Divinity Fallen Heroes is like XCOM but with consequences

If you missed Divinity: Original Sin 2, then you haven’t played one of the finest RPGs ever made. It’s got an incredibly inventive turn-based combat system and some of the best uses of choice, consequence, and player freedom in any game. If you’re having trouble with something, whether it’s a quest, boss, character, or something blocking your way, there’s probably a million ways around it, it’s just up to you to decide how you want to do it. A new Divinity game, then, is very good news, but Divinity: Fallen Heroes is both a spin-off and something new altogether.

Divinity Fallen Heroes Preview | A fresh sin

Divinity: Fallen Heroes is both the latest game in the long-running and acclaimed Divinity fantasy series from Larian, which started way back in 2002, and a special spin-off developed with the help of Expeditions: Viking developer Logic Artists. It’s not actually an RPG at all, but actually a turn-based strategy with shades of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Actually, the closest comparison is Divinity: Original Sin 2 itself, as Divinity: Fallen Heroes is basically the combat sections of Original Sin 2 turned into a whole game.

Even at this early stage, pre-alpha stage, the game is already promising. It’s set two years after the events of Original Sin 2, and stars many of the game’s characters. Lucian is still the Divine, the head of the game’s religious order, and your little band consists of bard Lohse, warrior Ifan Ben-mezd, and a bunch of faceless soldiers. We started the demo as we were escorting the sinister Malady in the brig of our ship, the Lady Vengeance, to the town of Arx, but things aren’t going so well there.

Divinity Fallen Heroes Preview | Lohse? I hardly know ‘er!

Divinity‘s trademark system of choice and consequence through the story was almost immediately noticeable. You don’t control your own character directly, but you can move between rooms of the Lady Vengeance and talk to characters, although there were only a few in the demo. There are several different dialogue options to choose from, although it remains to be seen how much these will affect the game.

What did affect my playthrough in the short term, however, was the reveal that Arx was under attack, and Lohse and Iban had different ideas on where to land. Should I head to the center of town and reinforce Lucian the Divine’s guards, or head to the docks on the outside of the city in order to protect the civilians there? Naturally, I picked the sweet and innocent civilians, although Iban wasn’t happy about it. I personally wasn’t happy about it after playing, as I went back later and found that the other choice was a lot easier. Nevertheless, it’s pretty cool that we get such a mission choice, as both levels were completely different. It’s entirely possible to go through the game and miss at least a third of the missions just based on the choices you made.

When you’re ready to start the mission you click on the war table in the center of the screen, and we got to make up our squad. We got a single hero unit, three troops of different classes, and two consumables to choose from. All of these can be upgraded and expanded upon as you progress through the game. In the demo alone, I unlocked a load more troop classes and another hero character after the first mission. For the first time though, I picked Lohse with her magical powers, a mage, a soldier, a healer, a health item and a useful power that reset a character’s action points.

Divinity Fallen Heroes Preview | It’s my first day

The actual levels, once I was in them, played almost exactly like the turn-based battles in Divinity: Original Sin 2, albeit with no option to finish battle and go into free-roam mode. It’s strategy all the way. Unlike Original Sin 2 there’s no initiative and no order queue, as in terms of back-and-forth it’s very XCOM-like, with all your team going first until their action points run out, and then the enemies get their turn. Abilities will all be very familiar to anyone who’s played the last Divinity, such as throwing a shield, Fortify to create stone armor, or Electrical Discharge to give enemies a shock.

Fallen Heroes also contains the signature Divinity idea of using the elements against your opponents in clever ways. Rain may put out fires and clear toxic surfaces, but it’ll also get everyone wet, which will make them more susceptible to an electrical shock. Likewise, if they’re standing in oil or the new gunpowder-like element Sulfurium, a small spark could ignite that whole area. The elements really helped elevate the combat in both Original Sin games to something unpredictable and deeply special, and it gives enough of a reason for Fallen Heroes to exist.

Unfortunately, as my guide from Larian would admit, the demo had the difficulty a bit skewed. I managed to free the civilians in the nick of time, but lost my hero unit Lohse along the way to just two skeletons. Then an imposter version of Lucian came in and wiped me out. I tried the other mission later, where you just have to worry about Evil Lucian, the undead attackers, and some ballistas firing on the Lady Vengeance, and I managed to scrape through to the next mission, which introduced my personal favorite Original Sin 2 character Fane, the skeleton. I didn’t last long on his mission at all, where you had to move him around the map while under continuous assault from all sides.

Even just based on the little we’ve played and the combat from the last game, Divinity: Fallen Heroes demonstrates that it is worth having the Divinity name. Fans will be delighted in the continuation of the story, and for another chance to try their hand at a more refined version of the game’s excellent combat. However, in this case, XCOM or general turn-based strategy fans will want to take a look too, now that the focus is entirely on the strategy experience. We’ll find out more about the game later in the year, but Fallen Heroes is worth keeping an eye on, for strategy and RPG fans alike.