Divinity: Original Sin was a landmark title for Belgian developer Larian Studios. A true RPG in the classic Baldur’s Gate style, it featured a story filled with personality and a wealth of player choice, and an exceptionally deep turn-based combat system that rewarded experimentation. Funded by Kickstarter, the developers produced a wonderfully well-crafted game that earned some seriously glowing reviews.
Based on the strength of the first game, Original Sin 2 also gained its funding from Kickstarter. It met its goal in 12 hours, and went on to exceed it massively. And Larian delivered; Original Sin 2 improves on its predecessor in pretty much every way.
This is an enormous, gorgeous, deep game that will eat up literal weeks of your playtime to fully experience. The tone is much the same as the first game, albeit a shade darker this time around. It rides the fine line between Pratchett-esque comedy and darker fantasy themes, and the aesthetic matches the tone with an art style that is slightly quirky but with moments of pure beauty. Player-made choices truly resonate in the world and shape your play-through, from the choice of your character’s race at the beginning of the game, to the choice of who you spare from your wrath later on.
There are rich options for character interaction with the world; conversation responses to NPCs are determined by attributes called Tags assigned to a character at the point of creation. When an NPC speaks to you, you can respond with snarky wit if you have the ‘Jester’ tag, or with sage-like wisdom with the ‘Scholar’ or ‘Mystic’ tag.
There are also race-specific tags that aid immersion; your character feels like part of the world because they can behave appropriately for their race, and NPCs can react to them appropriately. Players who choose to play as the new race of Undead will find that they are reviled by almost every non-undead NPC, unless they are wearing a hood or one of the various craftable masks.
Larian have also introduced the ability to play as one of a set of pre-defined ‘Origin’ characters. While some people may be put off by this idea in favour of pure character creation, those who choose to pick one of the Origin characters will be treated to more voice acting and more conversation tags specific to each one. These characters have all been given a back-story (an origin if you will…), and will also follow their own story arc within the main tale. The red-and-white haired eccentric enchanter Lohse is possessed by a dark entity that she needs to be rid of, and the Undead Wizard Fane is trying to uncover an ancient truth. Don’t worry if the Origin characters intrigue you but you still want to create your own character; they can also join you as companions, of which you can have three.
Abilities are the upgradeable foundation stats of your characters, and are split between Combat Abilities that increase your effectiveness with weapons or magic, and Civil Abilities that govern your skills outside of fighting. The options are simple on the surface; the Ranged Combat Ability will increase damage and Critical Chance with bows and crossbows, and the Thievery Civil Ability improves your lock picking and pickpocketing skills. But like everything in this game, there are hidden depths of advantage and disadvantage to weigh up in every point you spend.
Crafting is back, and this time the kinks from the first game have been ironed out. Whereas previously you would’ve needed to have a sufficiently high Crafting or Blacksmithing skill to do it, now anyone can create potions and gear providing you have the correct recipes. Powerful items are created through the combining of lesser items, and this time around some recipes will require up to five different ingredients, where the first game only allowed combinations of two.
Aside from the stellar character-building and story interaction, the real meat and potatoes of Original Sin II is in the combat. If you played the first game you will be very familiar with it; turn based skirmishes where every action costs Action Points (AP), and the battlefields are littered with traps and opportunities. Do you save your AP for that AoE attack? Or do you spend some AP moving to a more defensible position?
The environment is important, and attack ranges and line of sight need to be considered. Status effects are key; get your enemies in a pool of water and an electrical attack will devastate them, and equally that water can help you out if you are being burnt by the enemy. Have your archer fire a poisonous gas arrow into a crowd of enemies, and then have your mage ignite that cloud. The turn-based nature of the combat allows for creative strategies or straight-forward fighting, and the complexity or simplicity is left to the player.
Or more accurately, it’s left to the players, plural. The entire campaign is designed to be played co-operatively, with up to four players. Playing this game with friends will make you feel like you are playing a table top RPG because of the sheer amount of ridiculous scenarios you and your buddies will be placed in, and the unpredictable battles you will fight together. This is clearly something that Larian were going for, because there is even a brand new Game Master mode which explicitly offers a Dungeons and Dragons type experience.
This mode is completely separate from the main game, and allows users to create entire campaigns of their own, complete with custom maps and items. You won’t be able to change the core mechanics of Original Sin II, you’ll still be battling the custom enemies using AP and turn-taking, but the potential of this feature is as close to limitless as you could hope for.
Want more? Another new feature is the Arena, which allows players to test themselves against other human players for the first time. Sure to settle a few arguments, it is another example of the developer’s apparent devotion to bang-for-your-buck content quantity. In the age of micro-transactions and pre-loaded DLC, this is a wonderful breath of fresh air.
Divinity: Original Sin II delivers everything you could ask for in a sequel, and more. Larian Studios have proven themselves to be developers dedicated to the art of game-making, providing a content rich experience where every element shines with quality. It is equally an engaging campaign for people playing solo, and a hilarious co-operative romp for groups of friends. If you missed out on the first game, there is no need to go back to it in order to enjoy this one, you can start here. If you are an RPG fan, you can do no better in 2017 than this.