Divinity: Original Sin II (PC) Preview

By Chris Leebody 04.10.2016

Review for Divinity: Original Sin II on PC

Not long after the announcement by Larian Studios in May 2015 of an enhanced edition and console version of Divinity: Original Sin came the relatively surprising but welcome launch of a Kickstarter campaign in August to help fund the sequel. No surprise, of course, given the critical acclaim lauded on the first title. Just over a year later, and Divinity: Original Sin II is released for the general public—well, in a manner of speaking. At the moment, it is in Steam Early Access, with roughly around 10% of the total game available to play. A full release is scheduled for 2017, although no specific timescale within that. Cubed3 has gotten the chance to preview this segment of the game and see what waits in the upcoming full version.

The strange thing is that screenshots and initial previews trickling out over the past few months gave the impression that not a lot had changed between Divinity: Original Sin II and its predecessor. The art style is pretty similar; characters still have their stylistic whimsical cartoonish appearance and it is still the same colourful world with high castles, sparkling shores and foreboding caverns.

Equally, there isn't a whole lot of changes when it comes to combat. It is still a turn-based experience using free movement by 'AP' points for actions such as movement, spells, and attacks. A large emphasis is also placed on strategy centred around the use and combination of elements, such as using a thunderbolt on a pool of water to create a huge stun trap, or indeed launching a fire arrow at a cloud of poison gas to induce a devastating explosion.

Finally, of course, storytelling is still done through a classic quest system featuring lots of item hunting and dialogue options, plus that crucial Divinity aspect of being able to kill any NPC—and, as the developers humorously put it, "Attempt to break the game" in solving quests in any conceivable way using the game mechanics.

Screenshot for Divinity: Original Sin II on PC

Interestingly, with all the above said, it only takes a few seconds after selecting "New Game" to see exactly what has changed and the potential to come from this developing title. This time around, the character creation has undergone something of a revolution; one of the notable features being the choice of a pre-built character who comes with their own ambitions, background and—more importantly—quests.

In the preview, there are two humans, a lizard and an elf (who make up some of the included races), with each one of them having their own arcs—but, then, this begs the question: what happens if you can only select one character? Well, each of these characters can be recruited as an NPC, and who knows when they will turn or their motivations will come to the fore.

A good example is the human character Ifan ben-Mezd. He has awoken at Fort Joy (the portion of the adventure available in the Early Access build) to find his family dead and his son missing, and there will be a whole arc tied to this, which may interfere with the goals of other party members. Of course, in true Divinity style, this can be ignored entirely, which could change all sorts of character interactions and future quests. This was not really explored in the preview content, as there was very little opportunity for conflict between characters. Indeed, the actual feature of character 'debates' on party decisions has not been implemented yet, and it remains to be seen if this feature has altered from the original title.

Screenshot for Divinity: Original Sin II on PC

There is untapped potential in solo play of these handcrafted ambitions and objectives of the companions, which is fulfilled in the enhanced co-op mode, which now allows four online players to adventure together (an upgrade on two previously). This is because if each player is playing a character with their own motivation for the adventure and their own ties to the world, then this introduces a very intriguing and competitive atmosphere into the main story and the potential for some tense and amusing moments.

After all, what was so great about co-op in the previous adventure was that there were no barriers to being in the same screen. Two people could wander off on their own path on the other side of the map. There is no hand holding or artificial barriers in the way here, either. Each character has their own unique interactions with NPCs and, therefore, each experience can be different for the individual even within the same game world.

The lack of hand holding does come with its own challenges, however, as a similar problem of being thrown into a complex world without very many answers and a lot of questions was a challenge in the first Divinity, and it remains one here. The salami slicing of the game content with the Early Access probably does not help this, to be fair.

Screenshot for Divinity: Original Sin II on PC

There are some suggestions that a tutorial section will be included in the main game, which will answer some of the questions on how these protagonists came to arrive at Fort Joy. However, the reason for Fort Joy and the motivations of the people running it requires a lot of puzzle piecing by the player, as well as reading the wider lore online. Considering the story is set 1000 years before Original Sin I, simply playing that one won't help a great deal in this regard.

Something slightly disappointing in the Early Access build is that the quests and main plot seems a little more linear than fans of the series may be used to. It is a bit of a strange one. There is never linearity in the approach during combat, with a lot of solutions and strategic positions. However, the feeling from the story in Fort Joy pretty much falls back to getting from point A to point B. In Original Sin I, the introduction into a bustling town with hidden corners to discover quests makes Fort Joy appear a bit barren and lifeless. It does have to be emphasised how little of the full content this is, though. Fans of the series have to have faith there is a lot more to come in terms of quest diversity.

There are a few other smaller things that also jump out that could be examined again by Larian. Area of effect spells are still particularly powerful, which always downplays some of the other classes. Additionally, some might be disappointed to find no voiced characters as of this moment. It may, of course, come in the way it did previously; however, with a lot more dialogue this time around, it's hard to see anytime soon. This means strict attention to the words is vitally important for getting engrossed in the adventure.

Screenshot for Divinity: Original Sin II on PC

Final Thoughts

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is shaping up to be a very pleasing sequel. To be honest, a lot of the groundwork had already been perfected before—things such as the UI, inventory management and bugs. Really, this time around, it was a case of adding a cherry on top of the cake, with the likes of four-player co-op certainly achieving that. There is still a lot of development to go; hopefully as it gets closer to 2017 and a full launch, more content is released to whet the appetite.

Developer

Larian Studios

Publisher

Larian Studios

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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