The Dragon Knight Saga, or Larian Gets Something Right Finally

Like many other games in my (digital) collection, I picked up Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga on a whim from Steam because it was on sale at a heavily discounted price. Not really expecting much from it after the other Divinity games by Larian Studios I found myself pleasantly surprised to be playing a competent, not boring action RPG with some interesting concepts.

You start off the game training to become a Dragon Slayer, an order of warriors devoted to tracking down and killing Evil Dragon Knights. Very early on this all gets turned on its head and you become a Dragon Knight yourself and learn that–surprise!–they’re not really evil. In fact, they fight the real evil out there. And so begins your quest to save the world, because that’s what happens in RPGs.

The combat and character building is pretty standard. You pick from one of three classes (mage, warrior or ranger) but don’t really have to stick to it. In addition to these skills there are two other trees: priest, which focuses on summoning mainly and “Dragon Slayer” which offers general skills like lockpicking. The skills are not stat-dependent and allow for a decent level of customization but nothing too wild. My character was focused on ranged combat with summoning skills to keep enemies off my back. It’s not a crazy forked tree so you can skip around as you please and only need to hit a certain level to put points into skills.

The skill tree, click to make big!
The skill tree, click to make big!

You get the standard handful of stat points to allocate to the usual categories (vitality, strength, dexterity, etc) as well as a skill point per level. You can hoard them or spend them right away or spend some and save some. I found myself leveling up so fast that I’d spend them in bunches when I got around to it and that it didn’t make real huge impact on the game if I waited a bit.

Becoming a Dragon Knight gives you the perk of being able to turn into a dragon. You can’t do this all the time, and most of the parts where you fly around in dragon form are game events where you don’t have any choice. The dragon has separate skills from your human form but you don’t get points as you level up to use on them. Any changes to the base levels of your dragon skills come from finding books that when used give you a point to spend in them or equipping different dragon armor.

Flying around as a the dragon controls very well though dodging attacks is kind of tricky, and most of the time you’re a dragon you are getting attacked by all sorts of stuff. A few times I lost track of my health and died because I forgot to heal but this was no fault of the game.

So what we have here is a solid action RPG with some unique elements that makes for a pretty good time. Unfortunately there are some annoying problems with the game.

First, I will refer you to one of the worst boss battles of all time. It really is that bad. I’m not going to recount it here in full but it is really badly designed and made artificially hard by being completely unfair to the player.

The game is built to be a pretty straight-forward action RPG but from time-to-time there are platform elements thrown in. Now, I love platformers a whole lot but they are really just shoved into The Dragon Knight Saga and done very badly. I thought developers learned a long time ago not to shove out of place badly executed jumping puzzles into games but apparently I was wrong. The jumping in the game is simply not precise enough to shoehorn them in, I am all for puzzling but they need to work within the game’s construct.

Beyond level design, the main game ends very abruptly. I seriously had no idea the game was ending until the credits started rolling. If I only owned Ego Draconis, I would have been pissed, and I feel bad for anyone who bought it standalone since you cannot buy the Flames of Vengeance expansion separately. It’s worse than the infamous Halo 2 cliffhanger because that was an actual cliffhanger rather than a SHOW’S OVER FOLKS, GO HOME moment.

After I got over the initial shock of the game pulling the plug suddenly, I started up the expansion. Flames of Vengeance isn’t bad, but it is a lot less fun than Ego Draconis. Due to certain circumstances you are stuck in one city the whole time and while there is some variance, most of the place feels and looks exactly the same. Which is unsurprising since it’s a city and all. That said, it does do its job which is finish up the damn story from the main game. Really, they shouldn’t be seperate pieces at all but I think that Larian maybe realized that when they smooshed it all together and released it in a bundle in this manner.

The Dragon Knight Saga is really the first time Larian executed well on their interesting ideas, and is well worth the sticker price. You might need to take a break now and then to power down from jumping puzzle rage but overall it’s a really solid game for action RPG fans. Just make sure that you pick up Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga and not Divinity 2: Ego Draconis.

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