Divinity: Original Sin 2 is, of course, the follow up to the massively successful PC and console dungeon crawler role playing game Divinity: Original Sin. Hailed as the second coming of the genre at the time, it won reviewer plaudits and fans in equal number - not an easy thing to do.
Divinity: Original Sin first appeared in 2014 as the spiritual heir to the old isometric table top inspired games. Like its predecessor, Divinity 2 is a PC first port to console fantasy game. Unlike the first game, the console versions were created in house and very much as part of the project scope. Set in the rich, storied world of Rivellon, and the expansive Divinity universe, you fight for or against a mysterious and dangerous form of magic called the simply the source. This has the power to create powerful rifts, and spawn hellish creatures from beyond the veil of reality. The first game centred on a group of Source Hunters, sworn to fight the scourge of dark magic and those who practice it. Divinity 2 focuses on Source users themselves and you begin the game in a prison ship awaiting imprisonment. It is here that you also meet the first misfits that you can recruit into your party and it sets the tone for the entire experience.
While the real time exploration gameplay is fluid, utilising a top down rotating camera, the combat is very much of the classic role playing stock. One thing that did strike me is the level of the zoom on the camera as I drilled right down onto my characters. The menus and interface are very much in that style and for the uninitiated it is easy to get lost in the detail. The control mapping is fantastic and very intuitive however. Classic to the genre, the game’s combat is a rigid turn based combat system that allows both a lot of options and time to consider those options. Actions in the turn based combat system cost action points and when depleted, that is the end of the round for that character. The combat will be the one element of the game that you either love or hate and for turn based combat it has been that way for decades.
Divinity is an unforgiving as it is deep. As you would expect, it is tactical game of cat and mouse. One wrong turn and you are in hurtsville without so much as a sign post and only immediate regret for company. I ran through moments of combat so utterly devastating to watch that I thought it staged, somehow a prelude to part of the story. But no, it was just a total defeat then reload affair. The game has added a range and elevation system that makes attacks more or less deadly based on the player’s positioning. Moving to a high mould gives ranged attacks more distance for instance. This adds an additional element of having tactical awareness in all encounters. The formation of your party is also important as you don’t want weaker characters being hit first. You can also apply status effects to enemies or environmental effects to parts of the game world, affecting both enemies directly and indirectly.
Each story in Divinity 2 begins with a character selection or indeed a creation. I was able to pick from some premade, predestined characters with a rich backstory or launch straight into creating a custom player. Some of the unique elements available to premade characters do not carry over to the characters you can make yourself. The tag system, a metadata of sorts where you can a characteristic to your character and have it appear in relevant situations throughout the game, genuinely affects gameplay. The noble tag, apart from offering amusing dialogue options, allows you to influence non player characters in a different way to a character from poorer stock. The Undead tag follows you around and as a hated group in the game’s world Rivellon it welcomes discrimination and dismay at each turn. Custom characters lack the origin tags, a group of completely bespoke tags that apply only to the premade characters and their backstories. For instance only the Red Prince can use Red Prince tagged dialogue. Looking at it again, it would have been nice to have a pool of origin tags to use when creating my own character.
One of the best selling points for Divinity 2 is that any or all of the game’s party characters can be controlled in both local and online multiplayer. Much like Diablo 3, this will be a main draw. This is very deep and allows for customisation of your playthrough on a lot of levels. If you enjoyed Diablo 3, then this multiplayer experience is not to be missed. Overall it is a purer form of the roleplaying formula than most will be able to easily slip into but given enough time and patience this game will deliver over and over again.