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Divinity: Original Sin II (2017, PC)
By Saturn Missiles / October 14, 2017
Simply put, Divinity: Original Sin II expands on the best ideas from the first game while taking a complete 180 in tone to deliver a much darker and adult experience compared to the first game.
One of the most notable changes is immediately realized as character creation begins, with races, tags, origin stories, and a complete stat revamp giving a new level of depth to character creation. The origin story presets, while not customizable, deliver a unique experience for each character. All of the notable origin story characters have interactions with each other, and even if you choose not to create them yourself, they can be found and interacted with around the world. Not only this, but you can recruit these important figures of the lore. Origin stories on the surface level seem gimmicky, but allow for a whole new level of replayability, in combination with the tag system. The tag system allows you to acquire new tags that affect quests and dialogue as you progress through the game, or assign them to your custom character in character creation. Origin story characters will have these tags preset, as well as a brief synopsis of their lore.
However, the changes aren't just to the character creation. As soon as you get into combat, you'll quickly notice how much has changed. While the sequel keeps the basics of the first game intact, action points have received a complete overhaul, streamlining the process of choosing actions. While the new system (six action points total; four action points at the start of encounter; with most skills consuming 1-2 action points) may seem to cater to a more casual audience at first, the new skills that accompany this revamp allow for a level of complexity in combat never before seen in the Divinity series. New skills introduced in the second game are more ambitious, creative, and innovative than any in the first game. Even from the start of the game, you'll acquire interesting abilities that you can use to control the battlefield. The new targeting system gives a sense of clarity lacking in the first game. Height advantages and disadvantages mean that positioning matters now more than ever before. In addition to the "surfaces" system of the first game (fire, poison clouds, static clouds, electrified water, etc), most of these surfaces can now be blessed and cursed for interesting variations and choice in combat. For example, while fire is harmful to your team, if you bless it, it'll apply a heal every turn and prevent the members within from being frozen.
The campaign here is of absolutely astounding quality and length; my first full playthrough took roughly 80 hours, even without dozens of side-quests. No matter your choice of origin character or customized ones, you'll find the campaign to be deeply satisfying. However, as noted by the developers, you are meant to play with the origin story characters, and it shows. Each origin character has at least half a dozen unique encounters. While the game is still engaging if you're playing as a custom character, the origin stories really do allow for a better capacity for role-playing and interaction in the game world.
For 2017, this is my pick for the Most Astounding Game. The staggering amount of interactions in the game can be overwhelming. Divinity: Original Sin II could very well be the best CRPG yet.