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As Divinity: Original Sin 2 [official site] charges screaming through early access, developers Larian have announced a release date for the full version: September 14th. For early access roleplayers, though, Larian have released a hefty update including the tutorial with a fight against a kraken, the new home base on a captured warship, new areas, improved AI, and plenty more. You can see some of all this in a new dev diary if you aren’t distracted by how swish their offices are: … [visit site to read more]
Larian Studios puts out Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter backer updates on a very regular basis, which is great for anyone following along. But update number 37, released today, is more important than most, because buried within it is a link to a video, and in that video is the announcement of a release date: September 14, 2017.
Naturally, because this is a Larian joint, it's filled with studio boss Swen Vincke talking excitedly about what's happened since the last update, including details about the Early Access release, stretch goal status, and the player's home base, which has changed quite a bit from what was originally planned. The initial idea was to use the Hall of Echoes as the base, but instead players will set up shop in The Lady Vengeance, a large, apparently magical, sailing ship.
"All the home base functionality that was planned for the halls is there but more importantly, the Lady Vengeance requires no level switching which means you can split the party between home base and another piece of the map. That's much more convenient than having to gather your party and loading a new level. It's also a much better setting for some of the relationship building that we added to the game," the studio explained in the update. "The Hall of Echos is still part of the game—you actually visit it in Act 1 already—we just moved the home base functionality away from it."
Finally, at the end of a chase through the Larian's own home base, Vincke revealed and discussed the release date. "This is the biggest RPG we've ever made. There's so much stuff in there, I hope you're going to have a tremendous amount of fun. And I hope that we're going to make that date, because we're starting to get tired and we want to get it into your hands," he said. He added that there will be at least one more big patch to the Early Access version prior to the full launch, and said that the studio still has a few more announcements to make too, "at the appropriate time."
Speaking of Swen, he stopped by PCG HQ a couple of weeks ago to show off Divinity: Original Sin 2's new "Game Master mode," which sounds incredibly promising. Watch it here.
The final stretch goal offered during its last year was a Game Master mode. The pitch was ambitious: it would let people run pen-and-paper style Dungeons & Dragons campaigns within Divinity's engine. Wes and I got our hands on last week to play a campaign with developer Larian Studios, and we immediately made out with a dwarf, blew up a wolf, and turned a party member into a chicken. So, you know, regular D&D stuff. While it isn't a perfect marriage of the two game systems, it opens the door to a very cool new way to play D&D.
I also got a chance to sit down with Larian CEO Swen Vincke as he tried to recreate the opening of the studio's very first game, Divine Divinity, as a campaign in Divinity: Original Sin 2. You can above as he walks through each feature step by step, and read on to hear my thoughts on the mode.
One way it absolutely succeeds is in giving the game master enough control to be spontaneous and responsive. Improvisation and unexpected scenarios are some of the best parts of playing D&D, and although Divinity 2's Game Master mode lets you extensively prepare campaigns in advance—even building full 3D environments with an included level editor—it also has the freedom for DMs (or, I suppose, GMs) to adapt on the fly and circumvent the game's programmed rules.
For example, at one point during our game, Wes decided to use a polymorph spell to turn one of our party members into a chicken, then hurl that chicken over a wall and behind some goblins for a sneak attack. This didn't technically work. The spell failed thanks to our party member's magic armor, and there's no action in Divinity 2 for throwing another character. But our GM was able to take control, overriding the polymorph outcome and then having Wes roll a digital D20 to test his throwing ability: he rolled a 19, and our GM magically moved the now-chicken ally to his new location.
This was probably the highlight of our brief campaign, but it was also a reminder that weren't actually playing Divinity; we were playing D&D and using Divinity as a visual tool to keep track of everything. At another point I blew up an oil barrel (a common Divinity occurrence), but our GM decided that blast had actually knocked those nearest to it far across the map, which was something that couldn't happen in the base game. In the middle of paused combat that distinction is less important, but wandering around and talking to other NPCs exposes how the cogs of these two game systems don't exactly line up.
You can't pre-write dialogue or script movement patterns for the NPC characters you place in the world, though the GM can take direct control of them, apply statuses like sleep (or chicken), and place items in their inventory. This greatly limits the freedom of how you interact with the world in a way that feels jarring if you approach it like a videogame RPG. Again, this is D&D grafted onto Divinity's combat system, not a tool for making complete standalone videogame campaigns.
You'll always need your GM's attention to have a conversation or interact with an NPC, because that conversation will come from the mouth and mind of your GM. There's also something called the Vignette System that allows them to pre-write slides with text, an image, and possibly a multiple choice question for your party to vote on—all of which can be edited on the fly. A GM can use vignettes to pause the game and have the entire party make a decision or talk to an NPC together, but it's not the same as being able to talk to each NPC model in real time.
This made the world we played through feel small and lifeless compared to Divinity's campaign. That reliance on the GM is how D&D works, but when you can wander around the game world while waiting for a GM to tell you what's happening, story and player control don't quite align. Divinity 2 is a game designed to allow multi-tasking, while D&D is the polar opposite. That tension isn't insurmountable with an organized party, but it's definitely there. On the bright side, vignettes do give a nice visual representation to major story beats and party decisions that you wouldn't get in a typical pen-and-paper campaign.
From what we've played, : a refined version of the free-form, tactically dense combat in the first game. And the tools available on the backend of the Game Master mode are robust. I can't wait to see the custom campaigns and maps that start popping up in the Steam Workshop. Game Master mode is expected to arrive when Divinity: Original Sin 2 leaves Early Access later this year.
During Larian Studios' hugely successful Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter campaign, backers were given the opportunity to vote for their favourite skill schools that'd be introduced as Stretch Goals at a later date. To this end, as part of the project's 35th Update, the early accessible role-player has now added Summoning and Polymorphing to its sorcery-endowed bounds.
To mark the occasion Larian has also launched two separate trailers, both of which explore the new abilities from distinctly different angles. The first is a shorter, more generic cinematic which skims the specifics inside two and a quarter minutes:
The second, which is far more interesting, sees Larian's Swen Vincke explaining the new schools by way of plates, stuffed alpaca toys, condiments, feather dusters, and rubber kitchen gloves—before diving into the game itself and then offering a more thorough look at both Summoning and Polymorphing in practice.
As detailed via the game's Kickstarter campaign page, the Summoning school lets players conjure personal elementals which match the ground surface they're summoned onto. For example, fire elementals launch fire attacks at foes, while water elementals provide players with healing buffs. The full list of Summoning powers can be found over here.
According to Larian the Polymorph school, on the other hand, was "by far the most popular" skill school in the Kickstarter vote and sees "the best and worst aspects of other creatures" taken to the battlefield. In practice, this has players transforming into specific animals while harnessing specific traits.
There's seven in total en route to Early Access, including:
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is out now on Steam Early Access priced £29.99/$44.99. Full details of both the game's Summoning and Polymorph skill schools can be found here.