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Larian CEO Swen Vincke gave a presentation about the company's upcoming title, Divinity: Original Sin II, at PC Gamer Weekender. Thankfully for us, the entire presentation was recorded and uploaded on PC Gamer's YouTube channel, making it easy for anyone to check it out. I should note that the presentation contains almost no gameplay and that all of the materials shown are work-in-progress, and that it focuses largely on the design goals that Larian has set for the title.
Larian's ambition with Divinity: Original Sin II is to make a game that is simultaneously more reactive and with a stronger narrative, but that also lets players co-operate or work against each other, all while providing even deeper combat and more avenues for experimentation. These are lofty goals, which is why most of the presentation dealt with how Vincke and his teams intend to implement those in the actual final product.
As far as the world and narrative is concerned, Vincke explained that the writing team expanded significantly when compared to the original game. Divinity: Original Sin had a writing team composed of two writers, and one of them only joined halfway through the game's development. Conversely, the Divinity: Original Sin II team includes five more writers in addition to the original two-person writing team, and that doesn't include Chris Avellone's freelance contributions. The concept art team was similarly expanded.
Contrary to the first game, players will first create a main avatar and then proceed to select "up to three companions." The main avatar will have an Origin story, which can be selected from a number of canned options or created through a "generic system." Some Origin stories require a particular Race or only allow for a number of Races, while others are open to all. Other character creation choices include the character's personality, gender, race, skills and looks. According to Vincke, almost every single dialogue tree should offer a plethora of options based on the choices made in character creation in the final game.
Vincke also explained that, while in the past Larian writers tended to make up stuff as they went, this time they decided to actually sit down and write a lore bible for the series, which should help make the setting less stereotypical. All this narrative work will also be carried over into the multiplayer mode, in which it will be possible for four different characters with wildly conflicting goals to co-operate and act against each other.
Just as in Divinity: Original Sin, it will be possible for the four characters to separate and travel to different locations, and since these characters have wildly different goals, the consequences of their actions will be felt keenly by the other players. According to Vincke, features like that aren't common simply because they're a lot of work and require a large budget. Larian's scripters had to think of fallback solutions for a large number of rare permutations and sometimes even had to implement fallbacks to fallback solutions.
Vincke also reiterated something that he argued during the development of Divinity: Original Sin: because of all the work done for the multiplayer portion of the game, single-player mode also benefits. Implementing those features required extensive prototyping, however, especially when it came to turn-based PvP, though Vincke was happy to report that the idea actually worked extremely well in practice. He also described some of the situations and systems that players can use to mess with each other. He explained that, for example, the level of security of a location might be raised after a character is spotted, and that this knowledge might be used by an enterprising player to make the stealth mission of another character more difficult.
Vincke also revealed that skill crafting in Divinity: Original Sin II will allow players to mix two skill books together to create a new one, and he went on to note that some skills will only be available via this process. Another new mechanic implemented by the team makes it so that NPCs leave ghosts behind when they die, and these ghosts can act in a variety of ways. He explained that one poisoned character on the verge of death in one quest could be killed to obtain information about the perpetrator of this crime, without having to follow the breadcrumbs of what would otherwise be a full investigation quest.
During the presentation's very short Q&A session, Vincke explained that character death will depend on how it's set up by the players beforehand and that the default is permadeath. He also revealed that, except for Divinity II: Ego Draconis, all of Larian's games were originally planned as turn-based titles and were only developed as action-RPGs because of the publisher's mandate.
Spotted on RPG Codex.