Time and time again throughout our lives we are told “don’t judge a book by its cover.” With most of us, it goes in one ear and out the other. No matter how many times the statement is proven correct and sage advice, we continue to jump to conclusions based on first appearances and impressions. I’m as guilty of it as anyone. When our lovely Editor Bill tasked me with reviewing Divina, I took one look at it and started cursing him. I admit, not fair that he should be the target of my verbal rage, but someone had to take the brunt of it. I believe I may have even thrown a couple things in his general direction. They bounced harmlessly off my wall, but it was the sentiment behind the throws that mattered right? Anyway, after my initial tantrum was over, I got the game installed and started playing. And well, after spending admittedly more time in the game than I needed to write this review, I have to say, once again, the aforementioned statement turned out to be very wise advice. So let’s get on to the review and see what Divina has to offer.
Divina is an Anime themed MMO that revolves around the mythological story of Ragnarok and the destruction of the world. You play a character pivotal in aiding the main NPC characters in preventing all of this from happening. One interesting aspect that I liked was unlike most MMOs as you level up and move from one zone to the next you begin interacting with a whole new set of NPCs. In Divina, those main NPCs travel with you. While initially this might come off as just lazy to some people, I found it added a bit to the immersion factor because I was able to interact with these same characters for longer, getting to know them more, feeling like they truly had an investment in the whole story, not just one particular area/zone.
Aesthetics – 7/10
This is easily the hardest part of the game to judge. This is the origin of the whole ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ intro bit. When I first pulled up the game’s official website, knowing nothing about it ahead of time… it was an experience, to say the least. The best way to describe it is if Hello Kitty and My Little Pony did the nasty on a Radioactive Double Rainbow and the resulting love child was used as the color palette for this game. It’s just so very very bright and colorful… That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is going to turn some folks off without ever trying the game. As I admitted above, I was in this camp initially, but as I was assigned to review the title I didn’t have much choice in the matter.
Once getting past the color palette, you’ll find fairly decent anime themed graphics. If you’ve ever seen some of the more cartoony anime out there, you’ll know what to expect here. Characters are generally big-headed, big-eyed, etc. There’s a general lack of detail that goes hand-in-hand with the art style used. Characters are generally pretty diverse thanks to the dressing/costume system. Mobs though, are a different story… You will fight a lot of the same mobs, over and over. They’re not very diverse, in appearance or abilities.
One of the main draws for Divina overseas was the fact that they used popular Anime voice actors to do the voice acting in the game. Basically the equivalent of using folks with really popular voices like Sean Connery or Patrick Stewart over here. Not that they did that over here mind you, just using that as an example. They did however, use well known Anime voice actors for the voice work over here as well. During my tour with the devs, some names were tossed around, but since I’m not an anime fan, I had no idea who they were. The voice work is very well done though; I will give them props in that regard. The background music succeeded in not annoying me, which is generally my measuring stick as far as music in MMOs go. I mean if you really think about it, it’s only a matter of time before you turn the music off in an MMO. Given how many hours the average player puts into one, it’s not too long before you start hearing the same tracks over and over. It’s just the way it works, there’s no way the devs can include thousands of hours’ worth of unique music. The sound effects though were a little lacking. There were some instances where we’ve come to expect sounds that weren’t present, such as in combat, hitting and being hit, etc. The ones that were there got pretty repetitive pretty quickly.
Gameplay – 8.5/10
Hiding behind that very colorful gift-wrap like exterior is actually a surprising amount of depth. As we’ve come to expect in this day and age of MMO gaming, there are thousands of quests. Everywhere you turn there’s another NPC wanting you to run some form of errand for them. And there’s also the obligatory daily quests. One interesting twist on those, if you manage to do one every day for a week, you can then turn all of that in for a special reward. Just an added bit of incentive to do your dailies. The nature of the quests aren’t really anything special or innovative… You have your typical assortment of Fedex, kill X, fetch Y, etc. All the normal MMO quest fodder we’ve come to know over the years.
One thing that definitely twists away from the norm is the Divine Wheel. In Divina this takes the place of your typical armor system as far as granting bonuses and such as you level up. There’s a center piece and four spokes/keys. Each one you equip grants bonuses, and equipping a matching set grants additional bonuses. Your weapon operates much in the way you’d expect. You’ll switch it out for more powerful versions that you loot from mobs or get as quest rewards as you level up, it provides bonuses, etc. Oh, and it may very well be something completely off the wall such as a giant trout (wielded as a cannon) or a giant lollypop. There’s a clothing/costume type of system so you can dress your character up and differentiate him or her from all the other folks running around. It’s a fairly extensive system from what I can tell as I didn’t run into too many folks who were dressed the same.
To further affect the appearance (and to some extent the functionality) of your character, you have the creature tome. I found this system to be particularly interesting and intriguing. Basically, every time you kill a mob, you add a couple percentage points towards unlocking that mob or creature’s entry in your Creature Tome. Once you get the entry to 100% unlocked, you can turn into that creature. A lot of the transformations are purely cosmetic, but others grant your character bonus powers. And the really cool aspect of this system is that it even works with the bosses. Kill the various boss characters enough and you get to run around as one.
Some MMOs might be content with that, but not Divina. Next up we have classes. I know, nothing special there, most MMOs out there have classes right? And really, the class selection here isn’t even all that special: Knight, Assassin, Cleric, Machinist and Sorcerer. Their descriptions from the official site:
What makes Divina’s class system different and a bit fun is at level 30 you get to pick a second class. It starts at level 25, and from that point forward both classes level up together. You can switch between them at will. In some of the more epic battles, you’ll be required to strategically switch back and forth between them if you hope to win. There’s no limit on the combinations you can choose, such as an Assassin main taking Cleric secondary to provide some healing. You can even choose the same class twice if you want to go with two different builds at once. With a full Quick Change bar, you can switch between the classes up to three times. You can refill the bar by dealing or taking damage.
Oh, you thought we were done talking about noteworthy features? I haven’t even mentioned the domain system, which is kinda like an Empire Building RTS game within the MMO. Basically there are Guild and Personal domains. Within these domains are slots on which you can build different building types which grant bonuses to you and your guild. As your Guild works through their domain, they’ll unlock ‘Instance Bases’ which unlock instances complete with special quests which are only available to your guild. And there are also ‘Special Bases’ which will grant passive buffs to everyone in the guild. It really is almost like a completely separate game that does a great job bringing a bit of extra functionality and reason to be in a guild that has been lacking in a lot of MMOs for a long time.
But wait, there’s more! Nope, you haven’t accidentally slipped into a TV infomercial. There’s also a ‘Sidekick’ system, which is pretty much a souped up pet type of thing. Currently you can choose between two: a Gloomy Bunny or a Sweet Mouse. They level up alongside you, and eventually start to resemble one of the classes of the game, depending on how their points are allocated. You can also have them ‘work’ for you, basically sending them away for a couple hours to either ‘Treasure Hunt’, ‘Refine’ or ‘Fusion’. If you send them treasure hunting, well, they’ll come back with loot. Pretty self-explanatory right? Refining will fetch you crafting resources and Fusion will combine stones, leaving you with better ones. And the last feature I want to touch on is the Ally system. Basically after performing a certain quest, when you group up with people on your friends list your relationship with them will level up. As it gets higher and higher in level you’ll get special bonuses for grouping with them and even gain access to special bonus quests.
Value & Longevity – 8/10
Well, it’s a free to play game for starters, so you get a lot of bang for your buck right off the bat. I didn’t feel restricted in my time playing. The item mall appears to contain primarily costume and clothing pieces. Some stuff definitely has attribute bonuses though, so it could be argued that there is some pay to win functionality there. There’s a lot to do, with a lot of levels to climb through, so I’m definitely giving Divina props in both the Value and Longevity department.
Innovation – 6.5/10
This is another tossup for me. Granted, they do some things really differently. The whole Domain system brings a lot to the table. The dual class system with quick-switching mid combat is another fun twist. But on the flip side, a lot of the ‘staple’ aspects of an MMO where you’d expect to see some form of innovation, such as questing, actually feel like a step backwards.
Polish – 7/10
Overall the polish was pretty solid on Divina. I crashed to desktop a couple times, but not an overwhelming amount. There weren’t many in-game bugs that I came across while playing, I admit. It does feel like some things could have been implemented better though. The aforementioned sound effects were a bit lacking. Some of the mob pathing was a little wonky. Overall though the game ran pretty smoothly and I didn’t have too much to complain about.
Social – 8.5/10
This is another area where I have to give Divina really high props. On top of the aforementioned Domain system which gives people a very compelling reason to be in guilds and grow those guilds and be competitive with them, there are a ton of in-game live events. Unlike most games out there where the GMs are supposed to remain behind the scenes and act primarily as a customer support “fix problems” type of person, GMs in Divina are encouraged to interact with the community and run events for them. I saw announcements in game pretty much every day I played from one GM or another. On the flip side though, the general chat line was almost useless due to gold selling spammers. I sat and watched one guy (or more likely a bot I’m sure) spam the same line over and over for hours on end without anyone doing anything about it, even though there were GMs online running player events.
Admittedly, the art style isn’t going to be for everyone. Some people won’t be able to get past that, and to each their own. But for those who can, or who like the hyper-colorful anime art style, there is a lot of depth and fun to be found in Divina. For me it once again proved the whole ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ statement. I went in expecting to hate the game, and I ended up really enjoying my time playing.
| Amazing Amount of Depth
Domain System is a Very Interesting
Dual-Class System Well Implemented
Great Voice Acting
| Art-Style Not for Everyone
Can Feel a Bit Grindy
Quests Feel Dated