Review – Divinity: Original Sin II Definitive Edition
I’ll just be upfront that I never played the original Divnity: Original Sin 2 when it launched on PC. Hell, I never even played the first Divinity and now I’m thinking to myself: “Why haven’t I played these before!?”. It’s such a fine RPG and while I don’t have a measure of reference between the original and the definitive edition, I can confidently say that regardless of changes made it is one of the best RPG’s I have played.
In Divinity: Original Sin 2 you play as a Godwoken, a title given to those (un)lucky enough to be chosen by the Gods to replace them. Godwoken are special sorcerers who can channel large amounts Source to become more powerful and eventually transcend into a Divine. To become the Divine One, the Godwoken must imbue parts of each of the seven gods and while there can be multiple Godwoken, there can only be one Divine One. The Divine One is tasked with protecting the world from the Void above all else and must never put their needs above this task.
After creating your character you will start your journey on a Magister boat that is shipping you and other sorcerers to Fort Joy. After the death of the current Divine One, a witch unleashes the Void upon the world yet again. The Magistrate Order is rounding up all sorcerers, putting a source collar on them (so they can’t use their source powers) and locking them up on an island called “Fort Joy” to try and contain and cleanse the source out of sorcerers. You must gain allies and escape Fort Joy to follow your path to become the next Divine One.
The story in Divinity: Original Sin 2 is very good and has a lot of depth to it between the six main characters. I won’t go into too many details as I don’t want get into spoilers or ruin story beats, but each ally will change your story fairly drastically. Depending on the character you choose, dialogue and the story will be custom for you while your allies will weave in between. One detail I appreciate is the depth that was even put into the Magisters Order. While they main seem like the easy target for the bad guys due to their treatment of the sorcerers, there are definitive levels of command. While the White Coat Magisters are the higher ups and can be downright evil, the red coats seem like soldiers just following orders. Some can still be evil and abuse their powers, but some actually believe they’re trying to fix sorcerers for the greater good. It’s these small details in the world that help make each encounter feel so much more alive and genuine.
As I mentioned above, allies will have a large impact on the overall story experience. There are five possible allies to choose from during act 1’s Fort Joy escape, which whom can all be exchanged to see who fits the party the best. Unfortunately, there can only be four party members, so decisions will need to be made on the three that will make permanent party members moving forward. Of the three members I chose I honestly can’t say I prefer one over the other as they all have extremely interesting back stories and missions as they also try and become the Divine One. What makes it so entertaining is how it is so organically weaved into the main story and and even the NPC’s.
While the initial story is the bait, the gameplay is the hook. There is so much depth in the gameplay that it takes quite a while to fully understand the ins and outs. Creating a character is not as simple as it sounds because there are a bevy of options: race, classes, aspirations, gender, and so on. Races include Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Lizards and Undead, which all have their place in the world and will be treated accordingly. For example: Lizards were slavers to races they believed below them, so Elves and Dwarfs will naturally not care for them.
There are a large amount of classes to choose from and all of them have unique skills and powers. While most titles provide the standard classes with some crossovers like Battlemage or Cleric, Divinity 2 offers the whole gamut. Typically, I tend to stick to rangers and thieves using stealth and long range critical attacks. However, there was a tough choice to be made as I was offered a Ranger, Rogue, Shadowblade, and Wayfarer which all appealed to me. All of which have their own strength’s and weaknesses, but all viable to my play style.
Each ally will have their own class and abilities, but you’re never stuck into one role even with the main character. If the class chosen for any character isn’t beneficial to the entire team there is the ability to completely re-purpose stats to a more suitable build. This won’t be evident within the first act or so, but once harder battles are presented there will be a need to change and tweak your party so each persons moves benefit each other. For instance, having a mage that can bring a rain cloud to soak the enemies and a ranger that can use poison to spread across all the water to poison all enemies in the area is crucial.
These team-based attacks are important and will be the only way for maximum effectiveness during a battle. Tactical positions before and during a fights plays an extremely important role to the outcome. You can control each ally separately or break them up in groups to strategically position each ally. For instance, before engaging in a fight giving a Ranger and Mage the higher ground before a fight will give them a bonus to damage dealt and a greater view of the battlefield to cast healing spells. An Assassin meanwhile, should use the sneak ability to get behind a tough opponent (typically one that should be focused on first) to get a bonus backstab attack in before the battle begins.
Every fight requires these types of tactics and can last up to 10 to 20 minutes depending on the enemy level and the battle area. It is extremely easy to stumble into a fight you’re not prepared for, so I recommend saving often and not rushing your moves. Battles can become a game of chess where studying the order of attackers is critically important to anticipating future attacks and deciding who should be focused on first. It’s amazing how even a simple attack plan can turn the tides of a battle that has previously bested you. This is essentially the largest learning curve besides understanding which magic activates or retards each other. A pro tip that took me a while to find is that there’s a “Wait” icon that will delay your attack until later. This will help you line-up special moves when the time is more appropriate.
Each character has a physical armor and a magic armor. The amount of armor depends on the type of gear which includes: Helmets, Gloves, Chest, Belt, Leggings, Boots, Amulet, and 2 Rings. Each piece of armor offers positive and sometimes negative stats as well as the chance of providing a new skill. Each skill and attack will first be absorbed by however much armor the enemy has for either the physical or magical attack. It isn’t until the armor is depleted that the special effects of an attack will come into play. For instance, a shocking spell will only stun an enemy if their magic armor is depleted. A shield rush attack won’t knock an enemy down unless their physical armor is depleted. This is why sometimes waiting a turn can be beneficial until armor is depleted and then unleashing all the power moves. These are the kind of aspects that make each battle so engaging as each fight requires immense thought and planning.
Unfortunately, not everything is perfect with the gameplay or battle system, but most of that is because of needing to use a controller. A keyboard and mouse are the obvious way to play Divinity: Original Sin 2. It’s not horrendous, but there are enough annoying instances of clicking on the wrong item or trying to maneuver the camera and attack icon to the correct spot. That being said, it’s still completely usable and won’t distract frequently enough to take away from the experience.
The visuals for the most part are striking and with a varied amount of environments there is plenty of unique things to look at. However, it is when you move the camera in close there are noticeable low textures and poor character models. While character models can lack fine details, there are a nice variety of unique enemies that make the model quality easily forgiven. Luckily, it will be rare to have the camera up-close as you don’t have the best field of view in that position anyway.
The soundtrack, sound effects, voice acting, and general sound design are all top notch. Between the various physical and magical attacks, all of the effects sound the part whether it be the loud cracking of lightening or the piercing critical hit from a dagger. All of which is complimented by the fantastic battle music and ambient environment sounds. The majority of voice acting is great besides a few less than perfect line deliveries by side characters and animals. Yes, I said animals. I highly recommend having one party member with the “Pet Pal” skill, as this will unlock new missions or hints to completing a mission. However, this means you’ll have a bunch of voice actors trying to voice these animals which can be a bit awkward.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Definitive Edition is not only the definitive edition of itself, but for the RPG genre in general. It is fantastic through and through from the story, characters, combat, visuals, and sound design. Despite a learning curve and some difficulty spikes there isn’t much to harp on especially if you play on PC. Regardless of the platform however, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a must play for any RPG fan.
Environments and enemies are varied and beautiful, but some up-close textures and models can leave a lot to be desired.
The tactical combat is fantastic, but not best played with a controller. Occasional difficulty spikes if you don’t tread carefully.
Soundtrack and various sound effects are very well done. The voice acting of the main characters are great, but some side characters are lacking.
Fun Factor: 9.5
Fantastic RPG through and through with a diverse cast and a story that really gets each character involved. Combat is diverse and satisfying.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Reviewed on PS4.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Definitive Edition is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
A copy of Divinity: Original Sin 2 Definitive Edition was provided by the publisher.