Developer: Larian Studios
Divine Divinity official page: http://www.larian.com/Site/english/divinity/divinity.html
A New Entrant
The PC RPG genre is an unforgiving and harsh place to be for new developers. For every Diablo and Baldur’s Gate, there are a dozen Septerra Cores and Stonekeeps. Typically, a development studio’s first RPG is a learning process, often exacerbated by jaded and demanding RPG gamers and reviewers. With that in mind, I had a fair bit of anxiety and excitement when I stumbled upon Divine Divinity a couple of months before it went gold. The presentation was close to exceptional and the mood seemed very dark and gritty. However, my experience with European developers has been a mixed one, ranging from the exemplary The Longest Journey, to forgettable titles such as Rage of Mages (the original version was developed in Russia). Within gaming circles, Divine Divinity was being heralded as a Baldur’s Gate and Diablo hybrid. While it would be more accurate to place Divine Divinity somewhere between Neverwinter Nights and Diablo, Divine Divinity surpasses the hype in some aspects, and falls short in others.
“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood” – “The Inferno”, Dante
A Witch With A Bow
A good story is often crucial to developing a RPG’s atmosphere. Some titles such as Diablo II have very strong, cinematic plots. Unfortunately, in the case of the aforementioned, it feels as though you are merely following along a trail of footsteps, as opposed to taking a direct role in the story’s unfolding. Divine Divinity strays from the norm, immersing the player in a richly medieval world that feels somewhere between Ravenloft and Darklands. When the game begins, your character wakes up in a foreign land with little recollection of past events. The world is an unfriendly place, populated by humans, elves, dwarves, lizardmen, imps, and orcs, as far as the relatively benign folks go. You are thrust into the heart of the community in which you awaken, being charged with exorcising a demon possessing a mage. People are distrustful, and you will find pentagrams, gargoyles, and necromantic and diabolic diagrams scattered about the world. While Diablo II wielded its atmosphere like a club, Divine Divinity takes a more paced approach, slowly immersing you in its world like quicksand.
Demonic possession seems to be a recurring theme in the game. Without revealing too much, the ruling Duke of the lands ends up being possessed by the Prince of Lies, and a radical personality change ensues. While Divine Divinity avoids being overly macabre with its in-game characters (ESRB rating being Teen and all), the Duke definitely does not seem to be a nice person. With the urgency of a swinging, bladed pendulum, the player ends up realizing his role in the unraveling events as the world about them begins to fester and decay under the demonic presence.