A CRPG Novice's Take on Divinity: Original Sin II

GameSpot's editors have recently posed a question – should Larian Studios' Divinity: Original Sin II be your first proper cRPG? In response (or perhaps coincidentally), the folks at PCGamesN had one of their own editors, without much prior cRPG experience, play through Larian's latest title. This had resulted in a humorous “captain's log” sort of article, where, through sheer determination and trial and error, that editor slowly and gradually becomes, in his own words, a “cRPG convert.” A few sample paragraphs:

The Character Creator

Original Sin 2 opens with a big, fancy character creator. It is filled with options for building the game’s protagonist out with skills that initially, being unfamiliar with its systems, mean absolutely nothing at all. Thank god, then, for the handful of pre-made characters whose set appearance and skillset cuts through the usual decision-making paralysis.

Deciding on the shiny red lizard man - clear MVP of the line-up - I watch the introductory cutscene. Seeing him in the opening area, set against the game world with a blood-coloured tail and long scaly neck poking out of a tattered shirt, I realise I can’t spend dozens of hours with what is essentially a walking, talking snake. Too repulsive, I decide. Who’s next?

I rush back into the character creator again and, quickly overwhelmed, go with the boring, bearded human knight, Ifan ben-Mezd. I consider customising him a bit, but don’t want to get ahead of myself. His pre-set stat pages look fine. That’ll do, I decide, and let Jesus take the wheel.

Current mood: Thankful; regretful.

Hour One: The Story So Far

Now a boring old human, I set out to explore Original Sin 2’s opening level: a wooden prison ship carrying my character and other ‘Sourcerors’ to a place called Fort Joy. The plot is, as expected, thick with terms that don’t make any sense yet. What’s a ‘Godwoken?’ Some Tolkien-esque spin on the born again Christian? Who are ‘the Seven Gods?’ Can I just transpose Game of Thrones onto this and hope for the best?

Luckily, it isn’t long before I start chatting with other characters and the dialogue, though still dotted with inscrutable references, comes across with enough genuine personality that it doesn’t seem to matter. A stern-looking guard talks down to me, delighted to know I am heading to a place of utter torment. Another is more chipper - a true believer in the ruling, assumedly non-Catholic ‘Bishop’ who tells me the political decisions behind my imprisonment are all going to work out for the best.

I then run into myself from a past life, the red lizard man, now a non-playable character called The Red Prince. He doesn’t look particularly aristocratic in his shackles and sackcloth, but still orders others around like a haughty jerk. Ugly and an asshole - perhaps I made the right decision after all. He and a few of the other characters speak in a way that is far more tangible than the so-far generic fantasy of the rest of the story. They have distinctly human personalities.

Take my future party member Fane who, despite being a talking skeleton, talks down to my shorter-lived human character with the tone of a disinterested adult answering a child’s endless questions about how the world works. Though they wear ornate robes and carry glowing wizard staffs, the guards are as gleefully condescending as power-drunk mall cops. They are all very entertaining.

For now, I am ignoring the reams of information and statistics that fill the menus. I have to if I want to get anything done.

Current mood: Intrigued; lizard regrets.


Hours Three to Five: Let’s Fight

I pick a fight with a group of cheating gamblers and my sense of understanding Original Sin 2’s combat is beaten into mincemeat in tandem with the slack, bloodied bodies of my hopeless and hapless characters. Later, I stumble into a few prison guards and the process repeats. It goes without saying that a collection of fire slugs ruin me, too.

In each situation, I am able to quickly reload and sneak past or ignore these enemies entirely, but, at this stage, it is aggravating to know there is still one major part of the game I can’t seem to properly figure out. I don’t want to have to find alternative routes through the slug-filled cave when those slimy bastards attacked first. I would rather not hit the ‘sneak’ key (which, beautifully, turns the characters into supposedly unassuming shrubs or rocks) to edge past a group of guards happily chatting on a quick break from the torture they administer in a medieval-looking dungeon. I want to hold my own in a dust-up.

Getting a better grip on Original Sin 2’s combat system feels like the only hurdle left to overcome. The text-based role-playing is approachable, the exploration has me actually wanting to talk to every possible character, and I feel versed enough in how to build out my party now that I am unafraid to allocate skill points and start turning my boring human, angry elf, skeleton man, and lizard prince into the talkers and fighters I know they can be.

But still, no matter how cautiously I approach combat - no matter how carefully I choose skills, position my fighters, and examine the environment for oil to spill and fires to start - I am routinely outmatched. For now, still bothered by this, I am choosing to bypass fighting altogether, which, given that the game so far makes this a viable option, is a temporary solution. It just isn’t one I feel good about. My protagonist - human lump of vanilla ice cream that he is - deserves more. He’s a warrior, goddammit.

Current mood: determined.