Divinity: Original Sin II was one of last year's best games and an instant modern classic. Larian Studios offered what's perhaps the most system-driven and adaptive adventure we've seen to date in the genre, but even something as excellent as Original Sin II can be improved upon. That's what the Definitive Edition is for and console players will also benefit from the extra effort that's been put into this enhanced version of the game.
We took the PS4 version for a spin to see what the controls are like and how the game behaves within the constraints that a console offers. Starting almost from the beginning of the prologue we had a go with Beast as our main character (one of six origins characters you can choose from if you don't create a character of your own), not the choice we made in our original playthrough on PC. We also opted not to try and save the other companions on the ship, which made for some uneasy conversations as we all gathered ashore. Again this was not how we played the game originally and we were impressed by how different things were even at that early stage. This is, of course, what Divinity: Original Sin II aims to do, allowing you to truly role-play in a world that reacts to your choices, your actions, and your companions.
The game's predecessor, Divinity: Original Sin, also made the jump across from PC to consoles, so it's no surprise that Larian knows how to handle and transfer the complex menus over to new platforms. It takes a little getting used to, particularly how you need to use the global party selection wheel (L2) even if you're in the character section to switch between them. But there are also great conveniences offered such as the search features that allow you to locate items to interact with within a radius around the character by pressing X and holding it down. L1 and R1 are also used globally to cycle through pages in the menus or enemies in combat. Overall, the control scheme is very consistent and that's something that will pay off over the course what promises to be a very long adventure.
Another big change is the couch co-op option. Divinity: Original Sin II always had co-op, but it's a different story on consoles and split-screen while naturally a bit hard to track (particularly if players go about business in different areas), it's a welcome addition that serves to make co-op more accessible.
In terms of performance, it's natural that consoles can't reproduce the same level of performance as high-end PCs, but while there were one or two hiccups in the preview version we played it looks solid enough from what we can judge based on a couple of hours of play. Load times weren't excessive, and the level of detail in the world and environments came across well.
In terms of new content, there's going to be a revamped arena mode and a bonus DLC character (a pre-order bonus) called Sir Lora, the Squirrel Knight (he's something of a mini-companion with a storyline revolving around the Great Acorn). It may sound a bit silly, but that's one thing Larian does well, blending more serious matters with complete and utter silliness.
But clearly, Larian Studios has taken the opportunity to go over their work, add more detail, improve things, iterate on the game, and even make changes to the narrative of the game. Speaking to Larian's Kieran Kelly at E3 he had this to say:
"The major changes to the narrative it's fair to say would be at the end of the game, so the final 30 hours of the games [...] it's basically where the culmination of all our story points come together, and what we've done is we've rewritten a huge chunk of that. We had about a million words in Original Sin II when it launched - we've probably rerecorded about 100,000 words of that through the various voice actors and whatnot, and that's mostly to do with arcs. The reason for that is basically we wanted to give you a better sense of completion with the various threads and ideas that you would've encountered."
It has to be said that Divinity: Original Sin II is the sort of game you'd naturally assume fits better on PC, but there are aspects of the game such as its length and co-op that make more sense on console. We were also surprised at how great it felt to play the game with a controller for a couple of hours, and so PS4 and Xbox players are in for a treat later this month when the game finally ventures into new territory, while PC players will get a cherry on top of what's already a wonderful experience when the Definitive Edition lands as a free update.