TL;DR – Both brutal and fantastic, it is a return to form for a genre that has not seen a lot of great games recently.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Back in the day, I use to love Role Playing Games, escaping Taris, becoming the Dovahkiin, finding my favourite shop in the Citadel. However, over the last couple of years, I have found it harder to get into RPGs, into the wonderful worlds that would have ensnared me in the past. I never finished Fallout 4, Witcher 3, or Diablo 3, and I have to admit my love for Mass Effect Andromeda (see review) may have just been a desperate want to be back in that universe. So when I heard Divinity: Original Sin II was out I was hesitant to pick it up given my previous track record, however, I happened to watch Stephanie Bendixsen stream a little bit of it and it looked like a ton of fun. So twenty hours later, I have just left the introduction island of Fort Joy and I thought it would be a good time to put down my first thoughts. Now there may be some [SPOILERS] for the first section of the game, but we only talk about the events up to Driftwood.
So I should say that I didn’t play the first game so I came into Divinity II fresh, which had its good and bad outcomes. However, to set the scene the best I can. In the world of Divinity, there are seven Gods one for each of the races, but when the last divine Lucian ascended something went very wrong. So now when people use ‘source’ a form of magic, evil Voidwoken burst forth killing all in their path. So now all with the ability to use the source are imprisoned by the Magisters, their powers are forcibly silenced, and they are shipped off to Fort Joy, and yes the name is ironic. You play a custom character or one of the pre-built characters and wake up on the ship heading to the Fort when you discover there has been a murder, and before you can say ‘are you a supporting character’ to a diverse roster of other prisoners the ship was blown apart and you find yourself fighting for your life.
The one thing that really sucked me into this game was the writing, which you see all over the game, from the conversations, to the dulcet tones of the narrator, to the deep yet really messed up lore, to the books that are just all over the place. There are references to mad-libs, romance, adventure, poetry, and clinical notations of experimentations on sentient beings, so you know there is a wide range to read. All of this really helps you connect with the world as a new player, sure you can skip through a lot of the dialogue, and for some returning players I’m sure there is some superfluous information, but I really appreciated it. I also liked the scenario they created here, it is one that sounds both plausible but also immediately problematic, even before you find out what is going down in the dungeons of Fort Joy. You have a group of people who some of which cause chaos and destruction, well it makes a certain sense to round them up and send them to an isolated location, it’s for the greater good, and they should be fine in the internment camp … oh, wait. Now, of course, waking up in chains at the start of the game is not new to the RGP world, indeed The Elder Scrolls always starts that way. However, it is a good way to set your character up, because it justifies you having nothing at the start of the game, and immediately sets up an inverse power relationship that you are compelled to rectify. As you plod along with the nebulous goal of getting off the island, more of the world becomes revealed to you and find out that you have a bigger destiny … maybe. I’ve played 20 hours so far and it is the story that is going to keep me playing along, and helped get me through some of those brutal battles. Though be careful because it is the kind of game that will let you bang a undead skeleton for science if you click the wrong dialogue option, or maybe it was the right option, hey you do you.
I also have to say that this is such a beautiful game, which makes it a pleasure to play, and there have been a more than a couple of time when I have sat back and gone ‘wow’ at a vista. The amount of detail they get into their world would rival some of the biggest budget games in the genre, and in most cases surpass it. It is just nice to be in an RPG world that is not different shades of brown, with darker brown accents. We’ll talk about the mechanics of the battles a bit further down, but from an art/animation perspective, they are a joy to see … well, the first time at least. You have flames, lightning, rain, ice and so much more all on screen at the same time, yet it all still works because the developers have put the time in to get the details right. All the characters move in a very believable fashion, and the cut scenes are simply amazing. The creature creation is also top notch, from aristocratic fire slugs, to poisonous amphibians, to long-dead souls, to saltwater crocodiles that … Holy Frick did that saltwater crocodile just teleport. Now of course art is not everything with a game, but it does help, and it is really well realised here.
Now in a game like this, there is one thing that will make or break it, and that is the game mechanics. If I was to try and explain Divinity: Original Sin II it would be if Fire Emblem and Diablo had a baby, which was somehow immediately better than its parents. This combination of free roam and turn-based combat shouldn’t work, but it does. This is because from a mechanical perspective everything is clear in battle, well if you pay attention to the tooltips telling you that spell is going to hit a wall not the Fire Slug baring down on your ally. Once you work the basic mechanics out it is quite easy to get into a rhythm in battles, ok I’m going to hit you with my sword guy because you are low on physical armour, then shield swipe the lot of you, ok lighting strike over there because you are on a puddle, now oil strike, and you bet there be some flames in your future. Of course, that is until the game throws that next wrench in your plan, or you realise you only have one more resurrection scroll left, or when a bloomin’ Voidwoken Drillworm bursts forth in the middle of a battle. While I would have liked a little more zoom out with the camera, it is completely movable so there was rarely a time I was not able to see what I needed to. Also, the camera does this nifty thing where it dissolves anything that gets in-between you and your characters, so you can have these majestic arches, without them getting in the way when you are trying to navigate. The menus are all really easy to navigate, which makes moving items around really easy, which is good, because you will be doing that quite often. I also had the chance to take it online and try out the multiplayer, and while we had a couple of issues trying to join a game once we were in it all worked smoothly, with a good system in place for dialogue.
However, while I have really enjoyed Divinity: Original Sin II so far, it is not without its issues, though thankfully they are not major problems. Divinity is tough and often times a brutal game, indeed that is half the charm, but it does not do a great job of letting you know of some of the different mechanics. There have been numerous times I have found important information (like how to decouple my characters from each other) not from learning about it in the game but by going online in a moment of frustration after dying for the 5th time because someone is in a bad starting position, stay behind the wall Loshe come on. This is compounded by you kind of stumbling around from the start, which has unintended impacts on how effective your characters are going forward. As well as this, I still don’t have a good handle on crafting, and a little more user-friendly interface there would have been appreciated. Now I have to say from the start some of this might be because I am rusty with this particular style of gameplay, or because I am jumping into Divinity II without playing Divinity I, but they were still there. Thankfully some of the issues I had with putting points in the wrong Attributes was fixable on the Ship.
In the end, do we recommend Divinity: Original Sin II? Of course, we do. The combat is brutal, but also when you are creating your character you get to pick which instrument would be part of their theme, how cool is that. Everything about the game has wanted to see it through to the end, help Fane find his people, to help Loshe get rid of that demon, and to help the Red Prince, actually no he’s a bit of an ass. So as I stand on the coast of Driftwood one thing I do know is I’ll be jumping back into Divinity: Original Sin II and unlike so many other games, I’ll be seeing it through to the end.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you played Divinity: Original Sin II?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the staff of Divinity: Original Sin II
Game Direction – Swen Vincke
Art Direction – Joachim Vleminchx
Technical Director – Bert Van Semmertier
Writing Direction – Jan Van Dosselaer
Lead Writer – Sarah Baylus
Technical Art Director – Koen Ven Mierlo
Design Production Director – Farhang Namdar
Music By – Borislav Slavov
Voice Actors – Christopher Bonwell, Brian Bowles, Ruben Crow, Chris Finney, Harry Hadden-Paton, Bryan Larkin, Alec Newman, Tamaryn Payne, Arkie Reece, Alix Wilton Regan & Amelia Tyler
Developer – Larian Studios
Publisher – Larian Studios