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OnlySP’s Favorite Games #43—Divinity: Original Sin 2

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OnlySP Favorite Games 43 - Divinity Original Sin 2

Thanks to the staff of OnlySP, I am inviting you to come on a journey through our 50 favourite games. Some of these are forgotten gems, some you will guess straight away. Others cover more than one game in a series, or compare two similar games.

Following our look at Dragon Age: Origins, Damien is here to show us a more recent—but no less impressive—isometric RPG, one with turn-based combat instead of real-time-with-pause.

#43. DIVINITY: ORIGINAL SIN 2, BY DAMIEN LAWARDORN

Crowdfunded games do not have a particularly strong track record. The likes of Broken Age, Mighty No. 9, and Yooka-Laylee have all been met with a mixed to outright disappointing reception on release. However, a handful of projects stand out for their successes, and Divinity: Original Sin 2 is surely at the top of that pile.

The latest in a long-running series of RPGs from Belgian developer Larian Studios, the game acts as a stunning example of how old-school style can benefit from modern technology and approaches. At the heart of this display is the sheer amount of player agency. The lead role can be occupied by one of six pre-determined character or an avatar of the user’s making, with the play style of each party member also being remarkably fluid.

Notably, the skills and attributes available also have uses beyond combat; for example, an undead character can pick locks with its fingers and extra quest-lines can be acquired through a party member capable of talking to animals. These qualities give the user an almost unparalleled level of control over the adventure, yet they do not stand alone among Original Sin 2’s strengths.

Divinity: Original Sin II Definitive Edition

The reactive turn-based combat system is also particularly noteworthy. Frequently thrown into incredibly tough combat scenarios, players must use both careful planning and the environment to gain the upper hand against foes. Positioning often proves to be of vital importance, while the ability to electrify, freeze, or set aflame different elements within the game world can either damage or debuff enemies (or party members if they are caught in the crossfire).

As such, the requirement of careful planning and strategy usually beneficial in games of this ilk becomes utterly necessary.

The thoughtful player is further rewarded with high-quality writing. A central subject of discrimination wends its way through the game, beginning with the unjustified imprisonment of the magic-wielding characters and extending to the racist and classist sentiments expressed by many NPCs. The attempt to illustrate the folly of such behaviours rings particularly relevant in the contemporary sociopolitical climate.

Divinity: Original Sin II

However, the writers rarely take a soapbox approach to decrying discrimination, while also giving players the tools to react to it however they choose. This subtext runs alongside a strong central storyline that fantasy lovers will easily find themselves lost in across the dozens and potentially hundreds of hours that Original Sin 2 takes to complete. Furthermore, the game recently received a free Enhanced Edition update alongside the console launch, which brought significant changes to some of the writing, as well as additional quests and a host of small quality-of-life improvements.

Even without the post-launch updates, Original Sin 2 was one of the most lauded games of 2017, standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Persona 5, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey. While the title may not have the easy mass market appeal of those AAA games, it should be unmissable for anyone with even a passing interest in RPGs, for it stands among its contemporaries as a model for how to empower the player.

THE PATH FROM DIVINITY TO DIVINITY

Larian Studios has charted its own remarkable course through the history of 21st century computer RPGs, making the success of Divinity: Original Sin 2 less shocking than one might think.

With 2002’s Divine Divinity, the first in the series, Larian hit on a formula that presaged the kind of genre mashups that now dominate mainstream RPGs. The hack-and-slash action-RPG genre was riding high thanks to the Diablo series, but rather than a simple clone Divine Divinity brought more traditional RPG elements back into the mix such as non-combat skills, dialogue trees and more complex NPCs who could react to players’ choices.

However, by the time Divinity II came around in 2009, both the industry pressure on RPG developers and player expectations had shifted. Built using some of the same tools as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3, Divinity II released at an inopportune time for Euro-RPGs. Highly polished American games—particularly as console releases—were dominating sales, leaving little space for smaller releases. The PC space was in recession and games were still being distributed primarily on discs, meaning bigger companies had a better chance of being seen.

Divine Divinity

Divine Divinity (2002)

The dark ages passed. Perhaps due to an upgraded re-release of Divinity II that saw better critical reception, as well as the strategic spin-off, Dragon Commander, the Divinity brand was on the rise. Even better, the steady overtaking of PC games by digital distribution offered opportunities for niche audiences to speak with their purchases, directly to developers. The aforementioned Kickstarter craze was chiefly driven by this perceived opportunity, and in the end it paid off for Larian.

Thanks to the ecstatic reception of both Original Sin games, the isometric RPG is a viable prospect again, nearly ten years after we thought that Dragon Age: Origins might be the last of its kind. Although only a few current examples of upcoming releases in the genre exist, the purchase of inXile Entertainment and Obsidian Entertainment by Microsoft suggests that a great future is ahead for these kinds of RPGs.

Next week, we turn to a wholly different brand of fantasy RPG, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Why not comment below with your preferred type of fantasy RPG? Is it the sprawling, open adventure of The Elder Scrolls? Something more dungeon-crawly-hack-and-slashy? Or in-between, like today’s game? Thanks again for reading OnlySP’s 50 Favorite Games.

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E3 2019

The Winners of E3, According to OnlySP

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E3 2019

The OnlySP team has been rather negative about E3 2019 as a whole, sharing undisguised disappointment about Ninja Theory, Microsoft, and Ubisoft in particular. However, we are gamers first, and the show had plenty to excite, so we wanted to share at least a small ray of positivity by rounding up some of our winners from the past week.

Best AAA Trailer

Cyberpunk 2077

Two of the most anticipated games of 2020 topped the list, with Cyberpunk 2077 just pipping Final Fantasy VII Remake. The trailer was exactly what you want from a major production with the insane amount of hype that Cyberpunk 2077 is enjoying: mystery, emotional story moments, and heart-pounding action.

As if all that is not enough, one of the hottest stars of the moment, Keanu Reeves, was revealed as a cast member.

Doubters were all but silenced, and everyone else was gratified. Even better, we got a release date: April 16, 2020. Could anyone possibly lust for more?

Best Indie Trailer

Tie: Spiritfarer and Way to the Woods

As usual, Microsoft brought the ID@Xbox goods to its E3 stage, and we just could not pick between these two.

On the one hand, the team at Thunder Lotus Games finally unveiled its new project, Spiritfarer. The game brings back the glorious hand-drawn art style that had us falling in love with Jotun and Sundered, marrying to a unique take on the Charon myth. Furthermore, Spiritfarer’s low-key charm and gorgeous watercolour was a perfect counterpoint to Cyberpunk 2077, which preceded it.

On the other hand, Way to the Woods got a sparkling new trailer. The two deer are simply gorgeous, and the bright colours and mellifluous music make the game seems a journey befitting the glory days of thatgamecompany. Simple puzzles, a moving story, an entrancing atmosphere… We just want Way to the Woods on its way to our homes.

Favourite New Game Announcement

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel

E3 2019 had no shortage of enticing new announcements, but nothing was quite so enticing as Nintendo’s “one more thing.” After Breath of the Wild set the world on fire in 2017, a sequel was basically a foregone conclusion. Even so, that brief tease set our hopes alight.

In truth, we know next to nothing about this new project—other than that it is set in the same version of Hyrule as its predecessor and Zelda is rocking a slick new hairstyle—but its mere existence is enough.

Biggest Surprise

Keanu Reeves is in Cyberpunk 2077

I may have already mentioned this, but Keanu Reeves is going to be in Cyberpunk 2077.

If we need to explain more, the world of gaming is familiar with seeing TV and film stars cross over—Kit Harington in Call of Duty, Emma Stone in Sleeping Dogs—but Reeves is a particularly hot property right now.

Moreover, the word is that this is more than just a brief cameo. Reeve’s character, Johnny Silverhand, has been a big part of Cyberpunk lore, and CD Projekt RED reportedly spent 15 days capturing his performance.

Even Watch Dogs: Legion looking as though it is finally going to deliver on the promises of the first game is not enough to beat Keanu.

Favourite Stage Personality

Ikumi Nakamura

Full disclosure: the team picked Keanu, but Keanu can’t win everything, damn it!

Therefore, this award goes to Ikumi Nakamura, protégé of Shinji Mikami, who took the stage during Bethesda’s press conference to reveal Ghostwire: Tokyo. Where most presenters—even developers—are reserved, sharing the soundbites that make the games sound appealing, Nakamura radiated enthusiasm for her project.

Put simply, Nakamura was a ray of sunshine to remind us all that game development is not always about cynicism and monetisation; sometimes, it is about genuine love and passion.

Biggest Winners

Nintendo

With “gamers” one of the options on the list, I thought this category would be a foregone conclusion. However, the outcome proved that adage about what happens when we assume things…

The team voted for Nintendo, and the why is easy enough to understand. A new Legend of Zelda game will always be an event. The addition of Banjo-Kazooie to Super Smash Bros. is a long-overdue coup. Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks better than it has any right to. Meanwhile, Daemon X Machina, Astral Chain, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order all got great new showings, and we officially learned of the arrival of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (among other, slightly less exciting titles) on the Switch.


These winners were all decided by those of us who stayed at home. However, you may have noticed that we had Mike Cripe and Dimitric Edwards on the show floor, so they went hands-on with a bunch of games the rest of us could only gawp at.

Over the coming days and weeks, Mike and Dimitric will be delivering previews of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, and Biomutant, as well as a few interesting interviews, so we’ll have plenty of fresh details for you all to pore over.

First, though, coming tomorrow will be Mike’s hands-off preview of one of the show’s most contentious games: Marvel’s Avengers.

For all those previews and much more from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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