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Divinity is a long-running series of video games created by Belgian developer Larian Studios that began in 2002 with the original Divine Divinity. Over the years, it went through multiple changes and even switched genres a couple of times, until it finally grew its beard, so to speak, in Divinity: Original Sin. With the debut of Original Sin, the series went squarely down the turn-based RPG path, including a focus on cooperation and a high degree of freedom. And now, after a successful Kickstarter campaign and a year in Early Access, the latest chapter in the long-running series, Divinity: Original Sin II, has officially been released.
It is a game that could have come out in a world where isometric cRPGs of the late 1990s and early 2000s had never gone out of style, had never been usurped by third-person action-RPGs, and were still the gold standard of what every RPG should be. In that world, Original Sin II would be the next step in those games' evolution - more user-friendly and polished, but still as complex, compelling, and challenging. In other words, a true spiritual successor.
If you want the shortest possible summary of this review, here it is: go buy Divinity: Original Sin II right now. Or continue reading to learn more about the premise, mechanics, and what works and what doesn't in this behemoth of an RPG.
Divinity: Original Sin II – Shadows of Arx
Before you begin your Original Sin II adventure, you first need to create a character. As opposed to the previous Original Sin game, this time around you only need one. You can fill the rest of your party of up to four characters later, with either pre-made companions or a bunch of hirelings you get from a certain NPC.
After you've settled on your character's race, which all have some unique spin to them gameplay- and lore-wise, you can then pick one of the so-called "presets." In Original Sin II's classless system, these presets allow you to start your character on a particular path without much fuss.
Alternatively, you can distribute attribute points, skill points (represented by Combat and Civil abilities), and talents yourself, if you have some particular build in mind. Then, you can choose a number of "tags," that determine your character's background and give them additional dialogue options.
You can do all that, or you can pick one of the Origin characters. These characters come with their own story and pre-established connections to Divinity's signature world of Rivellon. Take Fane, for example, an Undead scholar from a bygone era. If you play as Fane, your story basically transforms from a fantasy adventure about gods and kings into an episode of some Ancient Aliens show.
A good thing about these Origin characters, is that only their tags and stories are set in stone. Other than that, you can customize their presets, attributes, and starting skills whichever way you want.
Another thing about the Origin characters, is that if you don't play as them, you're able to recruit them into your party as companions, and learn certain aspects of their stories that way. What's even better, is that your companions aren't just witty banter machines who tag along for the ride, and instead often interject in conversations and try to complete their own personal quests.
However, if you don't like these companions or their stories, you can always opt out of using them and create a party of agreeable hirelings who just follow you around without stealing your show. But if you do decide to play with a party of Origin characters, you can customize their starting presets in any way you like, so that you don't have to miss out on a companion just because they're a wizard and you don't need one for your party. And even further, starting from Act 2, you can respec at will and fine-tune a party that's fully to your liking.
And now that you have a character and are ready to begin your journey through Rivellon, the game greets you with a grim opening where you're pegged as a Sourcerer, shackled, collared, and shipped off to a remote internment camp. You see, Lucian the Divine, the protagonist of Divine Divinity, is dead, and without him there's a void in the balance of power, and something desperately wants to fill that void. Namely petty dictators, clueless monarchs, and the aptly named Voidwoken, Divinity's take on eldritch horrors.
The majority of the game's story will revolve around filling that void and replacing the Divine with the most capable candidate – yourself, which in turn should deal with the Voidwoken crisis. And because it's a Divinity game, that story will go through multiple twists and turns, constantly making you question what's actually going on and who you can trust.
But, before you get yourself involved in all that, your initial goal revolves around the prisoner's first obligation – to escape. If you're playing as an Origin character it's explicit, and if you're playing as a custom character – assumed, that you have other things to do, and your unfortunate imprisonment is quite inconvenient.
In my opinion, this is a great way to start a story – instead of a prophecy or a sudden revelation, you start by having a simpler goal than to become a god. You just want to stop your crazy cousin or get a demon out of your head, that sort of thing. And then, gradually, you learn more about Rivellon's woes and discover that your personal story is somehow connected to them. And after a vessel you commandeer takes you on a trip to the land of the dead and back, there's no turning around. You simply have to press onward, now completely embroiled in a vast web of conspiracies and intrigue.
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