Divinity Original Sin 2 Preview
Instead of a hands-off session as it was mentioned in the invite, my session at Gamescom turned out to be a hands-on session and a lengthy one at that. My audio recording clocked in over 3 hours and 50 minutes.
Larian's Swen Vincke started the session by leading me through character creation. This is either simple or as complicated as you want it to be. By doing it simple you just select one of the predefined characters with an origin story and have a go with them. Alternatively you can tweak one of them as you see fit.
The characters are defined by their race (lizard, human, elf, dwarf or undead), gender, class and origin story. This will define your starting attributes, abilities, talents, skills and the tags that are defined for your character. These tags are used throughout the game and will influence the available dialogue options and how other characters react to you. If you would select The Red Prince as your character, you end up with a Lizard who was a former prince of the ancient empire and who feels that he is better than anyone else, especially better than non-lizards. In dialogs the tag 'The Red Prince' would give you an option that reflects that, but you also get the 'Lizard' tag that gives you an option from the perspective of a lizard. You could have other tags as well, like in the below screenshot.
All origin stories play a role in the world, when you do not select an existing origin story, a character in the world will have that origin story. That character can also join your party. At the moment there are only four origin stories, but more will be added while the game is in Early Access.
Divinity Original Sin 2 is still classless, so it is also possible to completely create a character of your own or take a predefined character and change some parts of it. You can go without a predefined origin story, in which case you will need to select the tags that fit you best from a list of available tags, on top of the ones for race and gender, which are fixed by your selection. During the game you will also acquire other tags, based on the way you roleplay your character, that will provide more or different dialogue options.
Two of the available characters with origin stories
As a last thing you select a musical instrument. Whenever you do something special, like a critical hit or an origin moment, this instrument will be added to the music already playing and seamlessly integrate with it. I started the game as The Red Prince, who is a male lizard, with a red look and who has been falsely accused of high treason, which make him lose his Kingdom and he wants it back.
After completion of the character creation we get to the intro movie, however at this moment in time there is no intro movie yet, so Swen just explained what it was about. You are a sourcerer and while on the sea you are attacked by Voidwoken (or whatever they are called). These animals are attracted by the use of Source magic. You wake up on the beach with a source collar around your neck, making it impossible to use Source magic. You will find out that you are in Fort Joy, a prison camp for sourcerers and your mission becomes to escape this place. There are a total of 11 ways to escape. Each of them is a different path with different outcome and influences on the persons in the prison.
The game takes place more than 1000 years after Original Sin, which is just 4 years after Beyond Divinity.
The idea was that I would roam around and Swen would follow me. I obviously had no clue where to go, so Swen tried to gently guide me in the right direction every now and then and tried to keep me safe as well. I can clearly say that he failed in that, probably as he didn't expect me to get myself killed so fast and so often (he ran out of resurrection scrolls). In my defense, I can say that I am more of an explorer than a fighter, either that or I just suck at it. I got myself in trouble because I've selected the dialogues that would get me into the fight, whereas I could have saved myself the trouble by selecting other options.
As we are on the subject of fighting, Original Sin 2 looks to have even more options in combining skills than its predecessor did. On top of that you also have racial skills, like the lizard has Dragon Breath, which creates a cone of fire doing fire damage. I won't get into the details of all the fights, but rest assure that all those who had fun in combining skills with the environment will have even more fun in this game.
In combat you will have two types of armor. One for physical damage and one for magical damage. These are based on the stats and buffs of the character. When physical armor is high the character is immune to any control action of a physical nature (like knock down). Something similar is applicable to magical armor. Also all surfaces can be cursed, this means you could for example, curse an area that is on fire, making it cursed fire, which will be much harder to put out and will do more damage. In the same way it is also possible to bless surfaces.
There are also fewer action points compared to Original Sin. At maximum there are 6. Actions will also consume fewer action points, to balance this lower amount of action points out. And each character can also have up to 3 source points. These allow the use of source skills. Whenever you use a source skill you use one skill point, so you have to find ways to replenish your source points if you want to keep on using source skills.
To accommodate for the various changes, the UI has been improved as well compared to Original Sin. Most visible is the skill bar, of which there is only one now at the bottom of the screen. To the left of it are the keys to the various panels (inventory, map, logbook, etc.). On top of it are the bars with magical and physical armor and your hitpoints.
What also has changed is the inventory UI. It now occupies the right hand side of the screen and displays the inventory of all party members. You can now drag and drop items from one inventory to the other, but can still sent items in the old way if you like. By collapsing the inventory of some party members it is possible to create some more room for moving inventory around, especially if your party members have a large inventory. What has not changed is the crafting UI. You still combine two items together. What has changed is that it is noww also possible to craft skills. You could take a skill scroll and add poison to it for example, to create a new skill.
The journal has been changed as well. There are personal quests, which can only be seen by the individual party member and not by the others. There are also party quests that are visible to all and you can archive quests that you are no longer interested in, allowing you to clean up your journal and get a better overview. And in your character sheet it is now easier to switch between characters.
The new skills and combining them is certainly great and whatever, but for me the best improvement of the game is that because of the different races and origin stories there are so many new options available in dialogues. You now get options because of the tags that are assigned to you, like your race or your origin. That also means that another character will have a different set of dialogue options. On top of that the NPCs will react differently to you based on your tags. They could like you and help you, or dislike you and will refuse to help you in anyway.
If one character talks to a merchant, the merchant might dislike that character for whatever reason and increase his prices or refuse to sell you anything anymore. Another character that would talk to him, could reduce the prices.
Your party members also all have their own origin and an origin goal to achieve. These goals will at sometimes align, but sometimes also not align with your goal. In a multiplayer game this means that others in your party will make a choice that will prevent you from reaching your goal by following this path. In a single player game you get to roleplay all characters in the party and thus can make the choices for each of the party members yourself. Obviously you can also go with the option to help your party members in achieving their goals.
Leveling up your character is much like it was in Original Sin, you get the option to increase your attributes, increase your abilities or to select another talent. This looks much the same as before, but you now get civil and combat points to put into your abilities. Your combat points can only be applied to combat related abilities and the civil points to the non combat related abilities (such as thieving abilities for example)
Memory is one of those new attributes that raised some concern on our forums, so I asked Swen for more details about it. Memory is used for skills that need to be memorized and is only applicable to skills. Each skill has a memory cost and you can select skills to be memorized as long as the sum of all these memory costs is not larger than your memory attribute. This means that from all the skills you have you can only select a limited number, based on your memory attribute. The skills are in different memory classes and in the lower classes a skill will cost 1 memory, but later on in the game there will be skills available that will cost 10 or even 20 memory. By using the memory ability they want to limit the amount of super skills that you can use, while still allowing you to use a large array of lower level skills. The system is comparable to how it is done in AD&D games, with the difference that the spells that you can learn in AD&D are related to your level, whereas in Original Sin 2 they are related to your memory stat.
It is good to note that memory is only related to skills, which in Original Sin 2 are the same as spells. The game does not have passive skills, as these are in talents and abilities and talents and abilities are not affected by memory. Once you have invested points in them you know them and you can use them. So you do not need to unlearn your back-stabbing or lockpicking as these are not skills.
In Original Sin memory was incorporated into the spell casting stats, where you had to select for which of the different schools of magic you wanted to invest your points in. If you would for example invest in the geomancer stat, you would determine how many of that type of skills you could learn. This is now covered by the memory stat and because of that investing in the geomancer stat will now improve the effect of all the geomancer skills and increase the effect of any geomancer skill. This means that you can now learn any skill, even if you have not invested in that specific school of magic, but the effect of the skill is lower, compared to having investing points into that specific school.
Memory is likely to have a larger effect in the mid to end part of the game. If for example your memory is 15 and you learn a skill which will cost 10 memory, you need to make choices. At the beginning of the game this is not an issue as your memory is high enough for the skills that you can learn and will give you enough room to memorize many of your available skills.
Swen decided to show me the Arena mode. Arena mode can be played with up to four people. When there are just two, each of you get to control two characters, otherwise you only get one. In the Early Access version there will be 10 available predefined characters to select from. The arena has various height levels and in combat being on a higher level gives you an advantage. Furthermore the arena has source puddles in which you can stand to gain a source point and various barrels and what not that you can use in combat. From my gaming experience with Swen, I think that the one who is most efficient in combining the right skills at the right time will win. I was not, so I lost...
If you want to see some more Arena fighting in action, see this video.
Then I played almost two hours in Single player mode. As a single player I get to control all characters and can roleplay each of them. Unfortunately the dialogues between party members were disabled, so can't comment on that, but your party relation between the individual party members will change because of the choices that are made and events that are happening. With all the focus in the last year about multi-player, I was worried about how this would work out in single player mode, but as far as I played it now, I am happy with how it plays. The exploration aspect was like it was in Original Sin. There are however more NPCs in the game and overall it feels like there is so much more to do.
With everything written about the game in this article, what for me personally stands out as the biggest improvement is the character interaction, the dialogue options that you have based on your race and origin and how others respond to you. This adds a lot of diversity and makes role playing your characters so much better.
In Single player there is an AI active that will direct actions of your characters, but by selecting the character you get to choose the options in dialogue yourself. Also in combat you will be able to control each of the characters individually. Your party relation between the individual party members will also change during the game based on the choices made and because of that, even in SP, you are not always sure if you can trust your companions.
As said the game will be on Early Access on the 15th of September. Swen mentioned that the game can be finished with every combination of characters and also with a single race party. Playing as a lone wolf is much harder, but not impossible for the not too faint at heart.
It looks like Original Sin 2 is so much bigger than its predecessor (and probably is). In any case, Swen would not give a release date, beyond stating that this year is not very likely. In a few weeks everyone who backed the game at $15 or more during the Kickstarter campaign will be able to play it and check it out for themselves. The game as it is now is very playable and quite complete for the part you can play. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone to give it a try.
If you would like to see what I have written, feel free to check out this 38 minute video (there might be spoilers).
Information aboutDivinity: Original Sin II
Developer: Larian Studios
SP/MP: Single + MP
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2017-09-14
· Publisher: Larian Studios