(Image from the game’s website)
Divinity: Original Sin 2 takes ideas from tabletop roleplaying games, combines them with mechanics from previous titles, and improves on the formula to provide a rich and thought-provoking experience for the player. This game sets out with the intention to provide a level of freedom that only pen-and-paper gaming can achieve, and it comes close to accomplishing that goal.
You begin with a character of your choice, either selected from a list of premades, or “Origin Characters,” or you can create your own unique character, be they a Lizard, Elf, Human, Dwarf, or undead version of any of those. The game has a ‘tag’ system where certain backgrounds provide options for your character throughout the game, and the Origin Characters always have their own unique tag associated with them. This provides the player with an incredibly varied gameplay experience, as the choices you make for your tags or which Origin Character you choose could decide the entire tone of the experience. For instance, Fane, one of the Origin Characters, is one of the ancient precursors of the land and knew each of the gods personally as lords, whereas Lohse, another Origin Character, doesn’t even have a godly sponsor but instead has a demon possessing her.
In the first act of the game you learn that one the pantheon of seven gods has chosen you as their champion to become the next Divine (Except Lohse, who learns that the creature possessing her is in fact a demon), a position that conveys more power than godhood to the holder. The rest of the game has you gaining power and unlocking more divinely skills to be able to ascend to Divinity and stop the void from destroying the world. In and of itself, the main story is engaging and has some difficult decisions to make, but the beauty is in the side quests or secrets to find. Every corner of the map has a new side story associated with it, or a new secret to find. In the first town you come to, the slums outside Fort Joy, the camp boss Grif is missing a supply crate that contained a shipment of oranges. If you investigate behind the Lizard sage or talk to him, you can learn that he took the crate because the oranges had a drug inside them that Grif was smuggling in, and after some prodding he will give you the oranges. You then get to decide what you do with this information and the oranges. That is one of hundreds of side quests in the game, and it’s up to you to search them out.
As the title might imply, the game has heavy religious themes throughout (Your end goal is to become Divine, of course there’s religious themes). However, the game isn’t heavy handed about any “repent or be sent to hell” or similar messages, and instead provides the player with situations and lets them take their own interpretations from them. One of the major decisions boils down to allow yourself to become a husk and potentially stop the void or don’t and potentially allow the void to remain in the world, but you could get tremendous power. The game revels in difficult moral choices with no right answers.
The cutscenes and visuals were lackluster, but they served their purpose. When the game had an out-of-engine cutscene, it was more of a storyboard with still images with narration overtop than a cutscene. When the game had an in-engine cutscene, it utilized stiff camera angles, never shifting from the top-down isometric perspective. However, this didn’t detract from the gameplay. It is a turn-based action/strategy game, with some well animated visual effects, so the game itself feels a bit like a playable cutscene that is done well. On the other hand, the music outshines everything. The soundtrack is a masterpiece, and fits the mood of the situation like a glove. The UI is intuitive, but an option to turn off automatically adding consumables to your taskbar would be appreciated.
Final Thoughts: 97/100. The moral choices made me think a lot longer than I usually do on games, and had impacts throughout the story that made my decisions meaningful. The UI, especially the taskbar and features associated with it, could use improvement and the transition from game to cutscene could use work. The game had moments where I could feel the adrenaline. The level design flowed well and helped the game’s pacing, while staying believable. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is one of the best games to have come out this year, and certainly one of the best RPGs this decade.