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
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay


Then, we have the quest log. With all the freedom you have, your journal struggles to keep up with you and properly document your travels through Rivellon. It kind of sucks to be running around, trying to find a way to finish a quest, when you've actually already finished it and your journal is just lying to you by keeping it as an active entry.

Of course, in a game this massive, there are some bugs. Especially, after you leave the area that people could play through during Early Access. Thankfully, for the most part these bugs are minor and more annoying than game-breaking.

Another thing that struck me as odd was the dialogue. The NPCs talk like you would expect in an RPG, and their lines are fully voiced, which is a nice touch for those who don't enjoy reading that much. However, when your character gets to respond, your options are presented in a second-person point of view for some reason. So, instead of it looking something like, "Yarr, matey!" it's more along the lines of, "You yarr at your matey as a salty old pirate." It looks weird and out of place.

I also have some other minor assorted gripes, like the clunky barter interface, or the rather cumbersome inventory management, or how the tags your character have can at times conflict with one another, but none of these are exceptionally heinous.

And here we come to my biggest complaint about the game, apart from the armour system. While the game is usually exceptionally open and allows for multiple approaches to solving even a basic task, one of the story-critical quests near the end of the game is so baffling, in how poorly it is designed, that I could probably write a separate review just of it alone.

As such, I'll try to be as brief as possible. The Path of Blood quest line is a perfect storm of convoluted quests you have to do in exactly the right order or risk locking yourself out of ever completing the game, with multiple complicated puzzles, poorly-written journal entries, occasional bugs that make things even more confusing, and so much pixel hunting that not even the adventure games you remember from the 1990s can compare.

In fact, if someone creates a mod that allows you to press a button and just skip that entire quest line, I would heartily recommend it to everybody, even those on their first play-through.

And now, after having an entire section of this review dedicated to all the gripes I have with the game, I want to stress one thing. Divinity: Original Sin II is the kind of game that's greater than the sum of its parts. I enjoyed it immensely even with the aforementioned flaws. It's an experience that can last over a hundred hours, and on such a long road, some bumps are simply inevitable. Be aware that they exist, but I implore you to keep an open mind. Underneath the jank, there's a real gem of a game.

Technical Information

The game mostly runs pretty well. Your framerate may dip when the screen is covered with fire or explosions, or in the unfortunate city of Arx, but other than that, it's pretty stable and quick to save and load.

Speaking of saving, Original Sin II has one of the best quick/auto save systems ever. You have two sliders that determine how many slots should be allocated to those functions, and you can decide for yourself how many save slots you require on top of the manual saves.

Bugs aside, the game is extremely well-polished, clean-looking, and responsive. You have tooltips where you would expect tooltips to be, tutorial messages pop up when you first discover some new concept, and so on. My only complaint there is that you can't resize the UI, which is quite a useful feature to have, but not a critical one.

And on the audio side, the game sounds pretty nice. Some of the many lines of voice acting feel out of place, weirdly mixed, or don't exist at all, but that happens extremely rarely.

The soundtrack is an eclectic collection of fantasy tunes that do a great job of conveying the game's atmosphere. Larian Studios' previous in-house composer, Kirill Pokrovsky, had unfortunately passed away back in 2015, and I feared that whoever Larian would find to replace him, will try to emulate his style and fail miserably at doing so. This was not the case, and Original Sin II's music has a distinct feel to it, unlike anything we could hear in the previous Divinity games, but it's very good in its own right. You even occasionally get personalized tracks based on the instrument you pick during character creation.

And as for Kirill, he got a subtle heartfelt tribute, where at a certain point in the game a ghostly pianist can play you some of his old tunes.

Conclusion

They said it couldn't be done. They said it was just nostalgia talking. They said we were just easily impressionable kids and/or grognards, and that was why we enjoyed those old RPGs so much. And before Divinity: Original Sin II, there was some truth to these faceless nay-saying claims. Even when I enjoyed RPGs in recent years, I always had to admit that they could never quite reach that bar set by the games that came out 15-20 years ago. But not anymore.

Original Sin II is not a perfect game, not by a long shot. But even with those imperfections, it's still a shining example of what a modern RPG should be.

Yes, there are some bugs, some quests are janky and rough around the edges, and some of the mechanics make little sense. But a classic like Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura has all those things, too. And you know what? None of that has stopped Arcanum from becoming one of my favorite games of all time, and as a result, I can't help but proclaim Larian Studios' Divinity: Original Sin II one of the finest RPGs of all time, as well.

As I write this, I'm thinking of starting a new play-through, co-op perhaps, seeing what else the game has to offer, trying new things, and once again immersing myself in the magical world of Rivellon. And that, in my mind, is the mark of a great RPG.