Divinity: Original Sin is easily one of my favourite games of all time. I can count all the RPGs on one hand that have personally taken me somewhere else, adventures spanning over 100 hours that had me gasping for breath from start to finish: Dragon Quest VIII, Fallout 3, Dragon Age: Origins, The Witcher 3, and joining the pack in 2015 was Divinity: Original Sin. For the past 2 years I have compared every new RPG release to Divinity Original Sin, the benchmark if you will for what I believe to be a credible and worthwhile adventure game. Now I am faced with its sequel and it simply must endure the same brutal comparison. As a full time pessimist I cannot begin to tell you how nervous I am starting this adventure for the first time. Could my own hype and adoration for the franchise cloud my judgement? Is it possible for a game to truly break my heart? Here goes nothing I guess!
Divinity:Original Sin 2 is the highly anticipated sequel to Larian Studios’ epic 2014 adventure, my review of which you can find here! The original game saw you, a once powerful protector of Gods, charged with protecting the world once more after the universe’s most devilish entity is awoken to destroy everything once more. In a story so action packed, in a world so remarkably brought to life, I honestly was curious as to where the sequel would go, well this time round the shoe (or sandal depending on class) is on the other foot (or claw depending on race). In Original Sin 2, you take control of an openly powerful sorcerer, an enemy in the eyes of the Realm, as anyone harbouring the power of Source magic is found, caught and imprisoned. This second entry in the franchise sees you control either 1 of 6 powerful ‘Origin Heroes’ or 1 of your very own, meaning not only can you tell your own story, but you can now play out 6 original and unique character stories as you go along; creating your own warrior will make the game’s Origin characters available for recruitment. As well as promises of a huge, brand-new tale of epic proportions, Larian claim to have vastly improved the combat in every way possible, to grant players with absolute freedom and consequence and to introduce the all new GameMaster mode, giving fans the chance to create their own adventure within Rivelon. Divinity: Original Sin 2 was one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in history, and with all of these boastful statements and the hype surrounding its release, has it been worth the wait? Welcome back to Rivelon weary traveller for the perfect second chapter.
The freedom to save this world in which ever way you wish truly is at play here from as soon as you begin creating, or selecting, your chosen hero. Creating your own saviour has been completely overhauled as you’re no longer restricted to just playing as a human, now there are 4 more races to choose from, all of which come with their own unique experiences, advantages and disadvantages. As well as the typical RPG offering of Human, Elf and Dwarf, there are 2 hugely imaginative races never seen in the franchise before, and you can now make a hero out of them. The most intriguing of which, and the one I simply had to settle with, was an Undead, a mystical walking scarecrow of bones that comes with its own warning before you commit to your adventure. Seriously. As an Undead, you can pick locks with your bony fingers and in the heat of battle you can play dead to misdirect threatening enemies, however when things get too rough you can only heal via poison (healing spells and potions will hurt you), and the public of Rivelon will react to you with great fear and mistrust upon seeing your skeleton mush. It’s definitely the trickiest of races to master, however during the course of the game you acquire a mask which changes your appearance to appease the public, as well as granting you a few other racial perks. The other wonderfully creative addition is the Lizard race, huge scaly, fire breathing folk who come from a cultured, aristocratic kingdom and view any outsider as a common servant. As well as having the ability to scorch your enemies at will, you can also dig without a shovel, which is certainly handy when you can’t find a frigging merchant selling one. One of the most interesting amendments however is the Corpse Eater ability, which is exclusive to the Elven race and allows them to gain delicious information and occasionally abilities just from eating body parts. Yummy! Once you’ve chosen your race it’s onto the Classes, and once again for the sequel the selection is bigger, better and not too dissimilar to anything you’ve pulled off before … except for 2 that is, the Polymorph and the Summoner classes. Selecting the Polymorph class will give you the ability to morph your body to adapt to the battlefield, like sprouting wings to ascend to higher ground, growing a huge tentacle to disarm your opponent, or turning your enemy into a chicken, just coz! The Summoner class will allow you to summon in elemental totems and fiends onto the field to shift the tide of battle, as well as spells to empower them. Whatever race you select, whatever class you assign to them, no combination here will feel like anything you’ve played in Divinity before, nay ever before, and the sheer amount of creativity and customisation on offer just for creating your character certainly sets the tone for the rest of the game.
If, even after hearing how awesome the character creation selection is, you decide to play as one of the 6 Origin Characters, then you’ll have just as much fun and freedom to craft them as you wish, especially considering you can choose what class you want them to be. If The Red Prince says he comes from a family of soldiers but that’s too boring for you, well make him a rogue, or an Inquisitor, or a Necromancer, whatever you want your companions to bring into battle they will bring it with everything they have. Throughout the course of the game’s opening 60 minutes you will meet the main cast of Divinity Original Sin 2, and you’ll quickly discover that every one of your future companions are vastly unique to one another, and any other character you’ve played as or alongside in the original game. Following on from its predecessors’ Enchanced Edition, Divinity Original Sin 2 is back using spectacular voice actors who each in turn really bring their characters to life, whether that be one of your deep, chatty companions or a pig that is on fire (yes you read that correctly), every cast member you speak to and spend time with delivers a remarkable performance to this bright and gorgeous world you’re trying to save.
The combat in Divinity Original Sin, though good, did at times lack real challenge, tension and pace, so imagine my delight stepping into my first battle here and finding it wonderfully difficult, calculated and driving; the sequel truly trumps the original game in both challenge and creativity. The most notable of these improvements is the enemy AI, which steps out of the ‘useless goon’ stereotype shadow and becomes a genuine strategic threat. One of the elements I enjoyed the most when playing Divinity for the first time was the ability to change the battlefield’s terrain and making it a weapon against your foes. Dampen the ground before unleashing an electrical spell will stun all nearby enemies, throw an oil flask before calling a fire spell to light up the entire enemy force, hell cast a poison spell on that fire and make it explode in a wonderful display of butchery. Using the terrain to your advantage was the real key to victory in Divinity Original Sin, and now years later your enemy’s finally know this and will do all they can to wreak havoc! Altitude has also been taken into consideration here, which also delivers a deadly and satisfying strike to the game’s combat. Positioning your squad tactfully on the ground is one thing, but now getting them to higher ground is just as essential. Whether it’s firing arrows or throwing bolts from your wands, each ranged attack from high ground will inflict bonus damage to enemies below, meaning you can shift the flow of a losing battle simply by attacking from high, especially considering enemies will inflict less damage to you whilst you’re above them, but be warned as they can do everything you can do. Stagger in amazement and frustration as you watch your opponents strategically avoid your hazards and cast their own, precisely calculating each of their moves to make every battle a true challenge, and even through a fuming face and gritted teeth, I loved every battle I fought in, far more than I did first time round.
In keeping with the all new difficulty, Larian have now introduced a new way to calculate damage, with every ally and enemy measuring defence in both Physical and Magic form. Using a magic ability on an enemy spellcaster will slowly chip away at their magic defence, however attack them with a melee or ranged weapon and they’ll be a sorry corpse in no time. Not only does this make combat something to genuinely map out, but you are now forced to choose your armour more wisely, making kitting out your chosen heroes a much more worthwhile exercise. Don’t expect to take down a boss easily with ill-balanced armour stats, so take time making sure you’re ready for whatever attack may come, even if it isn’t the “coolest” of looks. I must admit it does take a bit of getting used to, especially coming from its predecessor where every attack would take off at least something, but here you and your enemies can take advantage of your battle armour, and restoring that defence is just as easy as hacking away at it, so sharpen your wits before making your strikes. Everything about Divinity: Original Sins 2’s combat has been massively upgraded and makes this one of the most enjoyable and satisfying RPGs I’ve ever played.
I don’t want to go too into Divinity’s story for fears of spoiling any of the fun and discovery, however it does follow a similar vain to its predecessor, with Larian once again telling a dark, hugely engaging and often funny tale of Divine proportions. You and your fellow companions have been chosen by each of the Seven Gods, each promising power and riches to whoever rids the land of the current dark oppression, the Voidwalkers. Beginning your story as a prisoner onboard a doomed galleon, you must break free from the brutal Fort Joy and your corrupt captors, who are all determined to rid the world of Source magic and sorcerers by any satanic means necessary. Again, in similar vain to the original game, as fun as the main storyline quests are it’s the side quests that really bring this game to life. Larian have urged fans to speak to everyone, as not only is every single piece of dialogue been voice recorded beautifully, but anyone can give you essential information, anyone can have something special to sell to you, and anyone can have a quest for you. Giving your hero the Pet Pal talent as early as possible is a great way to explore Rivelon as even the local livestock and vermin will have juicy titbits and quests to give you, and every one of them has been magically brought to life by an astonishingly talented voice cast. The world of Divinity is rather like Dragon Age: Inquisition, an open world with a fence around its shores, meaning that you can certainly attempt side quests in whatever order you wish, however they won’t be amended to your party’s level, you will be slaughtered if you attempt a quest you’re not prepared for. This fact does make Divinity: Original Sin 2 a rather linear experience, as you’ll often stumble upon a quest that you shouldn’t tackle at that time, so you must move on and complete a few others that will lead you back to this one in a few hours time. Just because a quest location is close to where you started your adventure doesn’t mean it’s easy, so you must carve your own path and complete less punishing tasks before returning. Just like its predecessor, this does make you initially feel a little lost without a guiding arrow pointing you in the right direction; however the beauty of Divinity comes from its beautiful locations and unpredictable enemies, making it huge fun walking round aimlessly looking for quests and people to kill, even if you’re going in the wrong direction.
I keep coming back to the word ‘freedom’ and once again this word can be applied to how you manage your quests and fellow man, as with freedom of choice comes consequence of said choice. Every line of dialogue you exchange with your companion can completely change their relationship with you, likewise every word you exchange with supporting cast members and quest givers can have massive implications on how that quest is completed. Characters can die or be killed by your hand at the drop of a hat, so keeping the welfare of every character you meet with in the back of your mind is fine advice to live by. Every quest I accepted either pushed me to my absolute limits or lovingly took my mind off bigger issues with groan worthy gags and ridiculous characters, making this an incredibly difficult adventure to turn away from.
Not only did Larian have their Kickstarter goal blown out the water, but they were also lucky enough to hit all of their stretch targets, and in doing so have treated fans to their most rewarding and highly sought after bonus feature, GameMaster Mode. Fans of Dungeons & Dragons will find a lot to enjoy here as that’s how to best sum up this game mode, write, tell and control your very own story from within the Divnity universe. From writing cut-scenes to deciding what items you want your villains to drop upon death, as Game Master you truly do write your own story and witness your players decide on how it all pans out. All from the comfort of your own chair you will name and dress a location, fill it with enemies and give players tough decisions to make, all with ridiculous ease and satisfaction. Don’t fancy creating your own game? Then why not join one instead and see just how far the Divinity community will go to expand on Larian’s epic adventure; as a player you’ll even get your hands on a set of dice, so it really is the dream hybrid of Divinity and some classic old school D& D. GameMaster mode allows anyone who has a remote interest in creating their own game and gives them a very insightful and easy to follow tutorial on how to do just that, giving lazy and uninspired geezers like myself the opportunity to get stuck in. This game mode really revolutionises the digital Dungeons & Dragons experience and offers it to a huge, perhaps more accessible audience, who in turn will supply you with an endless stream of gripping and original content. What more could you ask for?
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a masterpiece and there are simply not enough words in the English language I can use to describe how I felt playing it. Visually it is vibrant, stunning and wonderfully elegant, with a soundtrack to match that never misses a beat. Every characters is hugely unique and excellently brought to life through both staggering voice acting and creative design, meaning whether you chose to play as your own or one of Larian’s “guys”, you’ll never have the same experience twice. The sheer amount of thought and time that has been put into the game’s combat is gargantuan, and I’ve genuinely never enjoyed having my ass handed to me like this before, because everything about it has been improved, executed beautifully and is there to teach me how to be better. If you hadn’t gathered by now the narrative and dialogue is superb, however if you wish to have a go at telling your own story then the incredibly in-depth Gamemaster Mode is available to those who wish to truly make this their own. If history has taught us anything it’s that a perfect sequel is something that happens far too rarely, but Larian have answered our prayers to the Divine and have absolutely smashed it. Divinity: Original Sin is still one of my favourite games of all time, only now it shares that title with its bigger, better and brutal Big Brother.