I've been playing through the early parts of Larian Studios' recent RPG Divinity II in my spare time, with a view to writing up a detailed piece on it for RPS when I beat the full game. It's been an uneven experience, because while it's an inferior experience to both Risen and Dragon Age, it has kept me coming back to it. I've been coming back not so much for reasons of enjoyment, but because of stubbornness. I don't want this fucker to beat me... But maybe it has.
The surface sheen of Divinity II is pleasing. You're a magick'd up warrior with glowing eyes, who starts out his quest riding about in a bright red flying ship, and heading into a pleasingly rendered fantasy world. This warrior is being initiated with the memories of a dragon, so better to slay the beasts. After pootling about in the start village for a while, however, it becomes clear that things are not as they seem, and your destiny is not to be a dragon slayer, but to actually be a dragon, as the last of the dragon knights. This means you're going to be the enemy of some dude called Damian, and you're going to get a cool Dragon Knight battle tower. But not yet. Not yet.
This is where things start to trundle downhill. I'd already managed to swallow the laggy menus and stuttery performance - hey, that's how it is on my PC, I'm sure it's smoother on other PCs, with other builds - and to focus on the characters and questing. I like the structure of the game, and the way you can hybridise your character from a huge selection of skills. I even like the monsters, as predictable as they are, they seemed to have some clout. The sheer size of the valley in which I was adventuring was enough to entice me, too: I wanted to explore. There were some entertaining characters along the way, and some decent rewards for even minor quests. A discount with the blacksmith for fixing him up with a lady from the nearby farm was okay by me. However, once I hit the valley I also hit the grind. I was going to have to go back and kill every last goblin if you was going to be able to walk down the road - I needed to level up. And up. And up.
This was fairly painful, and not really helped by the fact that I discovered that I could bodge my way forward by either letting a crappy summoned creature take the aggro, or simply running out of aggro range until my enemies walked back to their starting point. Their strolling back to zero meant that they usually wouldn't re-aggress, and I could kill them from range, magic-missiles in the back. It was one of those misfires of game systems that I couldn't help but start exploiting. Consequently I've made continuous progress, but it no longer feels satisfying.
The truth is, I know I've not hit the vital crux of the game, but I've run out of motivation to go back to it. I've rapidly started getting tired of Divinity II's arbitrary hikes in difficulty, where I have to off and grind XP just to walk to the next bit of the valley. What has kept me going is the promise of things I've not yet unlocked, such as the necromancer.
Obviously I want to create a ludicrous undead monster, and because I haven't yet unlocked my battle tower, I haven't got to the most interesting features of the game. The problem is: I just haven't got an energy left to grind my skeletons. I'm no longer convinced the rewards will be enough. The game has tantalised me long enough, without the big pay off. Can it really be worth more hours that could be spent playing Call Of Pripyat?
So, readers, should I continue?