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Divinity Original Sin 2 Review: Near Godhood

Larian Studios offers a divine CRPG to fans.

Review by Mike Williams, .

I died within my first few minutes of playing Divinity: Original Sin 2. I was being a bit freewheeling, so I dropped into the game's sneak mode and attempted to steal an ancient book. I succeeded, but once I tried to leave the room, the guard said they had to pat me down for contraband. That wasn't going to work–I still had the stolen book on me–so I tried to talk down my jailor.

"You're human like me," I casually said. "Surely, you can let me slide on the pat down this one time?" No dice. I was subjected to the pat down and the pilfered tome was found. This threw me into combat with the guards, who had things like armor, weapons, and magic. I didn't last very long. That's the kind of game Divinity: Original Sin 2 is. It is equal parts grand freedom and vicious punishment.

It's a damned amazing game.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the latest title from Larian Studios, the studio that has previously produced Divine Divinity, Divinity II: Ego Draconis, and Divinity: Dragon Commander within the same universe. It's the second Kickstarted computer role-playing game (CRPG) from Larian, the first being the rather successful Divinity: Original Sin. If you're a fan of classic CRPGs like Baldur's Gate, Ultima, Planescape: Torment, and Fallout, games like Original Sin have been the vanguard of that style of play in the modern era.

In the game, you play a Sourcerer, a magic user that can tap into the primal Source magic that underpins the world of Divinity. It means you yourself can become Divine, essentially a demi-god in the world of Rivellon. Unfortunately, source magic also calls forth the hungry creatures of the Void. To protect the populace, the ruling Magister sect has gone all Days of Future Past on Sourcerers, rounding them up, putting them in collars that restrict Source access, and shipping them off to the prison isle of Fort Joy.

Being an RPG, Divinity: Original Sin 2 has a decent character creator. I could've used a bit more on the visual end in terms of faces and hairstyles as a human, but the game ultimately gives you five races (human, lizard, dwarf, elf, undead), 14 classes pulling from 10 skill families, and even some odd personalization choices, like which instrument takes the lead in your soundtrack.

On top of that, Larian has added the Tag system. Each character has tags attached to them depending on your choices. The tags determine how the people within the world of Divinity react to you and how you can respond to them. These tags include the basic gender and race markers, and then expand out into aspirational tags, such as whether your character is a Scholar, Jester, or Rogue. There are unlockable tags, like becoming a Hero for doing generally good deeds. It's basically way for the game to give feedback for the character you're supposed to be. It's all in service of the "role-playing" part of RPG.

There are additional tags for the pre-created origin characters. There are six in total–Ifan ben-Mezd, Loshe, Red Prince, Beast, Sebille, and Fane–each with their own stated backstory and motivation. I chose Ifan, a mercenary and former soldier who has to do one last job for the Lone Wolves. There's Sebille, the assassin who was sold into slavery and is currently seeking her revenge. My personal favorite is Fane, the undead Eternal, who lives in such grand spans that he doesn't care about the lives of the common man, as he searches the world for information on where his people disappeared to.

Every origin character has additional tags and dialog lines that push them a bit further than the basic custom characters. Sebille has a fiery tongue and conversation options that will get you in trouble more often than not. Lohse is possessed of a sinster secret and certain conversations will see her darker side come out to play. These tags even interact within your party: Sebille was sold as a slave to lizards, so you have to persuade her to join you if the Red Prince is in your party. The origin stories weave in and out of each other and exploring them all is additional spice on top of the main campaign.

Where Divinity: Original Sin 2 steps up to the top of the pack is in the details. Most of your skills can be used in and out of combat, and you have additional talents and special abilities on top of that. What's clear from playing the game is that Larian Studios has just crafted quests with more than a single solution or outcome. They didn't even just offer branches. In many quests, you're given an objective and how you complete that objective is up to you.

The floor is lava.

Solving a murder? Perhaps you can pick pocket some evidence, or teleport into a suspect's home to find some good dirt. If you have the Pet Pal talent, maybe you can talk to an animal that saw the crime. If you've gotten far enough to get Spirit Vision, perhaps can have a chat with the murder victim themselves. Elves can actually consume flesh to gain the memories of the fallen. Fane's boney fingers can actually be used as a lock pick! The options are varied and this applies to many of the quests in the game.

As such, the stories are your own. Divinity: Original Sin 2 presents you a starting point and lets you use many of the tools at your disposal to complete your objective. Are there limits here and there that peek their head up? Of course, as the developer can't account for everything. But you always have the feeling that Larian tried to account for the tools you might have in any situation. It allows for water cooler moments, where you ask a friend if they did the same thing you did in a situation. You always feel like you're in on some secret or you're breaking the game in some fashion; it's great that Larian can provide that over the course of an entire game.

That puzzle-like structure extends to the combat. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a very systemic game and most of the moment-to-moment play and group composition is about synergizing your tools. If you're fighting foes who are weak against fire, you can summon an oily blob that will attack your enemies. When it dies, it'll cover and area in Oil, which you can then ignite with any fire spell or explosive item. You can cast Decaying Touch on an enemy to give them Decay status (target takes damage from healing), drop a Rain of Blood on them, and then use the Blood Sucker (sucks up blood in the area to heal your target) for big damage. These are pretty simple combos I'm illustrating here and the sky is the limit. Folks have already found infinite combos, like this is some fighting game or something.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 operates on a turn-based combat system, with a Grandia-style action bar showing the who will have the next turn in line. During a character's turn, they have a number of ability points to spend on movement and skills. Combat is about managing your skills and combinations, while also worrying about enemy skill combinations. Worse, worrying about the interactions between your plans, the enemy plans, and the objects lying around the battlefield. You will accidentally kill yourself in Original Sin 2. Bet on it.

Speaking of death, my biggest issue with Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the absolute wall of certain encounters. There isn't always a gradual gradient of difficulty between one encounter and the next. Sometimes you'll coast through, sometimes the enemies will stomp you off. Occasionally, that's because you were supposed to do something else. Perhaps you're just underleveled. Maybe your plan just sucked. It's very XCOM, which I admit might turn off some folks who want to lean harder on the role-playing side of things. (There are four levels of difficulty, with the lowest being Explorer.)

Within just the story campaign, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a class act. But Larian did not stop there. The entire campaign can be played in local split-screen or online cooperative mode. There's a PVP Arena to get into and try out your spell combos. Used to console play? There's controller support. There's the Game Master mode where one player can create scenarios that other players attempt to beat, with the ability to add monsters and NPCs on the fly. You can download Game Master campaigns and mods from the Steam Workshop.

And none of what I've wrote touches the graphics, which are absolutely beautiful. There are just amazing vistas and amount of detail that Larian put into the environments, including the items strewn about them, is stunning. Or there's the soundtrack, which has a few memorable tracks that you'll notice all the more as you listen for your chosen primary instrument.

It has been a long time since I've played a game that loves the idea of role-playing as much as Divinity: Original Sin 2 does. It's simply an amazing CRPG, not based on nostalgia, but on the concept of allowing the player to do what they want in the world of Rivellon. Original Sin 2 doesn't handhold, but it also doesn't restrict you. There are a few modern games like it, but nothing that has as many options within and without of the game world. For the second time in past few years, I applaud Larian Studios for doing so much with the resources at hand. Divinity: Original Sin 2 has the strongest recommendation I can give.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is simply the pinnacle of the CRPG genre. It offers a campaign with memorable characters, interesting role-playing options, and excellent systemic combat. The environments are beautiful and the soundtrack is solid. That alone would put it at the top of the heap, but then Larian added offline and online coop, a PVP arena mode, and Game Master mode, the greatest throwback to the Dungeons & Dragons pen-and-paper games that underpin the entire genre. I might have small issues here and there, but Divinity: Original Sin 2 is one of the best in a strong year for gaming.

5 /5

Divinity Original Sin 2 Review: Near Godhood Mike Williams Larian Studios offers a divine CRPG to fans. 2017-09-22T23:52:00-04:00 5 5

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Comments 14

  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #1 donkeyintheforest A month ago
    Sounds awesome. No need to have played the previous games right? A little bit of tutorial in the beginning explaining systems?
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #2 NiceGuyNeon A month ago
    I haven't played the original, but I'm seeing praise for this one dropping left and right. I heard good stuff about the original too, but I'm already behind on my CRPGs between Shadowrun: Hong Kong (loved the first two), Pillars of Eternity, and Torment: Tides of Numenera all sitting in my backlog.

    But if I can get through those 3 relatively soon (as if) is it cool to just jump in with Original Sin 2 or do I have to go through the first game?
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #3 MHWilliams A month ago
    @NiceGuyNeon That's a good backlog!

    You can jump into Original Sin 2 relatively easy without issue.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #4 NiceGuyNeon A month ago
    @MHWilliams Sounds good. Thanks, Mike!
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  • Avatar for AstroDemon #5 AstroDemon A month ago
    @donkeyintheforest The game has a masterful introduction. You only control your main character to keep things simple, yet the predicament your character is in is interesting. There are tooltips when you do something for the first time, which can be customized in the menu. I haven't played a ton of it yet, but I haven't had any issues understanding the game in the first couple hours.
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  • Avatar for Sgtkabukimen #6 Sgtkabukimen A month ago
    Great review Mike! it makes me really want to play this game
    i am an old time Jrpg player and i want to get into CRPG, is this game a good entry point?

    (so far the closest experience i had with the genre is the Xcom series, which i really enjoyed)
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #7 donkeyintheforest A month ago
    @AstroDemon that's great to hear! thanks :D i will def be playing it soon
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #8 VotesForCows A month ago
    @MHWilliams I played the original for about 10 hours and drifted away from it - how would you compare the two?
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #9 MHWilliams A month ago
    @Sgtkabukimen That's a good question. If you're willing to go with an early uphill climb, I'd say try this. If not, you might want to see if you can't pick up the original on sales. It gets down to around $15. The writing isn't as good and leans more on the humor, but the combat system is a bit easier. Pillars of Eternity is also a solid gateway into CRPG.
    @VotesForCows The biggest change would probably be in the writing. DSO is a bit ham-handed at time and leans more on humor than the second does.

    Also, the combat here is a bit more protracted, because they added the physical/magic armor system. The system means you have to blow through a target's specific type of armor before you can hit their life bar directly. Combined with elemental resistances and you're pushed towards a team with more variety and flexibility than you were in the first game.
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  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #10 Tetragrammaton A month ago
    @NiceGuyNeon Enjoyed SRHK way more than PoE and Torment. Still, going on to DivOS2 first probably will ruin PC RPGs for you for a year so. :p
    @MHWilliams I'm finding the opposite on combat. Stacking your team with just physical attackers or just casters makes it way easier to punch through just about every encounter, because you're not plunking at two sets of armor first. The elemental resistances help keep your party's skills diverse though.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #11 MHWilliams A month ago
    @Tetragrammaton What happens when you run into the opposite armor? Just reconfigure your whole team?

    Shadowrun Hong Kong is another great choice for CRPG. Cheap too.
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  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #12 Tetragrammaton A month ago
    @MHWilliams Nah, armor only blocks incoming damage of the same type. Enemies with loads of magic armor tend to have less physical armor and so are vulnerable to my physically oriented party. It's enemies with physical armor that can cause problems. Mind, the magic armor does make the Ranger's special arrows a lot less fun, but she puts in work anyway.

    Yep, Hong Kong was a treat. I played an Adept and had a blast. Helps that my character felt mechanically distinct from Gaichu so I could justify having him in the party. Will recommend Dragonfall as well, but NiceGuyNeon already played it. :)
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #13 SatelliteOfLove A month ago
    Currently tainting food to lure targets away for murderin'.

    I also may have stole from orphans.

    And killed uppity shopkeepers in cold blood.

    And ate far too many people.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #14 MHWilliams A month ago
    @Tetragrammaton Yeah, that's what I figured. You just power through magic armor when it pops up. I adjust to each and every battle; flow like water!
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