With RPG sequel Divinity: Original Sin 2 receiving an early access demo, Game Rant sits down with the title to get a low down on what gamers can expect from the project.
Although the Divinity franchise has long had a strong following of players, stemming from the success of 2002's Divine Divinity, the series saw a triumphant return in 2014. Divinity: Original Sin, a prequel to the original game, received release due to the partial funding of Kickstarter backers, and long-term fans of the series who invested in the project were not disappointed. The brand new game fitted in well with the themes and world of the original series, and earned itself strong sales and award nominations in the process. As such, it was no surprise that the prequel was receiving a sequel of its own, in the form of Divinity: Original Sin 2.
The title's development certainly shares a similarity with its predecessor. Again, Larian Studios took to Kickstarter to fund the game, wanting to once more give fans options when it came to what features were in Divinity: Original Sin 2. This second Kickstarter campaign was a huge success, reaching its Kickstarter goal in 12 hours.
So far, so much the same for fans of the series. However, it's clear that Larian Studios has decided to tinker with the Divinity formula a little when it comes to both the gameplay and the tone of the title. From the get go, it's this tonal shift that is the most obvious change between the two, with Divinity: Original Sin 2 sitting in a gloomier position than its weird and wonderful precursors.
Indeed, the Divinity series is often known for its wacky humor and more vibrant world; the series has at times almost felt like a living, breathing reflection of the silly Dungeons & Dragons campaigns that young fans came up with in their youth. The start of this early access version of Divinity: Original Sin 2, however, puts the player in a rather bleak position: a survivor of a shipwreck, now trapped upon a desolate island that acts as an internment camp for Source users. It's certainly a different approach to the themes of previous games, and effectively puts the player character on the other side of the fence to Divinity: Original Sin.
That's not to say that Divinity: Original Sin 2 is purely a bleak fantasy story, however. There are still the same quirky moments that long-term fans of the series will approve of, with the fun and witty dialogue options to choose with NPCs a particular standout, but nonetheless there is a more brooding tone here. Whether that purely fits within the prologue, or is a longer-lasting part of the finished product, remains to be seen, but it's a nice change of pace and one that fans may well appreciate - depending on how far this different tone is pushed.
It's perhaps emblematic of a particular change of design in general - that being the role of the player character. In Divinity: Original Sin, and in its later enhanced edition, the player had a somewhat limited choice of character options, but this sequel certainly broadens the scope dramatically. In this early access version, players are given the option of being Human, Elf, Lizard, or Dwarf, and can either create an avatar from scratch or choose from a selection of pre-written characters.
Once again, Larian Studios has brought about an incremental change rather than a complete overhaul. Although there were still plenty of dialogue options open to users throughout their Divinity: Original Sin adventure, with the added novelty of co-op players being able to choose different options throughout the course of the game, this appears to have been expanded once more for the sequel. Both the player character and their party members are able to pick and choose from a variety of options during conversations, relating to their class in-game or even to their backstory and race. It's a good narrative choice that will no doubt help promote replayability, and it's fun to go over conversations with a different character at the fore to see if anything else can be discovered.
It also helps that the developer has expanded upon the player's level of control over shaping their character's skills, too. In particular, violent and non-violent skill sets seem much more segmented now, meaning that users won't feel like they are being forced to pigeon-hole their character build, while still focusing on specialisms as and when they find the ones they like the most.
Of course, much of the main pull of the original game was its combat, and once again Larian Studios has built upon what worked best the last time around. Thankfully, the level of creativity is still there, with environmental effects making up a big part of a player's success of failure in battles. Making a character wet and then zapping them with a hefty dose of electricity is still a fine tactic to use - although users should perhaps be warned that many other enemies seem to have grown a little wise to the tricks used in the first game.
That said, Larian Studios has added some fun new elements to proceedings here, with a Curse and Blessing mechanic sometimes turning battles completely around. As one might suspect, cursing an object of the game world makes it a rather hazardous element to come across, with the potential to have nasty surprises such as carrying disease. Meanwhile, blessing an item or element of the game world can turn even objects that would normally damage a character into a healing buff. It's a nice touch, that swaps around the gameplay just enough to keep players guessing.
Overall, then, it seems as though Larian Studios has strengthened upon what made the original Divinity: Original Sin work, all the while tweaking moments to make it more compelling for audiences. There are still some questions to be asked, such as exactly how this newfound tone manages to bring it in line with the narrative of Divinity in general, but the developer certainly seems to be on the right track. There's still some way until the game is released at the end of the year, and so far fans of the series have reason to be excited.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 will be released for PC in 2017, with an early access demo of the game available now. Game Rant was given a PC download code for the purposes of this preview.