Divinity: Original Sin II has already swept many PC owners off their feet. With the Definitive Edition of the game PS4 and Xbox One owners can now get in on the action, and oh boy they have something to look forward to. If you're already familiar with this gem from Larian Studios and mostly interested in how the game performs on consoles, you might as well jump to the last pair of paragraphs of this review. If you've yet to get your hands on this RPG-masterpiece though, please keep reading and let us spread the good word that is Divinity: Original Sin II.
It's an isometric RPG with turn-based combat that's set in a fantasy world that isn't particularly original, although it does have some very interesting variations on familiar themes. But what really sets Divinity: Original Sin II apart is the attention to detail, the nonlinear - yet perfectly curated - gameplay and the fact that it's filled to the brim with great stories.
When you start the game, you realise just how much emphasis they've put on the storytelling. Six pre-made characters are telling you their background story that gives you both a great introduction to their personality and narrative, and also encourages you to get to know them better. We would recommend playing with these origin characters, since they have so much depth to both their character and story compared to your own custom-created generic hero. If you choose to play with Fane, who is an undead, for example, you will have to keep his face covered up, since townsfolk don't react kindly to the living dead. No matter what character you choose, you will meet the rest of the characters at the start of your adventure, and from there you can recruit them to your party which consist of up to four players. Even though you get to see some of the other characters' stories through having them in your party, it's hard not to look forward to your next playthrough, so you can see the world from a different character's perspective.
Divinity: Original Sin II just has so many stories to tell, and it's always up to you how you want to interact with them. If you have the patience to let it all in, there's an overflow of interesting and cool content. Every place, book, and dialog section reveals something exciting about the world, and it's really well written and perfectly balances the absurdly funny (without too much of the silliness from its predecessor) and deep seriousness. There are so many surprises and mysteries to find that you want to search every nook and cranny of the world.
But you can't get everything the first time you play Divinity: Original Sin II - you have to accept that every choice you take means excluding yourself from another part of the story. In one game an NPC might be a faithful companion, in another, you might've removed his head because you didn't like his attitude; you are in complete control of how you want to face your adventure. You can always cut some corners if you haven't got the patience to read and hear all the stories the game has to tell, but let it be said that so many of the choices you make actually matter. We know cause the save system is oddly slow. That meant that we shut down our PS4 before my game was saved multiple times, although this did allow us to see how different our adventure could look, had we played it just slightly differently.
Fights are also filled with depth and detail, and it's simple with its turn-based action point system, although surroundings and abilities make for a deep tactical spectacle. The world is filled with barrels containing oil, water, poison, and other substances all over the world, and the different elements infuse the battles with an element of uncertainty that makes each battle a tactical puzzle. There are so many systems at play via the characters, their abilities, and their equipment too, and while it can be hard to keep up if you give yourself the time to understand it a playground of systems will let you be creative with every fight. It's really a game for the system geeks, as you could spend a lot of time just planning your fights and messing around with the characters' equipment and abilities.
A "loose" class system lets you play with the characters as you progress. A wizard might gain some close combat abilities and thereby remove himself from the archetypical wizard, for example, and if you play with a full party it can be pretty overwhelming to keep track of their individual abilities and plan for their progress. It's super rewarding though, and at the end of the day it all comes down to how much of energy you want to put into mastering these systems. The definitive version adds a story mode for those who want to explore without mastering all the systems, and this gives you a way of pacing the game exactly to your liking. That being said, this is a game designed for the patient player, and you never have to do anything boring in this game. There's no grinding, no filler - every place, conversation, and fight feels important.
We haven't encountered a single bug during my time with the game either, and while it isn't a powerhouse in terms of graphics, the world is lively and everything looks good enough to hardly make you notice a clunky animation or two.
Often a narrator describes the interactions between characters, which makes for a real pen and paper experience, where you'll have to invest a bit of your imagination if you want to get the full experience. Fans of pen and paper roleplaying games will take pleasure in seeing the creativity and storytelling of a game like Dungeons and Dragons being mixed with the immersion and involvement that video games can provide.
The single-player part alone could be enough to get Divinity: Original Sin II a top score, but it also offers you a unique multiplayer experience as well, letting you play the whole adventure either in co-op or with up to four players online. It's not often that a multiplayer game is both driven by story, exploration, and fighting while also keeping the sense of individuality within the team, and you're never just there for the ride. Each player has their own unique goal and story, as well as something special to bring to the table. Unfortunately, the gamemaster mode is not a part of the console version though, which we don't mind, as it was way too menu-heavy to work on a console. There is a new arena mode though, which lets you play with the fight out some Divinity battles in a closed-off arena. It's a nice addition to be able to beat your friends in combat either locally or online.
Even though Divinity: Original Sin II still has a distinct PC-feel to it, it translates really well to consoles. After a short period of time, everything from camera to looting feels natural. Holding down the action button to loot a big area makes it a seamless job to explore everything this magic world has hidden in its corners. The inventory is better too, as in the new edition four backpacks are shown side by side, which makes it a lot easier to get a grasp of all your loot. The definitive edition is not only for console owners though significant changes have been brought to the story, balance, fights and the overall performance. Also, a short tutorial area has been added, which is good, because there's a lot to learn in a short time in this game.
Divinity: Original Sin II is one of the best RPGs we've played in a long time. It's a perfect blend of pen and paper and video game, meaning the patient player will be rewarded with deep systems and a lot of interesting storylines. There's a rare feeling of a truly open gameplay while still feeling like everything is in its right place. Everything from quests, stories, and characters to fights, pacing, abilities, and equipment is made up of high RPG quality.
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