A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Divinity: Original Sin II is a fantasy role-playing game with bloody medieval and magical combat that results in blood spatters and gore, though the game's raised, isometric perspective diminishes its intensity. Players are provided freedom to act as they choose, which means the main hero -- whose gender and skin color can be customized -- can be good, evil, or something in between. Actions both good and bad always come with noticeable consequences; stealing or murdering will force non-player characters to take action against the hero, while coming to a civilian's aid could result in a reward or information to begin a lucrative new quest. The hero can flirt and eventually couple with other characters, leading to some suggestive dialogue, though the act of sex takes place offscreen. Profanity is infrequent and relatively mild -- nothing stronger than "damn" and "bastard." Characters can drink alcohol collected while adventuring.
What's it about?
A sequel to Divinity: Original Sin, DIVINITY: ORIGINAL SIN II sends players back to the land of Rivellon, centuries after the first game, in a time when magical Source power is outlawed. The player's character -- who can be created from scratch or chosen from a group of premade heroes with backstories and specific interests and goals -- is a Sourcerer, a wielder of such power. The game begins with him or her aboard a prison ship on its way to an island where such people are supposedly "cured" of their abilities. The story plays out according to players' actions, with decisions in dialogue and combat determining their relationships with various characters, and opening and closing quests -- even setting up the final conflict and how the campaign eventually resolves. Combat is tactical, with players and enemies taking turns attacking each other and using a variety of elemental spells to interact with the environment. As players explore the world, they'll find secrets, solve puzzles and riddles, and gradually level up and equip their heroes with better weapons and gear. The campaign can be played and completed either by a single player or a group of up to four players working cooperatively. An additional creative mode allows aspiring game makers to sculpt and share campaigns of their own.
Is it any good?
Larian Studios' second take at the land of Rivellon is a knockout. The original game was an ambitious effort to provide modern freedom within a classical fantasy role-playing game framework, but it suffered stability problems at launch and its production values couldn't quite match its inspiration. Divinity: Original Sin II solves most of these problems -- you'll still encounter the occasional worrisome glitch, but a generous auto-save system helps ensure they don't cause too much of a problem -- and then it doubles down on the series' original promise of player freedom. Everything done in the game involves choice, from what you decide to do and where you decide to explore to how you go about handling situations, solving problems, and clearing puzzles. And all of your actions come with consequences, some of which could even result in key characters parting ways. Players who speed their way through dialogue trees do so at their own peril.
The action is a match for the strong, character-driven storytelling. Efficacy in combat -- not to mention the keys to certain puzzles and environment exploration -- often hinges on the player's understanding of how elemental magic works. Players who take the time to analyze situations will be able to, say, take advantage of a pool of rain to electrocute enemies, or use a barrel of water to douse a wall of fire blocking a critical path. Everything requires thought and planning, almost to such an extent that it's as though the developers went out of their way to disprove the old adage that declares video games "mindless." It still occasionally shows the slightly rough edges of an indie game struggling to realize what it wants to be within a limited budget, but Divinity: Original Sin II is something close to essential for fans of tactical fantasy role-playing games that crave freedom.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. How does your family deal with very long games like this one, which can't be easily parceled into manageable play sessions based on missions or quests of predictable length?
Talk about moral freedom in games. Divinity: Original Sin II allows players to be as good or as evil as they like, though always with consequences. Do you prefer to play as a traditional hero doing good deeds, or explore the darker side? Why?
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