slash action that will keep even the most ardent of today’s God of War or Dragon Age fan more than happy. But what is also impressive in this huge open world title is the sheer amount if things to do. Thank your lucky stars then that due to the massive weight of content that is contained in this game that Larian have retained the excellent user interface from the previous title in the series. Beyond Divinity has multilevel experiences with you having to be at your most observant at all times if you are to take full advantage of all the in-game items, magical artifacts, enemies, dungeons, side quests and sub-plots. But seeing that Beyond Divinity has more twists and turns than a sackful of serpents, it is highly unlikely that you will see everything and accomplish every task available to you in just one play through.
A nice addition to the Beyond Divinity experience this time around is the inclusion of the ‘Battlefields.’ These features become available to you upon the discovery of certain magical item’s that allow you to transport directly to their location where, upon arrival, you may be sent on quests to locate items and magical artifact to sell or trade to merchants? Or you will be able to purchase weapons, armour and potions that will enable your character to power up. As this being an open-world game with open-ended gameplay you are always running the risk of running into enemies that are far superior to you in terms of physical strengths or magical ability leaving you to beat a hasty retreat or suffer the dire consequences of your naivety. It is here that we offer you our next piece of advice, and that is to save your game as often as is practicable, as the last thing you want to do is have a good few hours questing behind you, only then to run into an enemy who is far more powerful than your own character, and end up being served to their dog’s as a light refreshment upon your immediate demise. So take advantage of the saves offered to you by the game itself and also create your own as you see fit.
And now to the second question in the Divinity Trilogy competition. What we want you to tell us is this:
Q: What award did Beyond Divinity receive from IGN?
You will find the answer on the somewhere on the Larian website. While your there why not take look at some of their great titles that they have on offer for you to purchase? Answers to the usual email address of firstname.lastname@example.org and we will draw the winner after the final question in the third review next week. Good Luck.
The game’s audio is the usual mix of orchestral ambience suffused with classical soothings on a backdrop of stunning choral work. The sound effects are solid and the voice acting is often found to be amusing in some of its more light-hearted moments.
With the game played out over what are five enormous area’s you will have more than enough time to get used to the style of gameplay that is characteristic of Larian’s Divinity Trilogy. With fan’s of the series being in gaming heaven and even newcomer’s to the franchise, and indeed genre, being catered for in the fantastic character creation and customization that is available to them, as well as first-rate gameplay that should be taught as a masterclass to all budding developers and game designers. Larian seem to understand what it is their customers crave with an eerie prescient precision that has you peering into your webcam and wondering if the thing is a two-way? At a time when it seems that the genre has been somewhat overtaken by simplistic storylines and gameplay so linear you could lay bricks along it, it is always welcoming to know that when you have this title in your gaming collection that you can always take a journey back to a time when developers cared more about content than they do about profit.
Graphics: With the introduction of the 3D characters on beautifully rendered backgrounds of subtle textures and colours, Larian have continued as they began with the first in the series 9
Gameplay: When you hear older gamers saying phrases like, “They just don’t make them like they used to anymore” you can copy and paste that comment and add ‘Beyond Divinity’ where the words ‘they used to’ instead. With over 100 hours to finish the campaign and then add to that the excellent two player dynamic that works so well, you have a title that they really don’t make them like anymore. Great in all area’s and joy to play. 8
RePlay Value: As stated in the previous paragraph, you can expect to be playing this title well into the three figure time zone and more. The sheer size of the maps and world at your disposal and the amount of content that Larian have managed to fit into it is astonishing. For the perfectionists out there such as myself who just have to see ‘everything’ you will be back for more. 8
Presentation: Overall Beyond Divinity is a welcome addition to any developers library and every gamer should own a copy. The gameplay alone is enough to make it a winner but adding to that the beautiful graphics, the stylish renders, the soothing tunes that float in a haunting melody and the sizzling storyline and you have a title that most developers would give their right arms for. 9