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Divinity: Original Sin II preview: Choose your own reactive, gloriously chaotic adventure

Hayden Dingman | Aug. 23, 2016
And it's coming to Early Access on September 15.

And whether you engage with any of the multiplayer nonsense? That’s up to you. Personally I like having more control over my stories—doing every quest, seeing every story—than multiplayer allows. But it’s a hell of a lot of fun to run on the side, like getting together for tabletop Dungeons & Dragons (or Pathfinder or whatever runs to your specific tastes) and seeing how it all goes wrong. A trainwreck in slow motion.

Just make sure you either play it with your best friends or complete strangers, because you’re bound to get angry when in the midst of mopping up some low-tier enemies your “friend” shoots a massive fireball into a crowd, setting your newly-found AI party member on fire. Then you’ll hear, “Uh...I think you guys are out of resurrection scrolls,” meaning your would’ve-been-pretty-useful party member is left to rot on the dungeon floor.

Damn it, Chris Avellone.

Nu-chess

For the less story-driven there’s also a new Arena mode, which I dabbled in briefly before my demo was up. It’s essentially the game’s turn-based combat, but a competitive tactics game. You choose from various pre-rolled characters, bring them into the battle, and square off to see who can make better use of the game’s systems.

It’s a game of attacks and counter-attacks and counter-counter-attacks. For example: You cast a spell and set one of your opponent’s characters on fire. Your character is out of actions, so it’s the end of your turn. Their character then casts “Bless” on that fire so it heals them each turn instead of burning them to a crisp, and they drop a poison barrel on your second character for good measure. You then use that second character’s teleport abilities to swap places with theirs—meaning you’re now in the healing fire, they’re in the poison cloud.

And so on.

Divinity: Original Sin II

These sort of multiplayer experiences usually feel tacked on to predominantly singleplayer games, and I admit I internally rolled my eyes at the idea of playing Divinity: Original Sin II’s take on adversarial multiplayer. I mean, in an isometric CRPG? Come on.

But I’m surprised how compelling it is, even in this early stage. Divinity’s singleplayer/co-op campaign is built upon so many interconnected systems, multiplayer feels like a consequence-free extension, a sandbox where you get to test the limits of Larian’s programming and also square off against someone more intelligent than the game’s pretty-decent AI.

Bottom line

I think when I wrote about Divinity: Original Sin a few years ago, I said it was like the isometric CRPG we would’ve received in 2014 if studios hadn’t stopped making isometric CRPGs for fifteen-odd years. From my hands-on time with Original Sin II, I feel safe saying Larian’s upheld that legacy and then some. There’s something incredibly refreshing about a game that adopts the attitudes of 1998/1999—this “Yeah, go ahead and break the quest. Do whatever you want. Do what seems fun,” attitude that disappeared as games got more focused on players experiencing the story The Right Way.

And sure, it’s chaotic. It’s unforgiving. But that’s why we have F5, right?

Look for Divinity: Original Sin II to hit Early Access on September 15.  

 

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