Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Larian Studios
Platform: Windows 10
Similar to SteamWorld Dig 2, I went into Divinity: Original Sin 2 with high expectations having played the first game and really enjoying it. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a role playing game where players take on the role of either one of six characters who have a backstory, or one of their own creation in a quest to become a deity. Each character has a selection of skills and attributes that determine their proficiency at combat, persuasion, slight of hand, and bartering, among others. Similar to other RPGs, there are a number of quests that can be completed upon your journey with many featuring several paths to completion. Divinity’s combat is turn based, using an ability point system where movement and abilities both have an AP cost. As a result there are strategic elements in combat revolving around AP management, and positioning. It’s a slower paced game, but with the kind of detailed characters, quests, and world that will likely engage seasoned veterans of the genre.
My favourite addition to Original Sin 2 is the extra layer of strategy that was added through revising how defensive traits work. In the previous game defence served as a way to reduce incoming attack damage, and status ailments could be avoided at a set percentage based on your character’s attributes. In the sequel both of these functions have been rolled into the armor stat. Armor will protect from all incoming damage until it becomes fully degraded at which point damage is applied to hit points. It is also in this state where a character becomes vulnerable to status ailments. Subsequently, a much greater emphasis has been placed on maintaining armor during a fight, as well as deciding when and how you are going to use your abilities to reduce your opponent’s armor. For instance, if the enemy is using a lot of skills with secondary knockdown effects then it would be advantageous for your party to bolster physical defence to prevent immobility. Similarly, strategies can be devised by the player to utilize certain types of attack combinations that can lock down an entire group of enemies with a particular status ailment. I found the extra layer of complexity really aided in making the combat feel more strategic and thoughtful, which made it more enjoyable.
In addition to the new armor system, Divinity: Original Sin 2 also dramatically improved in terms of player freedom as it pertains to quest completion. Akin to the first game, there are multiple paths to finish any given quest, and in a lot of cases your imagination can be the only limiting factor in the exact execution. For instance, there was a group of squatters that a lady requested I remove from her school house. To achieve this I convinced them that I had received a divine premonition that requested they gather in the local cathedral. I could have just as easily killed the group on the spot, or attempted to lure them out of the school house. This kind of flexibility in how problems are approached allows for a lot of creativity from players, while also providing immense replay value in subsequent playthroughs.
Further, the freedom in quest completion put a greater emphasis on exploration and experimentation. Because every quest had multiple branching paths I found myself spending a lot of my time travelling through every nook and cranny of the map. Exploring always felt rewarding as each area is so densely packed with potential new ideas, or context that can be leveraged to solve quests. For example, I had to aid someone who was fending off attackers across a river. Instead of finding a bridge I could cross, I used a teleportation skill to get across the water. There was one very specific spot where I could manage this so that the spell would actually put my party across the river. It’s because of events, like my example above, that exploration feels rewarding as you can benefit greatly from a keen eye, and taking the time to turn over every stone in your adventure.
Finally, an improvement over the original game, and a positive feature on its own, is the character stories that are found within Divinity: Original Sin 2. Unlike the first game, there are six origin story characters who have their own backstory, and unique dialogue options in many of the game’s conversations. Having a character who’s history defines how they perceive different events in the game, and playing into that role helped to further my engagement with Original Sin 2. It was really interesting to think less about how I might respond to any given situation and to instead respond to it as my character would. Larian even accounted for certain actions changing the perception of each of the characters, so dialogue that is specific to a given character can have multiple variances. I played as Sebille, a hardened assassin who was seeking revenge for her past. Throughout my journey with Sebille there were instances where she was given the opportunity to doubt the righteousness of her quest, which allowed for her to grow as a person rather than being motivated solely by hatred for the entire game. These kinds of details made the character writing quite compelling throughout the entirety of Divinity.
Similar to the first game, and many other RPGs, Original Sin 2’s opening hours are exhaustively slow. The beginning of the game places you into Fort Joy, a relatively easy to navigate map that will teach you how to play the game through its design. Very little is explicitly explained and players are allowed to experiment while learning at their own pace. While having a less heavy handed approach to a tutorial works wonders in the long run, it does outstay its welcome. What is so disappointing about this, is that it starts the game off with a fairly weak first impression, and may even be too drawn out for some players to push through. Once you make it past the opening part of Original Sin 2 the pace picks up, but getting to that point can take upwards of ten hours. I would have appreciated if the tutorial area had been a bit smaller, so that I could have more readily gotten to the better part of the game.
My next big criticism against Divinity: Original Sin 2 is how it will occasionally have dialogue inconsistencies because of the actions a player takes. With a game that is as open as D:OS2 there are bound to be situations that Larian hasn’t fully anticipated leading to some odd dialogue. For instance, upon arriving on the third island I decided to go exploring instead of confronting a group of important story characters. While exploring I accidentally found an event trigger that caused this same party to move on to another location, thus skipping the confrontation. When I later arrived at the area some of the NPCs spoke as if I had made a big decision there, which confused me. What was even more bewildering was later in the game when a party member referenced the entire event that we hadn’t been apart of, and scorned me for my actions. It wasn’t until I looked up the full quest online that I realized what had transpired. While my example is an extreme one, there were other instances of characters referencing decisions I hadn’t necessarily made throughout my journey. I was always taken aback when it happened as it broke a bit of my engagement with the game. It would be nice if some of these inconsistencies were remedied in future patches.
Thirdly, I was not a fan of how gear scaling worked within Divinity: Original Sin 2. Throughout Divinity you will find a variety of weapons and equipment for your band of heroes. In the beginning of my adventure it was very gratifying to find a rare piece of gear which had particularly good bonus stat modifiers. There was always a sense of thrill when I found exactly what I was looking for in a new weapon. However, by about the midway point of the game, around level eleven, all of the equipment begins to scale at a disproportionate rate. At higher levels a common tier equip that is one level higher than an epic tier equip will completely outclass it requiring players to upgrade gear every level or risk falling behind. After a few levels of replacing all of my armor, weapons, and accessories with store bought gear I wasn’t able to get excited about finding any new equipment as I knew it would need to be replaced as soon as I leveled up. Finding a legendary weapon was meaningless as a weapon a single level higher would provide a greater attack benefit to my player character. Because of this I found gear acquisition to be rather unpleasant, despite it being something I enjoy in other games.
Finally, I thought it worth mentioning that I ran into a few performance issues and crashes with Original Sin 2. Despite having well above the recommended specs, the game crashed on me five times after overloading my GTX 970. I was running the game at a custom medium-high graphics configuration, which made this even more perplexing as a GTX 770 is the GPU recommended on Divinity’s store page. In addition, some combat encounters with large volumes of weather, or elemental effects caused the framerate to drop down to the high thirties. The crashes were the more frustrating issues as I lost progress when those occurred, but neither issue heavily detracted from my overall experience with the game. Like the dialogue inconsistency issue, if Larian applies a bit more spit and polish these problems could be removed from the game for future players.
Even though Divinity: Original Sin 2 lacks some of the polish of its predecessor I still think it’s a phenomenal RPG. The writing, overhauled combat, and quest design are superb providing an astonishing level of freedom to players. I’ve spent so much time combing through every inch of the game’s world and I still don’t think I’ve seen all Divinity: Original Sin 2 has to offer. Despite the gear scaling, dialogue, and performance problems, as well as the slow opening, I would highly recommend Original Sin 2 to fans of these kinds of games. It’s one of the best RPGs I’ve played, and with a bit of patching for additional polish it could become the very best.