Coping with video game repetition – Reader’s Feature

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Divinity: Original Sin II Definitive Edition – worth persevering with

A reader explores what makes repetition in role-playing games bearable and why it’s not a problem at all in Divinity: Original Sin II.

I have a complex relationship with repetition; a little can be good, great even, but a little goes a long way and something that can feel good to repeat can quickly turn into a loveless, resentful chore. Let me give you an example, I like ironing I find it therapeutic and meditative. I usually whack a podcast on or set up the board in front of the TV and fumble away straightening out those abhorrent wrinkles work colleagues seem unable to tolerate.

I can wile a good half hour to 45 minutes away in my own head but once this creeps towards the hour and above my attitude to ironing sours rapidly. I stop finding it therapeutic and meditative and start fomenting revolution in my head. One that involves a trip to the pub and un-ironed laundry hidden at the back of the airing cupboard – the perfect crime.

It’s the same with gaming, a little repetition goes a long way with me. I dislike role-playing games with endlessly repeatable, looping tasks like the outpost liberation missions in Fallout 4 or low level grinding in the Final Fantasies. But as I said, it’s a complex relationship. I love the tower-climbing in Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, I get deep satisfaction from seeing the map defog and the objectives revealing themselves like puzzle pieces. I also love the results of the low-level grinding from the Final Fantasies, when you stomp that boss who was tormenting you for days.

Further to this rule, I will rarely replay a game I’ve marked as finished in my head using methodology that Steven Hawking would take one look at and consider needlessly complex. I’ve only ever restarted one game from scratch, having been halfway through it, which is a ringing testament to that developer’s talent for making a game that could make that proposition palatable to me. That game was called Divinity: Original Sin and I feel I may have to do the same thing with its excellent successor Divinity: Original Sin II.

The Divinity: Original Sin series is both very accessible and arcanely inaccessible in the same breath. It’s a beautiful game with excellent voice-acting, a great sense of humour, and an absorbing storyline but with a combat system deeper than the Marianas Trench. It also carries the rather unhelpful and intimidating genre moniker of CRPG (computer role-playing game) this can put people off for a couple of reasons. Games of this genre can seem old-fashioned with their turn-based combat; they can also feel impenetrable and hard to understand with their cluttered screens and complex controls, but with perseverance that hurdle can be crossed and can actually end up becoming a strength.

I love Divinity but the single most critical thing to comprehend before beginning a game is that you must pick a party which complements the way you are going to play the game. If that sounds a bit of a chicken vs. egg situation then you’re not wrong. What you will end up doing is playing the game and realising (like I did) that your team composition is either lopsided or hard to execute, with weird and wonderful skills you can’t use or are just plain wrong. With a poor team composition every encounter becomes a chore, which degrades the overall experience to a hard and hateful grinding repetition.

For a newcomer I think it’s the biggest barrier to enjoying this series. On my first playthrough I could see enough promise in the combat system that I knew if I respected my team I would enjoy it, so for the first time in forever I restarted a game and rerolled my character. This time I agonised over every skill point and class. I chose my party mates more carefully than I chose my life partners and with time investment I started to relish combat. So, I have one key piece of advice to pass onto anyone interested in taking on this wonderful wee gem: balance.

When you start a game in the Divinity series you will probably spend the first two hours looking at the character select screen trying to understand the various loadouts and if you do then it’s time well spent. You need to have a clear idea of what archetype role you are going to fulfil for your four-man team. If you don’t have an idea of this you will fail and have to reroll. Balance is key: have a team filled with tanks and you will be owned by ranged damage dealers while you lumber around trying to catch them. Have a team of healers and they will get crushed quicker than garlic in Jamie Oliver’s kitchen.

I decided for my setup that I would need a tank, a healer, a mage and I usually run a ranger for my fourth. I went into the first game without an idea of how to build my team to complement the rest and tried to be a jack of all trades, which meant I was master of none and no real use in the longer engagements. Divinity allows for infinite experimentation but it’s best if you set yourself up to fulfil a specific role. The sheer amount of choice can cloud this aim and tempt you with skills and abilities, but don’t do it and after a while your combat style will flower from your earlier choices.

Before I go here’s a public service announcement, people probably read through this and found reason after reason to not stick Divinity on top of their backlog but please don’t. Give these guys your money, they deserve it and the game is bloody great. Please, please, don’t take complexity or an old-fashioned approach, or the time investment I’ve mentioned, as reasons not to play this game.

I’m a new dad and even covered to the waist in baby puke I can find the time to keep the game chugging along, I just quick save and jump in and out when I can. It has a generous running time and the dialogue, while portentous, has that undercurrent of playful humour making you think Larian had their tongue in their cheeks for a good part of the scripting.

As for the daunting team-building, we luckily live in the Internet age and there are multiple guides to help you set up and build your team. And of course if you don’t build your team right you can always just restart the game and build another team from scratch, which is repetition that even I can get on board with.

By reader Dieflemmy (gamertaga/PSN ID/NN ID)

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. As always, email and follow us on Twitter.

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