Rising to the Divine
Like many of you who love cRPGs, when Larian Studios announced that it was making a sequel to Divinity: Original Sin, my heavens lit up. The KickStarter campaign funded almost immediately and hopes were set high for Divinity: Original Sin 2. I am here today to tell you that your hopes were not in vain and that it is everything we could have hoped for and so much more.
Some folks who might not yet have tried DOS2 will bristle at such high praise in light of other stellar entries into the cRPG genre such as Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny and Torment: Tides of Numenera. Each of them is a star in its own right, but DOS2 brings something more to the genre. In addition, DOS2 builds on its predecessor and takes everything that was good and improves on it.
Character creation is amazing fun because there are innumerable ways to customize your character. You can be a Dwarf, Human, Elf or Lizardman as well as the Undead version of each. (Speaking of the latter, it’s always a good idea to have at least one Undead as they have an innate lockpicking skill that comes in quite handy!) You can create your own custom character or you can play as a premade, though still with the ability to customize their look and skills. The “premade” part is infused in the quests and story options that they have. Of course, if you do not choose a premade, these same characters become companions you can haul along with you so you still get to see how their stories play out.
Your character will have “tags” applied to them that can affect how conversations or quests play out. For instance, my character, a warrior type dependent on Strength and Constitution, got a lot of options to use “Strength” conversation lines that worked great with soldierly types but pretty abysmally when speaking to scholars and the like.
With the regard to the above, this is why having a broad party composition is important. You’ll want to have each party member strong in a different aspect, both for fighting purposes and for conversational encounters. Party members should span the spectrum from high Persuasion in conversation to the Pet Perk to learn to speak to animals to glean new information about places you’re traveling in and so forth.
The central theme in DOS2 is one of oppression and submission. Magisters of the Divine Order are out to get hold of those who can wield the Source, as they are seen as the key to the arrival of the Voidwoken, nightmarish creatures bent on destroying the world. The battle between the Magisters and the Source users is the overlying plot that casts its pall over everyone in the game from the humble farmer to the local merchant to black marketeers and everyone in between.
The story is brilliantly written with witty, interesting dialog between you and your companions, in conversations with NPCs or even in random pieces of paper you find lying around. It’s easy to miss tiny details about the story if you’re not careful. Be sure to read every book, every scrap of paper, every plaque hanging on the wall – every everything. If there is one “complaint” (and I use that term very loosely) that I have about the story is that it sometimes feels like too much to digest. That said, however, you’re cheating yourself if you don’t explore every nook and cranny of the game to dig up these varied and interesting quests throughout the game world. You don’t want to miss, for instance, the two cows who aren’t really cows or the chance to foment love between a rat and a tortoise of all things. Even if somewhat goofy at times, every side quest still feels like it’s part of the story and not just another instance of “kill 10 rats” or a FedEx type experience.
My main issue, however, with DOS2 touches on story in that a pretty significant number of quests are simply broken. You’ll find more than a few that do not update even if you have all the needed steps complete. Others are simply broken. For instance, those two cows mentioned above could be “cured”, though one much later when you learned how to make a certain potion. However, bringing it back and “feeding” it to her didn’t change anything, hence no completion, hence broken quest. Luckily, none of the main quest objectives are affected.
The quest journal is something of a pain in the neck too. It can be confusing and simply “too much”. Nothing is noted in different colors to distinguish completed portions and so forth. Wading through all the objectives and text can be burdensome at times.
Combat in Divinity: Original Sin 2 is magnificent, particularly for those who love a challenge. As DOS2 can be played all the way through "hardcore", there's more than enough for even the most self-abusive among us. Heck, even on Explorer (the game's "tourist" level), it's possible to die, particularly in the beginning with no equipment and no skills. It's worth noting that you'll want to check vendors every single time or perfect your "sneak" skill to steal things so that you're not constantly overwhelmed.
Still, combat on any level is exciting and downright fun. It is intense and thought-provoking and requires strategic use of choke points, terrain anomalies, verticality and much more. In addition, the design of the encounters is A+ because of the interesting layout of the field of battle. It’s a rare fight where you actually see all the combatants that you will ultimately have to defeat. Often others come running in from gods know where to join in the fray. There will be times, particularly on higher difficulty levels, when you will see quite plainly that your fight is going to end disastrously. Be sure you’re saving often, particularly before large or important battles. But that’s half of what makes combat in DOS2 so amazingly fun.
With regard to fighting, it is important to note that not every fight has to be a fight and not every healing spell is a healing spell and everybody burns (including your companions), though to what degree remains to be seen. You can often times talk your way out of a sticky situation, though obviously not all. It’s worth it to see what you can “get away with” and, if it’s not satisfactory, reload and go at it a different way.
Combat is also much more streamlined than many cRPGs. It’s been made quicker to get rid of the boredom, though some battles took an eternity to get through when there were a ton of opponents each taking his or her turn too. With a 6-point cap on Action Points and without a significant way to regenerate them, however, things do move much faster than in Divinity: Original Sin.
Where DOS2 really shines in both combat and story, however, is by being able to play with others. Local and online multiplayer are available . Console split-screen will also be an option when those versions are released. Up to 4 players can range around together and it’s simply a ton of fun to be able to do so and see how your friends interpret different situations based on their characters. Think of it as enhanced tabletop gaming.
Lastly, the graphics and sound in Divinity: Original Sin 2 are absolutely fantastic. More than a few times I found myself wishing for a more “MMO-like” viewpoint so that I could see the world more closely. It is so beautifully detailed, so stunningly presented, that you really wish you could see it both up close but without the “blur” that is applied when zooming in. Spell effects and combat animations are stunning, though not grossly over the top like some games tend to be. To have the entire game voiced is another jewel in the game's crown. It adds a layer of immersion that is simply missing in any other game.
I honestly can’t express in such a limited space how amazingly good Divinity: Original Sin 2 truly is. From the astonishing amount of replayability it provides to the gorgeously detailed world you and your party will inhabit to the awesome and thought-provoking combat and so so much more, DOS2 is a game that you do not want to miss. With over 60 hours in, I only want more, I’m mourning the inevitable end of this play through and I’m already planning my next adventure. I will not soon forget Rivellon. If you love RPGs, if you love excellence in game design, if you appreciate a great story, then Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a must have.
This review was completed with a code provided from the publisher, though I am also a KickStarter backer.