So in anticipation of BG3, I thought it might be a good idea to pick up D:OS2 again and finally complete my playthrough. I had stopped that sometime last year, around 50 hours in, at level 11 in the vicinity of Driftwood. So about halfway complete, I guessed!? Well, apparently not quite, as it actually took 100 hours more to get to the end and then another day to beat the last battle. What a cruel setback at a moment where I could almost taste victory! I was really, really close to either lowering the difficulty or reloading an earlier save to change my characters' specs and stock up on green tea. In the end though I made do with what I had on hand: a barrel of death-fog to quickly dispose of all mortals and Anathema in combination with Onslaught to avoid the second part of the battle altogether.
The ending(s) afterwards (I tried two different ones) didn't really repay for the trouble, though, as both left a lot to be desired, each in their own way. But at least I got to look at some pretty concept art and if the actual ending did not feel gratifying in itself, at least it had the right length and being able to speak to my companions for one last time was a nice touch (though the spirit of that backstabbing bastard Ifan didn't even acknowledge my presence).
Thinking back, the adventure on the Nameless Isle was the best bit by far. I liked the design of the different temples and associated puzzles, the way some of the character arcs unfolded (mostly Sebille's, come to think of it), but also how the main story progressed in a faster pace than in the other areas. I also had fun exploring the Black Pits mine; that was the one place I would have liked to be a bit bigger and more fleshed out.
The rest though, perhaps with the exception of escaping Fort Joy, felt like it dragged out way too long, with little progress in the main plot and plenty of side-quests that seemed to follow a "go there, kill that" pattern. It all felt a bit arbitrary, as if to show off the game's systems more so than providing a coherent and gripping narrative. Arx started off a bit better, but after the harbor and gate fights, I was back to ticking off journal entries more out of necessity instead of compelling plot reasons. Yeah, I wanted the Red Prince to reunite with his love, I wanted to save Arx from death by Deathfog and I certainly wanted to be rid of Adramahlihk, but with all three on my shopping list and more, none of those had the impact or significance they could and should have had individually.
Analogue to "if everybody is Divine, no one is": if everything is epic, nothing is.
As for the game mechanics: I am not a big fan of many of the additions and changes over the original D:OS. Too convoluted overall, and the relative scarcity of source points (I did not use source vampirism) meant I rarely used the related skills. And if I did, it meant a trip back to the closest source fountain, which usually wasn't close at all.
But what I think I missed the most was that feeling of growing in power: in D:OS I would gradually get more action points, which felt good, and gaining ranks in abilities would add more memory slots for that school or reduce cooldowns of the associated skills, which made itself felt as well. Now, there's little of that any more: armor entirely comes from gear, and while gear is indirectly tied to character level, it's the merchants that grow more powerful, not the characters. Cooldowns don't change at all, and while damage does increase, new skills or better weapons still have an edge over a couple of points spent here or there.
That made leveling up, at least for the latter half of the game, quite underwhelming and a waste of time to boot, if the ensuing shopping tour didn't turn up much useful new gear. Gods know how many of those 150 hours were spent looking through vendors that never quite stocked what I would have wanted, but seemed adamant on keeping every little scrap I ever sold them (guess hanging on to relics of the future Divine is sensible business practice)! Needless to say, D:OS2 must be the one RPG where I ended up rich, despite not stealing a single thing. Seems the economy in D:OS was better balanced, too.
But all things considered, I still enjoyed D:OS2, and I certainly appreciate that it isn't one of those "follow the quest arrow" type of experiences. So, well done, Larian! Hope BG3 will be even better, especially on the narrative side of things!