Divinity 2

I’ve had this one in my library for quite some time, yet I’ve just not been in the right mindset to take on a VLCRPG (very large and complex role playing game). It’s a game that focuses on numbers, die rolls, and limits. Compare that to the more action oriented Skyrim/Fallout games, where the numbers are much less meaningful.

tldr; Baldur’s Gate 2 sits in my top 5 all time games, and it would be sad for me to share the amount of hours I sunk into that bugger. Early Access for Baldur’s Gate 3 got me thinking about going back to the genre. My own sanity prevents me from playing any EA games, even more so one that is known to be buggy, incomplete, and that I would have to replay again anyhow. I value my time more than that exchange returns.

So Divinity 2 it is, and Larian’s vision on how D&D-like mechanics can be applied in the modern age.

Creation

Normally you’re a no-faced bugger and you get to tweak some numbers that eventually end up making your life interesting. A dumb warrior is not going to talk themselves out of anything. Here we have a somewhat straightforward character builder, where the stats are familiar, the skills are just on the edge of focused (so many spell types), and talents that make you go hmm. That’s neat below the covers stuff.

The actual look of the character is pretty awesome, with a decent variety of races and customizations. Topping it off are pre-set characters you can select from, that will allow for a more directed story experience. I tend to pick mage classes in RPGs, they can do amazing things. Divinity 2 takes a different approach to combat though, so my attempts at a caster didn’t go so well. I opted for a dyed in the wool Rogue – Sebelle. She eats people to learn their memories, neat beans!

Tutorial

On the surface the game looks like other isometric RPGs, and for the most part it follow the formula. The tutorial starts you off on a ship, that ends up on a beach. We’re in Chekhov’s gun territory in terms of tropes here. It’s the combat aspect that I think really sets things apart.

It’s paused action, meaning everyone has initiative. Like a game of chess. Each character gets a set of action points to either move or perform an ability, taking up a specific set of AP. While this makes for a more realistic combat scenario in terms of “energy”, it does strongly favour ranged classes who have a limited need to move. Neat bit, the Rogue gets a cool teleport mechanic that allows for a backstab, 1AP but 3 turn cool down.

The tutorial also explains the environmental aspects of combat, where pretty much anything can blow up. Oil catches fire and explodes, causing burning. Water can be frozen or electrocuted. Water can also put out fire, or create steam that people can walk through. There’s poison, bleeds and a pile of other effects that can feel like they come out of nowhere. Since the environment is a hazard unto itself, moving around carefully is important. This again has a disadvantage to melee characters – often you’ll have a pile of fire between you and a target.

Practice

I think this is the magical part of Divinity, where the foundations above create these extremely divergent experiences. Example is a fight I had against Griff and his crew, for not giving up name. There’s Griff in front of me, an archer right next, a melee 2 moves away, an archer above me also 2 moves away, and 2 mages of a similar distance. Starting the fight blind (around Griff) I get picked off in 2 rounds from all the ranged attackers – I just can’t get to them in time. Quick save habits pull me out and I move my folks around before triggering the fight.

Attempt 1 has my main damage dealer put to sleep before her turn, things go bad from there. Attempt 2 has my healer put to sleep before her turn and everyone somehow ends up on fire. Attempt 3 goes super smooth until I’m left with a mage and Griff. Then mage freezes my team (too close together and wet) and Griff just goes off on everyone.

Attempt #4 is where I decide to game it a bit more, frankly because melee characters at low levels are wet noodles. My tank manages to get Griff’s attention, and the other 2 members split up on taking out the mages. Fane (earth/fire mage) does 90% of the lifting here with a dual ranged attack (wands) that causes poison and burning. Not a spell, just a simple ranged attack.

It took 5 tries to get something that resembled a real fight, where target priority mattered, my ranged attackers were smart enough to spread to good positions before attacking, and my healer wasn’t focused down in 2 turns. I am unsure if this is the natural issues that come with low level character in RPGs – this was certainly the case in BG2 – or if this is how things work out in the longer term.

Thoughts

I’ve been playing RPGs for a very long time, and the older D&D model is etched in my brain. Melee excel for the lower levels, and mages have exponential growth later on (e.g. solo dragons).

From the tutorial, it would appear that this model is no longer valid. This is primarily due to the AP mechanic on movement, that penalizes melee characters until they have movement skills. Casters are also limited since their abilities are also limited by the AP mechanic, as well as cool downs, preventing chain casts of something like fireball.

D&D focused on single turn events. You took down one enemy (or more) per turn, and moved through a list of priority targets. Divinity 2 is different in that the landscape itself changes from turn to turn. Entirely possible that the next target is just not reachable because of a fire pit that wasn’t there last turn. It’s a much more dynamic system, more tactical than strategic. It’s certainly interesting!

Forward

I’ll keep up with the game and have a few posts on progress. The presentation values are amazing, everyone is voice acted, and the interconnections between NPCs and events is impressive. Feels like I’m seeing the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Fun times ahead I’m sure.

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