One of my favorite quotes is "Whom the gods wish to destroy, they give unlimited resources." That's my current problem. If you substitute "resources" with "games." Ever since I bought into that $1 Xbox Game Pass Ultimate deal, I've played the first 30 minutes of a different video game nearly every day for a month. Yes, developers say it's the first time a subscription service has paid them fairly
. I like hearing that. And yes, it's working wonders for my Screw It, I'm Getting It 2019 New Year's Resolution—a resolution for me to stop worrying and keep adding to my Steam Pile. Also, you should know full well that anyone still talking about New Year's Resolutions in July
is a complete jerk and you should walk away from that conversation. Regardless, Game Pass has exploded the width, but imploded the depth, of my gameplaying experiences.
Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to Divinity: Original Sin II
. When I'd reviewed the Definitive Edition on PS4 last year
, I could tell I was playing something special. I had some hurdles, though. I'm replaying it now, but there are some traditional cRPG game mechanics that I still find disingenuous to what a role-playing game should be. We're now heading into "That's just, like, your opinion, man" territory.
One, I don't like isometric camera angles because they only show me the 20-yard radius of my immediate surroundings. How can I hear the call of the Greybeards and look up to the Throat of the World if my field of view never goes beyond arms' reach? Two, I don't like wall-of-text dialogue options that make me read through half a dozen things I won't say before I choose the one thing I will say. If I were making a movie, that's almost how I would film a person going insane. Three, I don't like controlling entire parties of characters. Nothing makes a game feel more lonely than when I have to manually instruct my fighter, thief, cleric, and wizard on every single move they should be making. I like inhabiting a single character's head space, not being a puppeteer with different marionettes on every finger.
So, those were my hurdles. I'd missed most of the classic isometric computer role-playing games of the 1980s and '90s. Instead, I was playing Sid Meier's Pirates! and Sid Meier's Civilization. Wing Commander and Doom. Admittedly, I could handle an isometric view in a strategy game like Warcraft or SimCity. But having been raised on pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons, isometric cameras did the opposite of putting me into my character's shoes. How was I supposed to see through my character's eyes when I was stuck in a bird's eye view?
These were all personal problems, however, and I knew it. But something clicked recently. With the Game Pass, I downloaded and played the opening bits of multiple RPGs I'd been glossing over: Ashen, Battle Chasers, Tyranny, Torment. Those last two, especially, for their Obsidian credentials and old school cRPG pedigree, made me realize what I'd been missing.
The isometric view is, of course, ideal for the tactical game. How many times have a lamented being flanked and attacked from behind by a pack of wolves, when an isometric camera angle solves that problem? How many times have I been like, "Dude, don't say that," when a dialogue wheel didn't give me an accurate picture of where this conversation was going? And if I like Chess, which is a 16-piece party-based strategy game, why would I panic as soon as three or four character portraits appear on the side of the screen?
It'll take some work. But I'm getting there. I've missed out on a lot of classic and new-classic RPGs. The Baldur's Gates and Icewind Dales. The Pillars of Eternity and the Diablo III's. But now, I'm done letting a narrow isometric viewpoint be the thing that narrows my viewpoint of the entire genre.