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PC Preview - 'Beyond Divinity'

by Velvey on March 26, 2004 @ 4:00 a.m. PST

Beyond Divinity is Larian Studios’ new role playing game set in the award-winning Divinity universe. In Beyond Divinity, you become soul-forged with a Death Knight. Your fate is to spend the rest of eternity bonded to this creature of evil, unless you can undo this curse. You and your unlikely companion embark on a great adventure to unlock the secret of riftrunning... your only answer to this life of darkness! Read more for our beta build impressions ...

Genre : Action/RPG
Developer : Larian Studios
Publisher : Hip Interactive
Release Date : April 13, 2004


You are a servant of the Divine - scourge of necromancers and sorcerers alike. Your purpose in life is to fight all that is evil using any means possible. Your dilemma… during an intense battle with one of the great necromancers, a demon drags you into its universe. There you are soul-forged with a Death-knight. You are cursed and destined to spend the rest of eternity bonded to this creature of evil.

Or maybe not...

The Death-knight dislikes the soul forging as much as you do and together you embark on a great adventure. You both have a common goal - to undo the soul forging. You and your unlikely companion quickly figure out that the only way to rid this curse is if you unlock the secret of riftrunning – an ancient art that allowed the prison universe’s indigenous population to travel between universes.

Beyond Divinity gives us Larian Studios next effort at a role playing game within the Divine universe that their first game, Divine Divinity, took us to back in September of 2002. For those of you who didn’t have a chance to play Divine Divinity, it was generally well received and fit a nice niche for those who liked Diablo style hack and slash with a little more story. Not quite as much dialogue as say, Baldur’s gate but a little more than your average action rpg game. Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity are described by the publisher as accessible role playing games. For those who did get to play the original, they got to enjoy much as there was much fun to be had, but there were also some mistakes that took the shine off of the game. The game lacked some polish and panache that more highly sought after games had. A game stopper for me personally was when a little imp stole my teleportation stone and from that point on I had to walk huge distances doing nothing but trying to get from point a to point b. The stone did come back eventually but the boredom overtook me and I could not persevere. Another flaw the game had was that it ended with a thud. The developers have actually commented in interviews that the publisher forced them to hurry the game out the door and so they had to leave many areas of the final act empty. This was a rather big disappointment to those who had invested hours in the somewhat rich universe of the game to find that the final act was literally empty in many places. Even so, many gamers loved Divine Divinity and overlooked its flaws and are looking forward to its successor with baited breath. With Beyond Divinity Larian studios is looking to immerse gamers back into the world of Divinity and even make up for some past indiscretions.

To start off with, the game engine itself hasn’t changed but has been updated with some enhancements. The improvements to the game engine won’t have you comparing it to Doom 3, but it does look a bit better than Divine Divinity as the characters are now 3D and some higher resolutions are available. The graphics are still a little rough compared to today’s standards, and at times it is difficult to see what is lying on the ground around you. Spell effects and other environmental visuals look good and all play well into the world of Divinity to keep the level of immersion going. Some other enhancements to the game engine include the ability to zoom, which you probably won’t be doing very much, control over party members, real time generation of dungeons, maps and quests and a better balance to the equipment and trading system. All in all, the additions make for some much needed improvements from the first game. The enhancements that are in the game now make it feel a little more complete and usable than the original outing. Also, by using the existing engine Larian was able to focus on delivering more content and game play to their conceived role playing universe. Not a bad idea at all, especially if the first universe was tempting enough for gamers to want more. Beyond Divinity really feels like an expansion, albeit a very big expansion, more than a Divine Divinity 2. To the publishers credit, they have stated that Beyond Divinity is more of an extension to the Divine universe than it is an entirely new game. They have also proclaimed, in the Beyond Divinity FAQ, that there will be a Divine Divinity 2.

Beyond Divinity does seem to offer some more replay value than its predecessor since Larian Studios has built in, the aforementioned, randomly generated dungeons and quests. This seems to be a tip of the hat to the Diablo series of games and a good idea for those who will like going through the Divine universe more than once. Since there is no cooperative multiplayer feature, the game will definitely benefit from this and encourage players to go through the game with a different character and experience a different setting.

One of the most notable features this time around is that you will have a constant companion, a death knight that has been linked to you. If he dies, you die, it's as simple as that. The good thing is that you will have the ability to manage his inventory, as well as your own of course, and his skills/stats as you proceed through the game. This offers some dimension the previous game lacked as you no longer have to travel solo through the vast areas and towns that felt a little lonely before. Your companion will also give little remarks here and there that are very tongue in cheek and tend to keep the game from taking itself too seriously. Like Divine Divinity, you will select between three class types: warrior, survivalist or ranger. You will also be able to select abilities or skills across classes to build your own multi-class character. I found that building a magic centered character was very limiting, although it’s always my first choice in most rpg’s, and made it very difficult to get through some areas. If you want to add some sword skills or other melee and ranged skills, dive right in.

The preview copy we received seemed mostly feature complete with maybe a few sound place holders to fill in and some finishing touches to add. Even in this state the game was very stable and did not crash once on the review machine. As mentioned above, the name Beyond Divinity rings very true to the actual game itself as it really isn’t enough of a change to call it Divine Divinity 2. Beyond Divinity is more of an evolutionary expansion of a world and game that has had some good success. The developers seemed to be on a quest to make sure that all the good things the original game had going for it be preserved along with adding many things that make it even better. It’s almost as if the development team said, now that we had to get Divine Divinity out of the door, let’s add all the things we wished we had time to add the first time. And, for many gamers, this will be a very welcomed addition to their gaming collection.

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