Broken Games

It was my mistake for taking Divinity: Original Sin 2 (DOS2) more seriously than the designers. Here I was getting all worked up about a useless crafting system that includes products worse than either of the ingredients, or a Skill system featuring dozens of pointless “gotcha!” choices.


Seriously, no redeeming factors here.

As it turns out, the devs are just morons. Case in point: Thievery.

This is a Civil Skill you need to put points into in order to Lockpick and Pickpocket. At level 1, you can pickpocket up to 300g worth of goods. It then quickly scales out of control:

  • 1: 2kg / 300gp
  • 2: 4kg / 450gp
  • 3: 6kg / 1100gp
  • 4: 8kg / 2350gp
  • 5: 10kg / 3800gp
  • 6: 12kg / 6000gp

It actually scales up even higher than this (224k at level 14?!), but Thievery 6 is where I’m at currently with my gear bonuses. I’m in the first major town in Act 2, and most vendors have ~3500g on them, and selling multiple epics/Legendary items… which is its own thing, but nevermind. So, I purchase the expensive goods, then pickpocket 6000g back. The victim will try and find the thief for about two minutes, but that’s it. The only limitation on this mechanic is that you can only pickpocket a given NPC one time… per character. Respeccing is free though, so it’s no big deal to turn anyone into a master thief long enough to rob entire kingdoms blind.


Lucky Find can also break your game with free Legendary items in every X containers.

There is so much wrong with this, that I don’t even know where to start.

So… I won’t. DOS2 is a very pretty game with an interesting combat system submerged in hot, sloppy garbage game design. I wouldn’t expect this level of disregard for balance from Early Access shovelware.

…I mean, do you understand? Crafting being weaksauce (on purpose?) is one thing; that simply means the game is balanced around loot drops. Vendors being able to sell you Epic/Legendaries is whatever, as that simply makes it necessary to collect all the things so you can save gold and buy them. Having a crazy-scaling Thievery skill though, with zero repercussions, that can succeed at any Sneak level by simply creating a smoke cloud, essentially means every single vendor in the game gives you entire dungeons’ worth of loot for nothing. And it’s not just vendors either – I saw a fisherman with 2900g just walking around, so I nabbed that too.

What was this game supposed to be balanced around? Anything?! “Just don’t pickpocket vendors.” Or maybe the professional (?) game designers could change the Pickpocket values to be a tiny bit more consistent or sane. Each step value varies wildly between 40-140%. Go up 300g each time, or increase it by 50% each time, or something. The latter would make level 6 Thievery worth 2278g per vendor, which is still probably game-breaking, but at least not to the same degree.

Know what’s really laughable? One time I stole 5000g from a random non-vendor NPC, but actually got caught. I was given a few dialog options on how to respond, including trying some Persuasion checks or attacking the NPC outright. Or… I could bribe them… with 151g. And, you know, keep the remaining 4849g I just stole from them. So I did.

I could… not do these things. That is a choice that I have. It is also a choice I shouldn’t have to make. I should not have to handicap myself to have fun playing a game. Nevermind the fact that the fun I have playing games usually comes from leveraging my whole mind against the systems in the game, and puzzling out a solution. Optimization is fun. When it’s this brain-dead easy, it’s less fun. When it’s clear that the designers can’t be bothered to care about balance at all, it’s even less fun still.

Everyone has their hang-ups. Maybe it’s cringy dialog, cliche plot, bad graphics, slow leveling, too many random battles, etc, etc etc. For me, it’s when there is evidence the developers stopped caring, didn’t bother to playtest, or never knew what the hell they wanted to do in the first place.

Posted on March 28, 2019, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. While you are technically correct, especially on the crafting but even so with thievery, for me personally those things maybe took away 5% of my overall enjoyment of the game? I mean its an SRPG with a focus on combat and story. And even with abusing thievery to basically have unlimited gold, I still don’t think this trivializes combat via overpowered items (I’m not 100%, but doesn’t DOS2 limit what you can equip by level, so at best you can hit at-level power?). It certainly has zero impact on story or on how you decide to solve most quests.

    I get the complaint, but isn’t this the wrong game to really focus on this stuff? If you found a gold dupe in an MMO where the economy matters, yea, major issue. If you found lets say broken physics in a game focused around physics, again yes an issue. If you found major plot holes or a build that fully trivializes combat in DOS2? Problems.

    Crafting being dumb and a way to get lots of gold in DOS2? Eh, like I said, 5% off the total review score, maybe.


    • I’m in Act 2, so I’m not sure if the “story” has fully engaged yet or not, but so far it’s generic Chosen One, fight the Void, one-dimensional JRPG-style placeholder plot. The side stories are better, as is typical for these sort of games, and the actual dialog is humorous in some places, but that is it. Skyrim did it better thus far.

      Meanwhile, the combat system is indeed engaging… to a point. I just defeated two level 16 boss-esque characters with my party of level 12s. The game even warned me to run away, but I didn’t. The fight was almost comically easy – they had 1200+ Armor and 1800 HP, but only ~250 Magic Armor, and removing the latter meant I could basically CC them to death while mopping up the trash mobs they had around them. I’ve trained my whole party with Chloroform, but that wasn’t even necessary considering two characters have Petrifying Visage, which auto-petrifies people in a 3m radius or whatever. Occasionally the timing would be off and one of them would get an actual turn to do things and almost kill someone, but I would just CC them again and that was that.

      If the enemies have high Magic Armor and low regular armor, I would do the same exact thing with Chicken Claw, Battle Stomp, etc, and CC them to death that way. Failing that, I have everyone trained on Teleport and at least two people can Summon distractions, and I go that route.

      In short, combat is “solved.” In fact, I think I have access to 90% of all abilities already, so it is not as though my general tactics are going to change for the rest of the game. At least, it feels difficult to imagine. Maybe I will be surprised in Act 3 and 4? I guess we’ll see.


      • Dude the way you play the game sounds so painfully boring to me. All characters have similar specs, and you just chain CC every fight… holy shit. Even if its not optimal, don’t you at least want to have some variety for the sake of sanity? And again, its an SRPG that no one but you cares how easy you make things.

        I mean I don’t want to define ‘fun’ for you, but I’m pretty sure you are playing this game in a pretty unique way, hence some of the issues.


      • What’s the “variety” or normal way to play here, exactly? Even if I completely ignored broken abilities – seriously, Chloroform is 1 AP, deals more magic damage than a Fireball and has a 13m range – all I would be doing is casting Rain (1 AP) and either Lightning or Ice spells instead for mostly the same CC effect (Stunned/Frozen). And as you know, the game isn’t particularly easy either; enemies will pile on characters and kill them in 1 turn, or CC your own people and basically cause you to auto-lose the fight.

        In any case, I don’t remember having this problem with Baldur’s Gate (etc) back in the day. Maybe I’ve gotten better at finding broken stuff, or maybe the devs (or these particular devs) have gotten worse at balance. With DOS2, it’s definitely the latter IMO.


      • Well in BG you can’t run an all-mage cc chaining party, which we can look at as either better design/balance, or a game that just limited you more and gave you fewer options, thus making getting the combat balance easier. In DOS:2 any of the characters can be any class, which is nice in that if you want the skeleton to be a fighter, even though he is by default a mage, you can do that. In BG if you liked Boo, hope you also liked having a barbarian in the party.

        When I say variety, I mean the more traditional party setup of fighter/healer/mage/support, that kind of thing. That way you see more of the abilities, play the battles more ‘as-intended’, and a larger variety of item drops are useful. Does that make the game harder vs a more min/max setup? Yes. Was I able to still fairly comfortable beat the game, while enjoying most of its content and systems with that setup? Yes.

        Again not to define how you should have fun, but have you tried just playing this type of game ‘as-intended’?


      • I actually do have a traditional party of sorts. Ifan is my main character, and I have him as a summoner with Fire spells as backup. Red Prince is a sword & shield fighter, Sebille is a rogue, and Lohse is a healer with Ice and Lightning spells.

        What I have found through gameplay though, is that none of that matters. Archers teleport around the map, melee enemies are fine running right past Red Prince (taking the attack of opportunity) and then one-shotting Sebille with a 400+ damage ability (All In), and enemy mages do not seem to respect spell cooldowns. It costing 4 AP to enter Sneak mode for Sebille is what led me to discovering Chameleon Cloak under Polymorph, and then Tentacle Lash, and then realizing that giving everyone 1 point in Polymorph would let them all have Tentacle Lash. From there, it was an easy transition to having 1 point in Scoundrel for Chloroform, after realizing how powerful Sebille was when she used it.

        There are a LOT of interlocking failures in DOS2’s game design, IMO. It’s not just Thievery, overpowered CC, vendors selling Legendary items, or infinite respecs. It’s also skill points themselves. You only need 2 points in a skill to unlock 90% of all abilities, and each additional point beyond the first adds… 5% damage. Given how many abilities only need 1 skill point to unlock, that 5% is competing with HUGE potential by spreading yourself thin across all sorts of skills.


  2. You can mod combat to reduce the viability of cc-juggling, too, but amidst all this duct tape there does come a point when one has to concede that the game’s poorly designed.

    I do agree that the outright brokenness of side systems can be fatal to immersion, and immersion is what’s being sold in an RPG. That said, most RPGs of this kind (the Elder Scrolls games, Final Fantasies, Dragon Ages…) are inherently cheesable with OP builds.


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