The hallmark of a great movie, book or game is how we can be drawn into the world created by the author, director or developer. Over this weekend, we've been playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 and the hardest part has been having to tear ourselves away to write this article. Make no mistake: Divinity: Original Sin 2 is something special, even among the other amazing CRPGs that have come out in the past year or two.
Fifteen Hours and the Surface Remains Unscratched
D:OS2 is one of those rare games that makes you actually want to stick around to get it all done before moving. Doing so will yield boatloads more hours of intense RPG action than you will find, for instance, in Destiny 2's 12-hour campaign. There are three acts in the game and at our current stopping point, we are finishing Act 1. From what we've seen, Act 1 comprises about 25% of the game; Act 2 about 50%, with Act 3 coming in with 25% to complete the game completely. Roughly speaking, you will have about 60 hours of the game, though doubtless more if you're a completionist. At the fifteen hour mark, we're nearly ready to leave the first act knowing full well that we're leaving things undone behind us. While we're moving on for the purpose of the review, it's likely that we'll come back at a later time to wrap all quests up and make sure that every nook and cranny is explored.
That's just the first play through too. The thing is, even at this early stage of the game, we're already starting to talk about our next play through -- what characters we might like to play, other races, classes we might like and how our answers and actions during various points in the game might be different. Again, this is another marker of something unique and different.
From the first moment when you're presented with the character creation screen, you can already see the scope of replayability in front of you. Whether it's choosing a different race - Human, Elf, Dwarf, Lizard or those same races in Undead form - or choosing a class only to realize that there are nearly endless ways to customize it to your heart's content, you quickly understand that you'll be playing D:OS2 again...and yet again. There are just so many ways to make each character vastly different from the last and to try out the huge number of combinations of attributes, abilities, physical looks, talents and general background.
Once you actually start playing, too, you'll notice that each of those character factors (and those of your companions) can have vastly different effects on conversations by either adding more dialog options than others or by unlocking different conversation paths altogether. Sometimes having your order-at-all-costs Soldier isn't the best person to speak to a rather over-the-top Necromancer who may be more chaotic in nature.
This, of course, brings us to our first tip: Save and save OFTEN. Say that to yourself. We'll wait.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 allows you to save at will and you will want to because, trust us, you'll be reloading older saves to go back and either pursue a different dialog option or to rethink your party composition or battle strategy (or both) or to make sure that the right person has the quest items needed to complete a task and so forth. There is auto-save, of course. But it's worth making yourself save more often so you don't have to spend hours backtracking.
The game is set in a beautiful, destructible, dangerous world. The scenery and environments are breathtaking, some of the most beautiful, in fact, that we've ever seen in a cRPG. It's well-worth taking a bit of extra time to appreciate the attention to detail in the world from the gorgeous spell effects to the individual blades of grass bending in the breeze to the gentle ocean waves lapping on the beach.
Combat is intense and thought-provoking. Sometimes it's a straight up fight with all of your enemies in front of you. More often than not, however, you stumble into battle with two party members dragging along behind and the enemy surrounding you or spaced in such a way as to require some strategic planning in order to win. This is where "save and save often" comes in. For instance, at one point, we ran into a room, started a battle with a "big" NPC and realized it was going to go very badly. Rather than pursue it to its ultimate end (death), we reloaded but approached the room in a different way by having one character initiate the battle while the other three were placed in a nearby room so we could use terrain and a choke point to our advantage. Let's just say that the fight went a lot better.
Oh, and while we're at it: Not every fight has to be a fight and not every healing spell is a healing spell and everybody burns. What we mean is that sometimes you can talk your way out of a fight with a "major" character. Sometimes a healing spell isn't a good thing and can kill and sometimes you may drink the poison instead of throwing it at an enemy. And ice freezes and fire burns without recognizing who's friendly and who's not.
Each character you meet is worth speaking to because of their unique perspectives on the world and because they may have a quest to give you. The main NPCs are marked, of course, but it's the unknown and unremarked upon NPCs that sometimes offer the coolest stories.
Every character is brought to life as well by being individually voiced -- every line, every giggle or heart-wrenching cry is audible. In some ways, this really helps keep players from becoming "fatigued" by having to read every line of dialog. You can listen and learn while only having to choose where you want the conversation to go. You'll want to explore all sorts of different options -- first see how conversations play out on one character, then try talking to the same NPC on a different one. It's worth it nearly every time because the story and every dialog is brilliantly written.
Cooperative play is where Divinity: Original Sin 2 really shines. Because it's such a deep, immersive story, having a partner (or three) come along for the ride makes the game that much better. If every cRPG played like this, we'd probably never touch another genre. As it stands, Catherine and I can say without impunity that this game is really special. Rather than being simplified to allow for cooperative play, it's enhanced by playing together and strategizing on how we will do it differently the next time.
There is so much more to say -- our minds are swirling with all the unwritten words. But those will need to wait for next week.
What have you experienced so far in Divinity: Original Sin 2? What are your thoughts about the game? Let us know!
For the purpose of our upcoming review, copies of D:OS2 were provided by the publisher though we also are backers of the KickStarter as well.