Divinity: Original Sin 2’s Kickstarter, by the time you read this, has just ended. It’s made more than double from pledges than its predecessor and unlocked every stretch goal, making the already extremely ambitious RPG even more expansive.
For a day, as Larian staff ran around organising streams and PvP tournaments, on top of working on the soon-to-be-released Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition and, of course, Original Sin 2 itself, I sat on an absurdly comfortable bean bag and played through the entirety of the sequel’s demo.
It’s good. Damn, is it good.
You may have seen some of the demo on a livestream – Larian’s been keen to show it off – but you probably won’t get to play it. The demo has been tailored for previews, a proof of concept that contains everything that’s ready so far, with quests, characters and locations that probably won’t make it into the finished game.
So it’s a container full of Larian’s big ideas and fascinating features. And I dunked my head right into it and drank in as much as I could.
I fought, over and over again, with one of Larian’s writers, from the Dublin studio, in surprisingly compelling PvP matches where the entire arena was nothing but corpses and blood and toxic goo. I tried to comfort a suicidal cow who had presented herself to a seemingly disinterested dragon for dinner. I murdered a woman to solve her attempted murder. I was racist to a Dwarf.
There’s a lot going on in the demo, clearly. At its core, though, and this I am told will be at the heart of the finished game, is this story of hunted men and women, the game’s protagonists, and the strange powers they have.
Origins count for a lot in Original Sin 2. Who your character was before the game informs how people will interact with them and their pre-existing relationships. Their race and social standing matter just as much. My party of four included two humans, a Dwarf and an Elf, and their experiences differed greatly, with even throwaway conversations taking very different forms depending on which character I used.
Entering the main city, for instance, was a doddle for my upper class human. She was mistrusted because of her use of Source magic, which is illegal and in the process of being eradicated, and her mother was in jail, accused of the attempted murder of the mayor, but the guards still let her pass. The Dwarf, on the other hand, was given a hard time and ultimately was denied access to the city, necessitating a new mission: find a secret way into the city.
If the Dwarf and human entered together and the human spoke with the guard, it would have been fine, but I was playing in co-op, and thus my co-op partner, who spoke to the guard as the Dwarf, was completely out of luck. Who strikes up conversations and how the party is split becomes extremely important. Anyway, I’m a nice chap, so I helped him get in, fighting our way through poisonous goo monsters and dirtying ourselves in a jaunt through some Dwarven slums.
I could have just said screw the Dwarf, and indeed, on another occasion, I joined an NPC in a spot of anti-Dwarf bigotry. You don’t need to be friendly to your co-op buddies. Co-op has been greatly expanded, increasing the party limit to four human players, and the system itself has been overhauled with the introduction of rivalries.
The first Original Sin made disagreements between party members, either NPC or player controlled, a rock, paper, scissors mini-game. With four people all chiming in, this was scrapped, and it’s a good thing too, as the new system is a lot less jarring. Everyone will get to express their opinion, but the lead decision maker, the person starting the conversation, will get the final say. There are consequences to ignoring your allies, however, so the supreme power of the veto must be used wisely.
In co-op, once the decision has been made, the other players can express their dissatisfaction. Sometimes they might express it with knives. And fire. And murder. Players will be free to completely betray each other at any point, even in the middle of a fight. Imagine: you’re fighting some dastardly bandits, and you’re a wee bit out of your depth. You’ve only got control over two characters, and the ruffians are making mincemeat out of them. So, when you see your ally with their two characters appear, that’s a good thing, right?
It really depends on your co-op partner. Did they recently get a haircut that you failed to compliment them on? Did you call their favourite band “shit” the other day? If you did, and even if you didn’t, they can screw you over in many ways. Perhaps they’ll just stand there and watch you get murdered. They’re safe, because you’re the one who initiated combat. Perhaps they’ll just run ahead and loot all the stuff that the bandits were protecting and then hit the town with pockets full of gold.
These aren’t even the worst outcomes. If your buddy is particularly devious and really wants to spoil your day, then they might team up with the bandits and kill your poor, beaten characters themselves.
Divinity: Original Sin 2’s co-op is competitive co-op, if you want it to be. You can play the entire game as friends, but they can chart their own course, work in opposition to you, and betrayal is just as viable. Sometimes it’s even encouraged. My co-op partner was offered gold in exchange for one of my characters’ murders, for example. He didn’t follow through, thankfully. He’s a better man than I.
You can’t expect to screw everyone over and hurl horrible slurs at Dwarves without consequences, however. Those sort of things might come back to bite you on the ass as people start to realise what a nasty piece of work you are. Honestly, though, there were points during the demo where I couldn’t help myself. And I completely blame ghosts.
Magic might not have a great reputation in Divinity: Original Sin 2, but you’ll undoubtedly be using a lot of it. You might even be so hooked on the arcane that you craft your own spells, combining them to make something brand-spanking new, not unlike Magicka. Combine rain and grease, and you get horrible greasy rain. Do not, I have to emphasise, cast this indoors or near an open flame. And for the spooky-inclined, there’s always the ability to talk to ghosts.
When you spot a corpse, you can activate your ghost banter ability, whatever it’s called, and have a nice blether with the deceased. Like the talking to animals ability, you’ll be able to get clues for quests and learn some extra details about the world. You can also steal their souls, like a proper bastard. The upside of soul theft is that you’ll be able to get Source Points that allow you to use very powerful magic. The downside is that it makes you an arsehole and gives you bad karma.
After getting a taste of power, I went fully down the arsehole route.
Remember the mayor, whose attempted murder was pinned on the mother of one of my characters? Well, I paid her a visit, determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. The thing is, people aren’t very chatty when they’re in a coma. She was between life and death, and utterly useless.
I’m sure you can already see where this is going: somewhere unpleasant. I made sure her doctor, who had some rather foul things to say about Elves, was out of the room, and then I stabbed her. Boom, ghost time! She wasn’t pleased, of course, but after a bit of questioning, I discovered who her killer was and then, hungry after all this work, I consumed her soul.
I did solve a crime, though!
As a proof of concept, the Divinity: Original Sin 2 demo is a compelling one. Everything that made the first game such a great RPG and inspired me to give it a 9/10 in our Divinity: Original Sin review has been expanded upon and, at least in the very curated demo, improved. And this is only after a month of development, with another month for tweaks and polish. The original game and the Enhanced Edition have given Larian an extremely strong foundation to build upon, and so far the results are impressive.
Keep an eye out for more on Divinity: Original Sin 2, including my impressions of the surprisingly robust PvP and our feature on the last days of the Kickstarter.