Every now and then a game comes out that is so engrossing and all encompassing that other games take a backseat to allow you to become fully enjoy the game. While not playing it, you may think about it when out running errands or talk nonstop about it with friends and coworkers. Divinity: Original Sin 2 was this game for me. We were sent code to review it, like we get for numerous games, and I installed it and began playing without the slightest hint of what I was getting myself into. I hadn’t heard much about it and to me it was just another release in an otherwise pretty crazy end of year release schedule. About 20 hours later, I’m obsessed and can’t stop thinking about it. So, why am I doing a first impressions? Because this game is super long. It can take around 80 hours to complete the story and completionists could rake in more than 100 hours. After my 20 hours, I think I have a solid amount of information to base my initial gut reaction to this game, it’s a must play for RPG fans.
Divinity Original Sin, the first game in the series, came out in 2015 to wide acclaim. The game was a classic RPG (think Baldur’s Gate) that had a ton of polish and even more charm. I played a little bit of it, but fell off a couple hours in because I felt like it was a little too obtuse for me. A lot of people liked that about it and it was no surprise when the second was announced. This installment takes place 1,000 years after the first, so there is no need to play the previous game. You might miss out on some lore portions of the game, but as someone who didn’t play much of the first, I don’t feel at all lost in the story.
Speaking of the story, you’ll begin your adventure by either selecting from a list of pre-built characters or making your own. I went with a create a character, although looking back I kind of wished I went with a pre-built lore character because of the story beats built into them. After selecting your looks, you can build out your character however you want. This will determine your base stats beginning the game and skills you begin with, but by no means are you limited to this. For instance, I created a wizard who starts off with fire and earth magic but later decreased my earth magic to replace with summoning (there is a mirror later in the game that will allow you to create a fresh build and fix mistakes you made making your character.) Each character you meet in the world that can join your party are actually the pre-built characters you could have selected when beginning the game. In the world you’re introduced to, Source Magic is taboo and a religious sect of sorts is rounding up Sourcerers who can use it. You are one such person and with the party members you choose to team up with, you’ll eventually realize that you are something called godwoken and your adventure will begin to figure out exactly what that is and what it means for you. The story is impressive and has me completely invested in the lore and mythos of the world. I wanted to know what it meant to be godwoken and why my other members of my team were also considered that. There is a lot of good stuff here in the story and if that’s your thing, you won’t be disappointed. The main story isn’t the big draw in this game though as you’ll soon find out.
If there is one word to describe the world of Divinity: Original Sin 2 it would be detailed. Give me another word to choose and I’ll throw in meticulously detailed. It’s borderline absurd just how detailed this world is. Everyone you talk to, even NPCs with one line that literally offers nothing of substance to the story are voice acted. If you take the perk that allows you to speak with animals, you’ll find out that they too are voice acted. Books and parchments you pick up throughout the world contain additional lore and if you have an elf in your party, they can eat the flesh of the dead people (yeah, elves are kind of gross in this world) to find out their feelings and emotions when they died. There aren’t really any quest givers in this game in the traditional sense. You’ll have to talk to everyone you meet and learn their story. Sometimes you’ll just get a one to two line response but other times they’ll tell you about a problem they have that you can choose to help them with or ignore altogether. You also may find that some questlines are never found or never completed because you killed the quest giver earlier in the game or pissed off the wrong person. The world feels incredibly varied and uniquely designed to allow multiple playthroughs with different characters. I can’t speak highly enough about the world and the characters within it. Party members you find all have unique stories too from the murderous elf with a troubled past to the skeleton guy who needs to rip peoples faces off and wear them as his own so he doesn’t scare townsfolk. It’s all so unique and fun that I could spend this entire post singing it’s praises. Instead, I’ll move on to something else this game gets incredibly right, it’s combat.
Combat in Divinity: Original Sin 2 happens organically in the world. You’ll stumble across a cave where an evil witch is keeping a dragon locked up or across a group of angry possessed dwarves worshipping a statue and you immediately begin combat. It comes quick and at times can be unforgiving in the situations it puts you in. Thankfully, there are multiple difficulties for those of us who like story with easy combat (myself included) up through the sadistic amongst us who like to replay battles multiple times to get that perfect completion. Battles are turn based with action points (AP) being the deciding factor on how much you can do. Everything uses AP, so if you are moving and attacking, you’re going to be doing less damage that turn because your movement caused AP, resulting in less AP for your skills. I found that range characters were often easiest to use because they could nuke from a distance without having to worry about movement quite as much, although my rogue elf could decimate a single target if she got in position with a few backstabs. Throw in to the mix status effects like burning, poison, and slow with characters being able to cast rain storms to put out fires or fire balls to burn poison away and you have a wonderful mix of mayhem to keep you busy. It was this type of thing I kept thinking about after battles were over. “What if I put some oil on the floor around that group of guys with my one geo caster and then lit it on fire with my wizard?” These types of combat scenarios are numerous and incredibly fun and rarely ever get boring. You will always be on your toes looking for the best way to exploit the enemies position (while at the same time making sure yours aren’t exploited themselves.)
I didn’t think Divinity: Original Sin 2 would draw me in as much as it did. Sure, it’s sitting in the mid 90’s right now on Metacritic, a feat few games can attest to, but this is a type of game I rarely gravitate to. Long old school RPGs typically scare me off with it’s combat, but there is enough here to modernize an age old classic while at the same time offering new and unique approaches to world building and overall mass appeal. There comes a time in the story where you have to lock in who your companions will be (spoiler alert: the others go away after the first main chapter) and to say I spent a few hours thinking this over wouldn’t be an exaggeration. I made sure that I did all of the personal quests for these characters before parting ways to make sure I was confident with my choices. In the end, I still thought about them after the fact and wondered how they would have reacted to events that happened after they went away. If that isn’t the mark of solid writing in a video game, I don’t know what is.
As I said earlier, I really can’t recommend this game enough to those of you who enjoy RPGs. I don’t know if it will bring in anyone who isn’t at least a little interested in the genre, but for those of us who are, this is a love letter from the role playing game gods. Just be forewarned, when you start playing, anything you were in the middle of playing may take a backseat and other RPGs just might not look quite as good as they used to. Don’t worry though, the Divinity series looks like it’s on good footing and I’m sure we’ll continue to see more from them in the future.