Preview: Divinity: Original Sin 2 solidifies the series as a true masterclass in roleplaying
What happens when you take one of the most detailed and complex roleplaying games released in the past decade, and make it even better? That’s exactly what Larian Studios did. They took their smash-hit Divinity: Original Sin, then improved it in every single way, released it on consoles (along with a free update for all PC owners of the original), and called it the Enhanced Edition. It is, bar none, one of the most engrossing RPGs made in recent memory.
What makes it so great is its attention to detail. You can interact with every object, speak and trade with every NPC, and truly roleplay your character like no other game. Disagreements between party members are frequent and tumultuous and the combat is a delightful interpretation of turn-based fighting, reminiscent of tabletop Dungeons & Dragons.
After going hands-on with the sequel, I can confirm that Divinity: Original Sin 2 takes everything that worked in the first game, then makes it even better, more detailed, and more immersive in every way.
Defining the Dialogue
One of the most monumental changes made to the game occurs in such a way that you may not notice it immediately, even though it impacts the fundamental core of how the game operates. I’m talking about the dialogue.
For as long as we have had RPGs with dialogue options, players have been choosing from a list of fully-written responses (such as the first Divinity: Original Sin, Pillars of Eternity, and countless others) or choosing short summaries of things your character says (such as with virtually every recent Bioware game.) Larian have opted for a slightly different approach with Original Sin 2.
This time around, you will choose not what your character says, but how they say it. For example, after greeting an NPC at one point in my demo, they returned my mouse click with a sneer and some harsh words. Instead of listing out dialogue options such as, “Alright, well f*** off then,” or “Woah, buddy! Calm down!” I had dispositions to pick from. My choices consisted of things like *Regard the lizard man with a menacing glare and stand your ground* or *Step backwards and approach more cautiously, insisting that you mean him no harm*. See the difference?
As an avid player of RPGs of both the digital and analog variety, the choices I make during conversations are often regarded with just as much importance as the ones I make on the battlefield. When dialogue options don’t fit the character I’m roleplaying, it feels off. This solves that incongruity and adds an additional layer of complexity and depth to an already ambitious formula.
Origin Stories Add Depth
Another big alteration is the addition of origins for your character. Not only do you pick your race, class, and general appearance, but you also get to choose one of several different origins. The origin you select informs an over-arching personal quest that you can only receive as that character, as well as how the other characters and world itself interact with you.
Everything adds up to a much more nuanced and intricate roleplaying experience, one that necessitated essentially doubling the writing team alone to handle the additional workload needed for this iteration. That’s also why you won’t see very much, if any, voice acting. As of now, the dialogue is still in flux with Early Access coming soon, so it’s not feasible currently.
Any of the origin stories you don’t pick can be recruited as party members throughout your travels, although they won’t have access to their origin quests unless they’re being played by another person. The first Divinity: Original Sin allowed for two-player cooperative play, but now that’s been expanded to four potential players.
This is especially interesting due to the fact that origin stories can often overlap at certain moments in the game, and may even cause your party to split up – or get into a fight. You may very well end up fighting a former party member to the death over a core disagreement about which path to take during one of the game’s pivotal plot moments.
Player vs. Player Combat
One of the biggest fan requests from the original game was for the ability to fight other players. In addition to being able to duke it out against your friends mid-campaign, you can also engage in some player vs. player warfare in a dedicated Arena Mode as well.
In this mode, two characters face off against two other characters within Original Sin’s inventive turn-based combat system. Everything plays out much more fluidly in this iteration of the game, with more visually appealing effects and even more systems to think about.
The inclusion of height advantages now – particularly for increasing attack distance for ranged characters – is a big improvement. More status and ground effects, as well as more ways to combine elements together, all add up to making the combat in Original Sin 2 an even better version of the previous game’s already fantastic system.
Streamlining Without Simplifying
From the revamped dialogue system and inclusion of player vs. player combat, to the dramatically improved inventory management and additional combat effects, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is shaping up to the best example of what an ideal sequel should look like. The core of the game is retained, but it’s improved upon and expanded to allow for an even more engrossing and incredible adventure. It puts over $2 million of Kickstarter money to good use, demonstrating the best side of the game development community.
Now that Larian Studios is working on an upcoming new game in the Divinity franchise, most people might think the team would opt for expanding the game’s audience, building on its foundation to create a more traditional roleplaying game that can be enjoyed by more casual players. That’s not the case here.
In the case of Divinity: Original Sin 2, the developers look towards the players that are knocked prone on the ground, surrounded by undead monsters, grasping at their last shreds of life, and drive a sword into their chest, placing a triumphant exclamation mark to begin the sequel’s legacy.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 releases on Steam Early Access for PC on September 15. A full PC release, along with releases on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, will follow later.