We’re playing as large, red, humanoid lizard. Because obviously. If you give us an opportunity to play a videogame as a large, red, humanoid lizard we’re going to do that – though Fane, the wisecracking skeleton dude ran our decision close.
Our character is called The Red Prince. He’s an exiled heir. He’s on the run from assassins. He’s basically what might happen if Julian Clary and an iguana had a baby. He runs like Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World. He says actually funny things, like, “Such a nuisance, the law” and “I intend to rule an empire one day, not a tiny outcropping in the sea, lording over gulls and guppy fish.” The Red Prince flirts with everyone and everything.
And we’re dead.
We start the game afresh, this time as a dwarf named Beast. He’s Scottish, because everyone in fantasy RPG’s is either English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish. Breaking this down further, there’s often a splash of Norfolk, Devon or Geordie given to some characters. There certainly is here.
There’s that olde worlde feel to those accents. You can’t be having an elf come from New York. It’s not the done thing. Beast is a sailor. He keeps banging on about his cousin. She’s a queen. It seems like she’s responsible in some way for the game starting out on a prison ship. We discover a murder. We talk to a mysterious elf. We find ourselves getting blown up by a witch. A Kraken turns up and we’re fighting giant demon woodlice.
And we’re dead.
AN ALMIGHTY CHALLENGE
For a significant period of time, this is our experience of Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition – and try saying that after downing a few bottles of healing potion. We play with Sebille, former slave-turned-spy. We play with Ifan Ben-Mezd, a broody warrior who was almost certainly on loan at Newcastle United last season. And we play with Lohse, who, maybe accidentally, is a character that raises some interesting points about depictions of mental health in videogames.
In command of any of them, from the off, Divinity is an intriguing (if punishing) experience. And then we discover Story Mode, which scales back the battles significantly. Once we’re past the Kraken, off the boat, onto the prison island Fort Joy – once the game’s subtle, non-evasive tutorials have helped us understand what on earth we’re supposed to be doing – we’re hooked. Here we will stay until we’re prised from the sofa, kicking and screaming, shouting, “We haven’t looted all the corpses! We haven’t looted them all!”
Within a few hours, we start thinking that Divinity 2: Original Sin isn’t as much a videogame as it is our life now. Brought into the world on PC last September, developed by the hyper-creative Belgian hub Larian Studios, the game currently holds the title of ‘Universal Acclaim’ on Metacritic. It took just two months to make a million quid. It’s not hard to see why.
In following up the first Divinity: Original Sin in 2014 (though Divinity has actually existed since 2002, the first being Divine Divinity, they’re just crap at naming the series in a canonical fashion), Larian have created a rich, varied, enormous world – Rivellon – filled with quirk and charm. It feels alive. The stories told within said world are often sad, often inspiring, sometimes funny – sometimes, when Fane is on screen, very, very funny. And the whole game hangs on the concept of ‘choice’.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
Now, we all know that choice is the buzzword of modern gaming, normally spoken somewhere within a sentence that also includes the word ‘consequences’. But how many games offer you that, then loop you around the obstacle you’re trying to overcome anyway? Not so Divinity 2: Original Sin, a game where ambiguities like morality and timing reign supreme.
It took us hours to get off that boat. Hours. We thought we would die there, and we did, many times. But it’s worth noting that every time we tried to escape we had a different experience. Look, you’re not going to believe that, because everyone says it – but it’s true! And this doesn’t stop in the confounds of the creaking galleon. Choice is woven into the entire games DNA.
As well as the obvious influence of top-down CRPG’s like Ultima, Wizardry and Might and Magic – though Baldurs Gate is an influence right at the very forefront – Larian boss Swen Vinke has spoken of tabletop gaming fuelling the mechanics of his smash hit sequel. This is never more apparent than in the variety of ways you can experience the core narrative. There are cool details and secrets to discover everywhere, while you can actually kill core NPG’s. Again, more consequences.
If you do this, it drastically changes how your story will evolve. Where morality comes into it, is sometimes when you kill someone, days later you’ll learn a titbit of information that leaves you thinking that they probably didn’t deserve to die. We should mention too, that the AI of the game is the best artificial mirroring of a human Dungeon Master we’ve perhaps ever experienced.
THE NEW GODS
Despite a plot that can essentially be articulated as ‘you might be a God, let’s hope you are, because there’s this thing called The Void and nothing good is ever called The Void’, it’s the subplots that really dazzle. The Red Prince, for example, appears to spend the entire game trying to get a shag, though there are subtleties to his quest that are infinitely more touching than base rutting.
Then there’s the combat, which is super smart in that it allows you to weaponize your environments – you can electrify puddles of water, freeze pools of blood – as well as allowing you to deploy the use of line of sight or the height of the ground you’re standing upon. Again, the choice is less daunting than it is lasciviously rewarding.
Of course, this edition of the game is most likely the first chance Xbox and PlayStation owners will of have to experience Divinity 2. There’s a tonne of new material – a new difficulty level, a reworked final act, too much detail to outline explicitly here, though we’re confident in saying this version is worthy of the time of anyone who has already worn the PC version to death (and Larian are giving it to PC owners as a free update anyway, so what have you lost?). There’s also an optimized sheen applied across the game that elevates already pretty areas of Rivellon to regions of lush beauty.
Is Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition any good?
Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition [downs shot of healing potion] is an excellent port, far better than any PC-to-console port we can think of at this time, while still being limited by the simple fact this is a game that is supposed to be played with a mouse. Routes to your inventory using a tap of the controller trigger are neat, but it still feels like ramming a triangle into a square hole. That said, other innovations like holding down the X button to search every item in a wide circumference, add something new – even, whisper it, better – to the experience.
In truth, if you’re coming to the game fresh you won’t know any better. If you do, you’ll learn to live with the quirks soon enough. It’s exciting this world is coming to a new audience. It’s a game that deserves a vast audience. And we’ll just say it; Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition [downs shot] is the best classic fantasy RPG on console, ever.
And now we’re going to go loot some more corpses. With a large, red, humanoid lizard.