A Life In Sin
When Divinity: Original Sin dropped in 2014, it hit me like a freight train. After reading the review posted by friend and colleague Derk Bil here at the site I was convinced I had to check it out. What his review didn't prepare me for, was just how truly blown away I'd be by reliving my childhood in the modern era, seeing a true CRPG come to life for the first time in years.
Plucking the strings of nostalgia for games from the past like Baldur's Gate, Divinity: Original Sin steamrolled its way to popularity, paving the way for a resurrgence of CRPG titles over the next few years. Still riding the hype caused by the original, Larian Studios brought Divinity: Original Sin 2 to Kickstarter, then to Steam Early Access, and now the final product has released. Does it stand up to the original Original Sin? Or does it have a case of Sequel Sufferings?
From the beginning, players have even MORE freedom than in Divinity: Original Sin 2's predecessor. In Divinity Original Sin, players could only create human starting characters consisting of twelve preset classes (Witch, Wizard, Battlemage, Cleric, Enchanter, Fighter, Inquisitor, Knight, Ranger, Rogue, Shadowblade, and Wayfarer respectively). It had a deep draw that you were not necessarily bound to these classes however, opting for a classless approach you could expand upon to really forge your own playstyle as the game went on.
Now, in Original Sin 2, players are granted not only two new class presets (Metamorph and Conjurer) but also the ability to play as four races (humans, dwarves, elves, and lizards. Yes, lizards!) and, perhaps more epically, undead versions of all four races that make the gameplay harder because you both have to keep your undead state hidden from the population, and healing magics often have the opposite effect on you. So as a quick recap, that's four playable races, four undead variants of those races, and now 14 classes. On top of that, if you don't want to take the time to make your own character, you can pick one of six premade characters that have their own drives and stories to pursue. Should you make your own character though, you can still encounter them in game and recruit them as party members.
Once you've chosen your character, customized them the way you see fit (right down to the instrument type you want to play in the background during key moments for them), a brief introduction shows a witch putting magic on display, thus summoning several different voidlings to bare causing chaos. Her intent, or so the opening claims, was to be captured. Upon her capture, the image fades to your character awakening, strapped to a table with a collar around their neck. What sounds like the aftermath of a fun night is actually you waking up in the bowels of a prison transport ship headed by Magisters who are gathering up the Source wielding populace (Divinity's name for magical essence, instead of Mana like most games) and taking them to isolation at the island of Fort Joy.
It's on this ship you'll learn the very basics, as well as conduct your first few quests. It's more of a refresher course than anything, and doesn't take all that long (unless you're like me and insist on clicking everything to see if some new items or new dialogue would pop up.). After a climactic ending to this tutorial area, players find themselves washed up on a beach. From there, the game stops holding your hand and you're on your own. If you're someone who finds games like Skyrim overwhelming because of the freedom, then Divinity: Original Sin 2 may be far more daunting for you. Not in terms of where you will go, but the freedom of what you can do and how to do it is just astounding.
The Freedom Of Roleplay
The turn based combat is as crisp and clean as the last game. Based around a certain number of Action Points per turn, players must strategically guide their party through the battles and utilize not just their spells and abilities, but the environment to their advantage as well. See an oil puddle? Set it on fire. No oil puddle? THROW SOME OIL THEIR WAY! In a slippery situation? Make it slippier by freezing water beneath the feet of your enemies. This combination of traditional turn based combat, plus a real attention to environmental effects really fleshes out the combat to make it one of the most satisfying experiences in the game. But, your freedom in the way you fight doesn't end there.
The big draw for me, in both Divinity: Original Sin and the sequel, is that it's not always fight-or-flight. Some games give you game-changing dialogue, but Divinity: Original Sin poured it on in such a way where diplomacy was often favorable. The same can be said for Original Sin 2, four fold at least. The dialogue in this game is not only well written, and well voice acted, but very frequently the way you've built your character can lead to new dialogue options that can gain favor, strike fear, or enrage those you're talking to. After I actually finish this first playthrough as my dwarf, I think I'll attempt the game as an Undead and see if I can't give them the gift of the silver tongue and talk my way through as much of the game as possible. It really is amazing seeing how much love and care went into an aspect that is sadly, all too often overlooked in the RPG world; word before action.
Fighting, diplomacy, and even puzzles rear their somewhat annoying heads. It's not that I hate puzzles, but sometimes in a game like this the solutions can get a bit blurred or obscured. I did find myself stuck on a few occassions, where I had to shamefully turn to the internet for assistance to find the solutions to these puzzles (if I weren't on a timeframe to get a review out, I'd still be knocking my head on the keyboad hoping to solve it.) But the puzzles I actually could solve on my own left me with feelings of satisifaction and accomplishment.
Onward To Glory
Divinity: Original Sin 2 takes what the last game did, and juices it up to levels beyond what the doctor recommends. By maximizing its strengths, and finding new ways to improve on weaknesses, it knocks down barriers and locked doors alike in a power move to rush towards one of my favorite games of the year. Though it does have its flaws in the form of small technical glitches, and one really annoying one where sometimes my characters would stop moving as a party unless I manually did it myself, this is an imperfect gem that manages even in imperfection to put some of my favorite RPGs to shame. Well done Larian Studios, well done!
Improves upon what made Divinity: Original Sin so successful, as well as expanding on everything from the game world to the mechanics in great strides
Some puzzles are pretty grueling/time consuming, various small technical flaws and glitches dotted throughout