Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Focus Home Interactive
Developer:Larian Studios
Release Date:2010-11-05
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga is a bundle pack that includes a re-mastered and re-balanced version of Divinity II: Ego Draconis (originally released last year) plus the new expansion pack Divinity II: Flames of Vengeance. Both games were developed by Larian Studios, the Belgian company behind all of the Divinity games, and they combine to form a complete chapter in the Divinity universe, and of course set things up for Divinity III.

Flames of Vengeance picks up right where Ego Draconis left off, and it allows you to continue the exploits of your character from Ego Draconis -- well, sort of. Unfortunately, because of a change in publisher (and perhaps for other reasons) there are now multiple versions of Ego Draconis out there, and they're not all compatible. That means, if you kept your saved games from the original Ego Draconis, then you won't be able to import them into The Dragon Knight Saga, but you will be able to use them if you purchase Flames of Vengeance alone. So you might have a tough choice when deciding which way to buy Flames of Vengeance -- to bundle it or not to bundle it -- but fortunately, if I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, it sounds like Larian Studios plans to release a patch for the original game to get everything synched together, and so hopefully the question will eventually become moot.

For the most part, while the title of this review is for The Dragon Knight Saga (which is the version of the game I received), it will mostly be about Flames of Vengeance. Since my old saved games weren't compatible, I didn't have a good way of checking out the differences between the old and new versions of Ego Draconis (short of playing through the 40-hour campaign again, which I didn't have time to do), and so I had to rely to a certain extent on Larian press releases and secondhand information for that part of the review. Also, just in case it's not clear, this review is for the PC version of the game.

Ego Draconis

Along with the new expansion pack Flames of Vengeance, The Dragon Knight Saga also includes a re-mastered edition of Ego Draconis. According to Larian's web site, this new version is "revised," "improved," and contains new "gameplay innovations." Of course, they also claim the campaign takes over 60 hours to complete, which isn't my recollection at all (and I'm usually on the long side of the playing time spectrum).

From perusing various forums, the gameplay changes mostly seem to involve the dragon portions of the game, with the fortresses you have to attack being much different, and not as many anti-dragon zones being involved. If so, that's perhaps too bad, because disabling the anti-dragon shields actually required you to pay attention to what you were doing (rather than just flying around and killing stuff), and their removal makes me worry that the game might have been dumbed down rather than improved. Other changes apparently include some swapping of enemies so the difficulty isn't as severe early in the game, and a smaller impact of your level on the damage you do. The latter change sounds the most promising to me, because in the original Ego Draconis it was trivial to kill enemies lower than your level and nearly impossible to kill enemies higher than your level, and so you only had a small window through the campaign where the combat was any fun.

I did try out the new version of Ego Draconis a little, but the parts I played seemed identical. If anything changed in any of the early conversations or quests, I didn't detect it, and everything that goes into defining your character (including skills and attributes) remains exactly the same. The one change I noticed was the improvement in the graphics engine. The original Ego Draconis was a little on the flat and murky side, but Larian improved the lighting (if not the textures themselves) so there is a better contrast between the colors, and so metals are actually shiny to look at. To see the improvement yourself, examine the "before and after" screenshots below and notice how much brighter and more alive the new version of Ego Draconis looks.

The Divine Divinity II graphics engine, before (on the left) and after (on the right).

Flames of Vengeance

Flames of Vengeance picks up where Ego Draconis left off, with you in a less-than-ideal position to take down your nemesis Damian. But soon enough, the spirit of an imprisoned wizard seeks you out and makes you a deal. If you help him escape from the underground vault where he's being held, then he'll free you from your predicament and help you defeat Damian. You won't really have a choice in this, and the wizard spirit will accompany you (effectively taking the place of the dragon knight spirit from Ego Draconis) as you spend the next 20 hours completing enough quests so you can free the wizard and save Aleroth.

The best part of the expansion pack is the quests, during which you get to do things like rescue a baby from a burning house, assist a chef so he can impress a food critic, and help three men who have been transformed into vegetables. Larian has always had a good eye for detail, and they're good at writing amusing dialogue, and so their quests are fun even when a lot of them involve well-worn objectives like going to a place and finding an item, or going to a place and killing something. As with Ego Draconis, there are also a lot of secret places and hidden objects to find, but because inventory objects now sparkle when they're on the ground, you don't search for keys so much as for buttons and levers. But the concept is the same, and so if you like carefully exploring places for secret prizes, then Flames of Vengeance is a rewarding game.

Less impressive is the combat. Since I couldn't import a character from Ego Draconis, I had to create a brand new level 35 character when I started Flames of Vengeance, and that character was weak to say the least (you don't get a weapon or jewelry or crafting recipes, and the small amount of money you start with isn't nearly enough to cover the losses). So I struggled early in the game, but then after gaining a couple of levels and getting my character squared away, everything got pretty easy, to the point where I never needed to quaff a potion during a fight. Part of the problem is that you receive something like 40 skill books during the course of the campaign, making character development sort of a joke, and the other problem is that combat is just too easy on the default difficulty setting. After playing through the campaign once, I can see why Larian added a "nightmare" difficulty setting in their most recent patch.

Finally, since most of the campaign takes place in the city of Aleroth (which is being besieged by Damian's forces), you're not given much of an opportunity to switch to your dragon form. I wasn't a huge fan of dragon combat in Ego Draconis, so its near-removal wasn't such a bad thing for me, but if flying around and breathing fire on people was the highlight of your experience with the earlier game, then you're going to be disappointed here, because you only get to be a dragon for about five minutes, and it comes during a somewhat annoying escort quest.


Overall, my reaction to Flames of Vengeance was about the same as my reaction to Ego Draconis. I thought the quests were fun, and I enjoyed hunting around for hidden buttons and secret rooms, but the combat was sort of a drag, and the fights (even the end boss fight) provided no challenge whatsoever. If you still haven't played Ego Draconis, then my recommendation is easy -- go ahead and buy The Dragon Knight Saga because the games are entertaining enough, and the bundle makes them a bargain. But if you played Ego Draconis before, then things are a bit tougher. Do you spend twice as much money for a bundle that will invalidate your saved games, or save money and perhaps never see some of the gameplay improvements? Perhaps the best course of action is simply to wait until Larian releases the promised patch to update Ego Draconis to the new engine or until the bundle drops to a price that's more accommodating to your wallet.