Back in 2014, Larian Studios (with an assist from a Kickstarter campaign) released Divinity: Original Sin. The game was something of a critical darling. Whilst I was late to the party, the 80 hours I put in to complete it certainly provided me with some of the more unexpected and entertaining gaming moments I’d experienced in recent years. It wasn’t without a few issues – it felt erratically difficult, ponderous at times and didn’t feature the most memorable story I’ve ever played. Nevertheless, it was addictive, expansive, inventive and wholly enjoyable.
Fast forward to 2017 and having spent just under a year in early access, Divinity: Original Sin 2 (DOS2) is officially here. Whilst I’m not the first to say it, I’ll say it regardless at the top: oh boy, does this game deliver the goods.
Length: 80+ hours
Use the source.
DOS2’s main quest is a significant improvement to that of the first game, which often felt a little loose. Beasts known as voidwalkers have overrun the world. Those who wield the familiar power known as source magic have been labelled as menaces to society, and are being rounded up by a villainous sect known as the Magisters.
The player begins the game as a one such ‘sourcerer,’ captured by Magisters and collared so as to prevent the use of source magic. DOS2 opens on a ship, where a variety of similarly imprisoned characters are being transported to a location known as Fort Joy – ostensibly for their own wellbeing, and the safety of the world. The player’s initial primary task is to remove their collar and escape. As usual, things don’t remain so clear and simple for long, as events inevitably conspire to thrust the player’s character into a struggle between good and evil, Gods and mortals with, of course, the fate of the world at stake.
It’s important to note that DOS2 takes place 1000 years after the events of the first game, affording the player a comforting degree of familiarity when it comes to the world setting, yet simultaneously providing Larian with a fresh start in terms of the stories it wants to tell. The result is an unrivalled and abundantly detailed narrative world, from the game’s central tale to the rich tapestry of side quests, tertiary conversations and the smallest interactions which can be found in the form of brief exchanges of dialogue, discovered notes or collected books.
Talk to me!
When starting a new game, the player is faced with the familiar RPG character creation screen. Here, DOS2 offers a choice of five different races, as well as a choice between a ‘custom’ character or an ‘origin’ character. I chose to play with an origin character, as these individuals come with unique backstories and a significant amount of custom dialogue choices.
I filled out my party of four fairly early on in my playthrough, and like the first game I thoroughly recommend recruiting varied companions when it comes to party composition. Not only does this open up a great deal of opportunity as far as side quests and conversation topics go (whether that dialogue is between your party, or with other NPCs), it really allows the player to be much more flexible when navigating the world and the battlefield (more on that below).
The fact that DOS2 has a ridiculous amount of voiced characters, right down to the errant animals running around that can be interacted with upon unlocking the Pet Pal perk, is all the more reason to embrace the variety of characters and get talking. The writing is inventive, rich and plentiful, and really brings the world of DOS2 to life. The game has a humorous heart – it is intelligent and witty, but also sincere. There are moments of hilarity, sadness and violence, yet thanks to the combination of excellent voice acting and stellar writing, nothing really feels forced. It simply feels alive.
Much like Divinity: Original Sin, the world of DOS2 is beautiful and mysterious; wonderfully realised and filled with challenges and secrets. It is presented in meticulous detail, with an array of diverse locations and terrain. Navigating this world map is truly exciting, be it progressing through to a new environment or figuring out a way to access a seemingly out-of-reach area. It constantly impresses and surprises.
The freedom of DOS2’s world is also realised by its core gameplay. The most fundamental of these is player choice – choice that is seemingly unrestricted. For example: anyone can die, inadvertently or through the player’s own decisions; decisions which can and do have lasting repercussions on major plot threads (without simply failing them). This choice can be painstaking at times – there isn’t always an obviously ‘correct’ answer, and sometimes characters are forced into doing morally ambiguous things because of how events have played out.
This should be applauded. Too many times RPGs, or story-driven games in general, give players the illusion of choice; in reality, all threads lead to a couple of outcomes at best. Not in this game. Choices carry real weight but never seem to be game-breaking (even if you try!) and it makes the player feel like they are part of this world’s tapestry. In all honesty, it is an incredible achievement by Larian and should not be understated.
I found Divinity: Original Sin’s battle system to be fun, challenging and oftentimes a source of great frustration. The same can largely be said for DOS2. This is not a complaint – battles are (for the most part) fair. When my party is getting annihilated during a particular encounter, I usually know when it’s due to strategical error on my part, or I’m simply not ready to take on the fight.
At its core, the combat of DOS2 is a standard turn-based affair. Characters have action points, which equate to the amount of movement (how far they can traverse on the battlefield) and manoeuvres (attack moves, or casting a skill) that can be conducted in a single turn. Levelling up a character and unlocking certain perks can increase the available action points, and what havoc that character is able to unleash when using those points.
Players will want to familiarise themselves with the strategical aspects of combat as soon as possible, as much like its predecessor, DOS2 can be extremely unforgiving. Understanding all the elements, the perks, buffs and debuffs, is key to success and minimising extended bouts of frustration. As I alluded to earlier, having a varied party is also fundamentally important. Luckily, DOS2 is very generous when it comes to developing the traits and talents of party members – which is both useful and fun.
Freedom of choice is a wonderful thing, and this game has it in abundance. In a way, it saddens me to think that I have likely already missed numerous small-yet-endearing side quests; that I’ve passed characters by without ever knowing the stories they have to tell. This game is magical, and magically intense – it is an experience that has been passionately and painstakingly realised by developer Larian.
How to sum it all up? I’ll (finally) be succinct and simply say this: Divinity: Original Sin 2 is one of the best RPGs I have ever played.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.