In a year stuffed to the gills with great games, standing out from the pack requires an experience that offers something new or unique. In the absence of those qualities, a game must improve on an established formula so substantially that it feels like a whole new experience. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is much like it’s popular predecessors, but delivers on the qualities that made those games great on an entirely new level. If Baldur’s Gate 2 is Super Mario Bros. 3, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is Super Mario World. We are happy to award Divinity: Original Sin 2 the title of Shacknews Best PC Game of 2017.
Divinity: Original Sin arrived in 2014 following a successful Kickstarter campaign. It received a healthy amount of praise for reviving the turn-based PC RPG genre that had laid dormant for several years. It was rough around the edges, but showed loads of promise and sold more than half a million copies in its first year of release. Developer Larian Studios immediately began work on a follow up and Divinity: Original Sin 2 made its debut on Kickstarter in August of 2015. After that successful crowdfunding campaign, the game entered Steam Early Access in late 2016 and made its official release this past September.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is everything the first game was and more. While it remains a turn-based RPG in a fantasy setting, the game is about as wide open and anything you can play on any platform. Totally free from the handholding and linear approach that most modern games are known for, Original Sin 2 lets the player decide how to handle and problem or conflict. You can solve conflicts with words. You can solve conflicts with violence. You can solve conflicts by turning your opposition into chickens.
The game’s fantastic open-ended design reaches new heights of fun when you play with friends. Plenty of other RPGs may offer some form of cooperative play, but Divinity: Original Sin 2 allows your party to operate in a way that is just as liberating as the game’s mechanics. You can work together as a tight unit or split off to handle business independently. You will not be bothered with pop ups and UI harassment related to the shenanigans in which your friends partake unless you want to. Technically, you are on the same team, but it is almost guaranteed that you will routinely subject each other to punishment during battles, inadvertently or not.
The first time I played the game, I joined in with two friends who were a few hours into their journeys. We were in the game’s starting area and were forced to do a deadly dance with some big-ass crocodiles, one of which was sporting some magic resistance. My friends slowly explained to me what I should be doing on my turns during the battle so that the part could safely and efficiently dispatch the croc threat. They made their attacks and casted the appropriate spells.
During the encounter, one of the crocs busted open some barrels of oil that spilled over the fight area. I happened to be outside the spill zone, while my party and the crocs looked like they were playing twister in a tar pit. I was instructed to cast a heal on them, but I saw a skill on my bar called Flare. I used the last of my magic point and aimed the Flare attack at the pool of oil. The ensuing blaze took out all three of the killer crocs. My teammates also burned to death and called me an asshole. This must be what people refer to as emergent gameplay.
As luck would have it, my inclination towards taking the asshole approach to any given situation was often rewarded by the game. Why be the stereotypical RPG hero when I can be myself? If something in the world of Divinity: Original Sin 2 seems like it might work, it probably does. If I think I can be a douchebag and accomplish my goals, I probably will.
I could go on and on with more stories or explanations of fun mechanic exploiting forever. To get to the point, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the best of its kind and the cooperative experience is second to none. Unlike many of its contemporaries, it launched on PC with no major technical issues or sleazy microtransaction controversy. It represents the best of what the PC platform can offer players and is an absolute essential for anyone who considers themselves a PC gamer. Congratulations to Larian Studios, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is Shacknews Best PC Game of 2017.
It’s easy to forget Hollow Knight. Released in early 2017, it arrived far away from the fall release window that so many big games land in. It is another Metroidvania game in a time when the PC is rotten with quality Metroidvanias. Even the title may throw off the unfamiliar as it could be mistaken as a DLC for Shovel Knight. While the art style is really nice, simply being an indie game with a nice art style means nothing in market flooded with them. Letting this one slip past you for any reason would be awful, as developer Team Cherry’s bug-laden epic is arguably the best game to release in 2017.
Like its contemporaries, you run back and forth, slash your enemies, and explore the world. Unlike the others, Hollow Knight provides the most compelling exploration experience of any game of its type. Everything is shrouded in mystery and must be uncovered via cryptic encounters with NPCs and by finding a hidden cartographer to sell you maps. You use the rewards from your progression to buy map markers or upgrades that assist you in revealing what the world has hiding beneath the surface.
It plays like a dream, looks amazing, and has arguably the best sound design of any game in 2017. The soundtrack is to die for. The boss encounters are top-notch. It is the complete package. I fully expect the Shacknews community to lose their minds over Hollow Knight whenever it finds its way onto the Nintendo Switch in 2018.
Be sure to keep up with the rest of The Shacknews Awards as we celebrate the Year of the Games: 2017.