It’d be a sin to miss out on this gem.
Title: Divinity Original Sin 2 Definitive Edition
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Developer: Larian Studios
Publishers: Larian Studio Games
Release Date: Out now for PC, August 31, 2018, for console
TL;DR: It’ll steal your life, and you’ll be grateful it did.
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You’ve been trying to escape an island; your journey so far has seen you consorting with all manner of ne’er-do-wells, monsters, and even the odd animal – and now you find yourself in a grimy dungeon. You’ve already spent five minutes destroying a locked door on one side of the hall, but it didn’t lead anywhere overly useful, and now your only choice is to confront a small group of guards up ahead. You and your motley crew could just wade in and start attacking them, but why not try your hand at persuasion? Trick the guard into thinking there’s an injured guard upstairs, try to bribe your way past the group – or, why not have a go at picking the lock of that door a little ways back?
This is just a taste of what the early hours of Larian’s masterful RPG, Divinity Original Sin 2, offer players. Yes, yes, there’s certainly flashier looking games around at the moment, but Divinity offers up a rare and oh-so-sweet treat in an experience that will pluck those precious spare hours you have away and leave you muttering “just one more quest,” as the rising sunlight begins to edge its way past your window.
Why’s this game so special, then? Well, much like that introduction alluded to, the game toes the line between traditional RPG and tabletop gaming, in a way that means pretty much every situation you find yourself in has a handful of ways you can approach it. This freedom transforms the game into something wholly new. You’re not bound to quest-essential NPCs; the world reacts to the kind of race you are or how you act in a way that makes you consider which character you’ll approach a conversation with. There’s a depth to this game that means even after thirty hours of playing, you’ll feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface.
The game thrusts you into a world on the brink of all-out chaos. Disgusting bug creatures and demons known as the Voidwoken are breaking through to your world because some people have the ability to control Source – which is the game’s term for magical abilities. To counteract this demonic invasion, a religious military – known as the Magisters – have begun rounding up all of these magical folk and sending them off the prison island, Fort Joy.
You begin the game as one such prisoner, choosing between five stock characters or creating your own, and then you’ll begin your adventure. Each character has their own reasons for wanting to escape the island, whether it’s the performer who’s possessed by a demon, an elf who’s hunting down a man who kept her as a murderous slave, a pirate dwarf who’s out to overthrow a queen, a lizard prince who wants to reclaim his kingdom, the ex-mercenary who’s trying to turn over a new leaf, and the undead eternal who’s trying to figure out what happened to his race. It’s because each of these characters is so well bought to life through their abilities, voice acting, and reactions to situations, that picking a custom character can feel like you’re missing out on such a large part of the game. Take my advice, go for a scripted character for your first playthrough – there’s plenty of time to create your own character later on.
But even with the stock characters, you still have a ridiculous amount of customisation when it comes to developing their role in the game. There’s the class fluidity we’ve come to be grateful for, allowing you to transform your wizard into a knight or vice versa. The real fun, though, is in sinking your skill points into character traits; such skills come in handy when you want to be able to talk your way out of a fight with persuasion, or become a loremaster and identify the weapons or armour you pick up during your adventure; otherwise there are plenty of combat specific perks to choose from.
And beyond that, you’ll get the chance to develop your character abilities; skills that open up the world for you in sometime radical ways. Whether it’s gaining the ability to speak to animals or absorbing the memories of people you eat, both give you new avenues to explore the world. And like the other skills, there’s plenty of traits to help you out when it comes to getting fighty, with the “opportunity attack,” that allows you to hit enemies who try to run past you – being a must in my opinion.
That being said, the combat is perhaps the biggest let down for me. The game adopts the classic turn-based system that actually works very well for the game, giving you the time to consider your options and make the most of the environment around you. Even if you die the first time around, the majority of combat areas are designed so that you can enter from a few different ways, meaning it’s worth exploring to see whether you can approach from a different angle in order to get the higher ground. Personally, the game’s strength is in its ingenuity with the world, and whilst there’s plenty of times you can talk your way into or out of a fight, the times when fighting is inevitable feels like it stifles the game’s creativity. And fair enough, that might sound a little wishy-washy but it’s the moments when, for example, you enter into a situation with some information or context for a character that should be able to help you persuade whoever you’re speaking to, only to find out that no matter what path you take, some fights have to take place. It’s not a major flaw, nor does it take anything significant away from the game, but it would’ve been nice to have to opportunity to talk your way out of as many situations as possible.
Because it’s a wonderfully bleak world that you explore, with the anxiety and self-preservation that imminent doom will bring painted on the faces of the villagers you come across, and epitomised in the towns that are more ruin than homestead by the time you arrive. And in such times of apocalyptic evil, you can be sure that there’s a good bit of side-action hidden for you to find. Whether it’s taking part in the fighting arenas, getting involved in some disturbing sexual roleplay with a lizard prostitute, or figuring out what happened to a dog’s owner, the side quests all unfold in such a natural way that you’re never entirely sure when you’ve trundled off the main quest path entirely, because every time I thought I had, a random quest managed to help me with the bigger picture to some degree.
Larian Studios have put together a game that’s nothing short of a masterpiece, a game that’s so tightly woven together through its characters, quests, and creativity it delivers in how you play, that even after sinking 40 hours into the game, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s still so much that’s been left unsaid in this review; the game’s astounding soundtrack, with your choice of instruments being used for cutscenes, the narrator’s ability to portray the game’s funnier side, whilst just as easily taking the game into a dramatic and at times downright scary tone. Divinity Original Sin 2 might seem a little inaccessible early on but stick with it. It’ll steal away what spare time you have and you’ll be grateful it did – just don’t speak to the scarecrow in Driftwood Meadows.
- There’s a ridiculous amount of freedom in the game, seemingly nothing is off limits
- Each of the characters has an excellent story, and you’ll be able to experience four of them in one playthrough
- There’s a lot of humour thrown in to counteract the crazy times the world is going through
- Combat is fun but feels like it takes away the freedom of the gameplay at times
Divinity Original Sin 2 is rated 18 in the UK and “M,” for Mature in the US. Whilst a lot of the humour is done well, it’s mostly adult themed humour.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the code provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review