Divin­ity: Orig­i­nal Sin II

Yet an­other game of the year con­tender ar­rives

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents - DANIEL WILKS and DAVID WILDGOOSE

WILDGOOSE: I took your ad­vice, Wilks. When I lev­elled up I took the Pet Pal tal­ent. You said it would let me speak to an­i­mals and I’d re­veal a bunch of new quests I couldn’t oth­er­wise access. I knew I’d re­gret this choice as soon as I met the baby bear. I’d just met its mother mo­ments ear­lier, you see, and I knew I’d have to tell its child what had hap­pened. Tears welled in the baby bear’s eyes. It sobbed. I didn’t kill the mother - it was those cruel Mag­is­ters, and I made them pay, be­lieve me - but I had now made a baby bear cry. And it’s all your fault.

WILKS: I couldn’t be the only mis­er­able one. For ev­ery cry­ing bear though, there’s a very good dog, an overly of­fi­cious fire slug, a crab that thinks he’s the great­est sourcerer (the whole kludg­ing of source into words does grate a bit) in the land or a rat that wants you to come back and visit of­ten so you can tell it the sto­ries of your ad­ven­tures and it can co-opt them as its own sto­ries. It’s these lit­tle mo­ments that make Orig­i­nal Sin 2 for

me. The over­all plot is a bit naff but the mo­ment to mo­ment events and the char­ac­ters you in­ter­act or travel with make it con­stantly en­gross­ing and of­ten very funny.

WILDGOOSE: Agreed on the over­all plot. It’s not bad by any means, but its col­lec­tion of cho­sen one tropes rarely both­ers to raise it­self above ser­vice­able. Where it does ex­cel is in the many sec­ondary quests that weave in and out of the main through line, thread­ing to­gether over the course of the game a pretty nifty ta­pes­try of world-build­ing. The qual­ity of the writ­ing plays a huge role here, flesh­ing out each of the six NPCs who can com­prise your party in un­ex­pected and mem­o­rable ways. They each have a de­tailed back story and a life be­yond their role as a tank, thief or mage in com­bat. When you be­gin the game you can even choose to play as one of these NPCs in­stead of cus­tomis­ing your own char­ac­ter. I did the lat­ter and feel that maybe I missed out. You went the other way, yeah?

WILKS: Yep, I chose to start as one of the “Ori­gin” char­ac­ters. While these six char­ac­ters aren’t de­fined in terms of class and skill - you can choose any char­ac­ter class or cre­ate your own through the sim­ple but quite ro­bust char­ac­ter cre­ation - they are de­fined in terms of race and per­son­al­ity. These six char­ac­ters have more con­ver­sa­tional tags than fully cre­ated char­ac­ters, mean­ing you have more choices when it comes to pos­si­ble con­ver­sa­tional re­sponses. They also have their own per­sonal quests. I chose to play Lohse, a pop­u­lar singer and en­ter­tainer who also hap­pens to be in­hab­ited by some form of de­monic en­tity that doesn’t like to be spied upon. I made her a slightly mod­i­fied Ranger. The other Ori­gins can be in­vited to your party as com­pan­ions. I’m run­ning with are the haughty no­ble Red Prince, a lizard that dreams of re­gain­ing his em­pire, Se­bille, an el­ven ex-slave hunt­ing her for­mer mas­ter, and Ifan Ben-Mezd, a for­mer sol­dier turned mer­ce­nary hunt­ing the some of his for­mer com­man­ders. They butt into

con­ver­sa­tions quite of­ten and get me into fights I would have pre­ferred to avoid.

WILDGOOSE: They oc­ca­sion­ally have con­ver­sa­tions with NPCs that you’re not privy to as well. So, for ex­am­ple, when you go to chat with a par­tic­u­lar trader, Ifan will step in and say, “Let me han­dle this” and have the con­ver­sa­tion out of earshot. All you hear are what­ever mur­mured voices the nar­ra­tor chooses to de­scribe and what­ever Ifan deigns to tell you af­ter­ward. It’s an in­trigu­ing de­sign choice, es­pe­cially be­cause it can leave you un­sure of whether you can even trust your own party mem­bers. But it does work well to re­in­force the fact these char­ac­ters have pre-ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ships in the world. I’m not sure why you’d be un­happy with them get­ting you into fights, though. The com­bat sys­tem is the best part of the game.

WILKS: It is, but some­times diplo­macy works too. I have a fairly tra­di­tional party makeup, with a Ranger (Lohse), Rogue (Se­bille), Cleric (Ifan) and Fighter (Red Prince) but given how any char­ac­ter can learn magic and that spells in Divin­ity don’t nec­es­sar­ily func­tion how they would in other fan­tasy set­tings, ev­ery fight can be a real thrill. The en­vi­ron­men­tal/ ele­men­tal in­ter­ac­tions that made com­bat in the orig­i­nal Orig­i­nal Sin make a wel­come re­turn but have been en­hanced in mul­ti­ple fun ways. Pools of blood are both a re­source for any­one with a point in Ne­cro­mancy but can also be frozen or shocked to zap mul­ti­ple en­e­mies stand­ing in blood or to cre­ate haz­ards on the bat­tle­field.

WILDGOOSE: I never played the orig­i­nal, uh, Orig­i­nal Sin so dis­cov­er­ing the myr­iad tricks of ele­men­tal war­fare has been a con­stant joy. Dous­ing an en­emy in wa­ter low­ers its re­sis­tance to elec­tric­ity at­tacks. Freez­ing that wa­ter turns it into a slip­pery trap that can leave any­one sprawled on the floor. I fought a mage who cre­ated a wall of fire to block me from reach­ing her. Ex­cept she over­looked that we were fight­ing on a beach and I could send my melee fight­ers through the fire, let them take a quick dip in the wa­ter to douse the flames, and then carry on the fight. My favourite part of com­bat, how­ever, is telekine­sis. I found these gloves of tele­por­ta­tion early on, and de­spite loot­ing plenty of gloves with bet­ter base stats, I’ve never wanted to take them off. Pick­ing up en­e­mies and drop­ping them in oil slicks so Lohse (my mage) can set them ablaze is only sur­passed by be­ing able to tele­port Se­bille (my rogue) be­hind an en­emy so she can use her back­stab abil­ity. I’m sure I could have cho­sen my words more care­fully at times and avoided plenty of fights along the way. And that’s how I usu­ally pre­fer to role-play - I’m the talker, the diplo­mat, the guy who puts all his points into in­tel­li­gence and charisma. Not here. Orig­i­nal Sin 2’s com­bat is so good I was pro­vok­ing ev­ery­one I met, in­sult­ing them, threat­en­ing them, laugh­ing at them un­til blades were drawn.

WILKS: Once you find the tele­por­ta­tion gloves it’s im­pos­si­ble to want to wear any­thing else. Have you tried mov­ing someone to the edge of a precipice and us­ing a spell to push them off? Drop­ping en­e­mies on traps is pretty neat as well. I think what makes the com­bat sys­tem, and most sys­tems in OS2 for that mat­ter so good is the fact that the game is de­signed to pro­mote ex­per­i­men­ta­tion

it can leave you un­sure of whether you can even trust your own party mem­bers

in the player rather than sim­ply stick­ing to some ba­sic at­tacks. With some care­ful plan­ning and a few well placed tele­ports you can pit en­e­mies against each other and wait to mop-up the left­overs or you can avoid con­fronta­tions en­tirely. Spells and at­tacks in­ter­act with each other in a sim­i­lar man­ner, and play­ers have been work­ing out pow­er­ful syn­er­gised at­tacks on a daily ba­sis. Rather than a sand­box game, Divin­ity Orig­i­nal Sin II is more of a tool­box game. Play­ers are given a bunch of toys to play with and it’s up to them to find out what works.

WILDGOOSE: That’s some­thing some play­ers are go­ing to strug­gle with, I think, the de­gree to which you’re ex­pected to ex­per­i­ment and dis­cover what works for you. You’re left to fend for your­self in many ways. Sure, there’s a jour­nal that logs quests and a map that high­lights key NPCs and lo­ca­tions, but there’s no op­tion to say “I’m do­ing this quest, tell me where to go now!” and have the UI lay down a bread­crumb trail to fol­low. You’ve got to work it out your­self. Sim­i­lar with the crafting sys­tem; sure, there are recipes to find, but the rest of the time you’re ran­domly com­bin­ing in­gre­di­ents un­til that eu­reka mo­ment strikes. I love this sort of stuff, but I do ap­pre­ci­ate - de­spite that dou­ble-digit score at the bot­tom of the page - it’s not for ev­ery­one.

WILKS: You’re right about that. Orig­i­nal Sin II is not a game for peo­ple who do not want to in­vest an ab­surd amount of time delv­ing into the minu­tia of a fan­tasy world to dis­cover its se­crets and how it can be ma­nip­u­lated. If, how­ever, you’re a fan of old-school role­play­ing but aren’t afraid of mod­ern in­no­va­tion, this could eas­ily be your new ob­ses­sion. As an added bonus, all the tools the devs used to make the game are in­cluded in a sim­pli­fied form so play­ers can cre­ate their own ad­ven­tures or even play through ad­ven­tures live, with one per­son act­ing as the GM and oth­ers play­ing char­ac­ters. Af­ter I fi­nally fin­ish with the lengthy cam­paign, I’m go­ing to be look­ing through the Steam Work­shop for some home­brew mod­ules to play.

Hit by a fire­ball? Cast Rain to douse the flames and wash your cares away.

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