Sometimes being the definitive edition of a game isn't quite enough. The Dragon Knight Saga is everything Divinity II: Ego Dragonis should have been and yet the feeling that the game could be even better still remains. Sometimes there are issues that extend to the very core of a video game's mechanics, design, or concept. Flawed as it is, however, this saga is one worth considering as it is a solidly put-together adventure and the various fixes and improvements more than make this edition a required play for fans of the original version of Divinity II.
The Flames of Vengeance is an expansion to Divinity II that picks up shortly after events in the main game. The city of Aleroth is the last bastion of hope against Damien's approaching flying fortress. Damien's agenda is about what you'd expect from a villain, as it includes the extinguishing of all human life, conquering the world, and all that other good stuff. It certainly doesn't help matters that Aleroth is plagued with so many problems that maybe complete annihilation is the best solution. Unlike the original game, with its promise of high adventure, this expansion is centered more towards those of us who enjoy a good laugh and finding ourselves involved in situations that can't be figured out by storming the nearest stronghold and killing everyone inside.
Thankfully, this adventure's failings as a game do not affect its success as an experience.
While the scenarios are uncommon and welcome, it is a shame that this adventure ends all too quickly. There is quite a bit of combat to partake in, but the enemy variety never seems to move beyond the undead or some well-armed human whose evil deeds must be punished. Furthermore, the penultimate climax involves an escort mission - and just because a critically acclaimed game like BioShock does it, doesn't make it a good idea in the slightest. At least I had no problems accomplishing that particular mission on my first attempt. All in all, this expansion is a very good reason to consider The Dragon Knight Saga.
As far as the rest of the game is concerned, Larian Studios did an admirable job cleaning up most of the issues that plagued the original. The graphics have received a noticeable bump in quality, and on the whole, the game feels a bit tighter and much smoother. In the end, however, its limitations persist and the blame lies squarely on the engine being used. The most noticeable and unfortunate aspect of Divinity II's engine is how it affects combat. If, for example, I were to strike a barrel with my sword, there is a delay from when my weapon connects to the destruction of the object. This delay extends to fighting monsters and it feels like there is no reaction or impact, and that makes for poor mechanics.
All of the additions and fixes also didn't seem to affect Divinity II's lack of balance. As with most RPGs, the player gains skill points he can use to outfit the main character's abilities. While the game promises multiple weapon types that can be focused on as well as a variety of attack skills to supplement them, I found that there are two options: the best one and the one that should be ignored. While a number of abilities sound like they could be useful in practice, they never seem to shine, and it can make repeat play-throughs rather dull when the most viable option tends to be dual-wielding and using the same handful of abilities. Moreover, the difficulty is rather uneven, as there are a number of spikes early on but towards the end the player has so many resources available to him that he won't have nearly as much trouble getting through the worst Damien has to offer.
Now let's discuss the dragon itself. This I think is a massive missed opportunity. It is one thing to have dragons in a game, but to actually be able to turn into a dragon is something that should be a lot more important than it is here. The bulk of the dragon powers in this game are spent on destroying ballista towers, enemy nests, and knocking flying creatures out of the sky. I enjoyed these sections, but I guess my standards are pretty low as I also enjoyed the dragon-based levels in the Drakengard games. Aside from all that, there really isn't a reason to have dragon powers in the game. Sure, the player can use the dragon form to explore cliffs and other locations, but the same could be said about some guy with a levitation spell.
What it comes down to is that the powers of the dragon can't be used in regular combat. I figure if I can turn into a dragon I should at least have the option to breathe fire on somebody. Obviously, breathing a house-sized fireball on somebody while inside of a house isn't the best implementation, but given the opportunity I should at least have some special powers I could tap into. Instead I'm doing many of the same attacks and using the same abilities as the foes I engage. Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga makes this big hullabuloo about being the last Dragon Knight but unless the enemy happens to have some turrets or a wyvern-spawning nest, I may as well be just another highly trained soldier.
Oddly, enough this game's greatest strength is in the writing. I say, "oddly," because the writing usually isn't particularly great, but there's some sort of charm to it that is difficult to ignore. Many of the conversations have multiple responses, one of them usually being of the "sir, yes sir" variety and the other being completely snarky. It feels pretty good telling an NPC, "What is it with you guys and fetch quests anyway? You have two legs." This is especially true for Flames of Vengeance and it's all the more depressing that the main character is not voiced outside of occurrences in battle or exploration. The NPC voices are well-done, at least, and there aren't any of those mind-numbing as well as eye-rolling romances to that some other RPG franchises feel it necessary to include. It's also unfortunate that NPCs can't be killed, but I guess my own sadistic tendencies should not be rewarded.
Even with its faults, Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga is worthy of my recommendation. The main game is deserving of the second chance this much-needed revision brings and the great expansion is unique and at times wonderful. Thankfully, this adventure's failings as a game do not affect its success as an experience. It should also be mentioned that these issues are not the sort that come to mind while I play the game. Still, I would have preferred to see more creativity in the enemy encounters, more balance in the player's abilities, and a more effective usage of the dragon's ability than in playing a flying taxi for the player or the main role in a really unpolished shooter. In conclusion, I say that you should give this game a look, just don't expect too much and you won't be let down.