The other day I found myself at a bit of a loose end. I was pretty disenchanted with the LA Noire remaster, and couldn’t find a game that I wanted to have a lengthy play on. After a bit of advice from some friends, I finally settled on a game – Divinity: Original Sin 2. I’ve not played any of the Divinity series before, but from the way it was described to me – being similar in style to the Baldur’s Gate games – I was convinced enough to give it a shot.
Lost in the World of Rivellon
The start of the game sees you held prisoner on a ship, bound by a source-inhibiting collar – source being a special form of magic in the Divinity universe – and suffering from amnesia. It’s a pretty cliché way to start a game, especially for sequels trying to entice people who may not have played the series in the past. By removing your character’s knowledge of the past, it’s like you don’t have it either, right? It’s pretty uninspired, but most games fail at doing it well. Divinity, however, does it very well. Instead of me missing out the punchline in a bunch of in-jokes or ‘had-to-be-there’ moments, I had the story developing around me. I wasn’t an adventure tacked on the end of some other party’s exploits, the game was about me. Right from the off, instead of doing quests, I wandered around, I spoke to the many people dotted around the map and through that, I gleaned so much information about the world that I felt like I’d been in it for years.
As soon as I was off the boat, the freedom the game gives you to roam the world grows exponentially. Though that is to be expected – after all, an island is much larger than a boat, even when you’re sequestered in a prison. The prison – half demolished castle and half desert island – is stuffed with sourcerers like yourself. Some of them from the boat, some of them longer term prisoners. All of them have something to say to you though, and what surprised me is how everyone in the game has a voice. All of them have a unique voice, acted impeccably and with a diverse set of accents that all blend together to make a wonderful world. It took me a while, probably longer than I’d like to admit, before I realised that with the right skills, you could talk to the animals as well. I stumbled upon it completely accidentally after selecting a party member and clicking on a dog. Suddenly, in a cute little accent, the dog started to make sense to me! It opened up a whole new world to me, as there were dozens of animals scurrying around – rats, cats, dogs and more! Bizarrely, what each animal started talking about seemed to fit exactly with how I’d imagine them to speak. Mice with delusions of grandeur and dogs that are whimpering after their lost owners are all par for the course.
With these sorts of RPGs, I always think the experience will be fairly linear – one quest that you have to do, and there’s only one outcome to it. Divinity clearly don’t like that concept, because every quest has multiple outcomes. You have to be careful with what you say to people, because that may bring about an untimely end to the quest. Even getting some quests can be a challenge, because not every race is kind to eachother. Certain lizards may only be willing to accept help from a fellow lizard, for instance. Because of this, you’ll need to replay the game several times just to see and do everything. It gives a massive amount of depth to it, and so much challenge as well, because trying to balance all the quests you will inevitably pick up is surprisingly difficult. Especially when you have to be mindful of every action you take – killing a magister here or there may be a good strategy, but it will almost definitely have a knock on effect later on down the line.
All games, especially big games, have bugs. In fact, every bit of software does. It’s nearly impossible to write something completely perfectly, and not have a bug in it somewhere. As a developer, you accept that this is the reality of your trade, and you just try to minimise it as best you can. Ensure that there aren’t any bugs in the major bits of your bit of software, the bits that will get used most, and that’ll be job done. Unfortunately, Larian Studios, the developers of Divinity, didn’t quite get that bit right. There are a number of incredible quests in the game, and a couple of times I’ve progressed through to what I thought was the next stage of the quest, only for it to bug out and not progress. Sometimes the item you require isn’t there, sometimes you’ll not get the correct dialogue from an NPC. However it happens, having a quest break on you at any stage is the absolute worst thing that can happen. There are people that say it doesn’t matter – you can always progress the quest by doing the next stage, but these people miss the point. Firstly, you’re missing out on a key bit of information that could help you with the next stage, and second, without that bit of information, the only way you can figure out how to progress is to cheat. How can that ever be seen by anyone as a positive? Sure, you might get the quest reward, a nice bit of armour and a pocketful of gold, but in a game with such a deep story, I don’t want to miss out on any of it.
Not to bleat on too much about quests, but I did find that a number of the side quests fell a little flat. Particularly the ones involving your trusted allies. You’d take on their personal mission, stalk their quarry, help them land the killing blow and then? Nothing. Well, not nothing, but not very much in terms of reaction. The characters don’t change in any way, they remain very much as they were if you hadn’t bothered to do the quest. It’s not just ally side quests that do this though, quite a few others can be accused of not really having the pay off that you’d expect from them after a bit of a slog to try to bring the strife the questgiver faces to an end. For a game so lauded for it’s quality story, it really lets itself down when it comes to the conclusion of some of the fluff around the edges.
The Final Word
The quests in Divinity are both a positive and a negative. Because of the multiple outcomes each quest can have, they lend themselves to bugs later down the line, but the world of Rivellon is so rich and absorbing that it just has to be explored. All the acting throughout the game is phenomenal as well, which only adds to the incredible experience that lies in the game. It is a simply wonderful game that is thoroughly enjoyable whether you play it alone or with friends.