There really isn't a void when it comes to old school CRPGs on today's video game market. Kickstarter is largely to thank for that, along with veteran studios like Inxile Entertainment, Obsidian Entertainment, and Larian Studios. We've been given games like Pillars of Eternity, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun and to some degree games like Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (though they're not as "old school" in their approach). Larian Studios is, of course, the Belgian outfit behind the Divinity series, and while it has a long and storied history (Divine Divinity launched in 2002), it can be argued that it's not until the two partially crowdfunded entries Original Sin I & II that the Divinity series truly stepped into the limelight proper. And perhaps most notably so with Original Sin II.
It is interesting that, in its pursuit of cinematic moments and epic events, the RPG genre has strayed far from its pen and paper origins where no two games were alike. For Larian it's been the guiding light during the development of Original Sin II, to bring back an experience that's as close as possible to that of a pen and paper RPG . And Larian certainly pulled it off; whether you play one of the Origin characters or one of your own making, the choices you make during your journey will give you a remarkably unique experience in Rivellion. You're appearance and decisions will not just determine in which manner you'll progress, but it will shape your entire adventure and countless interactions throughout.
The combat is deep and unforgiving, to the point where it makes you think twice before angering a stranger just for the heck of it. Particularly in the early goings, you're going to have to be careful about who you approach and what you say to them, as there are plenty of ways to end your adventure before it's even really begun. Yet once you've mastered the ins and outs of combat and manage to beat the odds using wit and creative thinking, it's an utterly satisfying experience.
There is a wonderful narrative to explore, with lots of little stories waiting to unfold in front of your eyes, and the aforementioned variety in terms of character stretches replayability even further. It helps that the game offers such a rich world that's ripe for exploration and full of nuanced detail. The story is also told via quality writing, and there are a great many surprises along the journey. It's also a very easy on the ears, with the game scored by Borislav Slavov (best known for his collaborations on Crytek titles), who picks up the torch from Kirill Pokrovsky who passed away in 2015.
This is without a doubt one of the best games made this year. In terms of narrative, it's incredibly versatile and it offers plenty of player freedom, and it also houses enough detail and depth to support multiple play-throughs with either player-crafted avatars or one of the interesting characters authored by Larian. It's hard to imagine a narrative RPG experience that offers more player agency, and on top of that, it can be played with friends, which for many will be the cherry on top.
Divinity: Original Sin II is not a game you'll burn through in an energy drink-fueled weekend marathon, and as such, we're sure that many gamers out there, much like ourselves, have made a promise to themselves to find time to revisit this wonderful game once again, restarting the adventure and seeing just how far the limits of this sprawling narrative extend. For RPG fans it's an essential purchase; Larian has crafted a masterpiece that demands your attention.