Divine Divinity


Developer:    Larian Studios

Publisher:    CDV Software Entertainment

Released:   2002

PC Requirements:    Windows 95/98/2000/Me/XP: CPU: Pentium II 233MHz or better, 128 MB Ram minimum-256 MB Recommended, Video Card: DirectX 8.0 Compatible, 8 MB Min., 800 x 600 Minimum Resolution, Soundcard: 100% Direct Sound Compatible, CD Rom: 4xSpeed or faster, Hard Drive: 2.5 GB of free disk space.




by nickie

Two skeletons talking:

First skeleton: "Hey look, it stands to reason. You can't eat 'cause you don't have a stomach."

Second skeleton: "Aha! So how can we speak? We don't have no vocal cords either. Answer that, Mr. Clever!"

First skeleton: "You're right, you know. Think about it; we don't have no muscles or flesh on our bones either, so what keeps us together, sort of thing?

Second skeleton: "Best not to think about it. I don't want to fall to bits because of extra existential thought..." (From the Divine Divinity dungeon)


I sit here with my head in my hands at the prospect of reviewing this game. What can you say in the way of superlatives that don’t sound trite for a game whose worst fault is its name? OK, I seize on that for a moment. Ugh, what could they have been thinking when they named this game? Visions of sugary sweet candy float before my eyes.

Ah, but further delving into the vast resources of the internet tell me that the developers never intended for the game to be so named, and this was a step taken by the producer. The name was meant to be Divinity: Sword of Lies. I would prefer just Sword of Lies, but now I can't even fault the developers on this basis.

You know what the real problem with this game is? That when you come across a fault, you disregard it, simply because the rest of the game is so good. A misspelling in a dialog? Part of its charm! And charming is what this game is.

Three years in the making, with little fanfare this game hit the RPG world by surprise. Amazing - a first published collaboration between a small group of people from Belgium, England,  Russia, and Germany;  no big budget, no advance hype - wait, there's still hardly any advertisement on this game - and slowly but surely by word of mouth this game is coming up on all the "Best RPGs of the year" lists. And get this, the people that made the game have a forum, where they actually answer buyers' questions: technical questions, hints, general comments- they show appreciation for everyone that has bought this game. Unheard of ! Big companies of certain high hyped glitzy games shook their heads in dismay. "What a dangerous precedent to set. To actually act like we appreciate someone buying our game, and to (shudder) even help them with how to play it? How incredibly gauche!"

Divine Divinity stands head and shoulders above the competition in sheer good heartedness. And if any RPG stands a chance of bringing new fans to the genre, this is the one. Never taking itself too seriously, the story draws you into the game, and never lets you go. A gentle learning curve, an easy inventory interface, a virtually seamless world to play in, and dozens of quests and hundreds of choices in how to handle them. Dialogs are spiced with humor; monsters have their own quirky personalities; there are parodies of real life situations and historical events, all backed with a musical score that could be a bestseller all by itself.

CHARACTER CREATION, GAMEPLAY AND STORY:   You have a choice of selecting warrior, wizard or survivor, a sneaky sort, as your hero, and a choice of whether to play as female or male. Nothing innovative with this, until you read the clever comments each character gives you as an incentive to choose them. The female survivor says " They say there are only two ways of living for a poor girl on the streets: prostitution or starvation. I took the third way. I steal from the rich and give it all to my poor self". The female wizard advises "They call me a witch because I'm a woman, and an enchantress because I'm pretty. Damn them! I deserve as much respect as any male wizard! The land is sick, and in using magic to heal it, I'll earn their admiration."

This might be the first clue that you are in for something different with this game, something special. There are many such references to everyday situations sprinkled throughout the game, more on which I'll write shortly.

Each class has access to many skills you can learn, receiving points to apply as you will each time you level up in experience, and you're not limited to choosing skills from your own discipline. It may very well be difficult to complete the game if you don't learn some skills from another class. As a wizard, I quickly ascertained that I needed the alchemy skill from the survivor class, so I didn't have to spend an awful lot of time going to the shops to buy mana potions, and instead could scoop up plants that grew all over the world.

The skill you are currently set to use is displayed in the interface, along with icons for inventory, and your diary. The diary contains your quest log, a large detailed map that marks the locations for quests which you have been told about by NPCs, and which you can also use to flag locations yourself; the count and description of monsters you have defeated, conversations you have had, and a detailed description of your character, including your resistances to different elements.

“You have a near invulnerability to lightning - based attacks. You can wear a copper helmet and stand in a vat of water on top of a church steeple during a storm, shouting 'All Gods are b******s!' with impunity."

This interface is simple, clear and completely user friendly. A very nice touch.

You move your character by either clicking on a spot away from where he is standing, or clicking and holding to continue movement, and sort of sweeping your way across the landscape. It took a bit of getting used to doing this, moving through an area that is dark on your mini-map (which you can toggle on and off), which clears as you uncover new territory. However, movement is smooth, and I only encountered a couple of situations where keyboard might have been more precise. Occasionally in the heat of battle, I would attempt to click my weapon on an opponent, and click on the ground instead, moving to that location. In general, I appreciated being able to use the mouse for movement.

The opening animation is more artsy than informative. Three fierce looking wizards appear bent on destroying a spirit fetus that morphs into three female goddess type spirits that streak to the sky. One darts to a fallen warrior, and apparently invades his body. The warrior is then awakened by a mysterious white cat.

Game play begins with you having no memory of who you are, and soon finding out that you have been rescued by a community of healers, due to the diligence of the cat, which led them to your unconscious body. But if your amnesia wasn't enough to contend with, you quickly become apprised of the problems plaguing the town.

"The troubles - you mean apart from the orc bandits infesting the woods, and the fact that we've lost contact with the Source for healing? Our leader seems to have gone as crazy as a loon".

You find out before too long that you are one of the "chosen ones" and it is up to you to defeat the evil that is threatening the world. Nothing innovative about the theme, but the way it is approached makes it feel like it is.

Paying close attention to conversations will give you hints of quests to pursue, courses of action to take, or information regarding items that may be important in your future. There are several responses you can make in conversations, and being rude and confrontational can easily lead to a fight. Unlike some RPGs, there are consequences to your actions and to your conversations, which can directly impact your reputation. Although you can freely go inside people's houses and look through their belongings, if you steal something while they're watching, they will at the very least say bad things about you to their friends. This may make fulfilling some quests difficult.

As I waded into my new world, I was impressed with how gradual the learning curve was, and how as my confidence grew as my hero raised in level, and I began to find more intimidating foes. Not that you can't stumble across a problem over your head almost right away, so remembering to save frequently is a given. Rather hilarious were the Orcs, short on brain and long on brawn, they still were crafty when it came to a group effort against you, and would even leave a path of gold coins to tempt you into the woods, where they could surround you and chortle over the dumb human that fell into their trap! Group dynamics are extremely interesting, for your enemy is capable of strategic maneuvering, rather than just stepping up to be slain.

The first long quest to follow the main story line requires you to travel through a huge dungeon filled with all sorts of monsters that plain don't like you. But lest you think this is just another dungeon crawl, you couldn't be more wrong. After the dungeon is completed, your world opens up, and an enormous one it is too. There are hundreds of people to talk to, dozens of quests to perform, and many, many monsters to battle. A great feature is that you can pause your game during battle by hitting the space bar, and replenish yourself with mana or strength potions, use your teleporters, change your weapons, equipment or spells, pick a spot to run to, or just give you a while to assess your situation. Another wonderful feature of this game is that you can interact with almost any object you come across. Moving boxes will sometimes uncover a secret passageway, and vases hide treasures. There are chests filled with booty sprinkled over the countryside, with keys to be found or the lock-picking skill to be used. There are statues to be found or bought, which allow you to morph into that animal. I never found that to be useful, but it was fun to hop around as a frog or slink around as a cat for a while.

On a tombstone: "OSIRIS THE COOK - The mean @#%* took the recipe for his famous bouillabaisse with him to the grave ".

The developers of this game say you make of it what you wish of it. If you want to play hack and slash style, follow the main quests only and complete it as quickly as possible, you can do that. It will still probably take you around 40 hours of game play. Or you can play as I did, following every quest, and stopping along the way to admire the lovely scenery, and you'll be engaged for between 100 and 200 hours. And you'd best set your alarm clock, because you can become so involved in this world that time flies by, until you see with a start that the hours have flown by, when it seemed like you had only played scant minutes.

 I was especially fascinated by the scenarios that parodied events that happen or have happened in the real world. One quest requires you to side with the bees or the wasps, and each side gives you their reasons why you should side with them. The bees tell you that the area has always been their home, and the wasps are unjustly trying to push them out. The wasps tell you that they need to be somewhere, and they are stronger, and the bees need to move and give them room. Sound familiar? You'll encounter racial tensions, drug addiction, religious fanatics, romance, and even have the opportunity to earn experience points by visiting a prostitute. Not exactly your ordinary RPG.

The only real criticism I have of this game is the last part in the drab Wastelands. It is clear that the game should have stopped before this point, as there is but one quest, and it is a hack and slash fest to get to the end scenario. Then the end scenario is disappointing, but does seem to leave the way clear for a sequel. Again, Larian studios steps up. On their forum, a developer admitted they had made a mistake in doing this, and that in retrospect they would have ended the game with the fabulous cut scene of the transformation to the Divine One. Towards the end of the development, they ran short of funds and had other problems, and simply had to rush the last part. How often do you hear a developer admit they made a mistake? Points go to them for honesty.

GRAPHICS:    My first impression was retro, 2D in a style reminiscent of Quest for Glory. In the days when RPGs are seeking to best each other in terms of more extravagant 3D effects, it would appear a strange move by the developers to not follow suit. However, the artwork is richly detailed, and the fact that you can interact with almost everything in the game, immerses you so entirely that you become part of that world. There are also limited 3D effects, such as the sun rising at dawn, and other weather effects including well crafted thunderstorms. There is a particularly beautiful church, with light streaming through the stained glass windows. My favorite was the exquisite treatment of water, where you see the reflection of your character in ponds as he passes by. The developers have acknowledged that perhaps making this as a 2D world was a mistake, for they have received quite a dose of criticism for it, but they did this to enable players with lower end computers to be able to play the game. How can you not love them for it?

SOUND:   Moscow born and trained composer Kirill Pokrovsky brings heart and fire in his music that speaks to the soul. The main theme is heartbreakingly glorious, in a new age style that is so memorable that I often sat looking at the main load screen, just to hear it over and over again. And as you travel throughout the world, you are treated to other appropriate songs, from a wonderful lusty, folksy tune in an inn to a brooding melody as you wander the roads. The music changes as your character enters into different areas or meets new situations, and serves to heighten the mood. The ambient sounds are likewise immersive, especially the clang of swords in battle. The voice acting is extremely well done, with plenty of inflection and differences between the races and characters.

TECHNICAL:  I did experience some freezing at one point, when my character had been killed, and I couldn't go back to the load screen, and instead got to watch the monsters that defeated me happily wandering around. Larian has advised that a patch is coming out shortly to deal with this and other problems that are sometimes encountered, such as items  that should be in a scene and aren't. This will be the second patch for the game. I can easily forgive them this, as the world is massive, the content is considerable, and I appreciate that they truly care to make the player's experience as worry free as possible. The game has three discs, two for installation and one for game play. Loading times are a bit lengthy, but the wonderful music is playing, and so I didn't mind this.

IMPRESSION:  The most talented Swen Vincke, project leader for Divine Divinity, told me that he and his fellow developers are amazed at the good reception that the game has received, as they feared it would be slaughtered. After putting their hearts and souls into the game, they were profoundly depressed once the game shipped, for there were so many things they would have liked to have done with it that were impossible to do. As an amazing and enthralling first effort, I for one can't wait to see their next offering.

Overall, this game is nothing less than outstanding. 5 BAAGS out of 5.

copyright © 2003 GameBoomers

 Reviews Index