In the hunt for something to grab my attention post-Fallout 76 at the end of last year, I turned to comparing some of my old wishlists to various holiday gaming sales and found what I thought might be a perfect match in Divinity: Original Sin II. Here was a game, on sale, that I had longed to play in years past. It promised rich lore, great characters, deep storytelling, interesting environments, and plenty of exploration. Its review scores were roundly positive across the board, with players claiming it to be nothing less than the second coming of RPGs, a must-play to the highest degree. Well, as I already spoiled with the title, my time with it was not quite as stellar as I had hoped.
Lest I bring anyone down at the start, I believe everything that’s been said and written about this game. It is incredible in nearly all respects. Set in a land called Rivellon, it tells the tale of a prisoner (the player of either a custom or a pre-made character of one’s choosing) who is also a Sourcerer, one who can utilize “Source” to better their magic or combat skills. This Sourcerer, called the “Godwoken,” starts life on a ship with other Source-users that’s run by the Divine Order, which is in the business of enslaving anyone with an inkling of Sourcerery. Upon meeting several compatriots, the ship is attacked, and the Godwoken and most everyone from the ship ends up at their destination, a prison island called Fort Joy. From there, after gathering up some surviving companions, the Godwoken’s somewhat mysterious adventures begins.
That’s the most detailed summation I can give without giving away too much. It’s clear from the game’s start that information gathering plays a huge role in the player’s experience; what and how much the player chooses to take in would seem to affect various outcomes. The player’s time on the ship serves as a tutorial to various aspect of the game, from general movement and interactions to combat. While it sets up the game nicely, I actually felt that I could have used a little more direction, because I felt very underprepared once I started adventuring in Fort Joy. As with many games of this kind, there was just so much to discover and uncover that I regularly worried about missing something important. While I tried simply to enjoy what I was experiencing, that nagging feeling of “should I be doing this now?” always sat at the back of my mind.
Besides feeling a little behind the curve in DOSII, the other things that made me feel dated were its approaches to inventory and combat – namely that I was responsible for absolutely everything. I will readily admit that I don’t like, or at least, no longer enjoy managing companions in games. I like having companions just fine, and, whenever might be the case, I like tackling missions in which they are involved. But I don’t want to think about their equipment or tactics, sorry. And yes, before any DOSII players call for my head, I knew this was a tactical RPG going in. I expected that I’d have to make some per character choices. What I didn’t know was just how deeply those choices would cut throughout the game. My goal in playing this or any new title is always to try something that might be, at first, a little uncomfortable. The hope is that discomfort will ease into comfort with practice. I’m not there yet with DOSII, and my present feeling is that I’m probably not going to reach that point with it anytime soon.
Maybe that’s what it’s all about. Divinity: Original Sin II is an unapologetically uncomfortable (at least at the start) RPG, one with systems that require time and focus to understand. It’s also a beautiful game, and I adore the characters I’ve met. They are far from the cookie-cutter personalities that populate so many other game worlds. Each have their own concerns, goals, and sentiments about Rivellon’s trials and tribulations and their places within it. They have their own opinions about Source, the Divine Order, and the Godwoken’s supposed saving-the-world role. Their interactions and reactions have provided some of the most interesting, amusing, and insightful moments so far.
I’ve not completely written off Divinity: Original Sin II, but it’s one of those titles that makes me ponder my ever-changing relationship with games. If I had tried this game when I first put it on a wishlist some five or six years ago, would I have liked it more then? I really don’t know. I do know that I’m always up to try something new, and if it sticks, it sticks. If not, maybe it’s just not the right time, and it’s probably or worth the effort of me worrying about when it’s time will come, if ever.
All images, including lede, were taken by author during PS5 gameplay of Divinity: Original Sin II (© Elverils LLC, Larian Studios).
Buying the first game, I played it a little but just knew there was too much going on for me. You have to invest in the game I think, and for those that do they’re rewarded. But for myself I’m asking, should I be playing this co-op? Should I actually skip the first and play the second game which seems to have more praise. Where do I start etc. I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually but it seems the very opposite of a casual RPG romp which of course that’s the point. Kind of got that after playing the first half hour or so.
I do have the height of respect for a game like this that is uncompromising though.
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I have to agree. The game demands a lot, but it also gives a lot in return. Even in my few hours with it, that was evident. This isn’t a game to flit in and out of – it really does require some focus, especially up front when you’re trying to figure things out. I’m not giving up on it yet; I just need to find the right time to give it the attention it deserves.
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Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:
There’s always a risk in trying out any new-to-you game, but it’s usually one worth taking. Usually. With Divinity: Original Sin II, unfortunately, my hopes outweighed reality, as I recently discussed over on Virtual Bastion.
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