Have you ever played a Tabletop game with other people? Say, a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with a particularly skilled Dungeon Master? A DM so dedicated to the craft that every direction and piece of land has been painstakingly detailed and worked out. Where you can't even move for ten paces or you run into someone or something. The map is gigantic, filled with opportunities or stories. Every NPC has something to share, every enemy is there for a reason, even the animals all serve a purpose! This Roleplayer's dream has largely come true. The first Divinity: Original Sin was a game you could get lost in for the first few hours, but persistent players found themselves slowly getting bored as the game went on, something the game would become heavily criticized for. After a successful Kickstarter, we are left with the question. Does Divinity: Original Sin II succeed its predecessor as a worthwhile complete experience?
True enough, Divinity: Original Sin II may be the largest RPG to date that stays true to its core genre, going above and beyond to give you a system that presents an exceedingly lengthy campaign and can also serve as a solid basis for up to five people to have a custom experience of their own.
When it comes to the world and its story, nothing is improvised, and everything is waiting for your interaction. No detail left untouched, no stone unturned. Nothing changes in the world at any time unless you have influenced it so, making everything is a set piece. NPCs oftentimes have many things to tell you, sometimes involving a quest you're on or one they want to hand to you. Sometimes they'll even hold vital information that you may have to persuade out of them. In some cases, it's entirely possible to dissuade these NPCs from engaging in combat with you. Considering that you're a dangerous Sourcerer, many have a valid reason to!
Choices stand central to many an RPG, though most of them do this through conversation solely. Original Sin often presents you with more choices than you realize. Some quests react to you fleeing, and choosing or failing to avoid a violent outcome can lead to another pair of consequences altogether. Sneak about and steal a quest object, or go out of your way to find a random flower that puts a rabid unwilling cannibal at ease so he can reunite with his Magister daughter without his madness threatening her. Actually, what if your choice of character at the beginning is a choice in and of itself?
The main character that I chose to play with was Lohse. From the get-go, you're informed that you're possessed with a particularly stubborn demon of sorts that likes to briefly take over and influence your conversation with others. In particular, there was this Seer Elf named Saheila that had a unique conversation with Lohse. The Demon that resides within her was still quite an enigma at the time, and she could offer answers. These answers would only come after several speech checks. In fact, I never managed to succeed in all of them, resulting in my Demon forcing me to become hostile to the Elf.
Despite this, the game will insist that there are always methods of figuring out what to do and methods to do so. At some point, you'll be able to see and talk to ghosts, and the Pet Pal Talent will give you the ability to talk to animals, who in their turn may have interesting information for you. When you explore everything and make sure you can find every piece of information you can, you'll often find overlapping pieces of information that reconfirm one another. I've had a ghost literally say what a nearby rat was vaguely hinting at. In hindsight, I realize now that the hint the rat provided might have sufficed in the end had I only that to go on.
When your honeyed words fail (or were of no use to begin with), you're oftentimes left with no choice but to take up arms and defend yourself. Thankfully, combat is one of the aspects where Original Sin truly shines. Most RPGs classically make use of systems such as skills, turns and sometimes even action points. Original Sin expands on this with ground effects, a mechanic that has become pretty much iconic to the series by now. Combining oil barrels with fire is a common sight in video games, and so is combining some electricity with a puddle of water. In Original Sin it goes beyond that. Douse that oil fire with water (even though that's actually the opposite of what you should do in real life), the resulting smoke blocks the view for everyone. Now you can poison or shock that smoke cloud. Every element can be reacted to if you have the tools or spells to do so.
Making good use of these elements is what made me often feel like a clever tactician in this game. Oftentimes you'll be facing odds that seem nigh-on impossible to overcome. Being outnumbered by the vast Magister army is not uncommon, and once in a while you'll run into an enemy that also knows how to turn the table on you. There's always a solution, always something you can do. Sometimes that's to flee and level up some more, sometimes it's realizing the enemy will go to great lengths to avoid ground effects. That can be exploited by using the right spells or items, forcing the enemy to spend more action points going around, or suffering an effect by going through it. A personal trick of mine is to set up a wall of barrels sneakily and teleport several enemies behind them right before combat is about to start.
That tactical edge is what you'll need the most. You can sneak about, pickpocket enemies, and even avoid a confrontation altogether. In fact, sneaking also has a tactical application to prepare for combat. If you keep your companions temporarily out of range, you can use them to ambush the opponent before they're added to the turn queue. Sneak your bowman up high and fire one free shot as it breaks their sneak mode. Or aggro the enemy with one character and have them run back, luring them right into an ambush. Original Sin will support almost every angle that you could wish to approach combat with, even the ridiculous ones. Want to stuff heavy items into a barrel and use telekinesis to drop it on an enemy? That's lovingly called barrelmancy by fans and is wholly supported.
To balance these options out, a thorough and in-depth character system needs to be put in place. As befitting a classic RPG, you have far more than mere basic stats to define your character with. Strength, Finesse, Constitution, Memory and Wits are the basic stats, each either having a logical influence on your character or benefitting them in a different, more subtle way. For example, memory will allow you to remember more spells at one time, while Wits affects Critical Attack Chance, Initiative (how quick it's your turn in combat) and your ability to randomly detect traps and hidden treasures. All of these can also be a statistic in a conversation where you need to convince someone.
Tags are what define your character at their core. Beyond gender and race, custom characters can have a choice between two more while Origin characters have two pre-defined to them. They serve as a sort of background trait that may give you highly contextual options in some conversations, and rarely have a chance in helping during persuasion. Ranging between Barbarian, Scholar, Noble, Soldier and so many more, most of the conversational outcomes provided by these are rather moot outside of persuasion opportunities. Some tags can also be earned, mostly through your actions, with tags such as Hero or Villain leaving little to guess as to what is required to earn them. These too can prove useful during certain specific conversations.
Combat and Civil Abilities also serve a purpose of their own. Combat skills are divided into two portions, with Weapon and Defense skills serving for passive bonuses such as more damage for a specific weapon type. On the second part, you have an array of skills that pertain to every combat style possible, with half of them being magical. You see, it's all fine and well that you know a skill or have a skillbook for it ready. However, if you don't have the prerequisite skill stats for it, you can't use or learn it. Add to it that these stats also increase damage for their associated style. This makes for a careful balancing act, as it is possible to be a Jack of all trades but master of none. Higher level spells hold some power, with the top-tier ones oftentimes requiring a little Source.
To explain Source is to explain the combat system more. Most skills balance out in two ways. They have an Action Point cost, of which you start with a limited amount and regenerate some on your next turn. Then there are also cooldowns, which vary from skill to skill but require careful consideration in and of themselves. Figuring out the best rotation of cooldowns and Action Point usage is key to being a true threat on the battlefield. Source is a possible third need, serving as a kind of limited mana bar that doesn't regenerate in of itself. Fueling skills that can truly change the outlook of a battle. To get Source may often prove controversial and is a cornerstone to the plot.
Source is often obtained from liquid puddles, generally found in areas where some Source-related activity is taking place. Some Sourcerers with the ability to see ghosts of the deceased can also consume these spirits to refill their own Source reserves. Finally, it's rumored that the highly dangerous Voidwoken are attracted whenever Source magic is used nearby.
For that reason, you find yourself on a ship heading towards an infamous prison. You wear a snug and brightly looking collar, and quickly find out that the one Source skill you have is effectively blocked from usage. You are a prisoner, captured by the Magisters because of your ability to use these controversial spells, and are taken to Fort Joy, a prison island run by the Magisters where Sourcerers can be "cured". Your fellow inmates have such a collar on too, though there are five to six of these inmates that stand out in particular.
That count depends on whether you've opted to play one yourself. You can choose to have a custom character as you like, being able to choose between Human, Elf, Lizard or Dwarf and change their appearances just like you could in the last game. It is also possible to play as an undead version of these races, which comes with its own narrative and combat consequences. Undead characters heal from poison and get harmed by healing spells, but there is also a social stigma surrounding them, causing most who see your true visage to flee or attack in fear. Thankfully, one of Original Sin's jokes return. Buckets work as headgear, and will effectively hide your face, allowing you to blend in and converse with NPCs.
The other option is to pick from one of six Origin characters. Besides the main storyline, every one of the Origin characters has a story of their own and a challenge to overcome. They are just as customizable as a custom character save for race, gender, voice and their starting Source Skill, which custom characters all share anyway.
If you choose one as your main avatar, you get to make pretty much all the choices that relate to their story. You'll be provided the full perspective on what they have endured and conversational options marked by their name offer you extra insight on how past, present and future events reflect upon them on their own character. The other five characters will instead be recruitable as party members instead. Their story can still unfold if you choose to pursue it, which can affect them both in terms of their appreciation of you, and their importance later in the story.
Especially when it comes to Act 2, you may notice that Origin characters have a way of fitting in the world in their own way. For some characters, it's their professional occupation, past or present. For most, race holds a lot of sway in the world of Rivellon, as war and death have urged many to collude almost exclusively with their own race. Xenophobia is a frequent appearance, especially when overhearing conversations. Though it doesn't pertain that often to your own playable characters unless your conversational partner is particularly stuck-up over such things.
Whomever or whatever you choose to have dealings with, it is important to point out that your ears are in for a delight with this game. Every named or unnamed character is voiced by very skillful voice actors. If you happen to have the pet Pal talent, you'll notice that all the animals are too. Rats are squeaky, bunnies are jittery, crustaceans are pompous and slightly threatening, turtles are sluggish and wise. Poultry are both goofy and oblivious yet surprisingly have the capability of featuring in an extended plot of their own. Every character varies in tone, accent, and enthusiasm, all connected to the faction they belong to, their own rank, appreciation and satisfaction about their predicament. Everyone has a reason for how they present themselves, and the voice acting perfectly matches their plight.
Not to forget the narrator. I can't bring to words how well he performs his part. Every line that isn't spoken by a character is narrated masterfully. There are scenes where he describes visions and magical changes to scenery, all while the visual area stays unchanged. The narration is so on point, you can't help be drawn in and use your own imagination to fill in the splendor that has befallen your character. It is a compliment to not only the narrator and voice actors, but to the writers as well.
It's not uncommon for an RPG with high standards to have an excellent musical score, however it does sound like Original Sin 2 took it a step beyond that. It is stellar, building and sustaining an atmosphere that is consistent throughout the game. Whether you are in the city or in the woods, in or out of combat with a minor or grave threat facing you, the music adapts to the area and the context. You can even decide which supporting instrument you'd like, choosing between Bansuri, Tambura, Oud and Cello. They all feel different and support the main theme perfectly. I started out with Bansuri, which sounded like a type of flute, but am now planning my second run with the Tambura which instead gives me more of a Diablo vibe. As soon as you unlock the magic mirror by reaching Act II, you'll be able to respec your character and change these instruments if you feel you've made an error in judgment.
Throughout my years as a gamer, I've never run into a game that was wholly devoid of bugs, and Divinity: Original Sin 2 is no exception. Some voice lines don't come through or aren't voiced at all. Seeing as it was a promise to have the entire game voiced, I'll consider that a work in progress. That said, other problems plague this game. The camera likes to fly off somewhere when you are fighting somewhere up high and your point of focus accidentally lands somewhere further away.
Loading screens can take a while, even if it's just loading a Quicksave of mere minutes ago. It may be understandable when considering that every item you move around or drop on the ground, everybody, even every ground element that originated from anything other than a spell or elemental arrow/bomb stays. Blood that spilled during combat especially has a tendency to stick around. I've gone so far as to even waste half an hour just dipping an entire city marketplace in blood using the blood rain spell. It was quite stupid to do but it stuck. Cleaning that up when transitioning acts probably helps save some space on save games.
Doing so may very well be needed for the game to not have excessive loading times. When Steam Cloud Sync is left on, you have about 900mb of space to store save games on. I found myself deleting older saves halfway through Act II because I was steadily nearing the end of it. Steam's Cloud option does bring its own fair share of issues. With it on, you'll find yourself slowly but surely enduring almost a minute of lag after saving your game. I don't know if Steam actively syncs my saves while I'm playing, though I do know this lag stopped appearing once I disabled syncing for the game, which also disabled the limit. I do know that Steam takes a long time to sync my saves after I've closed the game. There's no telling whether this is an issue on Steam's side or an efficiency issue on the side of the game.
One question I try to answer with my reviews is, what kind of gamer is this game targeted towards? Divinity: Original Sin II is a classic RPG to the core, with character building leading to noticeable consequences both in and out of combat. Choices in general can lead to various results later down the line. If anything, if you're looking for a Roleplaying Game to get lost in, this may yet prove to be the perfect game for it. You don't have to do so alone, either. The first Original Sin had a two-player maximum limit, with the modding scene expanding it to four. This time, you can effectively play together with three others, and the host gets to decide who gets what character. And just like the last game, you can stick together or go off on your own.
This game may probably appeal the most to people who either have a passing interest in Tabletop/Pen & Paper RPGs or have actually played such games before. There is a Game Master and Arena mode. If you are in the mood for some simple PvP, Arena mode will probably be right up your alley. If you've been looking for a new platform to get some virtual Table top done, Game Master could very well be what you need.
Doing Tabletop over the internet has been done in various ways with various degrees of success. Tabletop Simulator can literally simulate you sitting together with others, even in VR. There are also websites that can simulate the usage of an easily modifiable area board along with a system that stores character sheets, all from the convenience of a web page. I'm sure that there are Tabletop fans out there who can share even more examples.
Game Master mode may be Larian's attempt at reaching into this market as well. You can create your own campaigns in it, featuring a level of complexity that seems daunting, yet may prove strong enough for those inclined to take their Tabletop game to the next level. I wouldn't be surprised if Original Sin II became the new standard for such roleplays. Right now, the limit is one game master and four other participants. With the game embracing the modding scene so early on, there's no telling how things may evolve.
Speaking of modding, quite early on there was a Steam Workshop for the game, and Nexus Mods wasn't far behind either. Being a mod addict, I'm very happy to report that it very much looks like the modding scene wasn't an afterthought. Being a game that can potentially be played with others, compatibility between mod setups may be a concern. Larian incorporated a smart feature where mods have to be enabled in the game after being installed. A dedicated Mods option facilitates this, giving you also the warning that achievements will be disabled for the duration that you are playing that save. Here's the kicker: you can have multiple profiles that each store their own saves and mod setups. So if you feel like switching it up with a different setup of mods, or would like a run through without any mods at all, you're not required to struggle about. It's as easy as switching profiles.
Experimenting with different mod setups may be advisable as well. The modding scene has gone strong, providing maps for Game Master mode or campaigns in and of themselves and modding in new classes and mechanical features or adjustments. Any aspect that some subjectively liked better in the first Original Sin, may make a return as a mod of sorts.
I'm confident that Divinity: Original Sin II is a game that will be remembered for some time by appraisers of the genre. It does more than give you a 120-hour main campaign of stellar turn-based combat and narrative intrigue. It provides you with the best modding framework I've seen to date.
Divinity: Original Sin II is a game for the seasoned RPG veteran to enjoy, and be a portal to a wondrous world for the RPG newcomer.
Our Divinity: Original Sin II review was conducted on PC via Steam over the course of a whopping 124 hours with a code provided by the publisher.
Divinity: Original Sin II has expanded greatly upon its predecessor, addressing many of the complaints it once had and pushing the standard much farther away. It may not only be a must-play for fans of classic RPG's, but may prove to be one of the best games to help introduce those newer to the genre.(Review Policy)
- Satisfying Turn-Based Combat
- Vast Explorable Map
- Stellar Voice Acting
- Truly Atmospheric Music
- Classic RPG Character Building
- Occasional Bugs
- Steam Cloud Heavily Lags Saving
- Slow Load Screens