As a reviewer, long games scare me. Writing about a game without finishing it feels unethical, amoral even – but sometimes, a game is so monstrously huge, so terrifyingly epic, that no amount of concentrated gaming will drag you through to the end. Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga is that kind of game. With two full length campaigns, and more content that you can wave an angry flying lizard at, I’m ashamed to admit I never made it to the undoubtedly climactic ending. In the forty or so hours I did drown into this bottomless vat of epic, fantasy goblin-slaying, I did find a deep and well thought out, if rather hardcore, RPG – satisfying and generic, but with touches of true brilliance.
Sadly, those touches are locked away in a secret cave, that you’ll only be able to access after mining through a good 15 or so hours of worryingly straightforward monster slaying. Your adventure begins as a member of the Slayers, an order dedicated to hunting down the Dragon Knights. They’re apparently fearsome chaps who can transform into a flying fire-breathing reptile at will, but you’ll quickly find yourself uncovering worrying conspiracies, and, in a not-entirely-unexpected but rather empowering twist, you suddenly find yourself cast as the last surving Dragon Knight.
Being a Dragon Knight, unshocking as this may sound, is mind-blowingly awesome. You’re no longer restricted to toddling around unsteadily on two miserable appendages, instead towering over your foes, soring across the lands on great scaly wings, and obliterating entire buildings with fiery impunity.
It’s a shame then, that for the 10 hours between the mind-numbingly boring introduction sequence and the actual “Jesus, I can actually turn into a dragon” realisation, you’ll be boring yourself to tears. There’s no Mass Effect like compulsion to push the story forward, no epic biblical clashes to rival Dragon Age’s. Instead, you’re relegated to dungeon-crawling through dank-cave after putrid cavern, slaying entire legions of generic skeletons, or goblins, or some other unoriginal monstrosity.
This pathetic entrance is all the more unforgiving when you consider the sheer depth that unfolds once you come into your own as a Dragon Knight: by mid-game, you’ll even have your very own sorcerous battle-tower, filled with your cohorts, as well as your own personal necromancer, happy to create a customisable, shambling Frankenstein to aid you in your quest. These hitherto hidden depths massively expand an already vast RPG – even the opening campaign is full to breaking with spells, equipment, skills and feats to customise your character with, and the included expansion adds further bucket-loads of content.
Those options, when they do come together, work exceedingly well: combat is satisfying, if repetitive, and surprisingly tactical – once you’ve unlocked sufficient skills, anyway. While it may begin as simple button-mashing, eventually, it’ll develop into spell-wielding, magic-sword swinging mayhem. Also, you can turn into a dragon, which, I’ll be honest, always adds something of element of unpredictability and fun into any combat situation.
Sadly, the depth reflected in your tactical options isn’t necessarily reflected in technical polish: while Divinity 2 is undeniably expansive and polished, smaller failures continue to permeate the experience, despite most of the bugs in the original Ergo Draconis having been cleaned up. The animation still feels solid and gilted, appearing strangely inhuman, and unpredictable difficulty spikes can really condemn you to an endless deluge of failure, forcing you to dig out early save games.
As an overall experience however, if you’re willing to put in the hours to fight through the tedium of the games opening, and overcome the inevitable issues you’ll undoubtably uncover, there is a diamond in the rough here: an old-school RPG with unexpected depth and moments of utter genius. It combines tried-and-tested gaming principles with some clever experimentation and truly gob-stopping amounts of content, and if you’re part of the audience it caters too, I’m sure you’ll happily forge your way through the 200+ hours of epic gaming to be had. If, like me, you’re not quite that dedicated, you probably won’t get quite that far, but it’s still hard not to come to admire the wondrous, if rather flawed, magnum opus that is the Dragon Knight Saga.
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