After finishing The Outer Worlds, a dense role-playing game, I did what any sensible person would do and returned to playing Divinity: Original Sin 2, a much longer and denser role-playing game. After a moment of contemplating whether or not to pick up my old save or start a new one, I made the choice to start over. I’m so glad I did.
I don’t actually remember the last time I played Divinity: Original Sin 2. Based on the mental image I can conjure up of me playing it, it was at least a year ago, as I was living in a different apartment at the time and hadn’t yet set up my small desk with my gaming PC on it. I remember the broad strokes of the game and its controls, and even remember just about where I’d made it in the story. I had gotten through the rather lengthy tutorial area of Fort Joy, and was just about the start the game proper.
Despite being given the option to sync my save from Steam when I opened the game up on my Switch (my PC is currently busted), I decided to start it all over. Sure, I remembered a lot about the game, the story, and how it worked, but I hadn’t touched the game in over a year. I had a vision of myself forgetting some essential mechanic or story beat when it really mattered, and fucking myself over.
In the lone economics class I took in college, we had a lecture that covered the sunk cost fallacy. The idea is that if you’ve already invested money, or in this case time, into something, you’ll have “wasted” that money (or time) if you don’t use the thing. But that conclusion doesn’t always make sense. If you buy movie tickets and then get an invite to a party you’d rather go to, why punish yourself by doing the thing you’d enjoy less? I poured hours of my life into Divinity: Original Sin 2, but those were hours well spent before I moved on to something else. Completing that playthrough just because it was my original one would probably result in me wasting more time trying to remember how to play the game, and not enjoying it as much, rather than just accepting that I probably won’t get the best experience out of that save, and instead starting over with a new one.
My decision to start again has actually made these early hours of the game more enjoyable. There’s a lot going on in Divinity: Original Sin 2, and some of its mechanics are pretty obscure. Getting a refresher on all its controls and options has already made me demonstrably quite better at the game than I was the first time around, leading to speedier combat encounters. While the main story beats aren’t exactly a mystery for me—I can’t be surprised at the identity of the person that Ibn Ben-Mezd has been contracted to murder, for instance—knowing them in advance means that I’m giving myself a chance to explore a lot more. I’m not driven by wrapping my head around the controls and the sheer density of information being slung at me. Instead I’m being driven by enjoying the game as a holistic experience.
Starting a game over has sometimes felt like admitting defeat to me, but now I can see that I was just making things a lot harder on myself than I should have by always trying to continue an old save. Once you’ve gleaned a basic familiarity with a game, going back for a second pass just makes the beginning of the game that much easier, and more enjoyable. By the time I escape Fort Joy for a second time, I’ll be much better prepared for what Divinity: Original Sin 2 has to throw at me.