Beyond Divinity Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Hip Interactive
Developer:Larian Studios
Release Date:2004-04-28
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Although Larian Studios is working day and night on Beyond Divinity, even delaying the game to incorporate some of the features the community has been asking for, QA Manager David Walgrave took the time to answer some of our questions to keep us content until release.  Our questions and his answers to follow:

GB: For those visitors who are unfamiliar with Beyond Divinity, can you give us a brief summary of the upcoming RPG and how it relates to the original Divine Divinity?

David: Beyond Divinity formerly known as (Riftrunner) - is the widely anticipated follow up to Divine Divinity, our first computer role-playing game. After its launch in 2002, Divine Divinity has been receiving awards and accolades worldwide.

Divine Divinity took players on a fantastic quest in a land torn apart by corruption and dark magic. By combining the best features of the RPG genre, and introducing a host of new features, Divine Divinity appealed to both hard-core and new RPG players. That's why we have now expanded the Divinity universe and created Beyond Divinity, a new breathtaking journey that will delight fans of the original while appealing to new audiences at the same time.

GB: Where do you currently stand in the game's development process?

David: The street date for the English version of Beyond Divinity is scheduled for late April 2004.

We recently released the demo, which has been made available on the internet and through several magazines. We are now taking into account the comments and advice we have been receiving from the public. We added some functionalities since, and recently even started re-recording some voices. By employing the services of high quality improvisation actors in Toronto, any doubts that fans might have had about the voice recordings in Beyond Divinity should soon be history.

GB: Can you explain the character development process in Beyond Divinity, and what changes and advancements you've made over the original Divinity title?

David: The character development has improved a lot. There are two new attributes, so now you have strength, agility, constitution, intelligence, survival and speed. You get a certain amount of points to distribute over these stats yourself, or you can choose a recommended setting. You still get to choose between Wizard, Warrior and Ranger. Another thing you'll have to do, is choose your initial skills. This unlocks your starting skills, so in other words, you can still develop your character in any way you want, as you will unlock more paths during the game by learning them from a book or a teacher.

The new character development system really allows you to create a wide variety of characters. There are over 300 skill possibilities. Allow me to give you an example by considering the following ranger:

He learned the art of converting normal arrows into multiple elemental arrows. He also learned how to recover his arrows once he shot them. He cannot recover all arrows however, so he studied how to smoothtalk merchants to give him more arrows for less gold. Shooting at point blank does not frighten him, and he has studied ways of how to successfully increase the damage an arrow does. As you can see, he relies on his bow, so he even learned how to repair it himself.

Although he's not a coward, and though he's very skilled and accurate with a bow, he still studied a basic "Hold" spell to stop an enemy in its tracks, so he can enjoy shooting sitting ducks once in a while. As some enemies are resistant to elemental damage, he was taught how to make traps that contain potent curses that decrease these elemental resistances.

To get out of the way of melee combat, he can try to discourage creatures. He often meets with creatures that are headstrong, or plain dumb, so he took some acting lessons, and sometimes feigns his death.

Because he realized you can't do everything yourself, he successfully located summoning dolls, and boosted one of them to do the dirty, close-up and personal work for him. After all, when the summoned creature dies, it can be summoned again after a certain amount of time. He made another one of his dolls very resistant to all kinds of damage and taught it how to lure enemies away. Using this particular doll as bait, he can lure enemies into traps, or simply as far away from him as possible.

I could continue for quite some time, but I guess it's clear by now that there's room for quite some strategy in your character development.

GB: Tell us about some of the more exciting environments players will adventure through in the game and any obstacles you've run into creating them.

David: The main part of the game will be played in completely new areas that cannot be compared to the areas in Divine Divinity. You should read the story behind Beyond Divinity, and you'll find out what a strange, outworldly realm we've had to create, with lava rivers, mushroom forests, crystal islands... You will still visit parts of the world you know from Divinity, but to know how and why, you'll have to play the game. I can tell you however that it will be nice to see what has happened to Rivellon over the years.

We did not really run into any obstacles when creating the environments. It was something different, and we like challenges. The main challenge was to create a dark, yet still colourful atmosphere that was not too gloomy.

GB: Although the game uses the same engine as the original title, have you been able to tweak it in order to offer any graphical enhancements?

David: On the graphical front you'll find real time 3D characters, FSAA, higher resolutions, the ability to zoom, lots of impressive magical effects and some extra goods. Other improvements are total control over party members, fully spoken dialogs, more and new objects and unique items, real time generation of dungeons, maps and quests...

One final subtle but important improvement is the all-round sturdiness of the engine. For an RPG to be as interactive and open ended as possible, the Divinity engine sometimes took a battering. The additional work now means that the engine remains rock solid. Save games are also a lot faster.

A lot of the technology that was re-written will be used in Divinity 2. With Divinity 2 we will try to give the player a total package of good 3D graphics together with very good game play and content.

GB: How exactly will the Battlefields system work? How different will these random locations and encounters be if a person decides to play the game for a second or third time?

David: We redefined the function of the battlefields a bit throughout development. The Battlefields now generate dungeons which you do not have to go through as a player, but which give you access to extra items and experience should you want it. We basically balanced the game so that an experienced RPG player will find it quite a challenge if he doesn't visit the Battlefields. We use the Battlefields as areas where players can earn extra experience should they find things a bit too difficult for them.

The entry point of the battlefield is a small traders camp in a forest where you can find traders. The general idea of this is that you can always go to the camp to buy some special items or potions and perhaps if you want, train your character a bit further in the battlefields. You will also find quests in this camp.

When you leave the merchant area, get ready for some onslaught and random generated dungeons. These dungeons are unlocked if you find the right key to it in the "normal" game world.

The battlefield and the dungeons are different for each act, and when you beat the whole game, there is a never-ending, always-changing Battlefield waiting for you...

GB: In comparison to the first Divinity title, how many different creatures will we be doing battle with in Beyond Divinity? Care to elaborate on any of the more powerful adversaries in the game?

David: We could now provide a lot more and many different monsters for the player to encounter because we are working with 3D characters. I'm not going to count them all, as you can sometimes choose whether to attack this or that NPC or not. I mean, if you want to slaughter imps and snails, or the friendly tibars and floogefrogs and lavacrawlers, go right ahead. Seriously though, you have your standard humans and skeletons, though their magic-using counterparts will prove to be a pain in the rear. Then there's a whole bunch of different elementals and demons, and an entirely new race...

The more powerful adversaries are either a unique creation, or based on the common NPC classes. For instance, you don't want to mess with the archdemon Samuel (the one that put you in prison, cf. demo) because he does not just look like the ultimate bad demon with a toothache, our AI guy had some fun with him too...

One of the first "powerful" adversaries you meet, is in fact in the demo: the Torture Master Fergus. He used to be just another guard, but our balancing guy thought he could use some extra spunk, so now, when you think you've beaten him, he heals himself and you're up for another round of thrashing! It's always a pleasure to see the faces of new in-house testers going "What the..." when he recharges his HP. And there they are, thinking Beyond Divinity was going to be hack and slash...

GB: How many new skills and spells will you be introducing in Beyond Divinity? Any particular favorites you can give us the details for?

David: In Beyond Divinity, the player will have a much larger list of skills available to choose from. To learn the different skills you have to find teachers. Teachers are NPC's that enable a certain path in the skillsystem. The player will also find books in the world that enable these paths for him. Once the path is enabled, the player can put skillpoints in the skill so he can use the skill. The level of skills will be capped to the level of teachers you'll find in the game.

In Beyond Divinity we have a much more extensive skill system: the player can create his own skills by boosting different properties of the generic skills. In Divine Divinity you only had the choice of choosing a skill, not to enhance different attributes of the skill.

Favourites... A warrior character really benefits from boosting some different skillpaths. I never just stick to one damage type, because some monsters are particularly resistant to, for instance, slashing damage. So, I boost my accuracy and damage in both "Melee - Slashing" as "Melee - Crushing" and hang on to these types of weapons. Once I've advanced some more levels, I'll certainly be investing in the "Critical Hits" boostable of both paths too. I also try to give my warrior the repair skill and the identify skill, and even the wizard skill "Flash" which teleports him right next to an enemy in a flash. At a very high level, I might even want to learn "polymorph", which is always a bit of a surprise really ("Polymorph is like a box of chocolates...").

Of course, the fun only really starts when your wizard levels up. I often find myself thinking: "What a pity not every player is going to see THIS effect." (So then we give the skill to an enemy, hehe.) Once you've found the appropriate teachers and books, you can summon earthquakes, meteors, acid rain, lightning or even a huge hammer falling down from the sky. These spells don't only look good, they're devastating as well. And mana-draining. So let's stick to the more tactical approach, and go for some elemental damage spells which I'll throw at my enemies after cursing them... Oh okay, who needs strategic when there's Fireball!

GB: Will Beyond Divinity have a lot more armor and weapons for players to discover? Can you give us any statistics for some of the more powerful items?

David: The weapon and armor categories didn't change, but we do have many new weapons in Beyond Divinity and new damage types.

You have your kitchen knife doing a bit of piercing damage, but when you're into these small stingers, keep your eyes peeled for a Royal Dagger. Of course, there's all kinds of swords, ranging from a simple training sword to a giant two-handed bastard sword with teeth... Then there's clubs, hammers, axes, spears, bows, crossbows, staffs and they come in so much colours and flavours, I haven't really given away anything.

Another new weapon type is one especially for wizards, not requiring high strength or agility, but intelligence.

GB: As Beyond Divinity comes closer to release, have you begun any preliminary work on a Divine Divinity sequel? Can you give us an idea of what goals you may have with a Divine Divinity sequel in order to improve upon the first two games?

David: There will be a Divinity 2 and this game will be full 3D and have multiplayer. We rewrote a lot of our RPG technology for Beyond Divinity and we will be able to use this technology in Divinity 2. Divinity 2 will be playable independently of the previous games but the Divinity-player will definitely recognize elements and characters from the other Divinity games.

Divinity 2 won't be ready before the 4th quarter of 2005, or perhaps the first quarter of 2006.

We'd like to issue our thanks to everyone at Larian Studios, especially David and Lynn, for taking the time to work on this interview!