I’ve never understood what is so nobly attractive about a fire breathing reptile. Especially because, when you compare the smaller National Geographic relatives of the dragons to their huge counterparts, you get to the funny conclusion of something real clumsy. In fact, these small reptiles are also cowardly and have nothing to do with the popular fantasy theme that surrounds dragons (alone against the universe baby!).
That doesn’t mean I don’t like dragons though. While some prefer to get their SF fix every day, I like sticking scales to my T-shirt. I also scare children that still believe in the Tooth Fairy with an oversized fire-lit spray in the middle of the night. Whatever you’re tempted to think, I don’t owe this to Harry Potter (who conveniently placed the origins of dragons in my birth region – Transylvania) but to the voluptuous image of the dragon sitting on a huge pile of gold.
And I don’t think I’m the only one who finds this image appealing. Developers worldwide have been mesmerized too by the power of the gold pile. They quickly saw themselves taking the place of the shrew on the golden throne, actually. Or maybe they just got suddenly attracted to the Chinese culture and thought of messing with Dragons a bit for good luck. As usual, it seems that even the dragon has some huge inflamed udders that can be conveniently (chocolate-) milked by AAA titles. Symbolically speaking, we had SpellForce 2: Dragon Storm, Dragonica, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, Drakensang or the more recent Dragon Age: Origins.
Every dead digital beast means more money in the developer’s pockets in one way or another. So you wouldn’t mind my jumping around with excitement when I first heard of Divinity 2: Ego Draconis. I really hoped that the WIWF (World Imaginary Wildlife Fund) have finally managed to change the dragon from modern mammoth into the awe inspiring beast it should have always been.
How to Train Your Dragon
At first glance, Divinity 2 doesn’t fit the bill as the reptile’s saviour. As the hero, you’re training to be finally accepted in the Slayer community which has no other hobby than exterminating the noble scaly beasts in the realm of Rivellon.
You’ll spend some hours trying to prove to your blonde boss that you deserve to be part of the ruthless team. And it seems there’s no better way to do this than saving soldiers stuck in trees or fetching love letters from one point to another. It’s obvious you’ll get bored of this Slayer-wannabe life at one point and you’ll try to burn steps by handling the dragon alone. This is where things become interesting, because the wanted beast dies in your arms with a prophecy on her lips.
It is here where we figure out that dragons are not wise, old beings but actually people chosen by the Dragon Gods long ago to maintain order in the realm. The Slayers are not the real enemies either, but Damian, a destructive baldy, is. In order to stop him, you’ll have to reach The Hall of Echoes, where the soul of Damian’s lover, Ygerna, dwells.
Through a complex voodoo ritual, you’re supposed to resurrect the broad and save the world. And, because life just got a bit more complicated, the dying reptile bestows the gift of turning into a dragon upon you. So from that moment on, you’re wanted by any weapon wielding creature in the realm.
Truth is, both the story and the overall feeling of the game are stuck in the Box Office movie cliché. The music is a salad of epic screeches in The Lord of the Rings style and Buddha Bar accents for those moments when things become a bit more serious. Nothing impressive, but not annoying either. As expected, we also have some very talented voices that probably thought they were applying for a BioWare title.
Then comes the wide plethora of bored actors, all belonging to the category of people who like to yell in their microphone. But what would you do without the default characters, like your own Gandalf clone in the person of a wizard named Zandalor, who shows up to teach you all the secrets of being a dragon? And once in a while, your dead mentor haunts you with obsolete stand-up comedy jokes. It seems that all NPCs have some useful advice to share with you, so you’ll soon feel more tired than Americans are of the Obama speeches.
It’s odd how the characters can be so flat, lacking any cultural or political color, but then, when it comes to the hero’s mission, they suddenly get possessed with the all-knowing divine discourse. Many times you’ll get the feeling that you’re walking through a mechanical universe that ignores personal details as long as they’re outside the initial design scope. The consequence is that NPCs don’t react at all to the character’s sex, appearance, or even the decisions you take during missions.
I guess I’ve been spoiled with Dragon Age, where each hero had a very coherent background story and could thoroughly influence the narrative. But I feel Divinity 2 is too superficial when it comes to interaction. At least doing something else with a dragon other than filling the screen with blood is welcome.