It’s really strange. As a white, 6’4", dark-haired, brown-eyed male (ladies?), I’ve never had much of an issue creating myself in any game with a character creator. Sure, I might not be able to match my current hairstyle or whatever, but for the most part, I can always make a "Kris" in some way, shape, or form.
Divinity II’s character creator, however, is pretty limiting. No matter what, your character’s eyes will be blue (shortly afterward being turned silver, but more on that later), your skin will be white, and you’ll be the same height as every other character in the game. You can change gender, one of five hairstyles (with two different hair colors each), a couple different faces (generally based around facial hair or lipstick), and a voice (which you’ll hear expressing pleasure about loot and stuff occasionally). With these minimal options, I was unable to make myself, or even my go-to alternative, Mike Patton.
(What? I think he’d make a good dragon slayer…)
Once I got over my confusion and disappointment (and made the most flamboyant-looking and sounding male character I could), I was plopped into a world of fantasy and dragons.
Well, not dragons…not that quickly. The game put me into an idyllic little town, filled with warriors, told me I had to talk to some people to become a dragon slayer, and sent me on my merry way. I was informed by onscreen prompts that I could attack with the X button and roll or jump with the right trigger. As I walked into the village, I saw a rabbit, hopping along on the road. Naturally, I leapt into action with a fury unmatched by man or demon.
My first strike missed the rabbit completely, sending my character into some sort of flying kick that looked like it came out of a 1960s kung-fu movie. When I regained my composure, I closed the distance between me and the still unaware rabbit and literally punted him through the air. Within a moment, the mighty rabbit was defeated.
I had felled my foe in a single strike, and I realized that nothing in the village could stand against me. Soon, I became drunk with power, wiping out the village’s rabbit population. I then turned my sights on some chickens, kicking them out of the way like so many feathery footballs. Each turned into a "loot bag" that contained a single chicken leg. However, after eliminating my cocky foes, I decided to return to the quest at hand.
After progressing through some (very pleasingly snarky) conversation trees, I was given shiny silver eyes with the ability to see ghosts, selective amnesia that robbed me of my combat training (naturally), and the ability to read minds (for an allotment of experience points). This mind-reading skill seemed like a very interesting hook, but while initially it only cost a few XP to read someone’s mind (only to be told off for my mind-reading ineptitude), eventually it became too expensive for me to even attempt, since there were few apparent rewards for doing so. Afterwards, I decided that I would walk the path of the archer. I learned how to fire poison arrows, and then I was deemed able to go off on my exciting adventure! I was finally going to prove myself as a dragon slayer, and slay a dragon!
After a beautiful cutscene and a lengthy load screen, I found myself smack dab in…
…another idyllic little town, filled with warriors.
Imagine this smaller and more idyllic.
I was then instructed to talk to some people and confirm that there was indeed a dragon in the area. By getting to know the local color, I discovered that yes, a dragon had indeed been seen by an assortment of people. I picked up some sidequests along the way. One man wanted me to bring him some magical artifacts, another wanted some goblin hearts (and who could blame him?), and the other one just wanted me to free his pigs from a distant farm.
Once I had confirmed with three townsfolk that yes, there was a dragon near this town (and by extension, in the game), I told my commanding officer, and she told me that I had to go fight a ghost so my newfound dragon powers (granted to me by bestowing me with the memories of a dragon) wouldn’t drive me insane. I was also told by the local lieutenant she was talking to that I should discover the whereabouts of a nearby bandit camp by going through a secret passage, springing an incarcerated bandit from his cell, and befriending him while helping him escape.
If you aren’t keeping score, at this point, I had five different quests and had not once engaged in combat outside of a trial fight or two as I decided whether to use bows or swords. I’d actually leveled up before killing a single non-chicken-or-rabbit enemy in the wild. I finally leapt over the city’s defending wall out into the surrounding forest, and fought some goblins. The game’s combat is in real time, and centers around skills mapped to the face buttons and D-pad. Special skills drain your mana bar with each strike, and have cooldown times, but have bonus effects. After locking onto an enemy with the left trigger, I was able to fire on them from afar with my bow, occasionally mixing up my regular strikes with some poisoned arrows.
However, after skewering just two of these goblins, I found myself stumbling into another side quest. A man had been cornered atop a platform by a group of goblins, dropped his grappling hook that allowed him to get up to said platform, and was requesting my help. Since I was feeling a little overloaded with quests at that point, I decided to respond to him as sarcastically as possible. Fortunately, the game provides the player with responses that are absolutely dripping with sarcasm, and occasionally pretty funny! It was a nice little touch of character in a game that doesn’t really have much otherwise.
Humorousness aside, my vitriol was rewarded with yet another quest. The goblins showed up, and I fought them off (fortunately collecting a goblin heart in the process). I was then asked to reprimand this man’s cohort that left him to die. Adding that to my assortment of quests, I decided to get some of the more mundane stuff out of the way. Fortunately, the forest was filled with goblins, some of which were just spheres that shot magic at me (Goblin Beholders). Around this time, I realized that my attempts to pelt my enemies with arrows, poison arrows, and stun arrows weren’t going to cut it any more. However, just as I was beginning to realize this, I was killed, and had to reload my autosave from 15 minutes back.
So, when I reloaded my save and re-fought the 7 or 8 goblins I’d run into, I decided to invest in a blade to use alongside my bow. The damage output was distinctly higher with a cheap cleaver than with my bow, which meant that it shortly afterward became my weapon of choice. I’d pelt my foes with a few arrows, then roll around them with the right trigger and hack away if they got too close. The majority of the damage I doled out came from my close combat, which was kind of a bummer, since I was hoping that all the skill points I put into dexterity would make my arrows instruments of death. On the other hand, the cleaver did allow me to use jumping attacks, so the variety was much appreciated.
After getting a couple of the sidequests out of the way, I finally stumbled across the secret entrance to the bandit’s cell, progressed through an underground passage complete with skeletons, and set the man free. After I expressed my desire to be a bandit, he told me the location of his hideout and the password to get in. Without thinking, I immediately walked over to the lieutenant who gave me the mission, and reported this information to him. The lieutenant rewarded me with EXP and cash, but it made me think.
That bandit wasn’t really a bad guy. Sure, he was poorly voice-acted and a little one dimensional, but he was friendly! He even helped me kill some goblins! I actually kind of felt bad about revealing the location of his hideout. He’d just gotten out of jail, and now his companions are going to be jailed or killed because he trusted me. However, since my last save was 20 minutes beforehand, I decided to soldier on, the weight of my deceit resting lightly upon my shoulders.
I soldiered my way right into the tomb of Arben, a great dragon slayer. His ghost was somewhat irritated to have me wandering around, and started chasing after me and using area-of-effect spells to light me on fire. When I realized that staying back and pelting him with poison and stun arrows was less effective than I hoped, I started working the combat system a little more. I’d pause the action by depressing the right analog stick, queue up one of my numerous chicken legs, then unpause and let the chicken leg automatically refill my health before running up to him and slashing away.
He’d ready his AoE spell, and I’d roll away and start my arrow barrage again. Occasionally one of his skeleton minions would hit me and I’d have to run away from the ghost and eat my chicken legs, but after a while, he accepted his fate, gave me his sword, and told me that he wanted me to kill Talana, the last remaining dragon knight (essentially a knight that can transform into a dragon… or maybe it’s the other way around?).
Excited, I rushed out of the tomb, right into the line of sight of Rhode, my commander, who told me that I would not be able to able to fight Talana, rendering my title of "dragon slayer" moot. She also took the fancy sword that the ghost gave me.
Not knowing what to do, I decided to buy a much more powerful bow and wander around aimlessly, shooting goblins as I walked through the forest. There, I stumbled upon a wounded and heavily-armored woman. She informed me that she was Talana, the last dragon knight, and forced her memories into my head.
Suddenly, I was a dragon!
I was flying around, shooting fireballs at zombie dragons and imposing-looking ballistae until I hit a cutscene that introduced me to the true villain of the game, an angry bald man named Damian who spent some time kicking me around before warning me not to oppose him again.
When I was brought back to health by the wizard Zandalor, I was told that I had become a dragon knight, but I was not yet able to become a dragon at will. Talana had taken up residence inside my head and promised to guide me. I then set my sights on the tower of a man called Lovis to (perhaps finally) earn my place as a dragon knight.
Food for Thought:
1. Divinity II has a really interesting reward mechanic for completing quests. You get your base set of rewards (generally experience and gold), but you can also choose one or two additional rewards, which generally include an additional 50% gold or experience and an assortment of items. While I generally chose extra experience, it was cool to have the option.
2. As one of these bonus options, I received a book called "The Atrocities of Samuel Puppykiller, Evilest of Mages."