Divinity: Original Sin II Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Independent
Developer:Larian Studios
Release Date:2017-09-14
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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You'll be unraveling this web over the course of four large maps, positively packed with settlements, dungeons, and quests. Fort Joy, the island prison you begin the game on, is one such map, and essentially, it can be considered the game's intro. An intro that can take you around 20 hours to complete. This creates a situation where going through Fort Joy, I wasn't really feeling it. The area seemed to lack a certain degree of cohesion and direction, felt a bit lacking.

However, later on, near the end of the game, I thought back to Fort Joy and realized that I now appreciate it way more. It serves as a perfect intro that sets things up, while also giving you a taste of Original Sin II's open nature. And where the game truly gets going, is when you reach the main map of Act 2 – Reaper's Coast. There you finally realize just how deep Original Sin II is.

Here's an example. When you first land on the Reaper's Coast, you find yourself on the mainland and get the chance to see for yourself what the Voidwoken invasion is doing to the world. Before, you only saw yourself as a prisoner, unjustly captured and sent off to get experimented on by crazy robed maniacs. But when you see the destruction wrought by the Voidwoken first-hand, you begin to understand that people may be justified in fearing you and your kind.

And then you remember that you have a quest log full of entries that offer you multiple choices of where to go first. On a whim, I went West. After fighting some stray Voidwoken and stumbling upon an ambushed caravan that was also a part of the dwarven storyline, I noticed a raised drawbridge and a kid throwing rocks at giant venomous creatures.

Turned out his mother got stuck on the other side of the bridge, and he begged us to save her. Now, I don't know what was the intended way of solving this quest, but abandoning his previous objective, my dwarven protagonist sprung a pair of wings and flew across the river. He then teleported the rest of the party to him and rushed into battle.

After the Voidwoken terrorizing the poor woman were defeated, my party stuck around to explore her house, found a cellar that was larger than one might expect, helped a turtle profess her love to a rat, and then emerged in a mansion of a sinister-looking gravekeeper who was surrounded by zombies.

And this is where Original II shines. This endless sense of wonder where you never know what awaits you behind the next corner. You explore the game's world and gradually stumble onto more and more mysteries to solve, and it all feels extremely organic. The quests are oftentimes interconnected in surprising ways, and this creates a great illusion of a world that lives and breathes on its own and isn't just a theme park created for you and you alone.

The game is astonishing in how open it is, without being an empty open-world sandbox. Everything you do has a chance of coming back to haunt you later, and you can never tell beforehand how a quest may turn out. And with the game being this open, it's also amazing how it adapts on the fly to all the chaos you can inflict on it.

And sure, you may not be able to complete all of the game's quests in a single play-through, especially if you keep failing persuasion checks or blowing up quest-related NPCs, but that's okay. It just gives you a reason to replay it and experience something completely new, by simply turning right instead of left.

This freedom is aided by so many systems you can play around with. You want to craft potions? Go ahead. You want to cook a pizza? No problem! You want to enchant your items with runes? You can do that as well. Or don't, and rely on the stuff you find in dusty old chests, or even common barrels, if your character is lucky enough. There's always something new to discover, and the game manages to strike a great balance between combat, exploration, interacting with NPCs, and solving puzzles.

Now, in the previous Original Sin game, there was this widely spread complaint that the game was front-loaded and after the opening area of Cyseal, it experienced a significant drop in quality. In Original Sin II, I would say, three out of the four of its major areas are great, even if I do consider Fort Joy great only after the fact.

The game's final area, the city of Arx, is where you can notice a number issues in quest and level design, and by that point it becomes apparent that it's time to wrap things up. Yet even then, the questionable design decisions, for the most part, are overshadowed by the frequent displays of consequences to your choices from as far back as Fort Joy.

And on the narrative side of things, the game continues to exhibit Larian's signature light-hearted approach to writing about seriously grisly stuff. Sure, maybe most cellars in Rivellon are stuffed with freshly butchered corpses, not to mention all the closets with their respective skeletons, but the vibrant lively colors and the frequent moments of levity create this juxtaposition between the grim and the cheery that perfectly highlights both the highs and the lows of Original Sin II's story.

With so much to do, and realistically, no way to complete everything on your first go, Original Sin II begs for multiple play-throughs, even though a single one can take you around a hundred hours. It's a massive game on the scale of something like Baldur's Gate II, and just as enjoyable, so be prepared to get lost in the world of Rivellon for months at a time.

And apart from the main campaign, Original Sin II also offers a multiplayer PvP Arena mode that lets you fight other people online, which I personally found to be a bit of an afterthought, but you may enjoy greatly.

And even beyond that, there's the Game Master mode, that turns the game into a pen and paper RPG simulator where you can create a campaign of your own, or download one from the Internet, and then play it together with your friends. It's too early to tell right now, but depending on how popular this mode gets, we're looking at a game with a potentially endless stream of content. Think Neverwinter Nights and its modules.