Early Access: Divina Online
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
Last week Gamania approached me with a title I had limited knowledge of. A fantasy MMORPG with cutesy anime graphics and some unusual gameplay mechanics, known as Divina. The game's artstyle looked very reminiscent of Lucent Heart and for a moment I thought I had returned to Dream Drops from the Gamania Game Show. However I soon realized Divina was a separate beast all to its own, and, as I was properly quoted saying during the press event, Divina is a lot more than what I expected.
The first feature of the game that jumped out at me was the story itself. If you're a fan of games like Tales of Symphonia or other dramatic Japanese RPG's with mixed inspiration, you will feel right at home. Your character wakes up with amnesia in a world that has already hit the point of total destruction. Naturally you would want to know why you have no memory, why you are still alive, and perhaps hold out on the hope that maybe things can get better. This leads to you setting off on a journey through time and space, touching on Norse, Japanese, and even Chinese mythology, in an attempt to reclaim your memory and save Yggdrasil the World Tree! Something I really appreciated about this aspect of the game was that many of the NPCs in the storyline will appear repeatedly as you level up, making the quests feel more important as they are being assigned by a main character and not a nameless NPC that you will never speak to again.
The next distinguishing factor of this game is something that I really only see in private servers and Gamania titles. That of course is extreme community interaction with GMs and Divina is no exception. ToffeeCrunch in particular was working overtime and possessed an auctioneer's ability to spill all the details of the title in the course of around 20 minutes! When they promoted a 72 hour CB full of events they weren't lying. It was PvP parties and massive dungeon raids most of the hours of the day, rather than the typical '2x experience' events you see other game companies pass off as their big community event.
Your Divina Character
Despite the cutesy looks of this title, I warn you that your Divina character may be one of the most complicated MMO characters you've ever made. With all these gadgets, gizmoos, and numbers it can be a bit overwhelming so I'm going to try to break it down as best as I can.
First off there are five main characters consisting of the normal MMO fair such as Knight, Cleric, Sorcerer, and Assassin with the Machinist rounding out the list with a sort of steampunk archer flair offering high-tech bombs, ranged barrages, and AoE party auras. This seems simple enough until you advance to around level 30 in the story and learn of your schizophrenia. Yes you have amnesia and multiple personalities. It's time to build your Tyler Durden.
Upon meeting the requirements to accept your split personality, you will be given the option of choosing a class. This can be the same class as your current choice or a different one. The choice is entirely up to you. What you obtain by making this choice is an alter ego that carries the stats of your new class, but starts at level 1 with a massive buff to experience game. As such you can increase your party utility by being able to fill two rolls or make a second version of your original class but specced down a different skill tree. The best part of this feature is the game saves your hotkey bar separately between personalities, so as long as you're well versed with both your hotkey bars, you can swap classes in the midst of battle and never miss a beat.
This system combined with the not too often seen skill point allocation can make for quite a bit of diversity between yourself and others. Not only can you be specced down two different skill trees for each class but you can choose to sacrifice some of your damage for vitality, or perhaps some of your accuracy or defense for more damage. I'm sure some mathcrafters will break this down to try to find the optimal build but I believe there is enough strength for each stat that more than one optimal route can emerge.
Possibly the most important feature of this 'quick change' system is the unique health bar associated with each personality you possess. Say you are participating in the open world PvP Divina offers (another strange feature given the visual feel of the game!) and really you are fighting a losing battle. If your alter ego is leveled up to be on par with your main personality, you can use a quick change in the heat of battle, instantly completely changing your fighting style while giving you a whole new HP bar. You're able to do this up to 3 times (represented by hearts below your HP bar) so I imagine endgame duels will be drawn out affairs as well as gambling matches to see how low you can let your HP bar get before swapping.
Beyond this breakdown there is also a unique system called the divine wheel that functions akin to how equipment tends to function in MMORPGs, all but without the associated graphics. Instead you will unlock costumes and accessories that don't have any stats but can drastically change up your character's looks through questing and dungeons runs, as well as the cash shop (though that's just a likely assumption on my part). The Divine Wheel is essentially a compass with a core piece and four directional pieces that offer stats, defensive bonuses, and some neat passive abilities if you can manage to acquire a complete set of pieces. Furthermore each piece of the wheel is reserved for set classes which should help create an economic bartering system as people seek to trade their vaulable wheel pieces in exchange for one their classe(es) require. In game titles with animation styles like Divina, you tend to attract an audience that cares a lot about their avatar's opinion, so it's surprising to me that more titles don't offer a similar feature to this.
Creature Tome, Crafting, and the Gloomy Bunny
One of the more commonly noted features of Divina is the Creature Tome. It works similar to a Pokedex detailing monsters you've faced in combat, however rather than defeating monsters once you often have to beat them multiple times while slowly filling an experience bar related to said monster. Once you manage the daunting task of filling it completely, you can access a new transformation skill that makes you appear to be the monster while buffing some of your stats. This transformation can last a long period of time so it's definitely worth while to spend a little bit of extra time grinding each zone to add new monsters to your portfolio. I've even seen screenshots of boss monsters that you can transform into so I have high hopes for this system to add flavor to community events.
I'm just a standard weak mob... don't you trust me?
Crafting and refining works just like it would in any other F2P title on the market. Players will be able to use orbs to refine their weapon up with a glowy effect occuring for anything past +4 and a server-wide announcement being made at +10. A fusion system also is in place to allow you to meld stones together to create stronger refining stones, but I don't want to get too much into the minute details of the crafting system. What is a bit different though is the way you gather materials, including 'cards,' and how it connects to the pet system. Throughout the map different card nodes exist. They are flashy portal looking objects that you can slowly mine to acquire cards used for various crafting rituals you may wish to perform. The only real difference between this compared to most MMORPGs is that it will actually cost you gold to farm these nodes, making it not so wise to stockpile cards unless you have a real use for them or can sell them for a higher price. Now you're probably thinking that sounds repetitive and boring and that's not too far from the truth. That's where the gloomy bunny comes in.
Various pets exist in-game in the form of odd little mouthy animals that you will quest with, fight with, chat with, and assign missions to. The better you treat your sidekick and learn their likes and dislikes, the more valuable a comrade they will be for you. Just like your own character, you can customize some of their battle stats, give them equipment, and level them up. They also take care of some of the more mundane things like gathering cards for you, though you will be unable to access your sidekick to help in combat while they are gone on missions. This is where sidekicks really shine though as they can bring back special bonus items from missions such as costumes and rare materials that can't be obtained by any other means. Having had enough of my gloomy bunny I wasted no time upon learning of this feature to send him away on the longest duration mission I could assign. Peace at last!
The gloomy aura of my bunny can't reach me inside my Zen Ball!
Guilds and Domains
I saved this part for last as it left the strongest impression on me during the CB test. Both players and guilds can set up domains, private tracks of land that you can collect resources from and build crafting and other buildings in for your own benefit. Essentially players crate resources in their private domain and then pay taxes to their guild domain in the form of domain resources to allow the guild domain to build more advanced structures and crafting shops to benefit the guild. You can even assign your domains to research better means of collecting resources or speeding up crafting houses if you're willing to pay the price. This adds an advanced and fun mini-game to the guild community by making it feel like you are running an RTS against your rival factions to build the strongest base first.
As your guild levels up you will receive very guild objectives to obtain a set amount of resources, gold, and occasionally unique items that can only be crafted by specialized guild buildings. Reaching these achievements not only expands your guild domain, but grants special buffs to all guild members in the related section of the actual world map.. bonuses that can and will benefit you should you take part in open world pvp! The specialized crafting items can also give your guild an economic advantage by allowing you to monopolize rare skill books or crafting materials that you can sell on the open market for major profits.
In addition to these benefits, there are two more reasons to focus your efforts on building up your faction. Unfortunately one of them, known as the Instance Base, will not be available at launch and so I was told very little about the feature. The other though will be in at launch and is known as the Trial Ground. These private guild only instances mirror open world dungeons but with far stronger and more unique monsters, as well as guild NPCs that will offer challenge quests for your community to compete to achieve. Your challenge may be a time trial or to defeat the dungeon under certain restrictions, but rest assured the rewards for doing so are great!
This is just the tip of the iceberg and I don't want to spoil too much more. One final word on this game though is don't expect a walk in the park just because your characters look like their from Candy Land. Our press group got our butts kicked in just about every dungeon we went into! Not only that but careful preparation was needed as some dungeons had unique quirks like requiring you to collect air bubbles so you don't take constant damage over time from drowning. It was quite the laugh to see our dead tank revived only to die again because he didn't pop another air bubble.
If you were wondering, yes he's as mean as the mustache implies.
So head my warning. Between utilizing your sidekick, mastering the Quick Change class system, and knowing how to best use your Monster Tome, this game carries a high skill cap that will really differentiate people in PvP. If you're looking for a challenging PvP title with a not so intimidating graphical setting and great story telling, then Divina will be far more than you expected.