The journey’s end approaches as the epic Divinity series draws to a close with the masterful Dragon Knight Saga and Flames of Vengeance. Will you answer the dragon rider’s call?
Following on from 2009’s impressive Ego Draconis, Larian Studio’s and Focus Home Entertainment have brought the epic tale to its thrilling conclusion with the latest title in the stellar series of games. With Xbox360 and PC owners able to enjoy the additional bonus of the Flames of Vengeance expansion being included in the retail version, it looks as though the recent batch of top-notch RPG titles have found their champion as The Dragon Knight Saga shines on every level.
For all you gamers out there who like nothing more than the total immersion of their consciences in a fantasy realm filled with stunning backdrop’s, awesome gameplay and an outstanding storyline, then Larian Studio’s may well have just released the Game of the Year as far as you are concerned.
Starting off where the underappreciated Ego Draconis left off back in 2009 Dragon Knight Saga continues the tale of the Dragon Riders as you select your character from one of the four classes on offer for you. From this point you will select Mage, Warrior, Ranger or Priest with which to embark on this Odyssey of epic proportions. Looking far sharper than its predecessor, Ego Draconis, and with graphics so sharp that they could shave you in the morning and still be honed enough for your girlfriend to get those legs of her’s feeling as smooth as the finest silk when she steals your razor in the bath that night, Dragon Knight Saga is in an RPG league of its own. Polished is not the word for the way that Larian Studio’s have managed to make Dragon Knight Saga look, ‘glossy’ now that’s a word befitting the sterling job that the developers have done when creating the visual masterpiece that is on offer here. This goes beyond remastering, this is recreation at its finest. With images so realistic looking that it almost makes you want to reach through the screen and touch the very buildings that loom around you like monoliths of fantastical gothic design. The imagery is a welcome sight after the bland and desolate wasteland of Fallout New Vegas, and if you fellow RPG gamers out there were getting a little tired of running around Albion delivering pointless packages or greeting people with an expulsion of warm fetid air to their incredulous pates then Dragon Knight Saga is a welcome return to what a role-playing game should be. I mean don’t get me wrong, Fallout was good, but not great. The broken and fractured gameplay limped along from one glaring glitch to the next before it stumbled almost accidentally into a smooth section of play. Fable III barely fared much better. The glitches may have been few and far between and the frame rates suffered less with Lionhead’s opus, however you would have thought that by now someone over there at Lionhead Studio’s would have found the cojones to explain to Peter Molyneux that the one of the most basic functions of an RPG title is that it should allow the gamer to make decisions? And surely one of those decisions should be if you would like to jump over a fence or wall to get to your objective, instead of having to walk around anything larger than a small to medium-sized dog poo? And don’t get us started on linearity!
But enough of this, all comparisons aside for the moment as we are here to describe the absolute joyous pro’s to be found in Larian’s RPG masterclass, as opposed to the nightmarish con’s of another studio’s failings. One thing is for certain, however, and that is that the faults of others are nowhere to be found in Larian’s Dragon Knight Saga. If this review were a kindergarten class then Larian would be clutching a small gold star with childlike glee right about now, as Bethesda and Lionhead are shown to the matron’s office in attempt to get their trousers dry on the radiator after wetting themselves in class.
The storyline in Dragon Knight Saga may be the reworked premise of Ego Draconis but it has not suffered any detrimental effect because of this. Indeed with the all-new expansion Flames of Vengeance being worked into the occasion it is a far meatier and juicier prospect for those players out there who want something more to get their RPG teeth into. So if you are tired of the same old hum-drum in your role-playing then this has to be the title for you.
Set against the backdrop of an age-old war between Dragon Knights and Dragon Slayers in the fabled realm of Rivellon, you are a fledging apprentice charged by your superiors to offer your novice services to see off the last of the Dragon Knights and so end the conflict that has raged throughout the land for countless centuries. As is to be expected you take to your task with all the gusto and bravado of youth as you head off into battle after a brief spell of instruction in combat from your peers. However things do not go according to plan for our young hero as he finds himself cut off and alone and set upon by the very Dragon Knight that he has been sent to despatch. Now here is where we could veer off into the entire tale of the Dragon Knight Saga, and as such, spoil the game completely for those of you out there who may want to purchase this game. With that the in mind we will cut short our storytelling and instead focus our attention on other things, suffice is to say that there are more twists and turns in the tale than on a government expenses list and the action and adventure will not stop from the moment you select your class of character right through to the very last credits at the end of the game. Spoilers we do not do here, we want you to enjoy this fantastic game as much as we did. Then come back for more as a different race or class.
So rather than butcher the plot for you all we will concentrate on the more factual matters at hand, the combat system for example. Does it work well in a genre that has seen leaps and bounds in technical advances? Well, to be blunt? It is stunning. Larian have somehow managed to take their flagship title and keep it true to the more traditional styled RPG, but at the same time brought everything up to date by using the latest advances in graphics and build engines to bring you a combat system that is smooth and uncluttered and moves fluidly throughout the battles without you having to fumble through menu screens to programme attacks, or fidget with your controller mid-fight to take a health potion or use an overrated targeting system. All of the controller has been put to good use by Larian, so that you can fully programme just about every function on your controller from the D-Pad to the bumpers and buttons. Quite simply it means that you can fight non-stop without messing around in the middle of an enormous fight scene. You want to use a different weapon? Fine you can do that. You want to use magic? Take a potion to increase your health? Dodge? Jump? Hack? Slash? Fear not my brave Knight…all is here for you at the merest touch of a button. The button that you decided it would be might I add. So no strategy other than what weapon you are going to use to hack the head off your latest target is required, and no ‘Final Fantasy-esque’ menu screens just when you were getting ready to lop the limbs of a few enemies. This is just good old real-time combat of the highest calibre. The kind that you will enjoy so much that you actually look forward to playing again as an alternative race or character when you have completed the storyline.
Speaking of different classes one of the nice touches that has been made available for the player is the way that you are able to blend the skills of one class with another. For example combining the abilities of the Mage with the Ranger, or the Warrior with the Priest. This actually allows for some cracking situations and combat with some startling and surprising results, but it also allows for excellent abilities as you mix and blend the best of both classes to your benefit. Experimentation and personal preference are the best ways forward here, as what is right for some may not necessarily be right for you.
Whichever way you do it, and ultimately whichever character you choose to go with on your epic voyage through Rivellon, is up to you, but all characters and classes bring their own special something to the melting pot and so we advise you to play this game on more than one occasion as the storyline and experience for one may differ vastly under alternative conditions. Each of the classes is capable of being upgraded fully, with everything customizable and able to be given the personal touch, so don’t limit yourself to assuming that one is perhaps better than another, as all of the characters are more than a match for each other.
The gameplay itself, as we have previously stated, is a far more traditional way of playing a role-playing game, and the game plays so much better for it. Gone is the Nanny-State gaming that seems to have sprung up these days, as we are offered up ever more checkpoints, markers, hints and holographical partners that will help us along the way. Dragon Knight Saga plays like the RPG’s of old and it is an absolute delight to be able to experience this kind of gameplay again. You can still ask people for help and advice along the way, however, but you are not always being led by the hand or following some handy glowing trail to your objective. You have to use your wit’s, your gaming skills and your knowledge to advance in Rivellon, and not sit and scratch your head until the ‘hint’ sign appears in your HUD.
One of the games absolute high points is also one of the games most glaring spoilers, so we will hold back from revealing such a crucial part of the Dragon Knight Saga’s plot to instead continue on our way to describing what else the title has in store for you, and it has a lot make no mistake about that. High points in the game come in thick and fast it has to be said. But surely the games voice acting and sound effects have to rank up there alongside some of the more obvious choices such as the graphics, gameplay, combat system, customization and storyline? The fact that many an RPG has lived and died by its actors goes some way to tell you why ever more developers are using ever more talented voice actors in even the most mundane characters in the game. This is very obvious in Dragon Knight Saga as the standard of acting here goes some way to enhancing your enjoyment of the storyline, as well as drawing you into the plot. Credit where credit is due, a game can be an absolute cracker but if you are making the digital version of Romeo and Juliet the last thing you want is a talentless Brummie ‘monotoning’ along in a nasal whine as she murders Shakespeare’s love story with a cawing “Where for art thou Romeo?”
Next on the list of visual delights is the sheer weight if numbers of characters and NPC’s that are contained within the confines of your game screen. Forget the broken promises of the attack on Hoover Dam in Fallout New Vegas, or the appalling empty Battle for Albion in Fable III. This is Larian, so when the promise of grand battles and hordes of enemy combatants is made to you then you can bet your bottom dollar that’s exactly what you are going to get. The amount of foes that you will be facing during your time in Rivellon is quite simply astounding. So make sure that you are constantly topped up with health and your weapons and armour are in a fine state of repair for fear of some drooling ne’er-do-well running you through with a rusting pike.
Missions are varied and well constructed and offer the player not only a vast amount of exciting and blood-curdling combat, but also a great deal in the way of exploration throughout the realm of Rivellon. The side quests are as numerous as a…very..numerous..thing, and what may seem a quite innocuous little task can transform into an eye-opening adventure worthy of praise in its own right.
The game is played through at a quite leisurely pace that will lull a lot of gamers into a false sense of security as they strap on their backpack and sword and traipse off across the open plains in search of adventure and maidens to rescue, but make sure that you save often during your time in Rivellon as the quests main storyline picks up the pace at an alarming rate after acquainting you with the laws of nature in this gargantuan environment. Treat the meandering opening as more of an introductory tutorial for those gamers who are new to the way of things in Divinity. But be warned all you Draconis virgins out there, ( and if you are new to this stunning series then we do readily advise you to back catalogue this awesome franchise and start at the beginning and work your way through what has to be one of the greatest stories ever told in the RPG genre ), Dragon Knight Saga is role-playing at its finest, it is not an expedition to ‘cutesy-land’ where you are led by giggling minstrels,glowing trails or ruddy-faced devotee’s who fawn over your very existence. This is you and a sword and your wit’s, and that’s it! You want to know where your next objective is? Work it out for yourself. You want to know how to kill the next giant adversary? Then its your job to collate the evidence and piece together your strategy for attack or you will suffer the same fate as the twenty-seven other broken and limbless torso’s that are lying at your foes feet. In essence, it is how role-playing should be…it is the experience of it. The sense of being there and having to overcome and adapt to all manner of trials and tribulations that stand in the way of your ultimate goal and roaring success throughout your realm. If you want to be led by the hand and deliver books and letters to ungrateful peasants all day long then there’s always Fable III for you. If you want to sit in a glitch and stare at every shade of brown known to man then Fallout New Vegas is your baby. If you want some sizzling RPG action that will keep you engrossed for the coming few months then do yourself a favour and go for the educated role players choice: The Dragon Knight Saga. You won’t be disappointed.
Graphics: This visually impressive retelling and re-invigoration of the Ego Draconis story has taken the gaming world by storm and rightfully so. Looking better than anything else in the RPG genre at the moment Dragon Knight Saga has learned from the mistakes of 2009 when its’ predecessor was cruelly overlooked in favour of, quite frankly, lesser quality games. But because of that Larian has come back stronger and brighter with The Dragon Knight Saga. So much so in fact that this title has stunned those gamers that have made the right decision to purchase this game with the sheer quality and craftmanship contained therein. Glitch free gaming at its finest with a frame rate smoother than the proverbial baby’s bottom. Excellent! 9
Gameplay: With so much going on in the main storyline it’s no wonder then that it will take people so long to complete this title. Add to that the huge amount of side missions , quests, battles, exploration and real quality gameplay and you have what is rapidly being considered by all those who have experienced The Dragon Knight Saga as the definitive RPG title of the year. 10
RePlay Value: If you have seen everything that Dragon Knight Saga has to offer, and you have been everywhere in Rivellon and completed every mission, side quest, objective and mini game, then the chances are that you are just putting the finishing touches to your seventh or eighth play through of this stunning game? Consider then that we have yet to have all that this series has to offer, and in the likely event that there may well be extra additional content along the way at some point in the future The Dragon Knight Saga has still more to offer players than most other titles in the genre of late. A stunning storyline with a single player experience so well presented that once you start this game you will be loath to stop. The Pringle’s of RPG as once you ‘pop’ the game in to your system you will not stop! 9
Presentation: As with the entire series of Divinity titles from Larian Studio’s we have welcomed the addition of a new release with open arms. Truly this is one developer who never fails to impress and with the Dragon Knight Saga and the Flames of Vengeance expansion they have done it again! An outstanding blend of traditional role-playing combined with first-rate action and some truly epic locations and backdrops for you to explore. Smooth gaming runs throughout the entire title, with everything from the frame rate to the combat system being handled perfectly. It is a rare commodity in the current trend to find a developer that puts as much thought, effort and content into their titles as Larian so obviously does, but it’s so very much worth the wait when you have a game as good as this at the end of it. There was recently another role-playing game that based its storyline on the crowning of a new king. Prophetic almost as there is a new king being crowned in the genre, his name is Larian, all hail! 10