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Divinity 2: Director's Cut [2012 -- Larian Studios]

Started by Starfox, Feb 19, 2023, 05:59 PM

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Original Publication: 07/18/2013

Divinity 2: Director's Cut includes both the original Divinity 2: Ego Draconis and its DLC Flames Of Vengeance. It also features a special executable "developer's mode" that unlocks a cheat console accessible in game with the F11 key for additional fun (if you feel like it; at least here's a developer that understands that cheating may provide extended fun in a game after having played it the normal way).

As a game franchise developed by the Belgian studio Larian, Divinity is quite old as the first game Divine Divinity was released in 2002 and was followed by Beyond Divinity in 2004 both RPG in isometric view like it was common back then for the RPG genre. Divinity 2 however and although it retains the universe and story elements of the previous games is a whole other beast as it's a third person game with most of the gameplay elements we came to expect of a modern RPG. The game was developed using the Gamebryo engine from Bethesda (Oblivion, Fallout 3...) which is puzzling considering that the game didn't crash on me, even once.

But to go on... Some real long time -- the amount is not precisely known though -- elapsed between the two first games and this third one, long enough to see several new factions appearing, one of them being the Dragon Slayers. You begin the game as one of them and as the title suggests, you aim to be a fearsome slayer of dragons; well, not "real" dragons because these ones have long vanished (they still exist but are not around, not openly anyway) but Dragon Knights, humans that have been granted some amount of power by the real dragons including the ability to transform at will in a... dragon.

Is it just me or was there an awfully big dragon "trend" in RPG the past few years?

Dragon Knights have been hunted to extinction by the Dragon Slayers because of their involvement in the demise of the Divine One (yep, the same Divine One that the player became in Divine Divinity). Since then they've been regarded as betrayers that must be eliminated at any cost and as a matter of fact, the Dragon Slayers order was created just for that purpose. As the game starts, only one Dragon Knight remains, Talana, and the Dragon Slayers will soon go to hunt her (after the player initiation turning them in a full Dragon Slayer and also serving as a tutorial). Unfortunately, the player is forbidden to take part in the hunt -- the final ordeal of becoming a Dragon Slayer is to recent. Not so unfortunately the player will meet Talana alone. The Dragon Slayers almost managed to kill her but not quite so. The player prepare to deliver the final blow but at this moment Talana take advantage of the feeble mind of the newly born Dragon Slayer to force her dragon nature on the player before dying. The immediate result is that the Dragon Slayer immediately turns into a Dragon Knight. The second effect is that Talana having melted her consciousness with that of the Dragon Slayer she's always there to deliver advices or remark about the new task set... to destroy Damian (for those who are puzzled, this was the demon baby that the hero couldn't kill at the end of Divine Divinity -- the full story is available in the various in game books) and restore the honor of the Dragon Knights (it appears they were not responsible of what they were accused of).

So yeah, technically the player becomes a dragon and have the ability to shapeshift but not immediately. Before acquiring the ability to transform into a dragon, a number of tasks must be accomplished which occupies most of the first part of the game. Meanwhile you notice that aside your former Dragon Slayer colleagues, nobody really notices the change because physically there's absolutely no difference between a Dragon Slayer and a Dragon Knight (both have silvery eyes which come with the dragons' memories). So the player may continue to pass as a Dragon Slayer in front of the common people, avoiding the real mess that would ensue the discovery of their new allegiance.

The real thing that one notices after the transformation from Dragon Slayer to Dragon Knight is the ability to jump somewhat higher and certainly more gracefully than before... And sure enough, the player will have to jump, a lot. A good part of the puzzles in the game are of the "jump to reach higher platforms" kind, the other part being occupied with "search the key to open this door or find the nearest way to open it without the key". Sometimes, both are combined. The game being a RPG, there is a lockpick skill that you can train but this will only trigger an awful lot of times the appearance on the screen of those words "This door (chest, whatever) cannot be open with the lockpick skill". Why introduce a lockpicking skill at all, it's a wonder.

The constant search for keys or bypasses or levers is certainly one of the few grips I have with this game (and it's a recurrent one as the key hunting was already most prominent in the first and the second Divinity games). Real puzzles with real thinking exist but are somewhat rarer than the common "get the key" stuff. Sometimes a door won't open with the usual "no lockpicking allowed"  sentence displayed but the game completely forget to warn you that this particular door is not supposed to open before a long time and that it has no key. It happens just once but it is somewhat unnerving because you may run for several minutes searching for a key or a way to open this door that doesn't exist and your in game journal is of no help (I actually had to finally check a walkthrough to discover that this door was not supposed to open at that moment in the game). Maybe you get a hint of some sort in the original version of the game but not in the English one.

The second grip I have with the game is due to bad thinking and animations. Often the game will take controls away from the player for the purpose of running a cutscene... That is well and good except that this often happens just before a battle and the game takes about 1 second to release the controls back to the player after the cutscene ends. As enemies don't have this lagging problem they are guaranteed a first hit whenever this occur and there's nothing you can do to prevent it. The second problem regards animations. I still don't understand why my character can't throw a fireball or draw weapons while moving; each time you use a spell (or a bow for that matter) your character stop in its track the time to run the corresponding animation which make of it an easy picking for all enemies around.

However the points presented above are really the only truly bad things I have to say about the game. Other than that the game is pretty solid. And flying around in dragon form is pretty fun too. However this transformation into a dragon is only available during the second half of the game. It is almost not used at all in the DLC Flames Of Vengeance  -- constituting the second part of the Director's Cut Edition -- in which you'll only have to be content with running around as a Dragon Knight. The purpose of this DLC anyway is to really finish the game and to put an end to gamers protest about the ending of the vanilla campaign which is probably one of the only endings in the whole gaming history where the hero is the big moron who lamentably fails and the villains the big brilliant guys who succeed (in some respect it's even worse than the Mass Effect 3 ending). So Flames Of Vengeance allow the hero to take a revenge -- as the title indicates.

My own understanding though is that this DLC was already in development when the vanilla game was released (for all we know it might even have been part of the vanilla game and was put aside so it could be sold as a DLC like it is pretty common nowadays). Flames of Vengeance features additional quests, some of them even more interesting than those available in the Vanilla game (at least one gets the feeling that there is significantly less key searching).

Overall the whole experience of the Director's Cut edition is a lot of fun even though one only gets to be a dragon in the second part of Ego Draconis and during the last bit of Flames Of Vengeance. I just wish that the animation problem could be avoided. Skyrim allows your character to move around when drawing weapons, throwing fireballs or even firing arrows (something to think about Larian).

Guess what it means!