Having played a good amount of Divinity Original Sin 2 recently, I have come across many instances where the group has been able to puzzle out a solution to a blockage to progress or a challenging fight through strategy and the application of items in our possession. This isn’t really about puzzles as in-game tests, but rather how you can take more than one approach to moving past an obstacle or defeating a tough opponent.
It’s a type of gameplay enabled very much by the RPG roots of D&D and similar games, in Divinity there are many different elemental-style effects and spells to consider when fighting enemies – some will have a greater effect, others a lesser or even inverted effect (e.g. poison healing undead opponents). The heritage of this is clear to see in D&D and is similarly well modelled in Dungeons & Dragons Online as well.
Beyond selecting the right abilities or weapons for a given opponent, which is adds a layer to combat for discussion and coordination in a coop game; there are also utility abilities in DOS2 that offer interesting solutions to problems. In exploring a fort in a recent play session we made use of the teleport spell to bypass several locked doors and traps – the area was still fun to explore but we didn’t need to find quite so many ‘key’ items as perhaps someone playing without teleport might need. Said solution couldn’t work without coop either, since the spell only works on someone or something other than the caster.
This support for creative thinking is one of my pet topics. It seems that dungeons in most MMOs tend to be linear affairs with boss fights interspersed by ‘trash’ groups. Any game or dungeon that gets away from that tired and rather boring trope is great in my book. Having game systems that offer utility abilities, and that encourage players to think on how to use them, is almost as good as having lavishly crafted puzzles to defeat – arguably it’s better than puzzles since the latter will grow stale with repetition. How better to keep repeated content fresh than to simply give the players more leeway in how they beat it?
The perfect example of this presented itself when I was putting my artificer character through his paces in DDO. I was running the classic harbour quest “the Kobold’s New Ringleader” for reputation with the Coin Lord faction, when I hit a snag I’d not experienced. In the mission there’s an iron grate blocking a semi-secret section. Opening this in past runs was never an issue, either my character was strong enough or someone else in the party could. This time solo’ing it with my trust iron dog companion, I was stumped by the lack of strength.
So rather than give up, or immediately check the wiki, I thought about what I could try to get past it. I completed the remainder of the dungeon, handed in. A quick trip to the marketplace to visit a friendly potion vendor and I took the quest again on the next higher difficulty to try again. I’m well versed enough in D&D to know that potions of bull’s strength will give my character a chance at opening stuck doors. That turned out to not be enough either as my rather waif-like elven Artificer wasn’t strong enough still. Rather than give up however, I did some more thinking while my character rested at the shrine. If you can’t go through a door, what about over it?
The early dungeons in DDO have a lot of stacked crates – they are set in the harbour’s warehouses after all. True enough if you take a moment to look up there is a narrow path through the wall of crates to get over to the other side of the gate! So without wasting any more time or gold, I was able to complete the hidden section. In a mixed party the gate is unlikely to be a real challenge, any half-decent Fighter, Paladin or Barbarian would have enough strength. But that’s the point of this post: having more than one solution, and challenges that you can’t automatically defeat just by having awesome combat prowess, makes for a welcome change!