In Divinity: Original Sin 2, elves eat corpses. Eat that Legolas! I suppose in Divinity 2 an elf literally would. But anyway. Eating corpses is a racial ability, what elves in Divinity 2 just happen to do, and when they gobble an arm or a head or a leg they learn things about who it came from - discover secrets. It's another option in a game of options. Why go round the houses looking for the information you need to finish a quest when you can scoff a head and do it that way? It's Divinity: Original Sin 2 in a nutshell: a cheeky, subversive fantasy toy box that has an even bigger box of tools than the first game to play with.
I popped to the lovely city of Ghent in Belgium recently to see Divinity 2 developer Larian and play the game. Of all the things I wanted to see, single-player was top of the list, because so far all talk surrounding the game seems to be about cooperatively or competitively campaigning with three other people, or fighting them in a player versus player arena. I mean of course I have friends! A few. Sort of. But I'll probably play Divinity 2 alone. Does that mean I will be missing out?
Perhaps obviously: no. Just because Larian hasn't talked about or shown Divinity 2 single-player doesn't mean it isn't important, even fundamental, to the experience. For it is the bread and butter. And this time it comes with nifty origin stories, like Dragon Age: Origins, that lovely game, and with more races to play as. Lizard people with necks like giraffes! Elves that eat corpses! Undead (written by Chris Avellone) at some point! Dwarves! And the world reacts differently to them all.
The origin stories all begin in the same area, a kind of prison camp for Source-sensitive (the game's magic) people. A place to keep them under control. You've got to get out. But how you do that is up to you. The solutions are many, nearly a dozen, but they're not signposted. You will need to discover them and carry them out for yourself, which requires thought, memory and patience. It's like playing a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, prodding and poking your way around as you gradually reveal information, careful not to prod too hard in case the game quickly turns against you - and it can, and does. Larian isn't afraid to dish out a bit of punishment. It's an experience that takes a while to settle into, to slow down into, but it's rewarding when you do.
The embedded video edits my hours-long escape from the prison camp area into a more digestible 33 minutes. What you won't see in the video are the new Curse and Bless abilities that transform surfaces, like fire, into either holy fire that heals you or cursed fire that really roasts you. You also won't see the new super-powered Source abilities that consume Source Points. I played around with these in arena PvP, facing off against Rock, Paper, Shotgun's charming Adam Smith. Who I battered. Just saying. (It was very close really.) Lovely Larian boss Swen Vincke, who waltzed around in socks when I was there, demonstrated Divinity: Original Sin 2 PvP in a recent video (also embedded) if you want to see more.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is shaping up for an Early Access release on 15th September. Console versions (PS4, Xbox One) are apparently part of the plan but will follow the PC release by a couple of months - when the PC version comes out at some point next year.
Incidentally, Richard Cobbett wrote a Divinity: Original Sin 2 preview last August that focused on the game's twisted four-player campaign multiplayer. It was Cobbett who wrote our Divinity: Original Sin review in 2014, too.