Or, “How I learned to love western RPGs again.”

Allow me to make a statement so blunt that it can’t even cut through liquid: I never was a huge fan of Western Roleplaying games (WRPGs). Fallout: New Vegas, Skyrim, Mass Effect 1 & 2, Dragon Age Origins are all such titles that fall neatly into the genre, a genre I failed to appreciate time and time again.

At one point, I considered WRPGs to be the corn flakes of the RPGs – drab, dull and brown in appearance with the promise of health and enjoyment in the form of open-ended adventure and hundreds of hours of playtime.

Something about these titles, even the critically acclaimed ones that have warmly embraced hearts of fans the world over, couldn’t captivate me as I traversed their worlds – whether it was due to the unimpressive and unattractive art direction or the lack of any linearity, there were many qualities that overall left me feeling empty, lacking.

I thought this genre of games just wasn’t for me; I threw in the towel, called it quits, and merely accepted that my tastes will always fall into the JRPG camp.

And I was okay with that. I was okay appreciating Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Yakuza, SaGa, Persona, Chrono, Fire Emblem, Drakengard, etc.

As great as loving these JRPGs, it turned out that JRPGs recently grew staler than white bread that had been left open for three weeks. Final Fantasy and Yakuza were the only static series that kept my JRPG love alive.

On the other hand, I’ve recently purchased the recent releases from SaGa, Fire Emblem, and Dragon Quest, and while I own them, I’ve yet to delve into them.

So I thought maybe all RPGs had grown stale, or maybe I was depressed.

But I was so damn wrong – incredibly, incredibly wrong.

A statement I’m thrilled to exclaim.

Because one game completely allowed me to give Western RPGs another chance and reinvigorated my love for RPGs in general. That game happened to be Divinity: Original Sin 2, brought to you by the lovely Larian Studios.

A tale of two sins or the revival with Divinity: Original Sin 2

I’ll be honest – I’ve played the original Divinity: Original Sin a couple of years ago when my friend Ryan invited me to play with him. He explained the concept of Divinity at the time – a turn-based combat RPG that allows you to be whatever class you want to be, and it seemed appealing. I wasn’t too enthused with playing due to the poor history I had with western RPGs, but I caved, thinking with reluctance, “Eh, let’s give it a shot and see how that goes.”

But what turned me away from it, originally, was the fact that Divinity fell into the camp of Western RPG. Nevertheless, I gave it a shot and decided to play with Ryan.

Well, it turns out that I absolutely loved that game. To be frank, I can barely remember it now, but I do remember some plot points, my amazing warrior build, Jahan, and the ending. However, Divinity: Original Sin didn’t wow me the way Final Fantasy captured my heart and imagination.

It was Divinity: Original Sin 2 Enhanced Edition that warmly embraced me and whispered, “Come back to us. It’s okay – you’re safe now.”

But why? What did Divinity: Original Sin 2 do that Divinity: Original Sin couldn’t?

Turns out the following influenced my love for the latest Larian title, set in the world of Rivellon at a time when the divine is dead and the void approaches:

  • Origin characters, particularly Lohse
  • Enhanced gameplay (I still have a little bit of an issue with crafting, however)
  • Voice acting
  • NPC interactions
  • The amount of freedom in the dialogue

I could go on and on, but I want to, in fact, touch upon one reasoning and expand on that; that reasoning being mental illness and how it enabled me to relate to and adore a character from Original Sin 2.

One of the main characters, or origin characters, of Divinity: Original Sin 2 is Lohse, a red and white-haired young woman with a rather depressing background – a performer who plays host to a variety of voices in her head. As she best describes it, she’s essentially your casual roadside hotel for these voices.

While I will try not to spoil too much, there are some plot points I simply can’t avoid for the purpose of this article.

Borderline Personality Disorder – What is it?

So, I would like to admit something, since this is the 21st century and we all are more aware and accepting of mental illness: I am mentally a trainwreck, harboring a few types of mental issues, but borderline personality disorder is perhaps the loudest visitor “upstairs.” Why am I telling you all of this? Perhaps it is cathartic, but if anything, it explains why I have an affinity towards Lohse, as BPD reflects her own condition when you think of it.

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition that features a myriad of symptoms and often stands alongside the following comorbidities: dissociative disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorder, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

This illness is often mistaken for bipolar disorder, but it couldn’t be more different. Some differences between these mental health disorders include:

  • Bipolar is a mood disorder, whereas borderline is a personality disorder.
  • Bipolar features periods of mania and depression, though 75 percent of the time, whenever they are experiencing an episode, that episode is depressive. These episodes can last from days to weeks. Borderline personality disorder victims, on the other hand, experience issues with abrupt, moment-to-moment mood swings.

Additionally, the sufferers’ relationships, self-image, and behaviors are often seen as chaotic, which does nothing to help their responses to events. In other words, positive and negative reactions to events are often strong due to the inability to process emotions.

Despite its, er, reputation among society, borderline personality disorder can be best described as a passenger in your own vehicle who threatens to murder you every mile you drive if you don’t say or do “X”. That can be anything that is essentially detrimental to not only your mental health but everyone else’s. You’re an empath that wreaks havoc, regardless of your intentions. That passenger is forcing you to damage the hearts of others, screaming that you’ll die if you don’t do what they are telling you to do.

You’re conscious of every moment and howling at yourself to stop, that you don’t want to do this, but your body and mind are separate from your rationale and it ignores you entirely.

That’s partially what it means to have borderline personality disorder. Of course, I’m constantly fighting to get treatment, I’m partially medicated, and I’m working on particular therapies to help navigate through life and decrease the overall symptoms of this medical condition.

And because of this illness, I immediately resonated and clicked with Lohse, especially when one of her passengers happens to be a demon.

Lohse meeting the thing inside in Divinity Original Sin 2

The battle with yourself

Slight spoilers begin here.

In Act One in Fort Joy, there’s a scene when, if you are Lohse (or if you have her in your party, doesn’t matter), trek to the elven encampment, and speak with their scion, Saheila, the demon possessing Lohse will suddenly enact his control over Lohse and essentially force the woman to kill Saheila before the young elf reveals the demon’s name, which happens to serve as its weakness.

Lohse attempts to regain control with a persuasion check in Divinity Original Sin 2
Lohse attempts to again maintain control over her own body in Divinity Original Sin 2

If you are Lohse, you can struggle against the irresistible urge for bloodletting (with a couple of persuasion checks, one of which is trying to remind yourself that you’re Lohse and your own person), but in the end, you’ll be handed only the following options:

  • Kill the elf. Kill the elf. Kill the elf.
  • Kill the elf. Kill the elf. Kill the elf.
  • Kill the elf. Kill the elf. Kill the elf.
  • Kill the elf. Kill the elf. Kill the elf.
  • Kill the elf. Kill the elf. Kill the elf.
  • Kill the elf. Kill the elf. Kill the elf.
Lohse persuasion check 3, where her only options are Kill the Elf in Divinity Original Sin 2

It doesn’t matter what happens, Lohse is overtaken and attempts to kill Saheila and either she succeeds or she is whacked hard enough to back down.

Another relatable moment? If you turn her down as a traveling companion if you play as any other person. She says something akin to “I wouldn’t want to travel with me either.” To be frank, that is how it feels a lot of the time. Your desire to be near others is strong, but you often worry that you’ll harm them whether physically or mentally and you ponder to yourself, “I get it, I wouldn’t want to be around me either.” Whenever you suffer from an episode, you’re often called a monster, cruel, crazy or a demon.

Of course, there are many other instances that solidify my admiration for Lohse, but lots of genuine quotes of hers that truly sing to me (ha), one being that, to put it simply:

*MAJOR SPOILERS IF YOU CARE*

The voice will always remain, but you can choose not to listen to the haunting whispers. In the end, you control your choices.

That’s how it should be for me; that’s how I should fight. BPD is something I know I won’t ever cure – I’ll never be able to dispose of this illness. I’ll never scream victory. But I can fight; I can choose not to listen to the demon. I can also choose to succeed.

Lohse losing control in Divinity Original Sin 2

Of course, there was more than just Lohse that kept me playing Divinity: Original Sin 2, as mentioned. The voice acting, the NPCs, music (a heartfelt thanks to Borislav for the composition of the gorgeous soundtrack, which has been on shuffle repeat for a few weeks), dialog, and gameplay all make me crave more. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m on my fourth and fifth playthroughs – the first time I’ve replayed a game this excessively in the past decade. It is far too perfect a game (if we’re to ignore the ending, anyway) and worth a playthrough – or ten – if you’re into CRPGs.

But the point I’m making is that you should allow yourself a chance with any game, even if you’ve been disappointed time and time again. You may find a character you adore, whom you find relatable. You may discover a glorious art style that shines brightly on your world. Your hips may sway uncontrollably to the lull of the soundtrack, an inviting yet unexpected surprise.

You never know until you play. Don’t ever judge a game by its cover or genre’s history.

I hope that Larian will continue to create relatable characters and captivating tales for years to come, but for now, I believe I need to pay a visit to its previous games like Divinity: Dragon Commander, Divine Divinity, Divinity II (which is essentially a two-parter), and Beyond Divinity. Yes, I purchased all of them after loving Original Sin 2.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to continue my playthroughs of Divinity: Original Sin 2 while simultaneously enjoying another series I ignored for far too long: Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2. Of course, this is to prepare for the upcoming Larian-created sequel of Baldur’s Gate 3.

Though admittedly, I was far too young to play the Bioware-crafted titles when they originally came out, so you can’t judge me there.

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Neone

2 weeks ago

I’m glad you found something relatable in such an amazing game!

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