In 1996, operating under the name “The Larian Empire”, Swen Vincke and a small group of video game enthusiasts were developing “Unknown” as a hobby project. Despite none of the team having any experience in promoting the game to publishers Swen managed to make his way inside an industry trade show and secured an appointment and subsequent publishing deal with Atari. The deal didn’t last long however. Atari decided to exit the PC publishing scene and instead merged with a hard disk drive manufacturer.The Larian Empire were thrown into turmoil. Without the necessary funds developing an RPG would not be feasible so they instead created an RTS called The LED and it was published within 4 months. Soon they were contacted by Attic Entertainment in Germany about publishing some of their work. Unknown was reborn as The Lady, The Mage & The Knight. Disaster struck again however and due to a myriad of reasons – primarily financial – LMK would never see the light of day. Down but not out, Larian secured a publishing deal for a then unnamed game with CDV. The Larian Empire became Larian Studios and Divine Divinity was born.
I hold in my hands the product of over 10 years of hard work. A series of games that could very easily have slipped away and gone unpublished. Lucky for me then that the folks at Larian Studios are a tenacious bunch!
To celebrate a decade and three entries to the Divinity series Larian Studios have created the Divinity Anthology Collectors Pack; a collection of all 3 games and a whole host of other goodies including: making of documentaries, posters, artwork, exclusive items, music and lots more.
For those not in the know the Divinity game series are fantasy action RPGs with a strong focus on storytelling and character progression. Larian Studios have maintained that focus throughout the series, however the standout game is the first entry: Divine Divinity. Released to critical acclaim in 2002, the game struck a chord with reviewers due to its detailed graphics, immersive and expansive game world, outstanding music and gameplay. It was likened to Diablo 2, but with a deeper story and greater variety of gameplay.
Beyond Divinity followed on from its predecessor but bound the protagonist to the Death Knight. The player controlled both characters throughout the game. Beyond Divinity was not reviewed as positively as Divine Divinity with reviewers criticising the hard to use inventory system and incomplete randomly generated battlefields. It is however seen as another strong entry in the series.
Divinity II was released in 2010 on both PC and Xbox 360, this marked the series’ leap from two dimensions to three. Reviewers praised its large game world and amount of content but noted that the combat was uninspired and that the game required a lot of the players time to progress, which might put newcomers off.
The presentation of the box is lovely. Minimalist with an embossed Divinity logo it has a real premium feel to it. Emptying the slipcase of its contents reveals two DVD boxes and a hardback book. All three bare the same design as the slipcase and are of a high quality. The box containing the games holds two DVDs, one for Divine Divinity and its expansion Beyond Divinity, the other for Divinity II: Developers Cut. I was also pleasantly surprised to find a leaflet with a key for all three games that is redeemable on Steam. This was especially surprising given that the games on disc are devoid of any nasty DRM. Also included in the game box are leaflets for exclusive items for upcoming Larian Studios games Divinity: Original Sin and Divinity Dragon Commander. Both items will never be available anywhere else.
Inside the other DVD case are two soundtrack CD’s composed by Kirill Pokrovsky. Musica Divina contains selected melodies and symphonies from the Divinity universe, meanwhile Musica Obscura contains rarer pieces that were never included in the games themselves. Normally I wouldn’t be too bothered by extras like these but the Divinity series soundtracks are highly regarded as some of the most beautiful, immersive pieces of music in any game series and I highly recommend them. Also inside are two glossy double-sided posters that would look great on the kids homework jotters or inside any man cave.
The physical contents of the package are nicely rounded off by a hardback development journal detailing the trials and tribulations of all employees at Larian Studios. This is not your typical coffee table art book. The history of Larian Studios is an interesting one with many failures and successes. The journal turned out to be a page-turner and would be a wise read for those thinking of entering the game industry.
The Divinity Anthology Collectors Pack is the gift that keeps on giving. Just when you think you have seen everything the collection has to offer there are even more goodies to discover. Three DRM-free games, Steam copies, soundtrack CD’s, exclusive items, the Developers Journal, posters and even more I haven’t touched on in this review! This is one of the most comprehensive collectors editions I have ever encountered. If you are a fan of the series or just a fan of the RPG genre, this collection is a must have. Did I mention that it retails at £25? There will only be twenty-five thousand physical copies ever made so be sure to get one now to avoid disappointment.
In the Developers Journal, Swen Vincke remarks that Larian are always making the same fundamental mistake of “…trying to put too much in the one box.”. Nowhere is this more joyfully evident than in the Divinity Anthology.
As this is a collection of games no one could hope to play adequately in time for a review, we omitted a score and would instead simply say this is a great pack well worth picking up if you like these games, or even just enjoy RPG’s!