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by Eric Arevalo



Many RPG gamers have been eagerly anticipating the upcoming release from Larian Studios, developers of the acclaimed Divine Divinity released in 2002. 2004 will see the release of Beyond Divinity which was formerly known as Riftrunner. Beyond Divinity is not a direct sequel to Divine Divinity but an RPG set in the same universe. We recently had an opportunity to interview Swen Vincke, project leader on Beyond Divnity, about the game's current status as well as on many of its interesting features. A demo of Beyond Divinity was released on March 3 (and can be downloaded by clicking on the link below). The game will be published and released by Hip Games in April.

Estimated Release: April 13, 2004

Official Beyond Divinity Website

Beyond Divinity Demo



BEYOND DIVINITY INTERVIEW WITH SWEN VINCKE



CURRENT PROGRESS

JustRPG: What can you tell us about the current status of Beyond Divinity? What are you currently working on?

Swen: Currently we are extensively testing the game. Last week we have finished the demo, which will be announced real soon.



STORY/GRAPHICS/MUSIC/DIALOG

JustRPG: Is there any additional information you can provide about the story over what is already known? Are you trying something different with the story in this new game over the one within Divine Divinity?

Swen: We donít want to reveal too much story details yet to keep it interesting for the player. The story is focused around a servant of the divine. In an intense battle, a demon drags him into his universe where he becomes soul-forged with a Death Knight. Your only chance of breaking the soul forging and escape the universe is by unlocking the secret of riftrunning. So actually the story is situated between Beyond Divinity and Divinity 2 but in an entirely different universe. The story in Beyond Divinity is about yourself (the hero) teaming up with a usual enemy of yourself, the dreadful Death Knight... How do you deal with the situation? Do you follow the hints and suggestions of the dark one, or do you find your own way?

JustRPG: Based on current screenshots, the graphics are looking very impressive. How much better are the graphics in comparison to Divine Divinity? How much work goes into creating all the spells, environments, equipment and other graphical elements in the game?

Swen: Beyond Divinity uses an enhanced version of the Divinity engine, which results in some advantages. We have ported the engine to DirectX9. This eliminated incompatibility problems and allowed us to add more graphical elements. Weíve now included real time 3D characters, added a lot of glitter in the magic effects, allowed for higher resolutions with FSAA and included the ability to zoom in when playing at those higher resolutions. As for the amount of work, itís been going on ever since we started and hasnít stopped yet.

JustRPG: Divine Divinity had some excellent music and voiced dialog; can we expect the same in Beyond Divinity?

Swen: Kirill Pokrovsky, who composed the music for Divine Divinity, will create as well the soundtrack for Beyond Divinity. The voices for Divine Divinity have been done by an external studio, whereas for Beyond Divinity the voices have been done in-house and they are pretty cool. In Divine Divinity were only the dialogs for the main characters spoken. In Beyond Divinity (for the English version) all dialogs will be spoken. My favorite voiced character for now is the Death Knight ;)



GAMEPLAY ELEMENTS

JustRPG: What are some of the major improvements you are doing in Beyond Divinity in comparison to Divine Divinity?

Swen: We have a much more extensive skill system now, where the player can create his own skills by boosting different properties of the generic skills. In Divine Divinity you only had the choice of choosing a skill, not to enhance different attributes of the skill. In Beyond Divinity, the player will also have a much larger list of skills available to choose from. To learn the different skills you have to find teachers. Teachers are NPCís that enable a certain path in the skill system. The player will also find books in the world that enable these paths for him. Once the path is enabled, the player can put skill points in the skill so he can use the skill. There are close to 300 skill possibilities. The Battlefields are another strong point in Beyond Divinity. They provide an alternate universe to which you can jump at any point in time. The Battlefields generate dungeons which you do not have to go through as a player, but which give you access to extra items & experience should you want it.

We basically balanced the game so that an experienced RPG player will find it quite a challenge if he doesn't visit the Battlefields. We use the Battlefields as areas where players can earn extra experience should they find things a bit too difficult for them. You can always enter the battlefields. Each battlefield has a certain level and you need to find special objects in the world to advance the maximum accessible level in the battlefields. Thereís also a party this time. Because of the party aspect and the new character development system, combat has become a lot more tactical and interesting. The pause button has definitely become more important, but we also made modifications, which allow you to play it in real time.

JustRPG: In the game the player is soul-forged with a Death Knight, what can you tell us about the unique game play elements that this will bring?

Swen: You and the Death Knight are in constant telepathic communion with each other and the Death Knight constantly offers his own insights about the world in general and the hero in particular. The two can go separately but not too far (though far enough). One cool advantage they have is that they can teleport items to each other. That offers quite some interesting game play options.

JustRPG: Tell us about some of the special quests that players will encounter within the game.

Swen: I donít really know with what the story people will surprise us this time, but I am sure it will be quite something. There are a lot of the so-called "easter eggs" in the game. You will be able to fulfill quests for very strange creatures this time, like evil witches, monsters, ghosts, vicious imps and even gods... One of the quests is about finding a book about the Damned One, and you end up with his holy sandals... There are also a lot of quests, which deal with you increasing your ranking amidst the Black Ring. Those are pretty cool, considering who the Black Ring is.

JustRPG: What are some of your favorite spells and equipment in the game that you can reveal to us?

Swen: This is a question that's hard to answer since there are so many skills and equipment to choose from. Visually I like the Hammer skill the most, it's really devastating and stuns your enemies. My favourite tactical skill is Berserk, which makes you very powerful for a while, but also has some drawbacks... My favourite equipment is the shadow equipment, which is very cool visually and very strong off course.

JustRPG: Beyond Divinity allows the use of more than one party member, tell us more about the party control system in the game?

Swen: The party consists of the player and the Death Knight, but during the storyline, there will be other characters that can join your party through the Summing Dolls. These are small dolls you will find in the world. They're very rare - but also incredibly valuable - so you'll go through a lot of trouble to collect them. You use them to summoned creatures to assist you. The creatures are unlike those you get when you cast a normal summoning spell - as they can be dressed up. That means all the cool equipment you find in the world and which you would normally sell - with pain in your heart - can now be used to dress up creatures you summon. For instance: Your ordinary summoned skeleton could now have a sword+5 and be full of charms that boost his resistances. Summoning dolls can be upgraded and embedded with many properties - all of which the player will have to discover throughout his or her journeys. They also make combat very strategic - plus you can make them do whatever you want since they act as party members once you summon them. There's an upkeep cost - so you'll want to use them sparingly.



DEMO/ GAME RELEASE

JustRPG: When do you expect to release the demo of this game?

Swen: We have finalized the demo last week and will soon release it online. Expect it beginning of March.

JustRPG: How far are you from completing this game and when should we expect to see its release?

Swen: The game will be released in April.



FINAL COMMENTS

JustRPG: Is there anything that you would like to add that has not already been discussed? What elements in particular do you believe will stand out the most in Beyond Divinity?

Swen: The idea behind Beyond Divinity is that we definitely don't want to lose our core-audience. After all, weíre making it for them. We also want to make sure that it reaches more RPG players than Divine Divinity did. Due to its terrible name and some major communication mistakes, most RPG players didnít realize that Divine Divinity was a game they would actually enjoy playing, and that was a real pity. Up to this day we receive plenty of emails of people saying, "Why didnít we know about this game? I thought this was a hack& slash clone"Öwhich it clearly wasnít ;) Regarding the outstanding part, the best thing one can say about Beyond Divinity is that itís a complete but accessible RPG. Itís got about everything you would expect in a RPG but it remains easily accessible and it provides instant fun. Overall.



Beyond Divinity Screenshots






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