It seems like you hear more about the Kickstarter failures than successes these days. Sure, negativity sells, but who’s buying? A bunch of poor, unfortunate souls who have a hole in their wallets and nothing to show for it.
But back before Kickstarter had a lot of baggage attached to it, a team called Larian Studios put up a modest request (in game development terms) of $400,000 for their game, Divinity: Original Sin, and isometric RPG follow-up to Divine Divinity. Before they knew it, the game was a runaway success when it was released in 2014 and the Kickstarter for the sequel, Divinity: Original Sin II, smashed their expectations, clearing two million dollars in pledges. Now, that very game is in Early Access on Steam, complete with the first act, co-op support, four races (Lizard, Dwarf, Elf, and Human), four origin stories, and a PVP arena. It’s quite a lot to sift through, and if this build is any indication, it’s going to surpass its predecessor.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about Divinity: Original Sin II, if you’re coming back for another go is the character creator. A concept of having a rooted backstory is something that usually just amounts to a stat buff in a lot of other RPGs, but much like Dragon Age: Origins, it impacts your relationship with NPCs and the story itself. This brings back that cRPG feel of old, where your choices actually matter beyond “[x] will remember that” fluff. It’s good, then, that the plot itself is a little more engaging, consisting of heavier tones that offer higher stakes and bigger players from the lore. It’s a classic case of taking what didn’t work, or maybe didn’t work as well from the previous project and molding it into a strength. I found myself wanting to go back and make new characters just to see how they’d impact the game, which is something I rarely feel like doing.
It’s great to just be able to actually…role play again. I befriended a cat that I never spoke to previously in one playthrough, only to have it die off as a result of an enemy attack. In another, I completely brute forced my way through an encounter with my warrior that I had attempted to circumvent (unsuccessfully) with another caster class, and using that newfound wisdom, came back to conquer it again. Combat is mostly the same as before (action points, or, “AP,” are used for everything in a turn-based fashion, and can be conserved for later turns), but it appears as if there’s more of a point to some tactical nuances like higher ground. It’s not like the system needed an overhaul, but since a level of tedium set in for the original by the end of the campaign, it remains to be seen if the same will happen here. For now though, I’m far enough removed for it to still feel poignant.
Divinity: Original Sin II is also uncharacteristically polished for an alpha. The textures are all very detailed, and the framerate was consistently hovering around 60 on my machine, with little in the way of technical issues outside of the occasional pop-in. The color choices are bright and powerful, but reigned in enough to where it looks like a more colorful Elder Scrolls game without going too far off the deep end. The actual character models could use some more pronouncement, especially when it comes to gear, but since you’re primarily creating your own parties and personalities, that onus is mostly on the player.
Based on its classy showing in Early Access, I’m not really worried about how Divinity: Original Sin II will turn out. Larian has built up a nice reputation for itself, and so far, this build seems to uphold that legacy. One day I’ll get to avenge my cat again, and I’m excited to do it with yet another character come launch.