In a span of 12 hours, the developers at Larian Studios breathed a sigh of relief and joy. Initially announced a few weeks ago, Divinity: Original Sin 2 would be making its way to Kickstarter, just like its predecessor.
The goal this time around was $500,000, a $100,000 increase from the funding mark for Divinity: Original Sin. Even before the doors of PAX Prime opened to the public, Divinity: Original Sin 2 was fully funded, and it continued to grow throughout the show, passing the $1 million milestone. With a huge weight off their shoulders, the developers spent the weekend highlighting the latest additions, and I was able to watch the studio's founder, Swen Vincke, as he walked me through the game.
From Character To Gameplay
When you start a new game, one of the first changes appears during the character creation screen. In the past, you could tweak only different statistics for the male or female human character. With this game, another layer of customization was added in the form of choosing a "race" for your character, whether that be a human, elf, dwarf or lizard.
You can also choose your character's origin story, which will dictate how he or she will interact with your computer-controlled companions or the many NPCs scattered throughout the game world.
Even with certain skills that allow one or more of your party members to talk the entire group out of a potential combat situation, there are times when it can't be avoided. During these skirmishes, Vincke noted that the high number of action points (AP) for each character has been reduced. However, he noted that the number of points required to activate abilities have been lowered as well. While some might believe that the bottlenecking of action points could deter gameplay, he believes that a lower AP will play to the game's tactical element. It's easy to overpower enemies if you have a high number of points, but a limited supply will force players to make more strategic moves to keep the group alive.
Another way to build unique characters is through Source Points. These are very strong abilities that can help out in either the battlefield or the countryside depending on your class. Because of the strong abilities behind these points, you might only be able to have one point at a time. However, it can be refilled and reallocated to another Source Skill. One of the ways to refill the points is to use a Dark Sorcerer and use its power to drain the energy from ghosts and specters of those who died. Obviously, this action isn't highly regarded among the living, so using it too much could make NPC interaction slightly more complicated.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 also features an entirely new crafting system, but the developers weren't ready to reveal all of its features yet. However, they did show one crafting element: Skill crafting uses your character's abilities in conjunction with magic spells. For example, a player can combine grease with the rain spell to create a small storm, drenching those in its path with flammable grease. There's also the more terrifying option of mixing the silence and summon spider spells to create a stealth spider capable of deadly attacks, as if its size and look wasn't scary enough.
Cooperative mode was part of Divinity: Original Sin, but that was only available through an online connection. The game's Enhanced Edition added support for offline co-op with a maximum of two players. Both features are back in the sequel, but the experience offers players a chance to stray off the beaten path to work together to finish quests, or throw a wrench into your friend's plans in what the developers call "competitive questing."
Some missions have multiple outcomes depending on the actions of the party, and competitive questing not only allows teams of two to approach the task at hand with different methods, but also reveals more of the game world. For example, the demo showed the female human character and her decaying relationship with her mother, who was recently imprisoned. The first player can take the role of the human and find evidence that proves her innocence. However, these groups can splinter off and perform other tasks as well, to supposedly help complete the mission, but in fact the other player's job is to frame the mother instead of releasing her from prison.
Race also plays into which areas are available for access. A human-run city might not like the sight of dwarfs, forbidding them to enter certain places, and more suspicious guards eyeing every move. However, dwarfs already living in the city might be keen to a fellow dwarf, offering a secondary route to the mission.
Both players now have a plan of attack, but there's also room to derail the other half of your team. With the new skill crafting ability, you can create poison with red food coloring to mimic a potent, yet deadly healing potion. If that doesn't help, there's always thievery. With guards keeping a close watch on dwarfs, random searches occur frequently in the area. The party can easily send items to each other, so the human can take a large set of stolen trading supplies. The dwarf, completely unaware of the switch, will willingly submit to a search, but won't know about the placed items in the inventory. Obviously, anyone caught with stolen merchandise will be immediately sent to jail. The number of missions means that you can continue to screw up your friends' mission progress, or you can be a nice person and help them advance throughout the story.
More Funding, More Additions, More Gameplay
The game is slated for release by December 2016, and the overwhelming amount of funding will give the team more work to do in the coming months, thanks to the campaign's stretch goals. Some of them change up the entire nature of gameplay, such as the Strategist Mode (unlocked at $700,000) or the addition of another race, the undead, at the $1.2 million mark. There are rewards all the way to $1.5 million, and with 30 days remaining on the clock, it seems likely that it will be easily met in the coming weeks.
Even in its early development stage, Divinity: Original Sin 2 already has some distinct visual qualities. It still has the long-time isometric camera view, and the seaside beaches and large towns are similar in art style to the last game. However, it's able to stand on its own thanks to an improved combat system, crafting, and the return of local and online cooperative play.
Sixteen months separates fans from the finished game, and the easily met Kickstarter goal is but one of the many signs of exciting things to come from Larian Studios.
Follow Rexly Peñaflorida II @Heirdeux. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.