It was almost fascinating how the joyous cacophony of the town square rose up around them as if, perhaps, their trials were just a nightmare long past. However, amidst the laughter and the cries of the cheese seller (“I like my men like I like my cheese – rich!” – certainly a good standard, to be fair), there was the occasional reminder of the darker truth – here and there the streets were dotted with small, black candles. A reminder of the lives lost in her search for both justice and freedom. Both sobering and sickening, they seemed to be around nearly every corner.
Angrim was only a short distance off, unloading some (likely ill-gotten) wares onto a rather surly dwarven woman whose eyes darted constantly back to her pretty little wife, clearly daring anyone in the vicinity to even come close to her. Sir Buckethead, as usual, was missing, though she expected he had been tempted by the outskirts of the nearby mansion. Whether he was looking for buckets (a strange obsession indeed – something about needing them for a bet, though she preferred not to ask) or gold, she didn’t know, but his absence afforded her some time alone with her elven lover, so she didn’t mind it in the slightest.
Sebille looked at her – a sly and knowing smile spreading across her thin lips. She closed her eyes and leaned forward so slowly that Lohse could have sworn time nearly stopped. But soon enough—
“Uh, guys? When’s the last time we saved?”
“… What did you do?”
“Uh… nothing… nothing… did we save recently?”
“Did you steal something and get caught again?”
It sounds like a shoddily-written fantasy novel or a D&D game, but the adventures of Lohse, Sir Buckethead, and Angrim (and Sebille, though she’s actually an NPC for the most part) are actually part of my first ever playthrough of Divinity: Original Sin 2. This 2017 role-playing game from Larian Studios is the follow-up to the original (and very well-received) Divinity: Original Sin. For ease I’ll probably shorthand to “Divinity” a lot throughout this writeup, so please note I’m only speaking about the second game, as I have no experience with the first yet.
With about two and a half years down since its release and fantastic reviews across the board, I’m well aware that I’m a little late on writing down my impressions of Divinity, but I’ve enjoyed it so much that I can’t not. If you’ve never played but enjoy high fantasy RPGs, this one is probably going to be right up your alley!
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a role-playing game set in the fantasy world of Rivellon. All living beings in Rivellon are infused with Source – a form of energy that can be used and manipulated by Sourcerers for magic. You, my friend, are a sourcerer, but unfortunately you’ve had the bad luck to be caught by the Divine Order and sent away to Fort Joy (a name which is most certainly not fitting, mind you). Meanwhile, something isn’t quite right in the layers of reality beyond your own, and disturbing creatures from the Void are leaking out, ready to wreak havoc. It’s up to you to escape Fort Joy, save the world, and choose your destiny… along with 1-3 of your closest friends!
I could tell you about the stunning scenery, beautiful music, and riveting story (which are all fantastic and well worth experiencing), but instead I want to highlight the multiplayer aspect here because it’s absolutely my favourite thing about the game. Divinity offers a co-op multiplayer experience that I’ve never found the likes of in video gaming before. As someone who’s moved quite a bit and has friends around the world, I’ve explored a lot of multiplayer titles and have quite a few that I enjoy. But Divinity takes it to a whole new level with its world exploration, expansive story, and “play as you like” style. I like to tell people to imagine D&D as a video game to visualize the Divinity experience. You can clearly tell the goal here was to recreate the freedom offered by table-top RPGs, and Larian even advertises it as “pen and paper RPG freedom.”
You can create your own character or pick one of several premades. We ended up a little split on this. My two friends decided to make their own characters – a pyromancer elf who only wears buckets for head gear (protip: you can enhance buckets for better stats!) and a tanky no-nonsense dwarf. I decided to stick to a premade character with a story I was interested in – Lohse, a lovely bard whose singing voice has been tamped out by the unwelcome demon also inhabiting her. We also picked up Sebille as our fourth – an elven assassin who wants nothing more than revenge upon the man who kept her as a slave for years.
Even with premade characters, there’s freedom in how you’ll build them, what sort of combat you’ll use, and what choices you’ll make. In dialogue you’ll often be given sets of options – most of the time I had the same choices as my friends, with an additional option that would be marked off as character specific. You can truly be whoever you want to be in Divinity, and be them nearly however you like. You can make allies or kill individuals for pretty much any reason from justice to “man I just really don’t like that guy.” The choices you make will often be reflected throughout the rest of the game (the most difficult decision I was given throughout the game left traces throughout the world afterward that we would often stumble across). If you’ve picked up an NPC or two, you can always pursue romance options with them, which I did and thoroughly enjoyed.
Woven throughout the main story are plenty of side stories, side quests, and personal character stories if you chose a premade. From hunting a powerful demon to uncovering the secret behind a factory overrun by poisoned fish, there are plenty of stories to unravel. These side quests not only help you get closer to that next level up, but bring you further into this living, breathing world.
Divinity may come with a premade storyline and premade characters, but it often feels as if the sky’s the limit, and you can experience the game differently each time. One of our players had played through the game several times prior, and was shocked to see options and story events that he didn’t even know existed. As a result, I’d have a hard time guessing what your experience with Divinity would be like… but that’s also the magic of it. It’s one of the few games where you can create a story that’s all you and your friends’. You can be who you want to be, do what you want to do, and play how you want to play – the world will create itself around you accordingly.
While it’s hardly the first time I’ve played a video game with that much story deviation and choice to it, it is the first time I’ve been able to play it with friends – something that makes an incredible difference. We ended up making weekly Divinity nights and love exploring Rivellon’s mysterious and treacherous secrets together. We’ve argued over what to do in high-stakes moments, and worked together to take out tough enemies. We’re close to finishing now, and already thinking about what we’d like our next playthrough to be – the adventures we’ll take and the adventurers we’ll be. As for me, I’m thinking I might give being undead a try.
If you’re looking to try out Divinity, now is a great time with massive sales being offered online (Steam and GoG both have the definitive edition for 50% off, as well as discounts on the add-ons). You can also find it on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and XBox One! I’ve found it to be an incredible way to stay connected to the people I love in a time of uncertainty and solitude, and I have faith that anyone ready to undertake a lengthy adventure into fantastic worlds will find a lot to enjoy here.
See you on the other side, Godwoken!
Order Up! is a weekly column featuring indie-focused reviews, news, or interviews! We like old games just as much as new ones and are always looking for something to check out. Have a game recommendation, a project, or a company you want to talk about? Email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @ArcanaChance