10 things I wish I knew before playing Divinity: Original Sin 2

I’m taking a quick break from my adventures in Divinity: Original Sin 2—I keep telling everyone I’m undead, which I shouldn’t, but I’ve also made lots of animal chums, so it’s not all bad—to fling some of my (questionable) wisdom at those of you planning on starting your own. Follow these tips and bits of advice and your first hours in Rivellon will be like a holiday. In prison. 

Minor spoilers ahead for the first several hours, of course. We'll have a review up next week.

Pick an origin character

Original Sin 2’s robust character creator lets you cook up all manner of heroes and weirdos, but for the richest experience you’ll absolutely want to choose one of the origin characters. They are just as customisable as any other character you might make, but come with an origin story, extra voice acting and their own personal quests. The ones you don’t choose then become companions who can join you.

Save money on lockpicks, get a skeleton

If you’re not going to play as Fane, the Undead origin character, then you should at least bring him as a companion. He’s excellent company, being the source of a lot of biting sarcasm and camp, pantomime menace, and his boney digits are unexpectedly handy. Fane, and indeed any Undead character, is a walking skeleton key, able to use their fingers to unlock doors and chests, as long as they have the appropriate skill level.

Click on everything and everyone

You never know who or what is important in Original Sin 2 at first glance. Every NPC could be a potential quest-giver, holder of important knowledge, or maybe they just have some hilarious jokes they’re waiting to rattle off. And a random piece of tat you find on the beach or in an otherwise empty barrel could be the key to solving a mystery, or maybe it’s just worth a few quid to the right buyer. Essentially, you’ll want to treat it like an adventure game.

Talk to animals

You should especially click on critters you meet along the way. If you’ve got the Pet Pal talent, then you’ll be able to have a proper chat with them, too, and it’s not just for laughs—animals frequently offer advice, spill secrets and occasionally give out quests. These conversations are also the source of many great character moments. Anyone can get the Pet Pal talent, and you can also choose it during character creation.

Protect the black cat 

Speaking of animals, early on you’ll find yourself followed by a black cat. He can’t be harmed in combat, but if you walk past the guards in front of the gate to Fort Joy Prison, east of the camp, one of the archers will murder the innocent kitty. Keep him alive, however, and when you escape the camp, he’ll join the party as a pet, allowing you to switch places with him in battle. You’ll need to be even more vigilant, though, because when he becomes a pet, he also becomes a target in fights.

Make liberal use of quicksave

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is hard. Even on the default Classic Mode, battles are brutal, and in the first act you’ll often find your squishy party a bit underprepared. Resurrection scrolls are also incredibly pricey, though you can occasionally loot them. This isn’t helped by an autosave feature that kicks in when a battle begins, not before, so you won’t be able to prepare any better. So whenever you think you’re about to duke it out, hit that quicksave button.

Retreating is fine

Alternatively, you can always flee. Once a character is out of range of the enemy, you can click flee, and they’ll respawn at the nearest waypoint. In the middle of a battle, it can be tricky to get far enough away from foes, so it’s worth investing in tricks that make escape easier. Teleportation, flight and the Tactical Retreat ability are all boons when you just need to get the hell out of there.

Environmental effects are handy and deadly 

Fights are often won by the group best able to manipulate the environment with magic and elemental weapons. Cast rain on a group of enemies, and then a spell that applies chill, and you might end up with frozen enemies and slippery surfaces. These environmental effects make great traps—and also obstacles—but they can help you as well as hindering enemies. A Necromancer, for instance, can make it rain blood and then cast a healing spell that soaks up all of the puddles to increase their vitality.

Grab a bedroll as soon as possible

While healing potions and spells are important when you’re in a fight, the best way to heal outside of battle is by taking a quick nap. That’s only possible if there’s a bed nearby, however, and you won’t find many of them out in the wilderness. That’s why it’s so important to pick up the first bedroll you encounter. You’ll be able to take it with you everywhere, and clicking on it heals every character almost instantly.

Don’t forget to rotate the camera

It seems so obvious, but it’s easy to forget that you can rotate the camera to get a clearer picture of the area you’re marching through. Often, the angle can hide entrances, caves, chests and secret paths that become clear when you change your perspective. I spent about 30 minutes looking for a cave, only to discover that I’d passed it a dozen times, but until I changed the camera, I only saw the hill behind it.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is so expansive and elaborate that even with this list, there’s going to be a lot for you to learn, but the most important lesson is just to experiment. That might mean using the teleportation spell creatively to loot corpses that are out of reach, for instance. If it seems like you can do something, there's a good chance you can, so you may as well try. Again, look out for our review early next week.