5. Divinity: Original Sin 2
Larian Studios, Windows
Today, most popular games are fine-tuned to be dopamine and power-fantasy delivery systems. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what Divinity Original Sin 2 is.
The game is inspired by titles like Ultima VII, from an era of PC gaming in which roleplaying games were focused on the possibilities of another world. It’s also inspired by massive, sprawling, story- and character-focused games like Baldur’s Gate II. But Divinity: Original Sin 2 is better than Ultima VII. It’s better than Baldur’s Gate II, too.
More than measuring the player’s power exclusively in numbers (though it does that, too), Divinity: Original Sin 2 measures it in the player’s cleverness and in the breadth of freedoms and possibilities available to them. This is common to other big RPGs, but Divinity takes the concept to a higher level. It’s also hilarious, with memorable characters both major and minor, creatively campy scenarios, and a strong central narrative. It’s probably the best-written RPG of the year.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is not for everyone. It has plenty of rough edges to its gameplay system, which interact in unanticipated and frustrating ways. Sometimes, all those possibilities come together to form a brick wall for you to smack your face right into. It’s downright hard—and not always in a way that seems fair.
Nevertheless, while games like Pillars of Eternity try to revive the genre for nostalgic lovers of the RPGs of yesteryear, Divinity Original Sin 2 is remarkable because it’s not about reliving the classics. Instead, it extrapolates the trajectory and ambition of groundbreaking games like Ultima and Baldur’s Gate into the present day. The result is a game that seems to answer the question, “What would the genre look like if it had never slowed down to begin with?”
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