Guess you figured with the amount of posts ont his topic. I’ll start with non spoilers stuff for those that have not played, then get into more later on.
I guess I’ll just put this out there, but DOS:2 is the 2nd best RPG I’ve ever played. BG2 will remain in that spot for a multitude of reasons, though I will admit that personal preference is important here. BG2 has a better through story, DOS:2 makes next to no sense up until the last bits of the final act. This is only due to the sheer complexity of it all, like 90% of the game is side quests (Reaper’s Coast exemplifies this). Mechanically, I have never played a game like DOS:2 before – it’s borderline 5e rules set in the focus on action points for combat and player agency.
The world building is at another level. Nearly every single line is spoken. At least 3/4 of the entire world population has something to say. Every bit of the map has something to see. Frankly, the main character is the world, and your job is to figure out its bits and bobs, and then how you fit into it. And it has to be, because you can literally kill EVERYONE in this game. They can’t be the focus if they can be removed mid-game.
The act structure is slightly weird for an RPG. It effectively caps each zone in terms of level/challenge, and you can tell from your quest log if you’re “done” or not. I prefer the open world where you return to previous locations and find new things – like Pillars of Eternity really. I understand why, no way a game this complex could operate without clear lines between chapters… the variables would be insane. You find the ghosts of people from previous acts, and you’d need to time travel to make sense of that.
The characters are ok, though lacking the interactions of typical RPG games. They have overly long arcs that don’t really mean anything until the final step. Was kind of hoping for more bickering and dialogue, but hey, that’s a small price for flexibility.
Stats are a bit weird. You NEED 5 Loremaster to identify items, so either you slot those skills or keep gear aside to do so. The latter is an inventory nightmare due to lack of “gear sets”. Persuasion 5 (or even 6 if you can) opens up TONS of options. It’s a weird point where if you are not fully invested in Persuasion, then you should avoid the stat altogether. And that person should initiate all dialogue. Lockpicking 5 isn’t required exactly, but it does save a lot of time chasing clues/keys. Finally, Lucky Charm negates
Mechanically, the combat is serviceable, and this is solely due to the inherent weakness of melee. Given this is a turn based RPG, melee needs points to move, then points to attack. At the end my rogue was rocking lvl 20 daggers, had 45% crit, 60 finesse (runes and armor), and 15% more physical damage (rune). A 2pt backstab dealt less damage than a 2pt spell – and I needed to position myself for it.
Mages though, holy moley. Fine, they have limits on the spells they can memorize but my goodness are they machines. Air/Water combo and a Fire/Earth combo make for insane results, and rarely are cool downs a problem once you reach the Nameless Isle.
If I were to do it again, I’d run 3 mages and a tank with Earth/Poly (those both have STR based attacks). I can’t see anything withstanding that barrage.
It’s a solid 40 hours, closer to 60 if you decide to do every little bit. I finished at level 20, and did every little bit.
HERE BE SPOILERS
Right, character arcs. I only did 4 on my play through.
Sebille’s is really quite bad. Elves actually have a cool history, but then they all but get wiped out. Cool revenge story! Nope, you’re shown to be super important and a pawn. The whole thing gets resolved on the Nameless Isle, which is about 50% of the way through the game. Ehh. There are NPC sidequests that are more interesting.
Lohse is possessed, and you spend a lot of time figuring out who that is. Was hoping for more of that demon to show up, maybe affecting combat. No such luck. The fight against that demon is wild, 12 enemies against you and 4 turns to burn down the big bad or it’s game over. Felt more like a neat side quest than a character arc.
The Red Prince is destined to rebuild his people. Chases a princess, falls in love, they give birth to the first dragons in centuries. Dragons who are destined to burn the entire planet. The idea is sharp, and you get a neat summon at the tail end. It is woven into the God King arc, with a covenant and all. Some good potential here, and the whole lizard stuff works as a general theme throughout.
Fane. Ya know what, I won’t even spoil this. I will say that if you’re going to play DOS:2, your main character should be Fane. His background adds context and extra dialogue to every single major plot point.
There’s this weird thing about RPGs, where they tend to fall into the “you fell for the lies?!” trope a tad too often. Double crosses and whatnot. DOS:2 doesn’t really do that, instead it focuses more on redemption arcs. Sure, there are bad guys that hide behind masks (literally), but on the whole all the characters are truthful in their speech. The last bit, like really ultra last bit, gives a significant twist on the main baddies and gives you a choice – die to save the world, or condemn it. It’s a bit out of left field ya know?
Take the condemn route, you get a major battle against named NPCs, then a 2nd phase. Take the sacrifice route and jump straight to phase 2. End of phase 2 gives you a more nuanced level of choice. One where I stepped away for a bit and thought about it. I had been paying attention to the lore thus far, so this choice wasn’t completely out of left field. It was however a tonal shift. A weird twist on redemption. I made my choice, and the epilogue was quite satisfactory.
I’m still amazed at the journey.
End of Spoilers
The logical question that comes when exposed to something like this is “how does the genre move forward from here?” I’m somewhat concerned for BG3, mostly due to the fact that Larian has a much different view on RPGs than BG had in the past. If they had made something like DOS:3, then yeah, but there are clear expectations here.
If I look at the larger RPG setting, I am not sure anyone could replicate the world complexity/integration that Larian has set here. Looking at something like EA’s/BioWare’s attempts, it’s clear that this is beyond their grasp. Even in things that are quasi RPGs, like Assassin’s Creed don’t even come close. But then you get something like Disco Elysium which can manage that complexity. I do think this is going to put pressure on Bethesda, as the focus there is in player agency and world breadth- not integrated story.
Mechanically, it would seem obvious that environmental tactics are the future – lighting oil patches, moving into poison pits, priming and triggering effects. For all of the woes with Anthem, I think this part was one of the best things. Probably explains why so many games today are moving out of the target based melee space (just look at MMOs, where ranged/casters are the true callings).
I wouldn’t say DOS:2 is the future of RPGs, instead I would consider it a critique of our assumptions. You think you know what’s there, this is a significant shift, and it’s likely to make you think there are problems with the game. It’s a rare event where a developer is able to stick to their vision, have it different than the “norm”, and it still be an amazing experience.