Divine Divinity is one of those games that you can’t help but simultaneously love and hate. It’s completely bipolar, unique and refreshing in certain ways while managing to also be totally bland and frustrating in other ways; for every amazing thing you find, there’s a bug or weird balance problem or miscellaneous problem/bad design decision that balances it out. If Divine Divinity was a person, they’d have one angel wing, one devil wing, and would be chopping up one of your parents in order to use their kidneys to save your other parent. I mean, even after finishing the game, I had no idea whether I loved it or hated it. Still don’t.
Those who live and breathe aRPG reminiscent of Diablo games will likely love this game. Those who need a solid story that makes complete sense and ties up all loose ends will hate it. Those who can derive enjoyment from a varied (and very unique) soundtrack will love it. Those who require the same level of variation and detail put into the areas you’ll explore will hate it.
The story might as well not exist, pretty much just serving the purpose of moving you around from area to area and giving you things to do/enemies to slaughter. There’s plenty of convenient timing and Scooby Doo-esque “I’ll get you next time” campiness spread throughout that keeps the plot from ever really connecting in any meaningful way, not that it’s exactly Shakespeare to begin with. The overall story lacks any semblance of complexity, but it serves its purpose of sending you all over and giving you plenty of things to fight with. A pleasant surprise is the tone of the writing, which tends to be really strange in a fan-fiction-meets-self-parody kind of way (though there are an appalling number of typos and grammatical errors). It’s a completely unique style that actually manages to work in the game’s favor; rather than sticking entirely to what you’d expect from the fantasy world, characters sometimes say strange things like “dude” and ask questions that you’d think the characters in other games would bring up. There’s a lot of strange racial curiosity brought up by NPCs, asking questions about “human females” that you’d probably ask, too, if you were a dwarf/elf. It’s quirky and genuine and more entertaining than it has any right to be, and though it’s not enough to give the story a boost, it could very well keep you playing.
There’s not really anything interesting about the combat. It gets old quickly, but I’m not a fan of aRPG hack-and-hack-and-hack-forever games, so you should take that with a grain of salt. I mean, I’m not into Diablo, just like I’m not into the combat system of Divine Divinity, but if you’re a fan of that kind of combat you’ll find a lot to love. For example, the system is classless; a survivor (basically a thief) can learn magic spells, a warrior can learn to poison their weapon like a survivor, and wizards can pick up skills that allow them to fight like warriors. It’s a madhouse, I tell you. The problem with this is that certain skills are necessary to fight certain bosses–namely, Josephina–who are incredibly difficult to beat otherwise. It’s not impossible, but I’ve seen others ragequit over this. Certain parts feel like a brick wall in terms of difficulty if you’re missing certain skills, so the balance is a bit off. If you avoid playing as a survivor (or look up strategies to beat Josephina as a survivor in advance and make sure to level up accordingly), however, this should be less of a problem.
Outside of combat, you’re probably inside of towns. You can certainly be attacked inside of towns, either by guards who you accidentally attack or by having enemies chase you all the way there (which occasionally happens), but you’ll usually be safe. This gives you the opportunity to sleep and recover your health, either on hay or somewhere where you’re given permission, and walk around, picking up quests from the various people littering the world. There are a lot of unique characters out there as opposed to nameless NPCs, but their stories are about as bland as the main story, so I rarely found them worth my time.
At first you may get the impression that this is a bit like Baldur’s Gate mixed with Diablo, with the little sidequests for NPCs being the part that resembles Baldur’s Gate, but it’s really not true. There’s no sense of completion or accomplishment in completing quests. It’s hard to describe, but there’s no sound to indicate that you’ve completed a quest, and the stories rarely seem truly completed, even once you’ve finished them. Eventually it gets to the point where you have to check your journal after you do something for something to see if it says “completed,” because otherwise you won’t know that you’re done yet. This part of the game actually manages to be quite bland, and it gets to the point where the sidequests end up feeling like unnecessary padding rather than a bunch of legitimately interesting things to do.
It’s also remarkably buggy. Clicking to open a chest sometimes means “run outside and try to open it through the wall,” for whatever reason, and that’s just the beginning. I ran into random instances of enemies not attacking, game crashing, horrible frame rates in certain areas, and some quests that I heard about didn’t trigger properly for whatever reason, not even when I used a guide and went through all of the right steps. Others have allegedly encountered no bugs of the sort, so my bad luck with this game is possibly just an isolated case.
The graphics in this game bother me. I usually love sprites, and I really liked them at first because they kind of reminded me of Arcanum, but they’re not anywhere near varied enough to hold my attention. I mean, I don’t require much graphics-wise, but not running around in same-ish looking areas is definitely something I need. While Arcanum had a lot of areas that looked the same, they were broken up by a lot of legitimately interesting areas, something that Divine Divinity has far too few of. The end result is that there are three or four unique “large areas” spread over too large of a map (obviously as big as it is in order to sprinkle tons of enemies between you and your objectives), and all areas between villages end up looking the same. I often had to consult my map to figure out where I was going, because generic grassy place A looks exactly the same as generic grassy place B. Even villages look generic and uninteresting, to the point where it’s hard to tell at first whether or not you’re in one or not. Just look at the screenshots and how same-y they all are. I even put effort into making them seem different from one another, but the areas are too similar-looking for that to make much difference.
The soundtrack, however, is an entirely different story, and seems to draw from a number of different sources. One of the songs has exposed strings and an arrangement reminiscent of Arcanum:
Another has a sound strikingly similar to the beginning of Elsiane’s “Ecclesia”:
Still others feature chanting, harp, simple retro synths that would fit perfectly into a film like The Fifth Element, and a number of other musical elements that all somehow manage to “fit” into the game without being jarring. I’d even go so far to say that the soundtrack is the best part of the entire game.
Here’s what you should do: