Second time around.
There are a handful of new features and tweaks introduced in Divinity: Original Sin II that expound upon what its predecessor did so well: unfurl a sprawling, intricate narrative in a richly built world. In addition to a new Arena mode and dungeon-crawling option the developers are currently calling "Game Monster Mode," players will be treated to deeper dialogue trees that are entirely dependent on the race--and sometimes gender and class--of your character.
This feature is linked to the character creation system, which has been given an added layer of development and depth. You can play as a number of different races, including Human, Dwarf, Elf, the shiny-scaled Lizards and one ominously called the Undead. Each race has its own unique abilities and skills; for example, Elves have a skill called Corpse Eating, which allows them to gain the memories and skills of a corpse by eating it. And Lizards have a trait called Spellsong, which increases their Persuasion stat through singing.
Additionally, your race will determine how NPCs react to you. A crying human child may recoil in horror and refuse to speak to a Lizard, while an Elf can coax her to speak and dry her tears. You'll meet that resistance in the people you come across. This mechanic holds true both in single player and in Divinity II's multiplayer mode, in which up to four players can collaborate or be competitive as they navigate the world.
Also attached to character creation is a new adaptive music system. When you create a character you pick one of four instruments, such as a cello or bansui. When your character lands a critical hit or a moment in the story critical to your character's origins occurs, you will hear the instrument play. You can also use tags that apply to your character's personality, such as "jester" or "barbarian," that will also affect how NPCs react to you. And if you accomplish something, such as being a prolific arena fighter, you will earn a Champion tag. These tags will open up certain quests to certain characters, and many are locked to a specific race or gender, opening up different dialogue options and further customizing the character you create.
Origin stories and traits you don't pick during your initial character customization will appear in Divinity II as other characters. These others you can recruit into your party, and doing so will unlock their specific origin quests--you just have to make sure that character is taking the lead on them. There is also unique dialogue between these special characters--for example, if you have a Sibele (a murderous Elf) and Red Prince (a lizard warrior) in your party, they will have their own unique interactions.
In multiplayer these branching paths can intertwine in ways that make the game competitive. Sibele, for example, has a long list of Lizards she wants to kill. If she is in a multiplayer party with Red Prince, she'll be in trouble, as he also has a long list of the same Lizards that he wants to recruit as he allies. This is sure to cause tension, and adds another layer of Divinity II's story for players to tailor themselves.
In addition to adding depth to the story and dialogue systems, Larian Studios has also added a bunch of minor tweaks based on feedback from the first Divinity. The bartering system UI has been cleaned up, the persuasion ability has been changed to be more closely tied to your character stats, and the camera can now rotate 360 degrees. There is also an arena mode where players can build teams of characters and face off with weapons and spells in a smaller enclosed environment. All this will be available to players when Divinity: Original Sin II launches for Steam Early Access on September 15.