Translating tailor-made computer games to consoles is a difficult task, as the many attempts to bring those tried and true titles to another platform over the years that have turned out to be less than stellar can attest to. So it comes as a big surprise that Larian Studios’ Divinity: Original Sin 2 made such a good transition to the current big boy consoles. Well, that’s probably not so surprising, given that its predecessor also made that leap a few years ago, and thanks to its huge success, the Belgium-based developer decided to do the same for what many considered one of last years’ best role-playing games.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Definitive Edition follows in the footsteps of Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition, which added a ton of additions to the base game, like converted point and click controls to a controller interface, tweaks to a few gameplay mechanics, and additional elements that made the core experience more enjoyable, like extra story elements and even new lines of voice acting where there was only text before. In Divinity: Original Sin 2’s case, the Definitive Edition does mostly the same, bringing the core game to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 without cutting any corners.
For anyone that’s missed Divinity: Original Sin 2 in 2017 like me, a refresher: It takes place hundreds of years after the events of the first game. In the world of Rivellon, anyone who manipulates the mysterious Source, a well, source of immense power is seen as a menace, and are thus hunted down by the Magisters. They’re religious group bent on following the word of a messiah who kept the Void, where hideous monsters made their home, from invading Rivellon. As a Sourceror who was taken captive and shipped to a prison island, you see yourself right in the middle of all of that mess. Unlike many a videogame, the world isn’t your clam to crack open, and you’re far from being the top dog.
At the outset of the game, you get to create your own custom character. You are free to mold them as you wish, but Larian also gives you the option of picking from one of six predetermined protagonists, each with their own background story and motives, which is what I ended up going with. Whoever you end up choosing, outside of those story elements, they’re all but open books, and the game allows you to tailor their skills and class as you wish, as well as their looks. Regardless of who you end up choosing, the rest of the possible choices end up showing up in the game as party members who you pick up along the way, so choice paralysis isn’t really an issue when starting out — you’ll get to play through all of those stories if you want.
I ended up going with Fane, an undead who’s just recently woken up after a long slumber, only to find his realm completely gone, with him apparently being the only remnant of it. The benefits of playing a skeleton have been far outweighing the cons, and it’s been a lot of fun running around picking locks with his bony fingers (no need for lockpicks!) and chugging poison and regaining my health, a few of the many perks of being dead, but alive. Then again, all restorative magic outside of revival spells is deadly to him, which let me tell you, is an easy thing to forget during the more hectic fights, and boy, Divinity likes to throw a lot of those your way.
It’s a good thing that its battle system is so fun to mess around with. Before getting into that, though, it’s worth mentioning the unique way the way Original Sin games deal with item interaction. You can basically pick up and manipulate all sorts of things that litter the world, simply for exploration sake, or when it comes to combat, chucking crap at the enemy’s face, like explosive barrels, anvils, and such. And thanks to an also absurdly in-depth combo system, you can use that chaos to your added advantage by combining elements and causing added damage, like say, breaking open a barrel of oil under your foe’s feet and then lighting it with a fireball, or cast a rain spell, form a puddle, and casting lightning. On the other hand, the opposition loves to do the same to you, so keeping on your toes and minding the environments you fight in is just as, if not even more, important than knowing what command to use and when.
The turn-based combat in this game is stellar, and differently from a number of isometric RPGs of its ilk, Divinity: Original Sin 2’s systems are fairly easy to grasp, thanks to how it treats health, physical and magic armor points. Depending on your target, the latter two numbers might differ wildly, and by knocking them down with attacks and abilities, you can then deal serious damage and finally off them for good, with physical hits obviously knocking down its respective armor, and magic, its own. Those barriers can be refreshed by certain skills, so it’s all a matter of balancing hits and spells, all the while trying not to get destroyed.
At first, the combat kicked my butt, but after the first few game overs I got into the groove and finally started using my part effectively, and it didn’t take long before I settled into Original Sin 2’s approach to combat. I wouldn’t call myself a brilliant strategist by any stretch, but I’ve been getting the job done playing the game in Classic mode, where it doesn’t really pull any punches at all. While I could do with a more precise selection cursor, I think the conversion to controller controls turned out really well, especially considering how many options there are to fiddle with at any point in the game. The contextual buttons work incredibly well, and having direct control over your characters when moving around the world is way better than clicking to walk.
Perhaps the most peculiar feature to the Original Sin games is the ability to play them cooperatively, and not only that, but it can seamlessly split and combine the screen depending on where each player heads into. Most importantly though, by having two people going at it at once can provide some of Original Sin 2’s most interesting moments, like when one player might distract a certain NPC by talking to them, while the other picks their pocket, or do whatever they need without any complications, or, even better, they can do things independently. I would have certainly loved to see a similar bit with the screen splitting up take place during the single player portion, but outside of breaking the group up and sitting one of your party members somewhere while playing with the other, there’s no smooth way of giving them commands without stopping and switching control over them.
Aside from the cooperative aspects of playing with a friend, you can also take things to the next step and fight them in PvP, or team up with them and take on other players online. There’s also a mode called Hot Seat, where each player calls a command and passes the controller around for the next one. It’s a neat gimmick, but having the option to play with a buddy, I would honestly stick to the main story mode. Still, it’s really cool that Larian kept that part of the first game in this sequel and have expanded things even further for the Definitive Edition. Even though I would much prefer one option over the other, it’s great that there are so many to pick from, and to all accounts, all of them seem to work so well.
Speaking of options, it’s one of the main draws of playing a RPG like Divinity. Its world is so well developed and rich in detail that there are a number of choices and paths to take throughout the game. Thanks to wonderful writing and the number of characters and situations you manage to find yourself getting into, no road you take during the game can be considered wrong, and the rewards for going out of the way and thinking outside the box can pay dividends, or it all might come bite your ass later. Interactions can lead to conflict, but depending on your approach, you might diffuse a hairy situation. Having options outside of simply throwing it down is something that started with the original Fallout and its infamous final boss suicide route. Larian expertly delivers a bevy of options to go with, most of which aren’t clearly noted and depend on your own creativity and how you craft and customize your characters, something that’s rare to see in games nowadays and deserves to be lauded.
As I pointed out, the writing in this game is particularly noteworthy, and much praise can be given to the sheer amount of quality story content that’s in the game, along with how it’s delivered. Be it in text through the many books you can find, or via dialogue, the tone in the game constantly walks the fine line of seriousness and pure humor, with gruesome violence taking place at a blink away from a joke or two in pure playful joy. It helps that the voice acting is also damn good, with some of the best lines being delivered by the many animals you can potentially talk to and learn a lot from if you pick a talent called Pet Pal — which you totally should, it’s super useful and a lot of fun! — as well as your party, who are more than anxious to chime in about your decisions throughout the journey.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Definitive Edition, like its predecessor, is a fantastic RPG that plays very well on console, or on PC, in case you own the original release of the game, since the enhancements are also getting patched in and are going to be part of the updated version that replaces it on Steam after the August 30th release. It’s a great option for anyone looking to spend some quality fantasy time with a ragtag group of misfits, save a world or two, and maybe even get some chuckles along the way.