Whoever has the job selecting which games are worth publishing at CDV certainly knows what he/she is doing. After a string of top notch strategy games CDV have gone from being a newcomer here in the UK to being a publisher with an incredible reputation for publishing top titles. With the strategy genre blitzed with the likes of Combat Mission, Cossacks and Sudden Strike II, CDV have now turned their attention to RPGs with Larian Studios' Divine Divinity.
Divine Divinity is based in the land of Rivellon. Rivellon is in the evil grip of the Lord of Chaos. Choosing to play as either a warrior, wizard or survivor it is up to you, who else?, to release Rivellon from Chaos' grip. Like in all RPGs the main focus of the story is not the be all and end all of the game and there are plenty of side quests for you to carry out. As it turns out it is highly recommended that you do indulge yourself in as many side quests as possible in order for your character to benefit from the invaluable experience that they bring. Playing the game through and sticking completely to the main plot will result in a far more difficult game even on an easier difficulty setting.
When the first screenshots became available on the Internet a lot of people were quick to brand the game as a Diablo clone. This is actually quite an unfair assumption. Diablo is all about hack 'n' slash gameplay and whilst this is by no means a bad thing if that style of gameplay is for you, Divine Divinity offers so much more. A more accurate description of Divine Divinity would be to say that it offers a compromise between Diablo and a RPG such as Baldur's Gate. Even in terms of control it is slightly different to Diablo. Diablo required you to become involved in a clickathon during combat. In Divine Divinity one click is all that is needed and your character will continue to attack until you give contrary orders.
The sheer statistics of the game alone are very impressive. There are 96 individual skills and for each one of these skills there are five levels. There are more than 150 NPCs for you to interact with. The game also has day and night cycles and many, many more features that would take an age to list here. One of the nice inclusions in Divine Divinity is the ability to interact with objects. Chairs, broken barrels etc. can all be picked up and placed out of the way or moved into a position that would be advantageous to you. Lamps can be turned on and off, books can be read without having to pick them up etc. You can also combine items which adds another dimension to the gameplay. To rest, for example, you must find a bed to rest in. You can't simply press a rest button and take forty-winks anywhere.
We mentioned earlier that there are 3 character classes you can play as, warrior, survivor and wizard. All of these have special abilities and individual traits. You'll probably already be familiar with what a warrior and wizard can do, so we'll just describe the survivor. The survivor is probably what you'd call a thief in any other RPG. Stealth is their speciality and they have the ability to hide in the shadows, set traps and excel at poisoning. Of course the character that you pick, which can either by male or female, is going to affect the way the game plays. The NPCs all have their feelings about you (a score and statement next to their name tells you what they think) and if you ain't their kind of person then they will refuse to help you.
Visually, as we mentioned earlier the game is very similar to Diablo II. Basically the heart of the game is 2D with the 3D card being used for special effects, 3D shadows can be also be enabled. The spell effects are very nice indeed and definitely benefit from using the 3D card. Animations have been well done and the game even includes different animations for each character that depends on what clothes they are wearing. The game is equally as happy on an Athlon 900 as it is on an Athlon XP 2000+ (1.67GHz) which is very pleasing to here in these times of games having monstrous system requirements.
Like most RPGs, Divine Divinity is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. Journals, conversations etc. are all in clear, easy to read text. The conversations use dialogue boxes and you can read the text in your own time. You can even access a dialogue of any conversation which you have had in the game which is brilliant. Occasionally your character will make a remark after you've given him/her an order but this is not subtitled. It doesn't affect the gameplay but it is a shame that it's not subtitled.
Divine Divinity has qualities that will appeal to every kind of RPG player. It may not have a fancy 3D engine like Morrowind or Neverwinter Nights but in terms of gameplay it matches them, which is no mean feat. If you're at all interested in RPGs then Divine Divinity is a must which given the stiff competition in the genre is a superb achievement from Larian Studios.
Overall Game Rating: 9.2/10 A superb compromise of existing RPGs with a twist all of it's own. Divine Divinity is a memorable RPG that should not be missed.
Deaf Gamers comment: Generally excellent for deaf gamers. It's a very nice touch that you can access all of the game's dialogue at any time.