Video Game Reviews

Divinity: Original Sin II: Roll for Initiative

Divinity: Original Sin II is a tactical turn-based RPG which, if you hadn’t guessed, is the second game in the Divinity series. It was developed by Larian Studios and published by Larian Studios and BANDAI NAMCO.

The story revolves around your character, who is a sourcerer (a person who can manipulate source: the wellspring of all life). Unfortunately, the use of source has been outlawed, as it tends to attract horrible otherworldly monstrosities known as the Voidwoken.

In order to save the masses from these bloodthirsty creatures, an organization known as the Divine Order has rounded up every known sourcerer, collared them with anti-source collars, and dumped them on a prison island… which means that you’ve been dumped on a prison island. So, it’s up to you to escape the island and claim your destiny.

Divinity Original Sin II (henceforth referred to as DOS2 because I’m not typing that every single time) was on my radar for quite some time. I really enjoyed what I played of the original game, and tactical turn-based games are some of my favorites. It’s also one of Vii’s favorite game types, and it’s been nice to be able to play something together.

Now, having played over one-hundred and sixty hours of DOS2, I can definitively say that it should be on everyone’s radar. It’s been a long time since a game was able to hold my interest for that long…

It’s also been a long time since I’ve played a game that required that kind of time commitment. So, if you’re going to play this one, first and foremost, make sure that you have the time.

I did not do this.

 So, if you were wondering where we were for the month-long hiatus we recently took, the answer was “Playing Divinity”…

Actually, the answer is probably still “Playing Divinity”.

It’s a long-ass game.

Anyway, there is probably too much to cover when doing a review of this game. So, I’m just going to skip a major swath of this review by saying this: The story is amazing, the characters are great, the voice acting is well done, and the writing is hilarious.

For the rest of this review I’ll do my best to be concise and give you, what I think, are the best/most interesting parts of this massive and amazing game.

Have It Your Way

DOS2 is a very open ended game, at least as far as how you wish to accomplish your quest objectives and mission goals. This is because DOS2 is about as close to actual Dungeons and Dragons as is possible within the confines of a video game. So, the creators wanted you to have a fair amount of agency as far as how you completed objectives.

As an example, there is a small labyrinth near the beginning of the game that serves as an obstacle to an abandoned wizard’s tower. Now, you could go straight through the front door and go full escape room on the labyrinth, making sure to solve every puzzle so that you can come out proud on the other side. Or, you could find a ring that the guardian of the labyrinth recognizes and he’ll just let you through…

Or you could do what my wife and I did. 

We went around to the backside of the tower and used a teleportation spell to jump across the water to a nearby section of beach. From there, you can climb some vines, and then it’s just a matter of walking around to the tower’s entrance.

Basically, there is more than one way to untie a knot.

I will add, however, that it is not a perfect system.

Sometimes, you get tired of completing a quest, only to walk around and find the seven other ways you could have approached it… and more often than not the other methods would have been easier and given you more loot.

I mean, it’s nice to know that there were other options available, but when you’ve slain a beast in an epic battle, it’s a little weird to walk around and find a guy handing out beast-killing swords.

Divide and Conquer 

The freedom of choice that is offered in your approach to any given mission also applies to combat. 

DOS2 uses a pretty standard AP (action point) system for combat. Each character starts off with four action points, and can use those points to move or perform spells and abilities. While none of that is earth-shattering, it’s the way that all of this is implemented that makes it so special.

First of all, you can have up to four characters in your party at any given time. Again, nothing too special there. What sets DOS2 apart is the fact that you don’t have to have all of your characters engaged in combat at the same time. This means that you can have two people fighting in the town square while the other two are shopping, or investigating a murder.

I’d play CSI: Rivellon

It also means that you can engage in combat in any way you choose. If you happen to start combat with one character and the rest of your team is considered out of combat, you can move them around to ambush the enemy from all sides. Or you could go and find a bunch of exploding barrels and bring them with you into combat. 

The ability for each of your characters to be doing something different allows for some pretty crazy situations. This is especially true with local and online co-op. You can play with up to three friends to really take advantage of the game’s systems.

A Classier Class of Class

Piggybacking on all this freedom are character classes.

So, very succinctly, there are a number of character “classes” in DOS2. I say “classes” with quotes like that because there are really no classes in the game, just combat abilities. 

You can put points into Warfare, a skill set that allows you to do warrior stuff, but that doesn’t mean you need to specialize in this by any means. You could, though, and you would be a really good warrior, but you would lack the utility of someone who diversifies their build.

I wonder what he put HIS points into…

The reason diversity of character is so important is because of the innumerable ways in which combat can unfold. Which leads us to…

The Cacophony of Combat

You see, combat in DOS2 has a number of things that make encounters both endearingly intricate and incomprehensibly complicated. These can be boiled down into three-ish categories: 

  • Surfaces
  • Clouds
  • Status Effects & Armor

I will do my best not to bore you to death with the minutiae of each, but I’ll try and provide some context. 

Surfaces are basically elements that have been applied to any given floor space. This means the floor can be covered in fire; oil; blood; water; electrified oil, blood, or water; poison; or ice. Each of these surface types has a different effect, and has different interactions with other types of surfaces. As a quick example, fire surfaces will ignite oil and poison surfaces, but will be put out by water and blood surfaces. 

Clouds are the result of different spells or the effects of different surfaces interacting with one another. They have the same relative properties of surfaces, but will also block line of sight, adding an extra layer of complexity to any given fight.

The final category is twofold.  Armors and status effects are important because they can affect, and be affected by, clouds and surfaces. 

Basically, there are two types of armor: physical and magical. Every status effect can be blocked by one of the two types. So, in order to apply any status effects to enemies, or for them to apply status effects to you, the requisite armor type needs to be broken. 

Like so.

This means that you should always size up your opponents and decide which type of armor you want to break first, so that you can get the most out of your status effects.

OOC or Original Origin Character

Just because I really enjoyed them, I wanted to touch quickly on the game’s Origin characters, which are basically premade characters you can choose during character creation. These Origin characters have their own voice lines and dialog options, and their story lines are inextricably linked to the game’s main storyline.

You can, of course, make your own character(s) to play with, which is nice. But you can still have the Origin characters on your team, and as long as you let them, they can still play out their storyline while you are on your grand adventure. 

While it’s not necessary to use an Origin character, or have them on your team, having them with you adds a bit of punch to story points that might have felt a little impersonal, or otherwise fallen flat.

From Whence It Came 

Overall, Divinity Original Sin II is an astonishingly good game. I may have already mentioned that “the story is amazing, the characters are great, the voice acting is well done, and the writing is hilarious,” but the level of freedom you have to create your character and engage both combat and exploration in almost any way you could want elevates an already good game to one of the greatest RPG’s of all time. 

Of course, I’m not saying it’s perfect. There are some issues with bugs. It can be hard to target things properly. Sometimes things lag for an unacceptable amount of time, and occasionally the audio is either off or missing.

All that being said, I’m still giving DOS2 a Divine 9.5/10. Larian Studios went above and beyond in creating this beautiful unicorn of an RPG, and I hope they will continue to do so for many years to come.

Hopefully, by the time they come out with their next game, I’ll finally be finished with this one.