Gods, Bugs and a Kraken: Divinity Original Sin II Review

So a while ago I told you how COVID tore my D&D group apart for a bit! While there is nothing wrong with online tabletop , when 3 players and a D&D read body language of other players to make plays or steer the story.. you end up in trouble!  So I ended up breaking it off for now..keeping an online game.  Now for my blog anniversary, my friend The Multifaceted Ocelot gave me the gift of a game that would allow me to play a D&D like game..but on my pc! Without people that were being mean to me! I could also play it WITH people that were nice to me.. however.. for this review I played by myself! Did I like it?! Find out in this review!

Pinkie the Sourcerer

Divinity Original Sin II (DOS2 after this)  is a game made by Larian Studios. Launched for pc in 2017 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2018 and for MacOS and Switch in 2019.  It’s not to be confused with Divinity II which is a whole other game.. and a much lesser one at that.
DOS2 managed to sell very well selling a million copies within two months and is considered among the best role playing games of all times by fans and critics alike. This game is a multi character top down rpg being comparable to games like Planescape Torment and Baldurs Gate.  To me it was very comparable to the Dungeon Siege series.. but much more open ended with a lot more inspiration from classic D&D tabletops and less crappy movie adaptations. 

In this game you pick OR create an avatar, which goes on a quest to ascend to divinity to free the lands from some horrible eldritch bug like creatures known as the Voidwoken. You yourself are blessed with the gods and with up to three other god woke you shall travel the world in pursuit of this Divinity. At the source of it all is….. well.. It’s Source. A powerful form of magic that comes from life itself it seems or from the gods..and it’s users are called Sourcerers heh, puns!Yet there is much more to this world than this simple quest and ritual that repeats every so often. There are plenty of factions who all want to be the one to produce the next divine for their own reasons. Will you stand in their way or with them?  For a healthy chuck of this ..the choice is yours. You will meet colourful characters along the way, whom you can recruit, kill or just leave them to their own devices and whom you will interact with will decide the faith of the world. Through real time overworld interaction and turn based tactical combat.. you make your way across this world and power yourself up.. readying yourself for divinity.

For this playthrough I created a custom character. A flesh devouring elf that can read memories of the dead by feasting on their body parts. She could also speak to animals.  Her occupation was a witch.. which actually meant she was a necromancer..who can summon mosquitoes for some reason! Maybe it’s an UNDEAD mosquito… She was also very good with a bow.. because life drain and ranged .. is such a neat little combo! Being part Hunter made her able to leap around the battlefield and haste herself. ..How do you call an insane Elf who talks to the dead and Animals? Pinkie of course! She teamed up with three named characters for my adventure and did it on the Story playthrough difficulty. I did not get to choose so I assume it’s either normal or easy!  Pinkie’s journey began when she woke up on a ship with a green glowing disk around her neck. What the heck! So unfashionable!

The Illusion

I shall not tell you how Pinkie’s journey went because.. spoilers! There would be a lot of them! I shall just tell you it is one of those games where you have a whole lot of options to get from A to B. Yet in the end you are still traveling from point one to point two. It is a great game that offers you “the illusion of choice”  rather than choice itself. As a DM I know the Illusion of choice often leads to the best story telling. This game uses it a lot. While it seems like a negative it is actually quite strong for story telling. For example you can follow a plot thread of one of your party members, listening to their request and doing exactly what is asked to the letter. This will maybe result in you discovering some evil guy or gal is tormenting them and you need to deal with them.  However if you pick another party member you can still do that story. Through rumors or exploration one way or the other the game will put that quest on your list.  If your mission is to deal with a certain character and you spare them, they either betray your trust  or have to lay low for a while pretending to be dead. So while you made a unique choice.. in the end it all results in the same narrative.Each choice feels as valid as the next one because all are enforced by the plot of the story. During the credits the effects of those minor  choices are shown at a custom ending narrative but in the world everything has a certain flow.. nothing feels out of place and everything is structured very nicely.

In a lot of moral choicey games we see faction A clearly being more fleshed out than Brotherhood B so if you join those guys.. you get the better flowing story. Here the story auto-corrects itself.. without you really noticing and as a result we always follow a strong narrative. You can side with an evil bastard but eventually his plans will always involve discarding you.. so you never get narratively stuck.  Having played Kingdoms of Amalur recently that game was a good example of doing that wrong. You reach multiple points where the story should end..or E.V.O. Search for Eden on SNES where your morale choice can lead to an early game end..  so instead after that the game is just reset. Divinity walks a golden path! I felt like I was in control of the story.. Yet a great story was still being told to me that makes sense no matter what decision I would take.  This means there can be extra factions, extra sides within those factions so the world feels incredibly vibrant.  Like in real life everyone has their own agenda and what you do .. doesn’t really affect that agenda it just influences it slightly. A guy planning to murder you doesn’t suddenly trust you because you brought them a single stone. 

Since Necromancy is a thing in this world , it can even get around any limitations of conventional storytelling. If you kill a character that has a new thing you need to know.. that info will be available to you through a multitude of ways still. Be it you talking to spirits , eating their flesh to gain their memories or even them being pulled back into the moral realm now as undead. Death isn’t that final in DOSII and mostly in a good way.  There are a few characters the game designer really likes though and those can be brought back painfully often… at least if you try to do everything.. because this game is long. There are a lot , and I mean A LOT of  things for you to do. Quests that chain rather impressively.   I tried to do as much as I could explore but I decided not to go for 100%. I roleplayed my character a bit so if a thing did not make sense for my character to visit I did not have her go there unless she happened to stumble upon it. The game really allows you to approach this in any way you want. I got enough experience points to reach level 20, which is the max level in D&D  and it was enough to face the final battle.. with a few attempts so my way of doing a lot but not all certainly worked.  If you do not do a lot some party members will abandon you and you can get more experience points making it possible as well. Again an illusion of choice but in the end the experience is more or less the same.

A Divine Experience

There are very good reasons why this game is named amongst the best roleplaying games. Not only is the way you can interact with the world incredible , the combat system is amazing as well.  It is so tactical and fun, yet forgiving enough to run a build you like.. you do not need healers, you do not need to balance magic and melee equally. You just need to adapt your strategy to your way of playing.  And for the love of god never pick the glass cannon perk.  If you don’t want a healer, buy potions, if you do not want to focus on swords balance all sorts of magic out including some closer ranged.  Have one character focus on summons cause summons.. deal melee damage!  (most of them anyway) Every spell or ability has a range, a cooldown and can combo a bit with certain perks or other abilities. 

For example a Geomancer can toss a rock containing oil.. a Pyromancer can set that oil ablaze. A Hydrospoholist can create a raincloud to put out the fire on your party members, an Aerothurge can shock that puddle of water once enemies are walking over it.. or the  Hydro person itself can freeze the water to slow down her opponents. You can also run a healer on your team.. along with a necromancer.. the necromancer diseases the enemies and now the Healer can cause damage on the diseased person because.. the diseased condition reverses healing. There are so many field effects you can cause.. you can even create divine fire which turns fire into a field of healing. If you do not use a lot of spells, you have arrows and grenades to set those effects, your options are endless.

Out of combat you can use persuasion to get yourself out of trouble, you can sneak , you can search for hidden objects using your wits, you can steal your way to success or spread out your party members by disassembling your party, you can change field of views by having one separated party member talk to a person and when locked in dialogue allow your thief to take advantage of their change point of view. You can position your party members to a high ground allowing your tankiest one to engage the enemy at first.. only triggering combat when you are in an advantaged situation. The amount of freedom you get is amazing.  For the most part.. later in the game that liberty does take a serious dip but more about that in a bit.  For 70% of this game or so you can be super creative with these things.  You can sneak past objects you should not be able to sneak past if you are clever enough. You can use combat skills outside of combat for this.. for example how I used Tactical Retreat to sneak across some magical turrets I could not defeat at the time.  Then using a magical pyramid to teleport my party to me.  You are given so many tools that this world really feels like your sandbox. A magic mirror in your homebase constantly allows you to respec without a money penalty or anything so if you ever find yourself to be stuck.. you can just swap your stats and spells around until you find a solution that works for you! It is very much amazing! This truely for the most part is YOUR game.

Crisis of Faith

For 70% of this game, this may very well be the best RPG of it’s kind that I have ever played. In fact during the first 4  and a half chapters this IS the best rpg of it’s kind I have ever played. However in the final city and a bit before troubles show up.  As the difficulty picks up your options become significantly more limited. Mostly when it comes to solving quests.  There is a point just before the final city that you must make a choice. If you haven’t done enough quests for your party and your avatar’s (the character you picked first)  persuasion isn’t high enough your party falls apart. There is no real work around for this other than maxing out persuasion on your avatar, which to be fair at that point in the story you are easily able to do.. but this is your only real solution remaining at that time.  Losing a party member just because you must be a certain quest giver earlier and make your main character a bit shy can feel a bit harsh.  Realistic but.. harsh. I was fully invested in their story and wanted to complete it.. now I always run persuasion on my main character.. but MultiFaceted Ocelot was not as lucky and he lost his favorite character.. which later turns out to have MAJOR implications on the story in the end . A single persuasion check means failed forever.. so it means a reload.

Reloading would not bother me as much except for one little fact, autosaves happen way to few! Only when entering a new location  you hit an autosave. If you run back because you aren’t strong enough yet.. and later forget to quick save you can find yourself in trouble. In total I have lost almost 3 hours of progress like this. Part of the reason is my laptop does not have standard F keys.  I need to hold a button to make them F keys..sometimes I forgot and just pressed the button.. not doing anything in game. Upon loading I found my last save was an hour ago.  Of course catching up is quicker but still quite annoying. Sometimes you do not get the same item back either.. which can be doubly salty! But that is mostly a laptop issue. I rerouted the keys and this made it manageable.. However in this day and age we are so used to constant autosaves that you should at least be aware that this game is really REALLY stingy with autosaves.  Since it is very possible to just run into death as well or battles you can not win it should at least be noticed. Save oftenly and save with names.  Sometimes a choice will only come back to bite you in the ass after a little and if you are ill prepared that could be fatal. For example I did not want to finish off a little void invested chicken.. it was cute! But then it turned into a monster and killed me… I had taken a lot of damage from battles before and I thought a chicken delivery can’t hurt that much!  Yet due to a series of unfortunate misses.. and having the Glass Cannon Perk still .. I got send back! Waaaaay back! Because that last save file gave me no options as I accidently quickly saved a bit late!

In Arx ,the final town, puzzles can get a bit frustrating as well, as usually there now is only one solution.  There is a painting you need to make complete to open a hidden door. No matter how high your wits are, there is no other way to enter that new room, followed by you being forced to carry a heavy painting this means no matter what you build one character has to have strength investment.  My adventure nearly ended early on when a quest item I needed got bugged out of existence. Luckily a lockpick would help me..but it meant leaving a dungeon , selling supplies , finding a vendor who sells lockpicks, wearing a certain set of gear , because at that level your skill cap is lower than the threshold needed..  so you need certain pieces of gear.  Which resulted in my character not having the armor they should have when combat starts.. which meant I had to reload.. to a point where I was before that door.. with no lockpicks. You can even softlock yourself.. if you are like me.. there is a church which I went in.. and quick saved as it had a puzzle.. however I needed a few items to solve that puzzle, which I did not have.. if you fail that puzzle it keeps instantly killing you.. if you played the way I did .  So I had to quickload again.. and ended up in front of a door which needed a key.. with no lockpicks in my inventory. 

There are a few other gripes as well. Some of the later fights really require you to have source points active to use a certain skill to get around a certain enemy mechanic, usually revolving around them being reborn. The controls aren’t always tight.. if you click next to an enemy in stead of on it your action points will go to to waste as they will run up to him (Action points are how many things you can do per turn) and these hitboxes can be finicky.
Sometimes you get persuasion choices mid battle but it reroutes to the character whose turn it is not your persuasion character.. so these almost always fail unless you know in advance and very specifically plan around these..which still almost never works. There are also a fair few glitches that can get you stuck or make quests non completeable, for example there is a magical chest that is being firebreathed upon.. my thieving character though can stoneskin to avoid damage and he picked the locked of the chest.. but now the quest doesn’t trigger. I completed the quest to open it yet nothing happens and I miss out on some sweet exp! It doesn’t really make your experience THAT much less fun.. but it is noticable!

Just one step from heaven

The final chapter requires you to  actually read some of the tomes you find in the game, to keep an oversight of your quest logs and play a bit more rigid characters, to my knowledge the final puzzle in the game isn’t solvable unless you have an elf or a necromancer with at least a point in water magic s well.. Maybe there are arrows that can help you.. maybe grenades or maybe you can just attack a party member.. but it felt very specific. It makes sense as a continuation of the difficulty of this game and the final puzzle itself was quite nice, but with a softlock being in place in front of it.. a few scenes that deadlock you into leaving an area even if you still have quests outstanding and a much more subtle way to tell you what to do .. the last part of this game I had to play with a guide.  Not because I could not solve the puzzles but because they differ from the way you had to think before.  Instead of “I can find a way around this”  it becomes.. I need a way to solve this.  If you aren’t at the right place at the right time.. you may find yourself having to deal with a lot of frustrating stuff. Which is a eternal shame.

Had the game ended the way it was played at Driftwood, the largerst part of the game, this would probably be my favourite RPG game ever, it offers me so much. It really still does and anyone who likes tabletop rpgs I can recommend this game.. yet in the end it becomes a little bit frustrating to do it all.. too many things are too obscure and having to constantly switch between the gear you want and the gear you need is just needlessly frustrating.  My advice! Keep some gear that boosts thievery, keep some gear that boosts persuasion, preferably a ring or a belt and update the rest of your gear accordingly. Had I sold those gloves that boost thievery I might not have been able to beat the game. It is amazing but there are a fair few glitches.  Save plenty however and most annoyances will be avoided. Still I can’t give this my highest rating as the last part I just did not enjoy playing through all that much.. That gripe however pales in comparison to the other 70% of this game so it’s still very amazing. It might not be divine..but it is god-woken I guess? And with 60 hours in a single run (Which is faster than most people complete it in) you are getting a lot of bang for your buck!

If I had to compare the game to something I would say it’s like a long island ice tea. There is lots of flavour, enough to get you drunk on.. it’s well worth the money you pay for it but even as you get buzzed it does leave a slightly bitter after taste. How bitter you are however depends fully on how drunk you would have allowed yourself to get from this game! And any cocktail that gets me drunk on it’s own I’d flavour as….

Have you played this game? What did you think about it?! Can you commit to 60 hour+ games?! What game should I play next? Let me know in the comments and let’s make Paradise a nice and chatty place!