Role-playing aficionados have had lots to smile about during the last few years. Some disappointments, sure, but a plethora of solid to spectacular RPG titles have been released. Cult-hit and kickstarted Divinity: Original Sin by Belgian developer Larian Studios has now received an equally kickstarted sequel, creatively named Original Sin II. It mixes traditional turn-based combat with tabletop inspired elements in the intricately created fantasy world of Rivellon.
As per usual, you start with the character creation. There are four races to choose from: Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Lizard. If not content with that, you can also create an Undead variant of each for a total of eight (or five) races, depending on your point of view. Each has their own, rather special skills. Lizards can breathe fire. The undead take damage from healing but get better by ingesting poison from bottles or pools. They can also lockpick chests and doors with just their bony fingers without additional tools. The most interesting racial skill, however, is with the Elves. These corpse-eaters can gorge on body parts to heal and see flashes of the owner's life. This ability works both as a game mechanic, a narrative device, and for puzzle solving.
The visual customisation is more limited, but offers some options for making the character your own. The offered archetypes are more like suggestions on how to build the character as there are no strict character classes. Veteran players will enjoy the option of tinkering with all the stats and skill points. Be wary though, as nothing prevents you from making a "flawed" character and rerolling those early decisions will be possible only in the mid-game.
For the first playthrough, choosing one of the six Origin characters is highly recommended. They offer strong individual storylines to run alongside the main campaign. The sarcastic Undead Fane wakes up from a deep slumber only to realise he's the last remaining member of his race. Lohse, Rivellon's own version of Taylor Swift, has a demon living inside her. The arrogant Red Prince tries desperately to reclaim his lost Lizard throne from exile. All have their own motivations and objectives that clash with each other. Every Origin character is customisable aside from voice actor, name, and certain small visual cues. The Red Prince is always, well, red.
The long campaign is set a few centuries after the first Original Sin. The magical force of Source is now outlawed. You don't necessarily have to have played the original game, but veterans will appreciate the nods and references to its predecessor as well as other chapters in the Divinity franchise. The player(s) wake up on a prison barge on their way to Fort Joy, accused of "sorcery". The boat acts as a tutorial and lets the player get acquainted with the characters. Once you reach the fort, the game opens up via the numerous possibilities for an escape, and then the adventure begins proper. The grand scheme involves deities (as the name of the game suggests), but it branches out a lot. The nature of divinity is constantly debated and evaluated in an interesting if very high-fantasy manner.
The high-stakes fantasy world Larian has created is original enough and full of surprises, so you never quite know what to expect. Each and every character has their own story to tell and opinions to voice with shades of grey instead of plain black and white. There are moral dilemmas aplenty, with tough choices to be made, some of which might have unforeseen consequences much further down the line. Thanks to the ambiguous nature of the game's moral tone, playing as an antihero, scoundrel or a posh noble doesn't feel out of place. You'll anger some people for sure, but it doesn't feel like you're making wrong choices and gimping your character's power level by losing experience points.