Divinity: Original Sin 2 (2017)
After years of nearly-greats and not-so-goods, Larian released the game we always suspected they had in them with Divinity: Original Sin 1. The sequel continues their hot streak and is as exciting as anything that’s happened in the RPG genre for decades.
Richard: Writing about games, it’s easy to sound like a cynical bastard, especially when you are, in fact, a cynical bastard. But it’s not always true. I’m incredibly happy to see Larian Studios’ recent success. It’s a company that’s always had its heart in the right place, trying to make Ultima VII level games with some incredible gimmicks, only for struggle with the foundations, or tech, and always money.
With Divinity: Original Sin, all the pieces came together. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is even better – right up there with Witcher 3 as one of the best RPGs in years, a huge improvement in everything from story to character to AI, and a strong contender for that coveted Ultima crown*. Really, the only area it really slips up is the odd way it paths your progress around maps, often with no rhyme or reason. If the next game can fix that, and play like the more open world it likes to present, there really won’t be any stopping it.
(* Ignoring of course that no game can ever match up to the warm fuzzies of something you loved when you were 13.)
Adam: I didn’t feel quite ready to nominate Original Sin 2 but I’m oh so glad that Richard has picked it. It’s not just my favourite RPG in many years, it is, as he says, a true link to the past. But it never feels like a nostalgia act. Instead, it takes all of its inspirations and uses every modern trick (and invents some of its own) to deliver a game that is as flexible, strange and exquisitely constructed as anything available today.
I probably use the word ‘systemic’ more than any person should, particularly when I’m talking about Divinity, but it is an important word. The world of this RPG is constructed to take all manner of complex rules into account, informing everything from the behaviour of NPCs to precisely what will happen to that particular piece of scenery when a cursed fire licks against it. All of those systems seem like the heart of the game, but they’re more like the skeleton. The heart is the writing, the art, the music, all of which can either disguise those systems for those players who don’t care to know how the machinery works, or can be peeled back to allow a look at the innards.
It’s a game that weaves art and craft together superbly, relying on terrifyingly complex coding and scripting, but never neglecting storytelling and character-building. Whenever I have a conversation about it, or write about it, I kick myself later because I forget to mention one of the things that I love about it.
Is it better than my RPG fave Ultima VII? Give me another six months to think about it. It’s that close.