With a lot of role-playing games today, side quests often feel like a chore, whether you’re doing seemingly endless fetch quests, escort missions or hunting. Few games have side quests that have a side story that goes with them deep enough to make you feel like doing them makes any difference except gaining that precious experience. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are two games that nailed it. Exploring off them beaten tracks opened up opportunities that made you feel like you’re a very important small fish in a huge ocean. Then another RPG came along and squeezed between these giants: Divinity: Original Sin, Larian Studios‘ behemoth, an isometric RPG that is just as deep as the aforementioned Witcher and Skyrim. Now its sequel hits consoles after a successful run on PC. But can Divinity: Original Sin II- Definitive Edition topple its predecessor?
Divinity: Original Sin II takes everything from Divinity and improves it tenfold. Choosing one of the pre-made characters spanning all races ranging from a typical human to the undead, you’re then free to turn them into whatever you see fit whilst playing. The other characters that you don’t choose become available as accomplices on your journey, albeit for their own purposes. This is where Divinity: Original Sin II becomes something truly special. The characters you want in your party must be interacted with and recruited whilst exploring, and when you do recruit them, they ask you what you want them to specialise in. Whomever you choose and whatever backstory you attach to them, the outcome of your journey remains the same. Set once again in the land of Rivellon, you, as a Sourcerer, Source being Divinity’s name for magic, are imprisoned on a ship with a Source dampening collar fitted. The ship is soon attacked, and you end up marooned on an island called Fort Joy, a jolly name for an Alcatraz-style prison.
The beginning task of escaping Fort Joy is one of the countless jobs you will undertake in Divinity: Original Sin II, and you can do it however you wish. Exploring and talking to the individuals that inhabit the fort opens up new quest lines that each make a difference to the world and unravel the main story in different ways. Depending on who you have in your 4-man-maximum party, they may choose to handle their own situations beginning interactions by asking your permission to take the lead. You’re then free to choose how they respond to questions creating a conversation. Divinity: Original Sin does it like no other, and its sequel capitalises. Divinity II takes away the walls of text and huge speeches from the first game and makes conversations more readable, taking away the feeling of talking to people being a pain. The voice acting is improved too, with much more convincing performances and added in comedy that doesn’t feel forced. Adopting the Pet Pal trait adds to this by allowing you to talk to animals. An early quest had me searching for a dog’s lost friend and dug up key he had buried to assist me. I also met a grumpy crab and a dumb rat that shunned me; you don’t hear that every day.
Every battle in Divinity: Original Sin II is a major event. Switching gameplay to a real-time strategy manifestation, fights are a constant thought process that develop as they go on. Action points rule the battlefields as they are a type of currency that is spent to undergo every move or attack. Elements and environments play an important part too and can be combined to create brutal scenarios that can help you dispatch enemies more quickly. Setting fire to oil intensifies it, making it a much more lethal attack to anyone caught in it. Make people wet, whether with a rain spell or splashing them by shooting a water barrel, you can then zap them with an electric spell that can really bring the pain. There are so many factors to consider in every fight that certainly make Divinity: Original Sin II special.
The many types of traits that can be chosen to adopt earned skill points to can assist with battles as well. Making a character a Hydrosophist gives them ice and water spells, and making them a Polymorph allows them to grow wings that can make them fly. Combining these traits can create combinations that will help your team, such as a Polymorph that can cast Restoration, effectively creating Mercy from Overwatch. Another great spell that is one of my favourites is a spell that allows you to summon an elemental being that is made out of the element you summon it on. Summoning it on fire has it become a fire elemental, and doing so on a pool of poison makes it a poison elemental. Really cool.
The Definitive Edition increases the already nice graphical quality and makes some quality of life improvements. Resurrection is now a skill, battles are a little bit easier, a reworked Arx closing chapter, and an enlarged and simpler interface are but a few notable improvements that make Divinity: Original Sin II an absolute joy to play. My one and only gripe would be apparent if you choose to switch on zoomed in interactions, which zips the camera in close whenever you talk to an NPC. Although it adds a cinematic element to dialogue, it also exposes some ugly textures. It also disjoints dialogue from the characters,; for example, the narrator would say, “She jabs her claw into your face, wondering whether to push in deeper or mercifully release you,” and the character would be just stood in front of you waving her arms in a looped animation. Sure, it’s a small imperfection but one worth noting.
So, Divinity: Original Sin II is one of the best role-playing games in existence, made even better by the Definitive Edition upgrades. It’s a rare thing for a game to leave a lasting impression, but Larian has nailed it here. They experimented with the first game but perfected it with the second, creating one of the most special games of not only 2018 but of all time. A true great, well done, Larian.
Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 31st August 2018