Divinity: Original Sin 2 is quickly moving up my list of all-time favorites… few, if any, have succeeded to this degree.
I can’t recall how many times I’ve been sitting around a game table in a friend's basement, my fingers and beard crusted in orange dust from a divinely inspired snack that somewhat resembles cheese, and thought to myself, “This would make a great video game.” I’ve played lots of Dungeon and Dragons inspired titles, such as Baldur's Gate and the Neverwinter Nights series, and while I've enjoyed them, none of them felt as true to the tabletop experience as Divinity: Original Sin 2. Larian Studios kicked off this massively ambitious title with a Kickstarter campaign whose success rivaled this ambition. The campaign destroyed the initial $500,000 goal set by Larian Studios on its first day, and by the end, totaled over $2,000,000. The title, a classic roleplayer riding on the success of its predecessor, then went on to hit Steam with an energy and excitement that harkened by to its Kickstarter campaign. Original Sin 2 broke records for the genre with 75,000 concurrent players two days after -- launch and growing.
Every decision you make, whether in character creation or dialogue, can impact your playthrough, and while this has been promised for years by other franchises, few, if any, have succeeded to this degree. This level of detail is evident from your first introduction to character creation. Similar to the 2014 entry, Divinity: Original Sin, there are four playable races: Dwarf, Elf, Human, and Lizard, as well as an additional undead option for each base race. Additionally, you’re given the choice of selecting named ‘origin’ characters that have distinct backgrounds and story lines. Along with the actual look of your character, you’re given a number of classes from which to choose, as one would expect from this style of RPG. However, these are all just basic templates that can be heavily customized. You have the ability to adjust your attributes along with ten skills, each giving you the choice of four abilities with which to heal your party or crush your enemies. There are also offensive and defensive capabilities which offer bonuses in combat, such as two-handed weapons or dual wielding. You can also choose talents, which are gained each level, and tags for your character’s origin that give you unique conversation choices. You can even choose the instrument that’s most prevalent in the background music.
All these options allow each player to become immersed in a character with whom they’ll spend a significant amount of time. This can also contribute to a sense of ‘Character ADD.’ In the hours that I spent playing, I made several characters and ran them through the introduction story on the way to, and arriving in, Fort Joy. The abilities available based on class and race actually made a lot of difference, and questions as to how people would treat an undead, or what could I learn by eating a corpse or two, drew me back to the beginning. I spent hours trying to find that perfect character; I can’t say that I’ve settled on one yet.
The theme of Original Sin 2 is so open that it’s simultaneously the biggest strength as well as a major distraction.
If you’re a completionist, or a person who likes a clear path in completing objectives, you may find this a challenge. There are times when you will have quests that you’re dying to finish but have no clue what to do next. Likewise, you may want to change party members in an attempt to anticipate an upcoming obstacle, but in doing so, remove a character from the party and miss an opportunity to advance their quest line. Going into this game, which boasts well over seventy-thousand fully voiced lines of dialogue, with the understanding that it will be necessary to play through the game more than once will save you a lot of sanity. You are able to adjust the primary class of each of the named personas to round out your party, so hopefully that will save you some headache when deciding which characters to follow on your next playthrough.
The single most impressive point of Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the aforementioned dialogue. The voice acting, in particular for a publisher/developer with only and handful of titles under their belt, is phenomenal. Larian Studios has put those crowdfunded dollars to work with twelve hundred characters voiced by a cast of eighty actors. These artists are backed by a musical score that allows you to fully experience the story that is unfolding before you.
Along with the inspired sound design, the graphics have received massive improvements.
The characters still have cartoon like qualities but are highly detailed and the theme holds strong to allow a suspension of disbelief as your equipment gets more and more elaborate. The isometric view gives you a great view of your surroundings and every locale has been meticulously crafted. Most of the elements on screen will go a long way in either giving or taking your tactical advantage in battle. Being aware of your surroundings is an absolute must for this game, even on the easiest of the four difficulty settings.
The combat and control schemes are what you would expect from a classic RPG. The action point system is easy to get a basic hang of, but difficult to master, and even lower level enemies can be a challenge if you don’t plan very well. Even though, on higher difficulties, combat can be rough, there are plenty of tools at your disposal to help you succeed, such as being able to see the enemy’s viewable area so you can decide whether to don your bush costume and sneak past or stand and fight.
The point and click movement model works well, although I’m ashamed to admit it took me way too long to figure out how to rotate the map. Moving through character pages and inventories is incredibly easy. A simple arrow to swap party members easily is an absolute pleasure, especially when dealing with the arduous task of inventory regulation. There’s so much to pick up from looting enemies, opening chests or barrels, and just items lying on the ground, that you will quickly fill up your inventory. While the crafting system is fairly robust, most of the recipes aren’t terribly complicated, so while the need for all these items isn’t terribly compelling, the hoarding nature of the genre will have you hanging on to more than you truly require.
There are a few additional features of Original Sin 2 that give you more of that table top feel. The first is the co-op multiplayer feature which offers genuine freedom. This can be a boon or bust for this experience as each player in the session can move freely. If one player wants to advance the story lines as fast as possible but the other just wants to search for fat loot it can cause issues as both of these can be accomplished independently. Some players may miss important scenes or dialogue because they aren’t even in the area or party members can snatch up all the booty hanging other players out to dry. The moral of this story is: communicate with your party and know who you’re playing with.
The Verdict: Genre Revolution
With Divinity: Original Sin 2, Larian Studios creates a title that brings together the best aspects of table-top and classic roleplaying games. The graphics, along with the score and voice acting, are painstakingly detailed and are truly awe-inspiring. Every decision you make, from character creation to dialogue, will affect your experience, giving you a slightly different playthrough every time. This is not a game for the casual player, however. The sheer size of the game and the difficulty of some battles will require dozens of hours and have you loading quicksaves time and again. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is quickly moving up my list of all-time favorites.