Sparky's Update - The Re-Up, and Divinity II

Hey, folks! This week's gaming content is probably going to be a little light, but I'll be talking a little bit about Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga as well as my reasons for deciding to re-subscribe to Whiskey Media. Better call up Kenny Loggins, because you're in the danger zone. Thanks, Archer.

A Half Full Cup

I didn't come into Divinity expecting much. I'd played Divine Divinity six or so years ago, followed shortly by its pseudo-sequel Beyond Divinity. Both were isometric action-RPG's in the vein of Diablo. The first featured some pretty all right questing and looting. Nothing that would blow your mind, and it's since been far surpassed by other Diablo clones (namely Titan Quest and Torchlight), but as a $10 budget title, it was amusing. The second tried out some new, fascinating ideas that never quite translated into a great game. It had you shackled to an evil knight, your lives bound to each other's survival. It was a cool concept, but a frustrating difficulty and dull early gameplay kept it from being a great game. Both are pretty recommendable if you're looking for some Diablo-esque games to tide you over until the real thing.

Forgetting the head-shakingly bizarre naming convention for a minute, let's talk about Divinity II, the most recent game in the series. It has basically rid itself of the 3rd-person isometric trappings and the dual-character gameplay for a generic 3rd-person action-RPG. While it's still a heavily loot-based game with lots and lots of side-quests, it has, for all intents and purposes, become an entirely different beast. The developers have tried for less cartoony graphics, gunning instead for a bland, poor man's Bethesda feel to the visuals. There's this feel permeating the entire game that this is very much a freshmen effort, despite Larian's name being stamped on a few games before this.

The plot is about as weak as I've seen since the days of Metal Dungeon. Seriously, it could have been written by a twelve year old. It's that bad. It's bizarre then that so much of the dialogue involving side quests is witty and straight up funny at times. It hasn't exactly made me bust a gut, but little winks such as a despicable monster correcting my grammar make it pretty bearable. That little bit of charm and sparkle in the dialogue adds up, because you'll be visiting a ton of places. It's too bad the main story stinks, but at least all the little people make it worth it.

The game is big. Really big. Deceptively so, too, like in the vein of Gothic 2 wherein you seemingly had a straight path for the first few hours and then everything and everywhere opens up to you. As a matter of fact, I really got a good Gothic 2-esque vibe from a lot of things in this game. Both are fantasy generica, to be sure, but the gameplay and endlessly explorable worlds give it a rugged charm.

I'm also growing super fond of certain gameplay elements in Divinity II. The mindreading aspect, which allows you to pay experience points to read a person's mind, is a nifty way to circumvent harder quests, find treasure, obtain some side quests, or just have a laugh (two town residents echo "Laurel?" and "Hardy?" at each other in one of my favorite little moments). There are a ton of abilities to learn, some more useful than others, most of which can be selected repeatedly to boost the skill's powers. The base cap is five, but paying a fairly cheap sum to a trainer will allow you to up a skill ten levels. By that point, my Whirlwind ability was mowing down the game's enemies with a fair amount of consistency. The game can be frustratingly difficult at times, but by exploring a different area and leveling up a bit further, no encounter has seemed impossible so far.

I should also mention just how much I enjoy the music. It's not anything grandiose, but it's super catchy and well put together for a generic fantasy game. The game came with the soundtrack, so that's also crazy cool.

I couldn't tell you how far I am into Divinity II - I just got to what I believe to be a significant event in obtaining my "Battle Tower" and my ability to transform into a dragon, but so far, it's been a surprisingly fun game for the $10 I paid for it. This isn't even getting into the second half of the game's package, the expansion Ego Draconis. That's a lot of game for $10.

Those Whiskey Media Types Are Bad News, Man

I re-upped my subscription this week to Whiskey Media. I didn't need to think twice. Though I don't watch a lot of the regular subscriber-exclusive content, I do feel like the purchase was warranted. Here's why!

The Best E3 Coverage - These guys kill it during E3, which is probably my favorite week of gaming in the entire year. I make up snacks and food for the inevitable long hours in front of a computer as I soak up all the little bits of news. For me these last couople of years, there hasn't been any site with better or flat-out funnier coverage than Giant Bomb. It's the moments like the Braid creator taking journalists to task during an open and honest conversation during the Bombcast or the excellent and often hilarious moments from the recaps (Ryan's "Power" moment in the last one still gets a play from me now and again - terrific editing).

The Randomness - I love when an unannounced video is about to start or I see something archived that I missed live, be it from GB, Screened, Tested, or Comic Vine. There's a lot of charm to the idea that something can just be thrown together on the spot for the amusement of the community.

The Classic Segments - I don't know what I did before Quick Looks, but holy crap, are they amazing. Same goes for the rest of Whiskey Media's features that I view regularly, such as the Half-Good series, Norm and Will's latest forays into the tech I wish I had the money to afford, and Comic Vine's excellent occasional video. I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish for more straight-up written reviews from Giant Bomb in particular, but given that it's such a small crew, it's understandable.

The Podcasts - I'm not a regular listener to the GB podcasts, but when I need something to listen to while doing a gaming grind or research, it's invariably the podcast I go with. Part of the fun is that randomness we've already covered, part of it is me silently arguing certain points, and part of it is just the consistent quality.

And that's it for this week. A little short, I know, but next week will bring possibly more on Divnity II as well as my first impressions on one of my most anticipated titles, Jagged Alliance: Back in Action.

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Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Hey, folks! This week's gaming content is probably going to be a little light, but I'll be talking a little bit about Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga as well as my reasons for deciding to re-subscribe to Whiskey Media. Better call up Kenny Loggins, because you're in the danger zone. Thanks, Archer.

A Half Full Cup

I didn't come into Divinity expecting much. I'd played Divine Divinity six or so years ago, followed shortly by its pseudo-sequel Beyond Divinity. Both were isometric action-RPG's in the vein of Diablo. The first featured some pretty all right questing and looting. Nothing that would blow your mind, and it's since been far surpassed by other Diablo clones (namely Titan Quest and Torchlight), but as a $10 budget title, it was amusing. The second tried out some new, fascinating ideas that never quite translated into a great game. It had you shackled to an evil knight, your lives bound to each other's survival. It was a cool concept, but a frustrating difficulty and dull early gameplay kept it from being a great game. Both are pretty recommendable if you're looking for some Diablo-esque games to tide you over until the real thing.

Forgetting the head-shakingly bizarre naming convention for a minute, let's talk about Divinity II, the most recent game in the series. It has basically rid itself of the 3rd-person isometric trappings and the dual-character gameplay for a generic 3rd-person action-RPG. While it's still a heavily loot-based game with lots and lots of side-quests, it has, for all intents and purposes, become an entirely different beast. The developers have tried for less cartoony graphics, gunning instead for a bland, poor man's Bethesda feel to the visuals. There's this feel permeating the entire game that this is very much a freshmen effort, despite Larian's name being stamped on a few games before this.

The plot is about as weak as I've seen since the days of Metal Dungeon. Seriously, it could have been written by a twelve year old. It's that bad. It's bizarre then that so much of the dialogue involving side quests is witty and straight up funny at times. It hasn't exactly made me bust a gut, but little winks such as a despicable monster correcting my grammar make it pretty bearable. That little bit of charm and sparkle in the dialogue adds up, because you'll be visiting a ton of places. It's too bad the main story stinks, but at least all the little people make it worth it.

The game is big. Really big. Deceptively so, too, like in the vein of Gothic 2 wherein you seemingly had a straight path for the first few hours and then everything and everywhere opens up to you. As a matter of fact, I really got a good Gothic 2-esque vibe from a lot of things in this game. Both are fantasy generica, to be sure, but the gameplay and endlessly explorable worlds give it a rugged charm.

I'm also growing super fond of certain gameplay elements in Divinity II. The mindreading aspect, which allows you to pay experience points to read a person's mind, is a nifty way to circumvent harder quests, find treasure, obtain some side quests, or just have a laugh (two town residents echo "Laurel?" and "Hardy?" at each other in one of my favorite little moments). There are a ton of abilities to learn, some more useful than others, most of which can be selected repeatedly to boost the skill's powers. The base cap is five, but paying a fairly cheap sum to a trainer will allow you to up a skill ten levels. By that point, my Whirlwind ability was mowing down the game's enemies with a fair amount of consistency. The game can be frustratingly difficult at times, but by exploring a different area and leveling up a bit further, no encounter has seemed impossible so far.

I should also mention just how much I enjoy the music. It's not anything grandiose, but it's super catchy and well put together for a generic fantasy game. The game came with the soundtrack, so that's also crazy cool.

I couldn't tell you how far I am into Divinity II - I just got to what I believe to be a significant event in obtaining my "Battle Tower" and my ability to transform into a dragon, but so far, it's been a surprisingly fun game for the $10 I paid for it. This isn't even getting into the second half of the game's package, the expansion Ego Draconis. That's a lot of game for $10.

Those Whiskey Media Types Are Bad News, Man

I re-upped my subscription this week to Whiskey Media. I didn't need to think twice. Though I don't watch a lot of the regular subscriber-exclusive content, I do feel like the purchase was warranted. Here's why!

The Best E3 Coverage - These guys kill it during E3, which is probably my favorite week of gaming in the entire year. I make up snacks and food for the inevitable long hours in front of a computer as I soak up all the little bits of news. For me these last couople of years, there hasn't been any site with better or flat-out funnier coverage than Giant Bomb. It's the moments like the Braid creator taking journalists to task during an open and honest conversation during the Bombcast or the excellent and often hilarious moments from the recaps (Ryan's "Power" moment in the last one still gets a play from me now and again - terrific editing).

The Randomness - I love when an unannounced video is about to start or I see something archived that I missed live, be it from GB, Screened, Tested, or Comic Vine. There's a lot of charm to the idea that something can just be thrown together on the spot for the amusement of the community.

The Classic Segments - I don't know what I did before Quick Looks, but holy crap, are they amazing. Same goes for the rest of Whiskey Media's features that I view regularly, such as the Half-Good series, Norm and Will's latest forays into the tech I wish I had the money to afford, and Comic Vine's excellent occasional video. I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish for more straight-up written reviews from Giant Bomb in particular, but given that it's such a small crew, it's understandable.

The Podcasts - I'm not a regular listener to the GB podcasts, but when I need something to listen to while doing a gaming grind or research, it's invariably the podcast I go with. Part of the fun is that randomness we've already covered, part of it is me silently arguing certain points, and part of it is just the consistent quality.

And that's it for this week. A little short, I know, but next week will bring possibly more on Divnity II as well as my first impressions on one of my most anticipated titles, Jagged Alliance: Back in Action.

Moderator
Posted by dankempster

When I'm finally able to land a job and a steady source of income, one of the first things I'm going to do is reinstate my monthly subscription with Whiskey Media. You've hit every single nail square on the head about what makes these guys so great, and while I don't feel indebted or obliged in any way, I just find myself wanting to give something back in thanks.

Divinity II sounds interesting based on what you've said here, and something I might enjoy playing, but I don't think I'd ever pick it up myself. I'm simply far too committed to too many ridiculously long games right now - I've just broken the ninety-hour mark in Skyrim and I'm still nowhere near done with it, and I'm determined to see the end of Persona 3 before the end of the month. Beyond that I still have a wealth of mammoth games in my backlog (Dragon Age: Origins, Final Fantasies VIII and XII, The Witcher), not to mention all the RPGs coming out this year (Final Fantasy XIII-2, Mass Effect 3, Borderlands 2). To pick up anything else at this point would be crazy. Nonetheless, glad to hear you're enjoying it in spite of some faults. I look forward to hearing more about it, and whatever else you play, next week. I'll keep my fingers crossed that Jagged Alliance lives up to your expectations.

Edited by ArbitraryWater

I've said my piece about Divinity II already, but I'll just add that I quit about where you are now, mostly out of the idea that I could be doing something better with my time (Keep in mind that this was during the last few weeks of summer vacation). It's not that the game is terrible per se, but nothing about it is outstanding either. If what I've heard about the game is true though, you still have a while to go. I can play bad and mediocre games if they're short; my blogs on Invisible War and Alpha Protocol prove that point. What I can't do is sit through something that plods and isn't great on top of that.

I'd say I've had a similar reaction to The Witcher (I haven't played it the last two weeks), but the story and characters in that game are astoundingly well done, to the point where they almost trump the part where the game is paced awkwardly and the combat is generally pretty dull. You can expect to hear my full thoughts... eventually. When I get up the will to start playing it again instead of just bouncing between XCOM and Thief.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@dankempster: The thing about Jagged Alliance is that I have ZERO expectations of it whatsoever. It's had little press time, no previews that I've come across in English, and it's being released relatively unannounced. Here's the thing, though - it's still a squad-based strategy game, the likes of which we simply do not see anymore. The fact that they're obviously gauging interest of longtime Jagged Alliance fans for other JA projects is pretty clear, and if my $30 preorder went towards them greenlighting a true Jagged Alliance 3, then I consider it money very well spent. That seems insane, but my history with Jagged Alliance 1, Deadly Games, and 2 borders on obsessive, so it probably is!

@ArbitraryWater: The Witcher's story and characters were great! That reminds me, I really want to look up some English translations of the novels. I can't blame you for flip-flopping between XCOM and Thief, however. I might not have been the biggest Thief fan (I'm not a huge fan of stealth-focused games), but it was one of those games I loved to watch people play. And X-Com is just... well, it's X-Com.

Moderator
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@dankempster: Oh crap, almost forgot. I really wouldn't bother with Divinity II unless you're either hardcore into RPG's or have had an interest in the series (I kinda am both, as if it that wasn't obvious enough). It's one of those quirky games I enjoy for the price, but seriously, there are far better action-RPG's out there, and if it wasn't sitting in my backlog, I wouldn't have bothered with it. As it is, I'm glad I did pick it up on a whim (and on sale), but unless you see it in a bargain bin and it really strikes your fancy, you're honestly not missing out on a modern classic or anything. That's not to say it's bad by any means - it's just not a game I can highly recommend.

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