Divine Divinity Review
RPG reviewers often describe games in terms of other RPGs. There are not as many RPGs released each year as there are games in other genres, so it becomes easy to say that one game is like Diablo while another is similar to Baldur's Gate. If you tried to apply the same review by comparison to Divine Divinity, you would be able to find a lot of parallels to existing games, but calling it another Diablo clone would be selling it short. It may contain elements effectively used in other RPGs, but the sum of Divine Divinity's parts add up to a unique game, and one that is definitely worth a look.
The game opens with your character awakening in a village of healers. According to the game's opening cinematic, your walk in the woods was interrupted by a bolt from the blue which was released when three wizards confronted a strange entity in a cave somewhere. Lucky for you, a cat was nearby and you were therefore rescued (don't ask, I'm just reporting what happened). The village elder has been struck mad and the healers are losing their powers, there is a plague in a nearby town, evil undertakings are afoot in the catacombs beneath the town, and marauding orcs are rampaging the countryside around the village. As a true adventurer, you volunteer to right all of these wrongs and with a bevy of quests in you log begin your adventures.
In Divine Divinity you can play one of three character classes: warrior, wizard, or survivor (i.e. rogue or thief). This may at first seem like a limited choice, but the game's skill system allows for a lot of customization of your character. Each class has 32 available skills, and these skills can be upgraded to more powerful versions. In addition, you are not limited to using the skills of your selected class. For example, you can play as a warrior, but add the survivor's lockpicking and identify item skills and throw in a few wizard spells for good measure. Each time you gain a new level, you are given a skill point and can select to improve an existing skill or gain a new one, as long as you meet the skill's level requirement.
Since you have access to all of the game's skills no matter which class you select, choosing a class really determines your starting ratings in the game's four primary statistics: strength, agility, intelligence, and constitution, and which unique skill is at your disposal. For warriors, the unique skill is a swirl attack that can be used to attack all surrounding enemies. For survivors, the unique skill is the ability to sneak past creatures. Finally, the wizard can swap locations with any creature on screen, which can be useful for getting out of tight scrapes.
Combat in Divine Divinity is a simple affair. Left-clicking on a creature will cause your character to attack the enemy, hacking away until you or the creature dies. You can also specify any active spell or skill to the right mouse button, and right click to target the spell or skill. Combat is pretty frequent when you are outside the safety of villages, and you'll often face mobs of creatures led by the occasional boss or extra-strong creature. Unfortunately, your weapons and equipment wear with use, and the frequent combat leads to constantly broken items. A repair skill helps somewhat, but it would have been nice if the game's weapons and armor were more durable. As it stands, things often break in the middle of pitched battles and you may find to your dismay that you are suddenly trying to pound monsters with your fists.
Divine Divinity is primarily a solo affair, but you will occasionally have a companion who will fight by your side, although you can not control him directly. You can also summon creatures to aid you by casting certain spells. Unfortunately, the companions do not do a very good job of following you and often get lost. In the catacombs beneath the village, you are given a zombie to protect you on your quest. My zombie promptly wandered off on his own into a room full of orcs and very shortly ceased to exist.