Divinity Original Sin was a huge success on Kickstarter back in 2013 when the platform was just starting to get some traction for crowd-funding games. Not only did they far exceed their funding goal, they took that money and invested it into an incredibly deep and enjoyable experience when the game launched in 2014. Not resting on their laurels Larian Studios revamped and tweaked the game and released an enhanced version on PC as well as expanding to consoles in 2015. To say Divinity Original Sin was a success was an understatement. Now the studio is back with the sequel funded by another successful Kickstarter campaign and while I am a backer of the game and want to stay away from playing until the game is finished I could not help but take it for a spin at PAX East.
Divinity Original Sin 2 looks initially to be a very similar game to the original but digging into the gameplay a bit and experiencing some of the story beats I can see where some major differences are coming in. First off the narrative experience has been greatly enhanced with all companions having major story arcs that you can hop into if they are your companions or take part in directly if you choose their archetype when creating your character. For the demo I chose the Red Prince template and was instantly enveloped in his story which revolves around the fact that he is a Prince of the new reptilian race featured in the game who was isolated due to his incredible tactical skills. He was locked away and only let out when he was needed and now he is captured and subdued with a Source collar blocking his powers. One of the cool but subtle things I noticed while wandering around as this character was that everyone of his race knows him and gives him incredible respect, a neat touch. I also liked that even though I selected a template I could change the sex or appearance of the character, so while the story and skills were pre-selected (though skills could be adjusted too) the character is still unique to your preferences.
The story is complemented by this origin stories in the fact that even if you do not recruit a character you will still experience their arc during the campaign. At a high level the story promises to be interesting, it is set a thousand years after the original game and the tables have turned, you are playing a Sourcerer (which is who the heroes in the original title hunted) and are blamed for all the evil that has befallen the world. Your character has been imprisoned at Fort Joy, your powers neutered by a Source collar and you are realizing the world is falling apart as the Void spreads without the Divine to protect it. Your task is to escape Fort Joy and find a new Divinity to save the world and push back the Void.
Gameplay in Divinity Original Sin 2 builds on the stellar systems introduced in the original game with turn based party combat being the driving force during encounters. Elemental effects play an even bigger part in the game in particular with the new summoning character type. If creatures are summoned on an elemental surface, such as Oil or Fire, they take on those characteristics. Defensive turrets or creatures also benefit from the elemental conditions they are created upon adding a great deal of depth to the game. Picture creating an Oil slick, then conjuring an Oil creature from it who coats enemies in oil as it attacks, follow that up with a turret created on a fire surface and you have fire-trap waiting to happen. The options in combat are numerous and varied ranging from simple attacks and defensive spells to ambushes, transformations and aerial attacks. The other new character type, The Polymorph, also adds a lot of diversity to the game with the ability to transform yourself and creatures around you to the advantage of combat. One of the neatest graphical touches I saw was wings that appear on your character when a fly spell is cast, looked amazing and was animated beautifully.
Divinity Original Sin 2 builds on the engine used in the original game adding some amazing effects as well as creatures that are scaled much larger than normal sized humans. The game looks truly amazing and runs smoothly even with tons of characters and effects on screen. In speaking to one of the creative leads he was most proud of the work they have done on the narrative system with dialogue shifting depending on your race, sex, faction actions and appearance. In the few snippets I saw the dialogue was snappy and entertaining while serving to forward the story in an actual enjoyable way.
The game also expands on the Multiplayer established in the original title, now you can have up to four players in a co-op game with each of them gathering followers that are attached to their character specifically. This ability to scale up your party does not affect players (like me) who prefer to solo as the game will scale the difficulty based on your party size and if other real life players are helping you out. The system was very cool and dialogue between party members is dynamic as each person gets to choose their own response and this adjusts the conversation tree as it unfolds. There is also some competitive multiplayer modes such as a PVP arena that lets players face off against each other.
Overall I was very impressed with what I saw in Divinity Original Sin 2, it seems to build on the successes of the original game while adding a lot of interesting features and play mechanics. On top of the large changes with characters and narrative progression. small touches like height and cover affecting combat or a dynamic score adjusted to whatever instrument you choose add a lot to an already great experience. The game is one to watch this year and will continue a trend of outstanding isometric RPGs that have been enjoying a renaissance since the first tile launched a few years ago. Divinity Original Sin 2 will be coming out on PC later this year.