The RPS Advent Calendar, Dec 21st


What if you could talk to the animals? Behind door 21, all things are possible.

It’s Divinity: Original Sin 2!

Adam: It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played and there’s only one RPG (Ultima VII) that comes close. Divinity: Original Sin 2 brings across and improves on everything I loved in its predecessor. There’s the tactically exquisite turn-based combat, that involves manipulation of elements, freezing of blood, and as much slapstick as serious strategy. There’s the reactive world, in which anyone can be killed, anything can be stolen, and quests can be completed by following the script or engineering systemic chaos. There’s the weirdness of the world, which is as much Terry Pratchett and macabre mysteries as it is Dungeons and Dragons.

And then there’s all the new stuff. Characters that I care about, plotlines that are sad, funny and strange, writing that brings everything to life in a way that all of the clever mechanics in the world never really could. Four player competitive play, in which you can deceive and betray your own party.

Divinity is drawing on the history of RPGs and it doesn’t look quite as flashy as some AAA productions, but it makes everything else in the genre seem stuck in the past.

Matt: Both Divinity: Original Sin and its sequel excel at letting – even encouraging – the player to break the game, but it wasn’t until Divinity: Original Sin 2 that the devs really embraced that philosophy. Early on, you’re given some gloves that let you teleport any character or object at no cost beyond a few seconds cooldown.

I’ve used those gloves to sneak behind enemies, painstakingly getting each member of my party into just the right position before attacking. Sometimes I’ve used them to avoid combat altogether. There’s even a maze that requires you to painstakingly gather keys from other areas, unless you realise that you can bypass those gates by simply teleporting through them. There’s a talking gargoyle at the end that sneers at you for cheating, but with an undeniable sense of grudging admiration.

John: It is just so exceptionally brilliant. It’s funny and smart and serious and daft, and you can talk to the cats. And despite its enormousness, it never feels overwhelming or agoraphobic. Everything is cleverly confined, and in fact most of its sense of scale comes from the sheer scope of how you can approach any situation.

It took me a while to get used to that. To realise that I wasn’t going to break the game by taking advantage of what looked like loopholes. That, in fact, the game was going to notice what I was doing an archly raise an eyebrow. I’m not sure how it’s possible for a game to be this good at being good, really.

Head back to the calendar to open the door to another of 2017’s best games.


  1. Beefenstein says:

    Is this still good to play single player? The first game somehow bored me about an hour in after the first tutorial dungeon.

    • Carra says:

      It’s an awesome single player game. Kept me busy for months, playing each time I had a free (half an) hour of time.

      Then again, I loved the original game too.

    • Malkara says:

      In a handful of ways it’s even better singleplayer, because you get to see the full scope of your character’s story without someone else screwing it up. Also, you don’t have to rely on another person’s schedule / willingness to play.

      That said, co-op is a lot of fun too.

    • RedPanda87 says:

      I’m playing it single player and it’s sublime, but if the first game bored you I’m not sure this will change your mind. Almost everything has been improved, but it’s similar.

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    Drib says:

    I really wanted to like this, but I just couldnt’ get into it. I got maybe to… I guess it’s act 2? Outside of the prison island. But every fight was hours of reloading to try not to die, the difficulty was stupidly high, and it was on normal at most.

    I guess I screwed up my party at some point, but I didn’t want to replay miles and miles of play.

    • Malkara says:

      What was your party? The game actually allows you to fully respec everyone at anytime, for zero cost, which is amazing. It’s accessible via a mirror on the bottom level of the ship.

      So, if you’re interested in getting back into it- you can likely respec your party into something that works. There’s definitely certain trees that just aren’t very good.

      Quick Edit: It also sounds like you may have gone off on a direction that your characters weren’t ready for- Act 2 is far more free form than 1 so it’s possible to end up in areas you really shouldn’t be yet.

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        Drib says:

        I dunno, it felt like all areas were over me. I was using uh… main character was a bashy physical guy. I had, and sorry for the lack of names here it’s been a while: Red lizard (specced two-handed fighter), dwarf (sword and board berserker/fighter), and some demon-possessed woman as caster. With some cross spec here and there.

    • LennyLeonardUK says:

      I’d recommend just playing the game on ‘Explorer’ mode, at least until you get fully used to the combat mechanics. I made a rookie error early on by using all my Resurrection Scrolls every single time one of my party fell in battle, just assuming that I would learn a Resurrection spell later on or that scrolls would be cheap and easy to come by. So I ended up with the dilemma of either never resurrecting any of my party, quick loading every single battle until I won without any deaths at all or spend all my money on resurrection scrolls.

      So I decided to drop the difficulty to ‘Explorer’ for a bit so I could comfortably level up and collect some gold. And you know what??. I secretly enjoyed playing it more this way. It might not offer the challenge that the other difficulty settings do but it is mightily fun to just experiment with the different styles of combat and environmental shenanigans.

  3. Carra says:

    It’s easily my game of the year. Been a while since I’ve had a game that takes me 90 hours to finish without boring me once.

    It’s a benchmark RPG. All RPG’s I play next will have to be compared with it.

  4. ThePuzzler says:

    Does Ultima VII hold up? It was one of those games I wanted back in the day but couldn’t afford. Now I can probably play it fairly easily, but I’d expect the interface to be too horribly dated to endure.

    • Urthman says:

      The Ultima 7 interface was barely endurable when the game came out. I feel like the Elder Scrolls games have most of what was cool about U7, particularly the enormous open-world with tons of cool secret stuff to find and the ability to interact with a surprisingly-detailed level of stuff in the world (being able to pick up flour & water, put them together in an oven, and get bread is the canonical example). And NPCs going about their business and involved with interesting stories you can find (and sometimes infer from the environment). U7 had a party of characters, which is one of the reasons the Original Sins games remind people of it.

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      subdog says:

      The interface of Ultima 7 is actually one of its aspects that has aged the best. Most old RPG’s have awful, clunky menus that eat up screen space and rely on a series of arcane hotkeys to interact with the world. U7 broke with that tradition with an incredible minimal UI that emphasizes having an uncluttered view of the worldspace, with your cursor being the only UI element on screen in most cases.

      Interaction is elegant, double click to interact with something or someone, click and drag to move it around, or single click to see what an item or person is called. Keyword branching dialogue menus, before they became standard in RPG’s.

      The UI isn’t perfect- keeping bags of loose equipment organized and switching in and out of combat is a hassle (all made easier with optional hotkeys), and the yellow illuminated font for all the text is pretty heinous.

      But it’s one of the best RPG UI’s ever created and in many ways (like the game as a whole) has yet to be topped.

    • ansionnach says:

      Yes, it holds up. Even though there are obvious inspirations, I don’t think what was great about U7 made it into The Elder Scrolls at all. The Ultima worlds all feel hand-built with no generic characters and conversations. They’re a lot smaller than they seem at first but they’re packed full of interesting things. The Elder Scrolls games are full of auto-generated pointlessness.

      I’d say that the U7 interface is fine when you get used to it. It’s probably best to avoid the urge to pick everything up. A lot of the game’s items are everyday things you simply don’t need. The inventory management system is very freeform so can get cluttered quickly. Having bags to tidy similar things into is useful.

      One of the clunkier things is the combat, which is real-time. Casting spells during it can be tricky. One of the things that changed from the earlier Ultima games was that only you could cast spells. There’s something in the plot about it but I think it was probably written in to avoid the nightmare of trying to manage multiple spellcasters. Combat is frankly not well done, but it’s generally very easy so you can focus more on the game’s strengths.

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        subdog says:

        This is why I’m usually baffled when people talk about how much D:OS is like Ultima 7. U7’s combat was bad, but it was also kind of an afterthought- something to get through so you could get back to exploring the world and the story. You could run past most encounters, and each fight was typically over in a matter of seconds.

        Both D:OS games gate their world exploration with intense, meticulous tactical combat with a strict adherence to a power curve. It’s front and center from the very beginning, and expands out to touch so many other of the game’s systems (crafting, character builds, etc.). It’s the least Ultima 7 thing I can think of, but for some reason people don’t shy away from the comparison.

        • malkav11 says:

          I think a lot of people only know Ultima VII by its reputation (definitely true for me) and that reputation is mainly for being an RPG world with a lot of world simulation and approaches to problems, which is also true of the Divinity games (leastways, Divine Divinity, and the two Original Sins, possibly also Divinity II, less so Beyond Divinity).

        • welverin says:

          There’s more to rpgs than combat, and as Malkav mentioned it’s the world simulation and the world building that D:OS shared with Ultima 7.

          Now while the strength of the mechanical similarities maybe weaker than it would seem based on what people say, it’s the ideology behind the design of the games that they share in common. It’s that spirit that truely connects them.

          Of course Swnen Vincke saying Ultima 7 was a major influence certainly doesn’t hurt.

  5. SableKeech says:

    Intrigued as to what is going to be GOTY as I thought this would be it.

  6. Laurentius says:

    For me it is a biggest disappointment in my gaming in recent years. Don’t get me wrong it is a great game and have not D:OS1 existedI would probably fell in love with it. But I came to this game as a huge fan of D:OS, one of the brightest moments in last couple of years in my favorite genre of turn based cRPG. So a sequel to a brilliant game, what could possible gone wrong? Well Larian proved me that quite a bit. Larian decided to shake up the forumla of the first game and I didn’t like any of these changes even one bit.
    The most irritating are of course changes to combat. I hate armor mechanic, it killed my fun in D:OS2 combat, yup I adapted and I am near the last boss battle but I have no enjoyment of it throughout whole game. It is such massive difference in comparison to D:OS1 when I was excited everytime combat started, in D:OS2 I was like, oh well, another slog to force myself into. Also linking coolest abilities with source, teach player to be reluctant of using them, which is terrible idea as it kills satisfaction of progressing, since player is hesitant to utilize the fruits of that progression. I could go on and on about it. I don’t like also new innitiative and loot system.
    There is also certain roughness to many open quests, yes you can tackle them in diffrent manner but many times it doesn’t feel natural. In D:OS1, things that tied quest line together better connected, here seams almot burst at times, also a lot of bugs and broken stuff, at least on realese.
    And finally I don’t like the story. Sure, story of D:OS1 was cliche and nothing to brag about but it was pleasant and to some extent uplifitng and upbeat. This is another dark and brutal tale, I didn’t want that.
    So there was moments of huge joy and fun of playing D:OS2 when game felt like just more of D:OS1, but when it set up for its own path I was completley lost and disappointed.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I agree about the changes to combat, specifically the armor system. I got over it, because the rest of the game is so good, but still didn’t like it. About the only thing to like about the new system is that you can’t be stun-locked on turn 1 with a status effect because magic has to wear down first. But then it takes away the fun of being on the other side of that, as caster. I feel like we’re holding all our spells in reserve, or just to beat down enemy armor. And then when the magic armor’s down, it’s easier to just go for a quick direct damage spell to finish the guy off. I don’t get to use fun status effect spells nearly as often as the previous game.

      WRT the way the game discourages from using Source spells, I agree their usefulness is stretched too far towards the later parts of the game. There is a big turning point when you get the Source Vampirism ability for all party members, because then it’s so easy to top off Source points with any dead body lying around, in or out of combat. That completely changes the approach to using those spells. Maybe it would be game-wrecking to have that ability earlier in the game, but except for a few battles with Source pools placed strategically, those abilities are practically useless before you reach that point.

      And yeah, the story isn’t exactly inspired. Not as bad/goofy as the previous one, but forgettable. My wife and I are playing it just for the fun game mechanics and side quests, treating the main plot as just a driver to get into different areas.

  7. wackazoa says:

    A question on this game…. (I have the 1st but due to time constraints have never played it) If in this game you can kill anything, what if you did kill everything. Didn’t talk to them, just if you saw them or knew of them you had to kill them. And you did this until everything in the game, other than your character, was dead. How game breaking would that be.

    Would the game let you do it, would it still tell you a story, would it just be….. I am always intrigued by games that let you kill everything because in the back of my mind I would find it interesting to try.

    Anyone, if you have done this please let me know.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Haven’t tried it, maybe someone else will comment who has. But I suspect it wouldn’t be much fun. There are just a few NPC’s who are needed to advance the plot and open new areas and skills, so I don’t know if those are protected.

      Killing everyone randomly would also leave you seriously under-leveled compared to later enemy types, because you wouldn’t receive quest completion XP. You don’t get that much XP just from killing stuff. This game is HARD, even on normal difficulty, if you don’t spend a lot of time working on keeping your level progression up.

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        basilisk says:

        No one is protected. Every piece of information you need to progress on your quest can be gotten in other ways, so it genuinely is possible to murder absolutely everyone without talking to them.

        Don’t know why you would, but it’s explicitly designed that way. There are even two different ways how to get information from dead people.

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          Gnarl says:

          I don’t believe you can kill Malady. I tried and read up on it. Also Dallis.

  8. Zenicetus says:

    This game is brilliant. Easily tied for my personal Game of the Year with AC Origins, and probably edging it out because it’s so much fun in co-op with my wife.

    We haven’t finished it yet, pacing ourselves so we don’t finish too quickly. Also, my wife insists on looting EVERYTHING and then min/maxing the crafting and selling. But we’re getting towards the end.

    It took me a while for the grumbling to wear off about the change in armor from the previous game, with separate physical and magic instead of just one “armor.” It changes the tactics, and I still think the previous system was better. But I’m so used to the new system now that I’ve stopped griping about it.

    I just wish games like this came along more frequently, because especially in co-op, they don’t lend themselves to replaying again. I can see doing that in singleplayer with a harder difficult setting as a challenge. In co-op though, there’s more a feeling of “been there, done that” once you’ve finished the main plot and done all the side quests together.

  9. GernauMorat says:

    This game blew me away. I never played the classic isometric RPG’s back in the day, and have bounced off them when I’ve tried them. Original Sin 2 on the other hand, is amazing. The sheer breadth of possible interaction with the world is stunning, and the combat system is genuinely great.

  10. Scrote says:

    Despite some frustratingly clunky interactions at times (being limited/forced to take a path I didn’t feel was right for my group), and a confusing storyline at times, and a pretty crappy interface (the bar filling up with items you pick up, buying and selling is no fun), and some frustratingly obtuse combat situations, this is a truly great and original game. I’d love more polish, and a few fundamental changes to how it handles combat, and a much less cluttered interface, and a MUCH better quest log, but hopefully those are things they can work on for the next one, which I cannot wait for!

  11. zaldar1978 says:

    So glad to hear this lives up to the first game. Not sure how I will like the changes to combat as they seem divisive but I enjoyed the first one and seem to be one of the few people who didn’t think the story was bad. Hope to have time to play this one soon.

    • Zenicetus says:

      FYI, although some of us are griping about changes to the armor system, there are other changes that are very positive.

      The big one is that movement and positioning is much more fluid and important now. Just about every build has at least one ability to teleport or jump across the battlefield, and many of the enemies do that too. You get damage increase by shooting a bow from a higher position, and so on. Battles aren’t always about standing in one place and firing spells now, like many fights in the previous game.

      Another big change is that mages aren’t all-powerful and melee fighters gimped, like the previous game. Melee combat is much more viable now. More opportunities for cross-classing too. I only have one pure spellcaster in my party; the rest are hybrids.

  12. Nolenthar says:

    Wow, just wow, way to build up the pressure RPS. What game release in 2017 can possibly be better than that ? Prey has already been nominated so the obvious one is out. This has me sitting in between the chair of disbelief and disappointment. Would that be Torment : Tides of Numenara ? that’s the only possible explanation.

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    Gnarl says:

    Eh, the combat’s alright and pretty fun at the beginning, but becomes tiring after the first act or so. At the end it’s a down right chore. The rest of the game is pretty rubbish.

    The writing is the worst of it. It’s either boringly generic fantasy, or making fun of generic fantasy with the same tired jokes that have been made since Bored of the Rings. Any comparison with Terry Pratchett just hurts me, as it has a callousness towards its characters that is the antithesis of what makes Pratchett great. Especially towards the animals in it. I mean yeah, you can talk to all of them. In almost all cases to hear how they’ve been hurt, or will be hurt, of have been corrupted to hurt others, or similar. I mean, I’m soft on animals, but the way this game treats them just feels excessive.

    I didn’t really feel the vaunted freedom either. I mean, you can kill most people, but only because only a few bits of information are important to actually progress the story. And they’re written down, or told to you before you can avoid hearing them, or whatever. The teleporting is fun to begin with, but after a few bits where it works as a shortcut, the game just puts things behind unpickable locked doors, or the equivalent. And teleporting is just expected to get places, but has an irritating 20 second cooldown. And there’s not really anything more after you get it – the abilities in general have shown you everything you can do about half way through, only the numbers changing after that. It’s not great at dealing with unusual actions either – running past a bunch of mind controlled folks and killing the thing controlling them caused them to give me generic lines (after they demanded money to talk to them, as they had a negative attitude to me because they had entered combat with me as I ran past them). Another game I did pretty much the same thing in had a bunch of story off of that choice.

    I really wish I hadn’t pushed through after Fort Joy. I had some fun there, but the rest of the game has just soured me on it.

    • goodpoints says:

      Well said.

      I bounced off the first D:OS sometime after the tutorial after being constantly bombarded with awful jokes. The game was already on notice for its WoW aesthetic, but the talking animal jokes were just unbearable.