Game Review: Divinity: Original Sin 2 – High Quality High Fantasy

Photo courtesy of Larian Studios Divinity: Original Sin 2 started out on Kickstarter, just like its 2014 predecessor. Developer Larian Studios has been making roleplaying games in the Divinity series for 15 years, and their experience shows. Divinity: Original Sin was a return to the turn-based epic fantasy roleplaying game, and Divinity: Original Sin 2 delivers more epic fantasy in an improved and updated package. Divinity: Original Sin was a return to a genre that has fallen out of popularity. Known originally as a CRPG (short for computer role-playing game) the genre was known for top-down perspectives with narratively driven and lore-rich games that emphasized exploration and puzzle solving as well as combat. Divinity: Original Sin 2 follows in this tradition, delivering players a fantasy role-playing experience where problems have multiple solutions, and a character’s sharp wit may be more useful than a sword. Photo courtesy of Larian Studios Though part of a larger universe, each of the Original Sin games are their own standalone story, and existing knowledge of the lore isn’t necessary. Divinity: Original Sin 2 takes place hundreds of years after its predecessor in a time where creatures are emerging from the Void, drawn to a power called source, and those who wield it called sourcerers. Imprisoned due to your source aptitude, your character goes on a grand adventure towards their destiny as Godwoken. Sure, you’re a “chosen one,” but Divinity takes place in a world of high fantasy – elves, dwarves, magic and dragons, just the sort of setting for gods and destiny. You can choose to make your starting character completely from scratch, or choose one of the premade “origin” characters with voice acting and a backstory. These origin characters are able to be recruited as companions, and you can follow their personal stories even if you don’t play them as your main character. There are character classes, as with any RPG, but you aren’t limited to your starting class: Divinity: Original Sin 2 allows for a lot of leeway and ability to mix and match traits. Photo courtesy of Larian Studios Start off as a dwarven thief with daggers, but want to shoot a crossbow and summon creatures to aid you? You can make drastic changes, and mix and match abilities as you want. You can emphasize weapon proficiencies and different skills. There are multiple different weapon types – from large two handers and daggers, to wands and bows. There are even more different skill sets – martial arts and thievery to conjuring storms or summoning creatures to fight for you. Be a jack of all trades, or a master of a few. Each character you bring into your party has the same amount of customization, so you can build an entire party of diverse skills to meet any challenge you might face. For those who love to play roleplaying games to find exciting and powerful gear, Divinity: Original Sin 2 has you covered. In addition to looting epic and legendary items, there are crafting systems that let you create weapons, armor, arrows, and runes that add enhancements to items. Unfortunately, the crafting UI is poor, dumping all of your characters’ items into a common pool which you’re forced to search through to put together ingredients. Managing items between characters can be a bit tedious, but “magic pockets” allow characters to swap items remotely or use items that aren’t on their person. Photo courtesy of Larian Studios Exploration around the world and its locales is done in real time while combat is turn-based. Once you enter into combat with an opponent, a turn order is established. Battles can be tricky and require a fair amount of strategic consideration and care. Weapons, spells and other abilities can wreak havoc across the battlefield, leaving pools of poison or large burning fires which do damage and create hazards. Battles can feel chaotic and can be quite drawn out. Save often, as one misclick or miscalculation can undo a lot of careful planning. Battles feel properly strategic and there is a lot of joy to be had in finding devastating damage combos or setting up the perfect ambush for your enemies. Of course, sneaking past encounters or talking your way out of problems is often just as viable as fighting. The world of Rivellon, in which Divinity takes place, is full of ancient secrets, puzzles, traps and all sorts of other goodies to discover. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is so densely packed with characters, enemies, items and other things to do that it can actually feel overwhelming. Keeping track of various quests is done through a logbook, but there aren’t any arrows pointing your character in the right direction. There are waypoint markers and quest markers that show up on the map, as well as the ability to add your own, but quests do not hold your hand as much as most modern RPGs and sometimes require attention to detail. Photo courtesy of Larian Studios Unfortunately, exploring is some of the most fun but tedious parts of Divinity: Original Sin 2. The map and minimap are useful, but don’t really help orient you to the actual world you are supposed to be moving your characters around in, and the top-down perspective often feels like it is squished against the ground. The ability to zoom out further would save a ton of frustration. You can’t change your position by clicking on the map, or mini-map- only by scrolling through the world or clicking on a character you control. It feels like you’re trying to find a place on a large world map by placing your face directly against the surface – if you could just step back, it would be a huge quality of life improvement. Divinity: Original Sin 2 can be played co-operatively with three other friends taking over various party members of your choosing in drop-in, drop-out style. There is also a player versus player arena mode to try your hand against human opponents, and an expansive tabletop-like game master mode. The game master mode emulates what it’s like to be a dungeon master in Dungeons and Dragons – create a story, and lead a group of adventurers through it. Game master mode has a steep learning curve and the in-game tutorial is not very good, but the developer has a YouTube tutorial that can get you started pretty quick. Photo courtesy of Larian Studios Divinity: Original Sin 2 is something for an older age, but modernized. It does few things better than old CRPGs did, but it does so very well and fills a niche that has been mostly abandoned in favor of bigger budget, mainstream first and third person games. There is so much to see and do, I could have spent 100 hours in this game and still not have seen it all. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is available now on Windows, but may make its way over to consoles eventually.
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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.