Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Definitive Edition (Xbox One Review)

Divinity: Original Sin revolutionised the way I see RPGs. It set a precedence that no game has surpassed since. Divinity: Original Sin had a rich story, engaging strategic combat, a wealth of different styles of play, and it didn’t take itself too seriously. Now it’s long awaited successor, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is making its way to consoles and it’s one for the books.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 takes place several hundred years after its forerunner. The world of Rivellon has revolted against “Sourcerers”, a group of beings that practise “Sourcery”. They are rounded up and marshalled in a prison island known as Fort Joy for “treatment” of their powers. Thankfully none of this relies upon new players understanding the events of the previous title and this time skip means that you can jump right in with Divinity: Original Sin 2, avoiding the 100+ hours that the original demanded of its players.

And with a runtime like that, you might want to jump right in to the action with Divinity: Original Sin 2’s “Origin” characters. Each character serves their own purpose in the world and their own story to follow throughout. As these characters are predefined, you’ll find more interactivity in the world and more varied consequences. However, those looking to truly pursue a more tailored experience can opt to create their own character.

Creating a custom hero allows you to burrow deep down into the finer details, from their race to their bonus attributes and be as nitpicky as you wish. There is a class system, but it’s very loose. Divinity: Original Sin 2 even lets you preserve some of the aspects of the Origin characters by offering a series of “Origin Tags”.

Origin Tags are used to anchor your character in the world of Divinity: Original Sin 2. Selecting certain tags guides NPCs on how to react and interact with you, aiding in making your unique character feel part of the narrative. Barbarians will be treated as uncivilised brutes, while Scholars are held in high regard for their supreme intellect. There’s even a chance that identifying as a certain tag will turn previously friendly villagers hostile, so every tag needs to be considered.

Regardless of your choice, Origin character or custom, you’ll be able to mix up during the campaign. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a group affair. Acquainting yourself with your companions and building is an important part of the game, potentially more crucial than the adventure itself. With up to 4 players available in your party and the ability to share those spaces with 3 friends, team play and synergy is empirical. Ensuring characters get along and complement each other is paramount to progression and ignoring this will often result in failure.  After all, Rivellon is a dangerous and unforgiving territory to explore alone and without companions the odds would be overwhelming.

Even with a team of capable comrades, the odds can feel stacked against you when it comes to confrontations. Enemies always appear vastly stronger than you and travel in large packs. These seemingly unwinnable fights are intentional and encourage players to consider their approach in every battle. Charging headfirst in to battle rarely ends well. Instead players are encouraged to explore their environment and look for opportunities to gain an upper hand. Climbing towers and gaining the high ground will give players bonus damage and sight, while positioning your party near bottlenecks or between obstacles will force the enemies in to disadvantageous positions. It’s something that Divinity: Original Sin 2 does so well that it’s hard not fall in love with. The parallels of feeling helpless at the hands of foes but empowered by the confidence bestowed upon you when you succeed through patience and iron will.

Patience is paramount in Divinity: Original Sin 2 considering that it’s a turn based game with unlimited time per turn. Each character has a pool of Action Points (AP) to spend every turn on a plethora of actions. Enemies typically have more AP than you, it’s also important to plan accordingly as they will rarely fall in your first approach and demand that every one of your points are wisely spent. This is especially poignant now that Divinity: Original Sin 2 has introduced physical and magical armour, instead of the previous games cumulative armour system – effectively adding two extra health bars to every opponent. Both of these new types of protection require the corresponding type of damage to whittle them down until attacks can finish off the wearer. As you continue through the campaign this new addition becomes problematic as fights can drag and the armour feels almost impenetrable, especially on Tactician difficulty.

Tactician difficulty is Larian Studios’ ultra hard mode for Divinity: Original Sin 2. While playing through on this difficulty, saving every 10 seconds felt necessary as the smallest misstep can ruin an entire campaign. It’s clear that Classic difficulty is the intended mode of play. The A.I. will use everything in their power to stop you in Classic mode without the insurmountable powercreep of Tactician. Unlike Divinity: Original Sin, these differing difficulties have very little impact on enemy placement, density, and environment. Instead all these differing difficulties represent is more armour, more damage, and less effort. It’s incredibly disheartening given that we know Larian Studios are more than capable of creating thoughtful difficulty and there has been an abundance of love and care put in to creating Divinity: Original Sin 2.

Thankfully the graphical improvements help to smooth out the ragged edges of Divinity’s difficulty. Fort Joy is full of varied decals and areas to explore, it’s so full of detail that you’d be convinced that you’d have seen everything the game has to offer, but you’d be sorely wrong. Castles, swamps, and glacier addled beaches are all part of the diverse scenery of the first act, which are all just a jumping off point for the path ahead. The serenity of these scenes is juxtaposed by the harsher elements within. The flames of burning buildings engulf their surroundings including your party while the thick fog of death rolls in off the coast and it all looks fantastic, especially if you’re on an Xbox One X as the textures are incredibly detailed in 4K.

In spite of all this glowing praise, Divinity: Original Sin 2 does have its blemishes. Whilst the definitive edition does add a tremendous number of changes to the dialogue, the PvP Arena feels like wasted effort. Fighting with friends can be fun, but it lacks depth. But the largest concern is the omission of Game Master Mode on consoles. Game Master would allow players to create their own D&D styled campaign, build their own world, and share it with friends. The thought of which is unbelievably tantalising, but due to the complexity I’d assume that it’s not quite possible on consoles and it will be greatly missed.

To me, Divinity: Original Sin 2 feels like the apotheosis of the RPG genre. With so many options at the player’s disposal from creating a character, interacting with the world, and the almost endless number of approaches to combat it’s the purest translation of pen and paper RPGs to console we have ever seen. If you have the time and patience to dedicate, there’s really no more involving an experience than that of Divinity: Original Sin 2.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

9.5

Overall

9.5/10

Pros

  • Unparalleled class system.
  • Turned-based combat is still strategic as ever.
  • Gorgeous environments.
  • Origin characters live and breath in the world you play in.
  • Tons of hours of gameplay.

Cons

  • Tactitian mode is a bland artifical difficulty bump.
  • PVP Arena lack depth.
  • Game Master Mode is absent.

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