It’s no secret that every time I saw Divinity: Original Sin 2, I was amazed by what the team at Larian were doing as they always had something to say that would make me question just how it’s possible. While the game’s Early Access period may have given players a taste of what’s on offer, the full package is something to behold and I would not hesitate to recommend it, despite it being as hard as a fortified steel wall.
Let’s be frank, even though it’s a CRPG in the classic style, there’s a lot of merit in the artistic design, with gorgeous environments and special effects, and highly detailed characters and NPCs. Coupled with a soundtrack that’s epic and enchanting, as well as mostly decent voice acting that’s present throughout the game, Divinity: Original Sin 2 certainly has style.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. While having played the original game is recommended, the lore is perfectly accessible to newer players. Your character, whether you choose one with an origin or create your own, is captured and sent to what is essentially a prison camp for Source users, complete with collars that suppress their powers.
The game’s central theme is one of oppression. Source users are treated horribly by Magisters because they blame the Source users for the appearance of a demonic force called the Voidwoken. But really this conflict impacts more than just these two groups as everyone and everything is affected in some way. One can even learn the plight of the animals around you, provided someone in the party has the Pet Pal perk.
The story is something of a slow burner to begin with, taking a long time to get off the first island. It’s also quite easy to miss out on certain objects entirely – there’s a face ripper that’s found in one area that I now can’t return to unless I restart. Yet the most rewarding thing about the game is the sense of discovery. When a quest is given, there is a general sense of direction and notes in the journal, but really it’s up to the player how to tackle each situation.
One particular quest I was proud of my solution for was to kill some Silent Monks in the house where the quest-giver’s parents had lived. Standing guard were two arguing Paladins who wouldn’t let me pass, but by waiting for an opening and utilising a couple of teleport spellcasters, I snuck my party in and dispatched the Silent Monks with the Paladins none-the-wiser. Yet my reward was a chunk of experience, nothing more, not even gratitude from the grieving man burying his parents.
There are other instances that felt like mini-adventures, such as digging up a grave of a skeleton, only to be challenged to a battle of wits, or finding a troll who wanted me to kill the other troll because his toll prices were way too low and he didn’t like that his competition was doing better than he was. Yet there’s so much of the world that you can miss too and it’s largely down to the Tag system.
Tags define how the world sees your character. They not only govern which voice clips to play – it’s astounding that the entire game is voice acted – but also if they like or hate you based on your race or creed. It brings a level of immersion that’s seldom present in games. It allowed me to care how my party survived, what they should do next, and how to respond. Ultimately, it felt like role-playing, an important factor which very few RPGs nail.
It sounds like everything is nigh-on perfect for a CRPG, yet there is one confession that leads me to perhaps the most critical thing I could possibly say about Divinity: Original Sin 2. I have to admit, after a good 8 hours struggling with the combat, I adjusted the difficulty down to the easiest difficulty – Explorer.
Combat is at times ruthless, even in Explorer, and careful planning is often required to survive even the most basic of encounters. Some will relish the challenge, particularly after their first playthrough, and those players will get a kick out of Divinity: Original Sin 2, but for those wishing to be immersed in the world this may be a barrier, mostly due to the fact that magic is somewhat unorthodox when it comes to healing.
But once you have a set of skills on hand and know when to pick your battles, combat in Divinity: Original Sin 2 is fantastic. With new skill classes to tap into such as Polymorph – which among other things can allow you to turn enemies into chickens, it’s refreshing to see so many different combinations, including certain skills requiring proficiency in more than one class.
Aside from this, it’s largely unchanged mechanically from the turn-based combat of the first game. With an emphasis on ground effects and casting spells on enemies to create reactions, it’s a smart system that rewards observation. That said, the AI is very aware of this as well, meaning that more often than not you’ll need to move your party out of a fire. I didn’t find any issues with the interface, though management of tabs is vital to not dying.
In a world where microtransactions seem rampant across the industry, it’s refreshing to see the breadth of features that have been included in Divinity: Original Sin 2. For £29.99 – or your regional equivalent – there’s a campaign that can easily reach the 100 hour mark, but also an online PvP Arena mode if you’re into that sort of thing and the GM mode (you can read more about that here). To quote a certain orange British TV personality, it’s a bobby dazzler and for all the content – cheap as chips!
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the strongest CRPG in decades, with a fascinating plot that enthrals, despite taking a while to get going and being hard as nails at times. It’s the little adventures that flesh out the world and so much of it can be missed at first glance because you didn’t have the right skill or failed a persuasion check. Massive in scope and jam packed with features that includes a GM mode that shows a surprising amount of customisation with great ease, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a bumper package.