Divinity: Original Sin 2 Definitive Edition Review – Larian’s RPG is divine

Platforms:
PS4Xbox OnePC
Released:
August 31, 2018
Publisher:
Larian Studios
Developer:
Larian Studios

Review

Divinity: Original Sin 2 launched on PC last year to a whole lot of accolades and critical acclaim. Almost a year later, the Definitive Edition of the isometric RPG gives console players the chance – nay, the freaking gift – of experiencing this gob-smackingly impressive game for themselves.

It’s likely that non-PC gamers didn’t pay attention to Divinity: Original Sin 2 when it first released, so here’s a summary: the story takes place in the world of Rivellon, about 1000 years after its predecessor (which means knowledge of the first game isn’t required). There’s a powerful element known as Source, which a few individuals – aptly called Sourcerers – can wield and manipulate. However, using Source attracts monstrous creatures known as Voidwoken, who have started to wreak havoc in Rivellon. Consequently, Sourcerers are being rounded up and sent to the ironically named prison island of Fort Joy, where their powers are muted in an attempt to prevent anymore Voidwoken attacks.

Sebille

As the player, you are a captured Sourcerer on your way to Fort Joy. You choose from either six origin characters with their own colourful back-stories (Beast the pirate dwarf, Fane the undead, and Sebille the stab-happy slave elf, to name a few), or create your own custom character. You can then recruit up to three characters to join you in escaping Fort Joy. Your merry band of misfits ultimately uncover a much larger story involving Gods, more Voidwoken, and some very grey moral choices.

“Every decision you make is loaded with consequence, making each play through varied and unique.”

We gushed about Divinity: Original Sin 2 along with everyone else when it dropped on PC last year, and for good reason – it is honestly one of the most immersive, challenging and rewarding games I’ve ever experienced. The open world gives you so much freedom of choice – the maps for each of the four acts aren’t particularly large, but they are absolutely packed with things to do. Every NPC has been meticulously placed, secrets are hidden everywhere, and you will trigger quests from the most random situations.

Every decision you make is loaded with consequence and can influence or completely derail quests prematurely, making each play through varied and unique. The whole game is also voice-acted to perfection, with particular acknowledgement to the six origin characters and the omniscient narrator. The actors imbue each of their respective characters with a tonne of charisma, warmth and playfulness (seriously, there are some very funny interactions in this game), making you that much more invested in their personal storylines.

The Kraken!

“Using tactics and strategic positioning to overcome a battle… never stops being thrilling and satisfying, and always leaves you wanting more.”

Divinity: Original Sin 2 does lots of things well, but the true star has to be its combat system, and this remains true in the Definitive Edition. The strategic, turn-based combat in the game is utterly compelling, especially as your characters level up and become more and more powerful. Using tactics and strategic positioning to overcome a battle that initially seemed unwinnable (something the game has in spades) never stops being thrilling and satisfying, and always leaves you wanting more. The Definitive Edition also comes with a suite of balance changes, reducing the effectiveness of overpowered builds, buffing underutilised ones, and re-tweaking the armour system in the game (enemies usually have both physical and magical armour that you’ll need to deplete before crowd-controlling skills can work on them). There were already a heap of viable builds available, but the balance changes in the Definitive Edition should mean that there’s an even greater range to choose from and experiment with. The world’s your oyster!

Honestly, I could go on and on about what works about DOS:2, because it is truly sublime. It would be remiss to not also mention some of the game’s quite glaring flaws though. For starters, it can be frustratingly hard, particularly for newcomers to the genre. This is especially true of the first act, when you’re underequipped, underskilled, and managing multiple skill trees and inventory for up to four different characters. On top of that, pretty much everyone you encounter is stronger than you and will almost definitely try to kill you. As a first-timer to the CRPG genre myself, I had to restart the game after about five hours because I had completely botched my builds and simply could not progress further with my hodge-podge characters.

The Definitive Edition tries to remedy this steep difficulty curve. It introduces players more gently into the unforgiving world of Rivellon with a new (optional) tutorial stage that better explains the multitude of mechanics that players will need to rely on. For those that find the difficulty too daunting or are more interested in the story and the world, there is also a new Story mode. This is a more casual difficulty option than the game’s existing “Easy” Explorer mode, and reduces the complexity of fights significantly.

The Journal, which operates as both a quest log and a story-tracker, has also received a complete overhaul. In the original version, the Journal was cumbersome and unhelpful – with the sheer number of quests that you could have running simultaneously, it became very difficult to manage, very quickly. On top of that, a lot of the information was vague, providing little assistance to a player on how to progress a quest. The Definitive Edition addresses these criticisms, reworking the entire Journal to be more intuitive and easily understood, and distinguishing between lore and quest-related entries.

Perhaps the biggest change to the Definitive Edition relates to the story itself. A common complaint from the game’s player base was that the last act suffered from a few pacing issues, slowing things down when it should be ramping them up. One of the six origin characters, the aforementioned pirate dwarf Beast, also had a pretty lackluster story arc when compared with the others. Larian Studios has taken this feedback to heart, adding over 100 000 words to the script which further fleshes out character motivations and key story points.

They’ve also added a few more nasty confrontations into the last act, giving you more opportunities to strategise, dominate, or die. These changes and improvements should definitely prove meaty enough to encourage a new play through for existing fans (if they can spare the odd 80 to 100 hours again – game is LONG), while also providing a more well-paced experience for newcomers.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 Difinitive Edition

Changes to story and gameplay aside, the Definitive Edition does a fine job technically in transitioning from PC to console (side note: the Definitive Edition is also available as a free update to existing owners of the PC version). Apart from slightly longer load times on the PS4, I couldn’t find any noticeable difference in performance between my first play through of Divinity: Original Sin 2 on PC and the Definitive version on PS4. The game still looks and plays beautifully, with only the occasional frame rate drop, usually before an autosave or if the screen is overwhelmed with elemental effects.

The Definitive Edition has also been optimised for controller-play, with very welcome user-interface changes that make it easier to manage your inventory and party members. Keyboard and mouse will always be king for these types of games, but using a controller wasn’t nearly as much of a pain as I thought it would be. Best of all, the Definitive Edition on console allows for two player couch co-op, seamlessly transitioning between shared and split screens if you and a friend decide to explore different parts of the map simultaneously.

Apart from the aforementioned steep learning curve for newbies, my only real complaint with the console adaptation is that the skill bar is still pretty tedious to manage – it was already clumsy even with a mouse and keyboard, and it hasn’t been made much easier to use in the Definitive Edition.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the Definitive Edition of Divinity: Original Sin 2 lives up to its name. Larian Studios have clearly put a lot of effort in to deliver the best possible experience they can for players, and it shows. They’ve polished what was already a remarkable product, implementing significant quality-of-life improvements that directly addresses the original version’s weaknesses. If you have ever had any interest in exploring the harsh, magical and often hilarious world of Rivellon, there really is no better time to do so than now.