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Divine Divinity

If memory serves, I played and finished this game at least two and a half years ago. Yet I still remember it quite fondly, perhaps even more so just because I actually played Diablo II shortly after it and that showed me just how much better Divine Divinity is in every aspect. It’s true that it takes the basic Diablo II recipe and builds upon it, but it adds a lot to that recipe and in doing so it does nearly everything right, while Diablo II did pretty much everything wrong. At least that’s my opinion, regardless of how many will be bothered by it.

Being very interested in game mechanics, I’ll start listing this game’s many good points with the huge amount of freedom you have in developing your character. Yes, there are three classes and your choice when you create your character does have certain effects, such as a wizard getting twice the amount of mana a warrior with the same intelligence would have or a warrior getting four times the damage bonus a wizard with the same strength would have, but you are completely free to raise those attributes however you wish and to pick any skills you think will better suit your playing style. That’s right, all 96 skills are available to all three classes, so you can mix and match at will. Luckily, you will get a few skills for free over the course of the game and most mage skills can be learned from books, which can be found or bought, though the prices are steep. Even so, with each skill having five levels and the vast majority of the skills being useful, the 60 or so skill points you will obtain by the end of the game will need to be distributed carefully, making for several character development paths that could be just as good, depending on your playing style.
The game world is large and reasonably interesting as well. It will take a long time to explore every area, but you will likely find it worth your effort, as this game offers way more than swarms of enemies to kill and lots of nice loot to use or sell. Sure, there is a pretty insane amount of that as well, but there are also a whole lot of side-quests and even more NPCs that will have something to tell you, a fair portion of those discussions being quite humorous. And the music is excellent as well, adding a lot to the atmosphere of every section of the game. (For those who are interested, it is available for download from the composer’s site. Though it loses its meaning when separated from the game, seeing as it was made to perfectly accompany the various areas you will end up exploring.)
Another interesting thing that I need to mention is the kind of information your journal provides. Sure, it does the usual job of keeping track of quests, but statistics regarding the exact number of enemies killed of each type are also available, including some of the attributes of each, which can be nice if you simply want to keep score but can also provide some useful information that you could use in preparing for future fights. Also, you’ll be able to see some detailed information about your character on a screen that adds descriptions for each attribute, including your level and your resistances. And many of those descriptions will tend to be at least somewhat humorous, which to me says that the developers enjoyed making this game and wanted to provide the players with as many reasons as possible to enjoy playing it as well.

But not everything is good, of course, and likely the main issue has to do with the combat system. As one would expect, it closely follows the Diablo recipe, as many other games did as well, meaning that most fights just require you to click a button countless times. And sometimes you need to click that button as fast as you possibly can, for example if you are using the lightning spell, which hits the enemy instantly, so any fraction of a second lost between clicks translates into less damage done and therefore a higher likelihood of the enemy managing to hit back. That, coupled with the relatively small number of quickslots compared to the number of available skills, tends to diminish the positive value of such a varied and open character development system.
Another significant problem is the fact that the attributes of items are determined randomly when you first pass your mouse over them, the game only sticking to a general overall value of the item in question, roughly represented by the color of its name. So you may well need to first learn the location of any important items and then save before passing your mouse over them, reloading if the attributes you see are not suited for your playing style. It’s quite a tedious process, made worse by the fact that adding charms to items that have free slots is a permanent decision. That can cause quite a lot of frustration if you add your good charms to an item and a short while later find one that’s more useful for your particular playing style, even if perhaps its overall value would be lower, but also if you decide against adding any charms but fail to find a better item for a very long time, meaning that you struggled with weaker equipment for no reason.
I also need to make note of the size of the dungeons. The world itself is large and quite interesting, but the dungeons tend to get tedious after a while. And the real problem with that is that they’re absolutely huge, usually spanning several levels, each of those levels being large in itself. There are usually a few interesting moments in each, for example I still remember the skeleton who very bluntly hit on me, but for the most part you’re just running through seemingly endless catacombs, fighting wave after wave after wave of enemies…
And then you have the main story, which isn’t noticeably better than you’d expect from such games, being one you have likely heard hundreds of times before and will likely hear hundreds of times more in the future. Thankfully, the side-quests, NPCs and humor save a good part of the overall impression, but it would have been much better if the main story would have avoided at least a couple of clich├ęs…

Overall, despite its flaws and the uninspired name, I certainly have to say that Divine Divinity is Diablo II done right. If item attributes wouldn’t have been randomized, or at least not randomized so much, it would have probably been about as good as a game of this type could possibly ever be, seeing as the other problems are more or less inherent to the genre.

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