Di­vin­ity: Orig­i­nal Sin II im­pres­sions: Sav­ing the world as a face-steal­ing skele­ton

Turn and face the strange.

PCWorld (USA) - - Reviews Total War: Warhammer Ii - BY HAY­DEN DINGMAN

Di­vin­ity: Orig­i­nal Sin II is the highly an­tic­i­pated se­quel to an unan­tic­i­pated hit. Di­vin­ity: Orig­i­nal Sin took me by sur­prise in 2014. For the most part, the re­vival iso­met­ric RPG re­vival fo­cused on re­viv­ing the clas­sics of old—pil­lars of Eter­nity ( go.pc­world.com/pioe) in par­tic­u­lar, with its In­fin­ity En­gine stylings, but Waste­land 2 ( go.pc­world.com/wal2), Tyranny ( go.pc­world.com/tyra), and Tor­ment: Tides of Numen­era ( go.pc­world.com/tton) didn’t stray too far from the tem­plate.

But then there was Di­vin­ity, which I once wrote ( go.pc­world.com/wiow) felt like what you’d get “if, in­stead of dy­ing in the early 2000s, the iso­met­ric CRPG genre had kept evolv­ing that whole time.” Built from layer upon layer of sys­tems, Orig­i­nal Sin added dy­namism to the stodgy In­fin­ity En­gine for­mula. Flex­i­ble skills and classes al­lowed for

man­i­fold char­ac­ter builds, quests pre­sented half a dozen or more ap­proaches, and a deep com­bat sys­tem re­acted to both you and the en­vi­ron­ment—it of­ten felt like the only limit was your cre­ativ­ity.

That still holds true. To­day Di­vin­ity: Orig­i­nal Sin II ( go.pc­world.com/dios) of­fi­cially emerges from Early Ac­cess ( go. pc­world.com/efea), and I’m happy to say it’s ev­ery bit the se­quel you’d ex­pect. Well, at least the first 10 or 11 hours.

THE JOUR­NEY OF A THOU­SAND MILES...

Yeah, I’m not done yet. Not even close. We re­ceived the fi­nal re­view build of Orig­i­nal Sin II on Tues­day night, and I don’t know how long it’s go­ing to be but the first game lasted me 55 hours so...close to that, prob­a­bly? Maybe more?

It might take a bit.

I’ve played the first 10 or so hours though, as I said. That cov­ers the Early Ac­cess con­tent es­sen­tially— a short tu­to­rial/ pro­logue on a prison-bound ship and then the first main area, the prison is­land of Fort Joy.

Not in­cluded in the Early Ac­cess build (as far as I’m aware) is my char­ac­ter, Fane. Like most RPGS, the pre­vi­ous game had you cre­ate your char­ac­ters from scratch when en­ter­ing the game. That’s still an op­tion, but you can also play as one of five “Ori­gin” char­ac­ters, each with a cus­tom-crafted back­story and a unique per­spec­tive on the world. The four you don’t choose are avail­able as com­pan­ions later.

Fane’s an un­dead hu­manoid who fell asleep some­time in the dis­tant past and awoke in the present day to find he’s the last of his race. From what I’ve heard, Fane is a prod­uct of writer Chris Avel­lone ( go.pc­world.com/ chav— and it shows. There’s a real Planescape: Tor­ment vibe to Fane’s story so far.

Which brings me to my first point: The writ­ing. Orig­i­nal Sin II’S big­gest im­prove­ment over its pre­de­ces­sor is the writ­ing, by far. It’s not that Orig­i­nal Sin was bad per se, but the story was pretty sim­plis­tic and of­ten played sec­ond fid­dle to the com­bat sys­tems.

That isn’t the case this time around. While

com­bat is still preva­lent in Orig­i­nal Sin II, the bits of story I’ve seen so far are al­ready more in­ter­est­ing, the stakes more im­me­di­ate, the char­ac­ters more fleshed out than any­thing in the first game’s open­ing hours.

The tag sys­tem which I de­moed in my first-ever hands-on ( go.pc­world.com/feho) with Orig­i­nal Sin II is prov­ing pretty amaz­ing so far. Ba­si­cally, the game as­signs your char­ac­ter(s) var­i­ous tags based on race, class, back­ground, and cer­tain ac­tions. Fane for in­stance sports Un­dead, Scholar, and Mys­tic tags, plus those spe­cific to his char­ac­ter. I also un­locked the “Hero” tag at one point for help­ing out around Fort Joy.

These tags then feed into di­a­logues. A conversation about death might sport three generic re­sponses for in­stance plus a Fane­spe­cific op­tion about it “Not be­ing that bad.”

It’s not a rev­o­lu­tion­ary sys­tem—vari­a­tions of this have ex­isted in RPGS over the years. What impresses me about Orig­i­nal Sin II is how preva­lent these unique di­a­logue op­tions are. Al­most ev­ery conversation I’ve taken part in has had at least one, of­ten more, lines spe­cific to my char­ac­ter, be it race, class, or other at­tributes.

Some­times you can get a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive by switch­ing to one of your com­pan­ions and see­ing how con­ver­sa­tions change, but dur­ing im­por­tant story mo­ments you’re stuck with your main char­ac­ter’s per­spec­tive. I can’t even imag­ine how many al­ter­nate quest path­ways, how many bits of story, or how many throw­away lines I’ve missed by play­ing as Fane and not the Red Prince, Lohse, or the other com­pan­ions, but it must be a stun­ning amount.

Fane has it best in some

ways, though. As you can imag­ine, the un­dead aren’t very wel­come in your usual so­cial cir­cles. To solve this prob­lem you can wear a hood or you can do one bet­ter and— wait for it— wear some­one else’s face. Yes, as Fane (or a generic un­dead char­ac­ter) you can get a Fac­erip­per and use it to steal the faces off corpses, Han­ni­bal Lecter style, then trans­form into that race at will. Fane also has a less-grue­some mask that al­lows him to trans­form into any of the four races, sans-face, but where’s the fun in that?

And when you do trans­form, thanks to the flex­i­bil­ity of the tag sys­tem, you gain that race’s unique traits. Elves have a racial abil­ity where they can eat corpses and ab­sorb the mem­o­ries (and some­times the tal­ents) of who­ever the body part came from. Cool! Gross! Trans­form into an elf and Fane gains this abil­ity too.

It also ap­plies in less ob­vi­ous ways. Lizards are an ar­ro­gant and proud race that con­sider them­selves above the rest of the mor­tals. Talk to a lizard in your nor­mal form and it might brush you off, sneer at you, or even chal­lenge you to a fight. Trans­form into a lizard though and sud­denly that ar­ro­gant jerk is your new best friend.

So yeah, I’m re­ally en­joy­ing Fane so far. The game warns that an Un­dead path does come with some unique chal­lenges—al­ways

And when you do trans­form, thanks to the flex­i­bil­ity of the tag sys­tem, you gain that race’s unique traits.

wear­ing a hel­met to cover up your creepy skull-face, for one. Also you’re ac­tu­ally hurt by stan­dard heal­ing magic and po­tions, while poi­son re­plen­ishes your health. An in­ter­est­ing wrin­kle, that. It’s a fair chal­lenge though, and the writ­ing more than makes up for it.

The other unique char­ac­ters are good, too. Lohse is maybe the most in­ter­est­ing—she lets spir­its come and go from her head at will, sort of a ghost ho­tel. The prob­lem? A malev­o­lent spirit has taken up semiper­ma­nent res­i­dence, and keeps tak­ing over her body at in­op­por­tune times. She’s in my party, for sure, along with the mer­ce­nary Ifan and the afore­men­tioned Red Prince.

Also ap­pre­ci­ated: Orig­i­nal Sin II lets you choose a class for your com­pan­ions. Rev­o­lu­tion­ary! No more “Oh, I can’t take this char­ac­ter along be­cause she’s a rogue and I don’t need an­other rogue” dis­ap­point­ments. This time, any com­pan­ion can be any class and sup­port you on your jour­ney.

It’s the lit­tle things, those qual­ity of life ad­just­ments, that make Orig­i­nal Sin II great. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen a fea­ture, ei­ther in this game or its pre­de­ces­sor, and thought “Yeah, why don’t other RPGS do that?” That, to me, is the strong­est com­pli­ment I could pay.

BOT­TOM LINE

As I said, I’m barely out of the Early Ac­cess area so it’s hard to tell how the rest of the ad­ven­ture will shape up. All Orig­i­nal Sin re­ally needed though (in my opin­ion) was a stronger story, and so far it seems like Lar­ian’s de­liv­ered on that and more. Ku­dos also for an in­tro­duc­tion that’s slightly less in­tim­i­dat­ing than the pre­vi­ous game—it’s a bit smaller, a bit more fo­cused and di­rected, and with less op­por­tu­nity to stum­ble into some­thing that will re­ally kick your ass, at least early on.

My sole grum­ble so far: The in­ven­tory is still a mess. Bet­ter, in­so­far as you can ac­cess all four com­pan­ion in­ven­to­ries from a sin­gle screen, but still a mess.

We’ll be back with more con­crete im­pres­sions of the story, plus any other wrin­kles I en­counter along the way, once I’ve fin­ished. I think I’m go­ing to sa­vor this one, though.

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