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Divinity Original Sin 2 Preview

2015-08-26

Larian Studios invited a bunch of guys and one gal from various news sites last week Thursday to check out their new game Divinity: Original Sin 2 to watch a presentation by Swen, play the game ourselves and have interviews.

As mentioned, the day started with Swen providing a presentation of the game, for which the development started last year, right after the release of Orginal Sin and uses an improved version of the Original Sin Enhanced Edition engine. Although that will give them a benefit, as some things needed in the game are already implemented for the Enhanced Edition of Original Sin, it will still need quite some development more before it is completed. The expectation is that it will be a 2017 release. They are announcing it early because Larian Studios want the community to be involved at an early stage. They feel they owe a lot to them for the success of Original Sin and there is a lot of intelligence out there that they would like to use to make Original Sin 2 a better game.

As mentioned, Original Sin 2 will build upon Original Sin, which means that almost all the skills that were present in Original Sin Enhanced Edition will also be present in Original Sin 2. On top of that there will be loads of new spells and skills as well.
The game looked like Original Sin, as the UI we were shown was from that game as they could make use of that in an easy way. The final UI will differ from the this one, although nothing was added about the extent of that change.

To place the game in the Divinity timeline we were told that Original Sin 2 is set just after the events in Divine Divinity and just before what happened in Beyond Divinity. It takes place in Rivellon and one of the main factions that exist in it is the Divine Order. They are hunters of the source as that kind of magic is forbidden. The Divine Magisters in the Divine Order hunt sorcerers, apprehend them and purge them with a special form of Angst. This will result in them being completely dominated by the Magisters of the Divine Order and is an awful way to be treated, if you happen to be a sorcerer.

The Divine Order is being led by Alexander the Innocent, who is running the equivalent of the Spanish inquisition to purge sorcerers from the source.
Next to that there is the Ancient Empire, where the lizards live, who are now at war with the Divine Order. They would have wanted to stay away from all the turmoil, but as they are now being attacked by the forces of Alexander, they have no alternative than to lash out.
Then there is The Black Ring who were being fought in Divine Divinity. However they have opened up now and are not the evil organization they used to be and have become an organization of the free people. They try to assemble all the sorcerers to prevent them from being purged.
Furthermore there is the Dwarven Empire, which is in some economic dire straits. There will also be Orc lands in the game, but it is far less in development at the moment and it isn't even sure that it will make it in the final game.

During character creation you can create only one character. The special thing that makes it different from character creation in Original Sin is that you get to select an origins background story for your character. The origins of the character are a very important element of the game. It describes who you are, what you are, where you were born and how it effects the choices that you will have. You can also select to have no background story and start with a blank slate.
Next to the character you have created you can select out of many other different characters, with different origins stories, to create your party of four. They only have four now, but there will be plenty of them to choose from in the final game.

At least in the demo, almost all the dialogs with NPCs were completely different depending on which character was talking to that NPC. This is supposed to be like this for the entire game. This makes selecting who is going to talk to an NPC very important and for each origin story the experience in the game will be different.
The way this works is that an origin story is a collection of tags. Like your race, your class, that you are a noble or from humble comings, etc. But also, tags like swindler, charmer, liar, scholar and many more that can be used in conversations. Some of these tags can be improved or reduced depending on your playing style, which could make you a much more convincing liar for example.

And yes, you can select a race. There will be four playable races in Original Sin 2: Humans, Wood Elves, Dwarves and Lizards. Depending on how well the Kickstarter goes, more playable races might be added.

Tags play an important role in conversations, like your race. Some NPCs won't even talk to you unless you are of a certain race. Humans and dwarves for example don't always get along that well, so if you want to bribe a human NPC, a dwarf would have to pay much more than a human would. A human could perhaps charm that NPC to get something done without a bribe and a dwarf couldn't. The combinations of tags a character has determines what options are available during a conversation, so it does make a big difference who talks to the NPC. If you want to have a chance on doing many of the quests, you would need to have different races in your party. However if things fail, you should always remember that there are usually more ways to reach a goal.

As there will be many versions of a conversation that a NPC can have, they are not sure if everything will be voiced in the final game. The narrative team has tripled in size to cope with the extra dialogues and with so many different options in the dialogs, adding voices for all them might just be too much work.

We started with 4 characters and all of them were sorcerers using source magic. They have just escaped from a prison on the main land where they were about to be purged and just arrived on an island, named Reaper's Island. For those who are worried it is going to be a game with just a bunch of islands, don't. There is a big continent out there and there are also islands, where we were on one of them. Anyway, the four took a ship and fled to this island pursued by Divine Magisters when there ship crashed before the coast.

 

The lead character that Swen used was Gwynne, a noble woman, who was discovered to have natural source inside of her and because of that her mother told the Divine Magisters about her, who hesitated not and put her in jail. Things like this have the tendency to put a dent in relationships I suppose. Gwynne also has the tag of Heiress to her mother's heir and that she is from this town, so this will give her dialogue options unique to her.
Then there is Vell, a wood elf, who are a somewhat rare appearance in the land. The wood elves helped the Divine Order defeat the Black Ring. However, recently the Magisters have turned against them as they state that wood elves also have source in them. 
Furthermore there was Hudson the human thief, who is a bit of an odd character because he is there with an entirely different agenda and actually works for the Divine Order. And the last character is Mangan. He is an imperial dwarf from the Dwarven Empire.

The village we were about to enter, Prospect Town, is a human village with dwarven economic refugees, who are working in the mines. They are working for The Divine Order and the resources from the mines are being used to fuel the divine armada who is going to fight against the ancient empire of the lizards.

Before we venture on, there is an important change in the game to pay attention to. From a 2 player co-op the game is now turned into a 4-player co-op game. However, unlike other games you can not only play cooperatively, but also competitively. You can, for example, prevent your fellow players from reaching their goals and even kill each other if you would like to do that, although that might not be very efficient. The story is made such that you need to cooperate in order to advance, but there will be plenty of room left to compete. Each playable character in the game will have a different origins story and because of that also different motivations and aspirations that might even be conflicting with each other. However they need each other, as they are all sorcerers on the run and Larian has made it such that you will not be able to do everything on your own.

Swen mentioned an example, which is not in the game, to clarify this. Suppose we need to go to the north to meet a general. One character wants to kill the general, the other wants the general to recognize him as his son, the third needs his help to defeat a legion of orcs and the fourth wants something else from him. We all need to go to the north, so we help each other to get there, but we do so for different reasons and sometimes conflicting reasons. You can't all get what you want in the end, so you need to compromise, or they just fight over it.

Combat has some new mechanics. One of them is that the amount of action points you have has been reduced. At the moment of the demo it was four, which can change, but it will be less from what it was in Original Sin. In addition the cost of actions have been reduced as well. Many of the skills are only 1 or 2 action points and you can move quite a bit more on just one action point. They are doing this because they want the player to really think about what an action point is worth and decide where to spend it on.

 

As with Original Sin, in combat, spells can be combined. In the game Swen used the grease spell, which has a 50% chance that whoever is in it gets stuck. You can burn grease, which is better than oil, as when people get stuck in it they will take damage for a longer period of time. And finally when you make it rain on the burning grease, it will cause an explosion. Many more combinations of spells will be possible in Original Sin 2.

In the fight we were shown some Dune Beetles, who when killed , will drop water. When the Dune Beetle is in burning grease, that will make the grease explode and damage some of the other Beetle's as well.

When one member of the party is in combat and another party member was not part of it and gets close to that combat, he or she does not automatically join the combat, as was the case in the game's predecessor. It is a deliberate choice of that party member to join or not. After all, you are not necessary on the same side. If you join, you can fight side by side with the party member already in combat, but you can also decide to fight against that party member.

As you are now users of source magic there are plenty of new source skills to select from. Source skills will have its own skill tree in the game, which they fell will add a new layer of tactics. Source skills are very powerful, but before you can use most of them you need source points. These are not easy to come by and you can have only one source point at the time.

One way to get a source point is to use the Source Vampirism skill, which will absorb the cosmic energy of those you have defeated. But by doing that, the soul of the slain creature cannot be reincarnated anymore, which makes Source Vampirism an evil thing to do. However by doing this you do gain a source point. You have to make sure though that there is still a body left to use your vampirism skill on, because when you burn your opponent or use acid, the body is gone and the vampirism skill is useless. Doing this very often will mean you are losing Karma, which will have an impact on the game.

Another way of getting a source points is by getting it from one of your party members. That character can use the Source Channel skill and another party member can use the Source Vampirism skill on the character who is channeling. The downside to this is that this action will hurt that character and might even kill them if too many source points are taken.  Apparently there might be more ways of getting source points in the final game.

In Original Sin 2 you can collect bloodstones. These bloodstones are inert, but they can be charged by taking the astral energy of the spirits you encounter. This is also an evil thing and even worse than using your vampire skill, as the spirit will never have a chance to go to the Hall of Echoes, nor resurrect. However, by doing this, the bloodstone can be charged with the sprit's soul and once charged, serve as healing potions for source points. If you are out of source points you can use a charged bloodstone to gain an extra source point.

So back to Gwynne, who finds out that her mother is in prison as she is being accused for an attempted murder of the mayor, who has been poisoned and the Magisters are on their way to the island to investigate it. Magisters have source hounds and they can sniff out those who have source in them, so you want to be gone before they arrive.
One way to achieve that is by flying away with a dragon. The Dragon Master will ask for a lot of gold for that though. A dragon can only carry one person, so you will need to work together to get the gold, but compete with each other to be the one riding the dragon.

Further investigation into the poisoning teaches us that next to the mother of Gwynne also a dwarf is held in custody, but the captain in charge thinks he will soon break and confess the poisoning, so the mother can be released. You will find out when the dwarf in your party talks to other dwarfs in the town that it is highly likely that the captured dwarf poisoned the mayor and you can also retrieve the bottle of poison that was used in poisoning the mayor. You can go with this information to the captain of the guards and free the mother of Gwynne, or you can frame the mother by hiding the potion in the house of the mother and telling the captain about it (although that didn't work in the version we played, but we were told that it could be working. Work in progress I guess), which is something the dwarf would want to do. When Gwynne talks to her mother, she tells her to take the key of their vault and get the money to bribe her way out of imprisonment. If you take that key, you can free the mother by bribing the guards, or you can use the gold to fly away from the island, leaving the other three to find their own way off the island and the mother imprisoned. To complicate things, we also learn that Hudson the thief, who is working for the Divine Order, has orders to kill the Dragon Master, which makes it hard to leave with the dragon.
In this short part there are already a few conflicting interests to work out.

We were told that in single player mode the competitive questing is used by the AI to guide the party member companions and making decisions for the party members you don't control, that might benefit you or not. However this could not be shown as it was not ready yet, so I'm not sure how this exactly will work out.

What was shown to us was skill crafting. With it you can create a new skill by combining two others.

As examples were shown:

  • Summon Spider in combination with Mute, gives you a Summon Stealth Spider, that is able to be invisible after summoning it.
  • Grease and Rain, gives you the Grease Rain skill, which results in wet grease. Putting fire on that will make it explode.
  • Lacerate and Rain, gives you Blood Rain. If you have the Leech talent, you can make it rain blood to heal yourself.

What also was shown, is that you can craft some special items. You could buy some Red Dye and combine it with a bottle of poison. This will create a bottle of poison that looks and reads as a Healing Potion. You can give this to one of the other party members. If that party member uses that, thinking it is a healing potion, that party member is actually poisoned.

At this point Swen ran out of time (actually he ran out of time long before that) and quickly mentioned that Original Sin 2 will also have a cover system, which obviously allows you to seek cover and we were guided to the room where we could play the game for ourselves.

We played the game in two player co-op where I was playing with Hudson the thief and Mangan the dwarf. The other guy was playing with Gwynne and Velle. I was assisted by Char, one of the new writers hired by Larian this year, who helped me out regularly to get things done.

For some reason I've lost the other two very quickly (or he lost me) and we ended up playing two single player games in the same game world.

Upon trying to enter the town, my dwarf ended up pissing off the guard, so he couldn't enter it anymore. The racist! I'm sure he just hates dwarves. He liked the thief well enough though, who smooth-talked his way into town. That won't be a long lasting friendship that way.

Fortunately the other two team members ended up in a fight with the guards for whatever reason, which distracted them enough, so my dwarf could pass by them. Not sure what the fight was about, but I decided it was their problem and went on.

Swen already showed some things, so I wasn't too interested in trying the exact same thing and explored the environment to see what I could do. For starters I found out that my selection of choices frequently got me into a fight for some reason. The people in this town are certainly short-tempered. Not only that, but in most fights there were just too many of them for the two of us. That gave me the option to try out the Flee skill regularly. It's a shame that you don't get any bonus points for frequently using a skill to a point that you've mastered it completely as I'm sure I would have secured those bonus point with the use of the Flee skill. In any case, these fights are better handled with a full party.

Another disadvantage of using a playing style where we ended up playing two single player games, is that quests are obviously available only once. This means that if the other person did something, for me there was nothing left than look at the consequences of his choice.

Char told me that there was quite some smuggling going on and that I could tell the guards that one of the other players character is a smuggler. Without much hesitation I did and with some luck that character is carrying some goods on them they shouldn't and are thrown in jail.
That didn't work out to well though, apparently they weren't carrying anything illegal on them and they accused my dwarf instead, as the next time we met a guard he wanted to search the dwarf. My dwarf responded with something like: "What?!? You're not going to search me, keep your filthy paws of me."
Well.... It turned out that these guards are very sensitive and start a fight over every little thing (all five of them), so I got to practice the Flee skill again. Once I did that I went back to the guards again, to find out they have forgotten all about me. That was odd, but at least I could get past them.

 

I went in the dwarven area of town and let my dwarf talk to the other dwarves, as they didn't respond to well to my thieving human. They don't care when he is there, as long as he doesn't start a conversation. I talked to the sister of the dwarf that was captured for poisoning the mayor. She directed me to talk to Olaf as he saw him last. So I looked for Olaf, talked to him and found out that he was given a bottle of potion he wanted to give to me. So I ended up with that bottle on me.  I guess I better not be searched now by the guards. As mentioned earlier in this article I tried to frame the mother, but for some reason I never got the dialog option from the captain from whom I should get it. Oh well, the game is still in early development, so it can't be perfect.

Like all things, also the demo came to an end and we got to interview two other game writers, but to not make this article too long, we'll publish that part tomorrow.

I felt at that point in time that there were a few concerns, that weren't completely addressed yet, because the game is obviously early in development, but let me voice them anyway.
Many people don't like to play with others. This means you either need to be really schizophrenic to role-play all four characters or take the route they plan, which means the AI takes over. However at this stage it isn't that clear to me if the experience will be as satisfactory as playing with multiple persons.
Secondly it looks like there are only more or less evil ways to get source points (I count source channeling to that as it hurts the other person). Unless there is a way to get source points without vampirism, stealing a soul or source channeling, it looks like you can only be (somewhat) evil to use source skills. Being able to play as a good boy or girl is something that is not in yet, so for those who like it, we will have to wait and see if it makes it in the game and how.
Another concern I have is that in multiplayer mode you might end up with playing four single player games in a single game world and. This is partly also addressed in the article scheduled for tomorrow and the demo was apparently made to give you the feeling of being separated, but still, I don't think I want to experience the "You must gather your party, before venturing forth" in this game

I must say that with such a long development time still to go (no release date yet, but estimated somewhere in 2017), there was more to show than for some games I saw at Gamescom that are scheduled for an earlier release. It was even playable! Original Sin 2 clearly has some very interesting new features and in my opinion, if they get them all working as they should,  this will turn in another game of the year in 2017.

Box Art

Information about

Divinity: Original Sin II

Developer: Larian Studios

SP/MP: Single + MP
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: RPG
Combat: Turn-based
Play-time: Unknown
Voice-acting: Full

Regions & platforms
World
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2017-09-14
· Publisher: Larian Studios

More information


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