Divinity: Original Sin 2 (Definitive Edition PS4) - Still Worth Checking Out Before Baldur's Gate 3?
Divinity Original Sin 2, developed and published by Larian Studios, is one of the longest and most challenging games I’ve played in recent memory. Based on the PSN achievements only about 7% of people who started the game completed it, and there was a handful of times I was ready to throw in the towel myself. In this review, I’ll highlight its strengths and some hurdles you’ll have to persevere through, to help give you a better feeling if you should check out this game now, especially for those waiting for the retail launch of Baulder’s gate 3.
Divinity Original Sin 2, or DOS2 for short, released in Sept of 2017, has great reviews and one of the highest-rated RPGs of this past decade. It has a deeply immersive story, revolving around elements of high fantasy in the world of Revillon, where elves, humans, dwarves, lizards, undead, and dragons are always in conflict, with each other and amongst themselves. While elements such as an oppressive religious order, magic leading to corruption, and the otherworldly void that demons inhabit may not seem new, but Larian studios plays to its strengths by putting player choice at the center of this game. The D&D vibe is brought to the forefront with the inclusion of the Narrator that acts as the dungeon master of sorts. Which you’d think may make it feel less immersive, but it's one of my favorite aspects of the game. Having the Narrator describe the romance scene in explicit detail as your two characters just stand there is adds to the game’s charm and funny moments.
DOS2 is a more traditional RPG similar to Baulder’s gate of Dragon Age: Origins. You can pick your starting race and class, and put together a team to help you along the way or go it alone if you want. The story follows you and your party who are Godwoken, those who are sorcerers with the potential of becoming the next divine, basically the strongest person in the realm utilizing the mysterious power of Source. But the catch is that there can only be one who ascends to the status of the divine, and each of your party members is also on the same path with their own motivations.
The characters in the game are definitely my favorite part, more so than the main story. They each have their own struggles that unfold slowly over the game’s 4 acts. Together with the entertaining dialogue options, their unique stories, and optional romancing choices, by the conclusion talking to each character before the end credits of the game were bittersweet. You have Ifan Ben-mezd who was a loyal soldier for the previous Divine who is searching for answers. The red prince a royal in his own kingdom who has to uncover the plot that took him out of power. Lohse the bard who has a powerful demon possessing her. Syble an elf who was made a captive by the master who she is seeking to kill. Fane an undead searching for clues of his past. And Beast a dwarf whose queen has become more power-hungry. Choose your party wisely, as any not in your immediate party will be inaccessible after the first act. Many choices like this make your actions more impactful.
The combat is also solid, and what you would expect from a turn-based tactical RPG. The order you attack in is based on your initiative stat, and you start each turn with 4 AP that is used when you move, perform spells, or use items. The innovative system here is the pools of vitality, physical armor, and magic armor. Each spell has different effects, such as ice freezing, fire burning, or effects that can change the course of battles such as knockdown effects, or mind control. Seriously there are so many types of status effects, both buffs and debuff that sometimes it's hard to keep track. But these effects are blocked if you have sufficient physical or magic armor. So while you have a lot of spells to replenish vitality, your standard health, it’s more important to keep your physical and magic armor topped off defensively, but also deplete your enemies armors while on the offensive.
That, however, is much easier said than done. Unless you make it a priority to get high initiative when leveling up your characters, you often find yourself ambushed and find yourself stunned or crowd controlled during battle. Each fight is a challenge and the small upgrades in the loot you get for defeating enemies, completing quest chains, and selling items to purchase new loot are made that much more impactful. You will go up against enemies that have a different amount of physical vs magic armor, so the first decision when jumping into the game is your party composition, to favor physical attacks, magic attacks, or a balance of the two. Some battles can be skewed in one direction, like fighting a group of mages with high magic armor and low to no physical armor. But other times you run into the opposite, and often found myself wishing I had a different type of attack or relying on items.
Items, such as scrolls and potions, can prove extremely helpful as they allow other classes to use spells that they haven’t learned from tomes, such as healing or elemental damage. Other than AP there are also Source points that you unlock as you progress through the story, which is used in the most powerful spells, either offensively or defensively. These source points don’t regenerate after each turn as AP does, and you want to save them for more difficult fights, Source points can be stolen from other enemies, but also stolen from you as well.
There is just so much depth to the game, from stat allocation and different abilities, that most modern games have removed for simplicity or adapted for a larger audience. While you can reallocate your stat and skill points after the first act, there is a learning curve or time needed to watch videos to truly understand how to get the most of your levels, as you can easily feel underpowered if you don’t know what you're doing. So with that complexity comes with a lot of trial and error, or looking up information on best builds. The game is always challenging, and not using your points effectively when leveling definitely feels like you are being put at a disadvantage that becomes more apparent as the game progresses.
Since I mentioned the challenge, let's jump into why most people won’t complete this game and why I can’t recommend it for everyone. Even on the normal difficulty, the game is brutally difficult. The beginning of each act can get frustrating as you encounter enemies that are higher level than you that you have no chance against. Often you are ambushed when exploring, and fleeing from battle requires you to get far away from enemies which is difficult to do when you are slowed or surrounded. You learn early on that any enemies more than 1 level higher than you are going to face roll you. So while starting a new act and exploring is what I enjoy in most games, you always need to be mindful of your level and complete quests in a specific order.
On the PS4 the load times to return to a previous save feel way too long. The PS4 version also has many minor inconveniences that I suggest playing the game on the PC. Often I would misclick, by attacking the ground instead of moving to that location, select the wrong unit, or do something that wastes a turn that could mean the difference between life and death. Inventory management feels more tedious, graphics quality is lower, and while the UI is fine there are a lot of functions I forget what is mapped to what buttons.
The game also throws in a variety of puzzles and mechanics that can feel downright unfair, such as enemies exploding barrels of deathfog that can kill you instantly, enemies that respawn or continue to in waves, battles between 2 sets of enemies, and this crazy battle near the end where you have to pull levels in a specific order while enemies attack. If you’re not the type of player who looks up solutions online or reads every single detail in the game, there are quite a few points where you may just quit out of frustration.
The game is also extremely long, taking me over 100 hours to beat, which I felt was necessary because, in order to succeed by the last act, you need enough experience from completing all the side missions and money from finding/selling items in order to be strong enough to get through the story missions. After the first act and always feeling under-leveled going into the next act, I felt required to complete all side missions by looking at online guides to make sure I got all the experience and items available to even stand a chance. The last 30 hours felt like a drag and my motivation was more about not wasting the time I’ve already spent on the game versus enjoying the experience. But for those knowing that you can easily spend 200+ hours on a second playthrough with different builds, characters, and experimenting with systems like crafting which I ignored, will find a lot of value here.
While Divinity Original Sin 2 deserves all the praise it has received, it’s definitely not for everyone. While providing a lot of choices, deep mechanics, interesting characters, and quests, it’s not as user friendly and expects players to learn things on their own through experimentation or rely on online communities. I often feel most games are too easy so it's rare to see games like these that don’t hold your hand, making getting to the end all the more significant.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. I hope this review was helpful or found it interesting. Let me know by leaving a comment, like, or sub if you’d like to see more content from this channel in the future. And until next time...