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Having picked-up this title whilst it was still new, sometime in December of 2003, I didn’t particularly think I was in for classic gaming of any sort. This sentiment mainly arising from the lacklustre, at times lukewarm or downright unflattering reviews plastered on the net’s most famed RPG boards. Despite all that, I still purchased it out of sheer curiosity, which proved surprising.
Often doomed to live in Blizzard Entertainment’s shadow as the next ‘Diablo clone’ (take any of Dungeon Siege or Titan Quest for instance), ‘Divine divinity’ is perhaps overlooked as just another hack-an-slash title: in truth, it has more elements of an underdog RPG, of the ‘trawl-not-crawl’ kind, rather than a pure action title. The one thing that reminisces of Diablo is perhaps the combat, particularly in some of the dungeons, but it is way more quest-oriented than that.
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Larian studios have no fame in the game development world, a relatively small company founded by Swen Vicke who decided the best name for it was after his dog. That of course doesn’t stop them from creating good games, particularly in the Divinity series including ‘Beyond Divinity’, released sometime after the original, and the yet to be released but promising ‘Divinity 2 – Eco Draconis’ (but we'll sit and wait on that one).
Based in Gwen, Belgium, they first developed a strategy game called LED wars, to then move on and try their hand at the RPG market, somewhat successfully. The first effort aimed toward this market was in fact abandoned, ‘The Lady, The Mage and The Knight’, perhaps failing to reach an agreement with Attic productions, their co-developers. Larian also develops other titles, such as games for casinos and educational titles (such as Ketnet Kick or Adventure Rock).
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You begin the game in the small village of Aleroth, with just a healer and a shopkeeper. You only know that you are one of the marked ones and are destined to great things. The Council of Seven, comprised of the different races which make up the world of Rivellon, has battled the previous dark mages with success, only to await the eventual return of the Black Ring. They know that in these troubled times, were races are fighting against each other once again, a great, divine hero would emerge and save the land. And, funnily enough, that’s were you come in.
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Gameplay is quite interesting, although not altogether innovative or ‘open’ (in an Elder Scrolls: Morrowind fashion for instance). You have the possibility of playing three separate characters, or classes if you like, the warrior, the wizard or the survivor, the latter being the equivalent of a thief. You can assign five points to four separate attributes or Strength, Agility, Intelligence and Constitution, and as you gain in levels and experience you will have five more points to divide. You are not confined to playing the warrior strictly as a fighter, you can choose skills relating to casting or other, which is true of other classes. However, each character has their own special ability.
You also have magicka for casters, or energy which will drain depending on how many spells or what nature you cast. This goes together with stamina which will allow your character to run once there is some still there, along with being able to enter combat properly.
The game particularly shines in its successful attempts at humor within quests. This is not often a feature of RPG, where the world is quite serious, and is welcome in this game. You will sometime meet a character who will try to ‘flog’ you a useless item, or be involved in cat-washing quests. There are a large number of quests available and aside from the humor throw in, their depth is quite enough to keep you entertained.
Graphically, it looks cartoony and some of the locations are stunnigly drawn. There is considerable artistic talent put into this game, despite it’s perhaps dated nature now (and believe me 3-4 years is old in gaming terms). The flora and fauna lives as you immerse yourself into the world of Rivellon. The sound is perhaps typical of RPG games and offers nothing particularly new, although it’s welcome.
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The yes or the no?
I would say that this game is a hidden gem buried amongst the many titles within the RPG genre. It will almost certainly be underlooked for bigger, better promoted titles, but that certainly doesn’t undermine its quality. Some of the touches, artistic and humorous, place it amongst some of the ‘cult’ titles to own. And good luck in pronouncing Eoulus’s Dwarven word.