Divinity: Original Sin 2 official artwork of the various characters

As a big fan of Divinity: Original Sin I knew from the start that I would have a grand time with Original Sin 2, but what I didn't expect is that it would surpass its predecessor in so many ways. The story is vastly superior, the followers are so interesting its almost impossible to choose only three of them, the world is much more reactive and exciting to explore, and most importantly, the combat has somehow managed to become even better!

So if you're interested in learning more about Divinity: Original Sin 2 and why I found it so enthralling, allow me to give you my thoughts after spending well over two weeks wondering through its world. And don't worry about spoilers, I'll only use general or early-game examples when it comes to talking about the story. 

Divinity: Original Sin 2 screenshot of a dialogue with Buddy the dog

Any RPG that lets you insult a talking dog's math skills is an RPG worth playing

The first thing I do with any RPG is check whether it allows me to create a hybrid class, more specifically a combination of a fighter and a mage, a battle wizard if you will. Original Sin 2 instantly got on my good side here because it not only supports a variety of hybrid classes, but one of the pre-built ones was exactly the archetype I was looking for! This freedom of choice is perhaps Original Sin 2's best feature as it allows you to create just about any character you wish. Do you want to play a ranger that dabbles in pyromancy and shapeshifting? No problem! Do you want a rogue that can teleport all over the place and use air magic to blind his opponents in order to get easy backstabs? Again, no problem! You can even play a true jack-of-all trades and put a couple of skill points into every single talent in the game. It might not be as powerful as a pure build, but you could easily finish the game with such a character, purely through the power of adaptability.

Besides choosing your combat style, the character creation process also requires you to pick a race and appearance. I'm not exactly happy with the amount of choices we have in terms of appearance, mostly because half of them look like they've been playing the 'catch a brick with your face' game, but since Original Sin 2 is played from a top-down point of view I suppose its not that big of a deal. What is a big deal, however, is the ability to choose from a bunch of pre-set character backstories and motivations. These are the storylines your companion characters will undertake throughout the campaign, and as such they are guaranteed to be filled with intriguing dialogue, interesting characters, and plenty of plot twists. So if you can't figure out what sort of character you want to be, grab one of the pre-set ones as they all offer an amazing experience!

Divinity: Original Sin 2 screenshot of the Red Prince character creator

Assuming the identity of one of your 'followers' is a great idea, and one that I hope to see more of in the future

If you want to have a standard RPG experience, however, you should go with the somewhat generic Human or Dwarf. On the other hand, if you want something a bit more... unique you should go with either an Elf or Undead. The Elves mostly play like you classic RPG race, though with one key difference: they are cannibals! They do this because they are capable of absorbing the memories and knowledge of those they eat, and while they aren't a barbaric race its easy to see why nobody in their right mind will trust an Elf from the get-go. While you won't be the most popular guy around, the ability to acquire knowledge or information from discarded body parts is a remarkably helpful thing, and something I made constant use of throughout my playthrough. Its a little bit disgusting, and it probably won't make you any new friends, but its still a cool idea as it makes an Elf playthrough just a bit different than the rest.

If the cannibalistic Elves are just not your thing, don't worry as the Undead provide a different yet equally weird experience. First of all, they are empowered by poison and damaged by healing magic, so that alone means you'll have to specifically adjust your party in order to avoid copious amounts of friendly fire. Secondly, people see you as a terrifying monster and will most likely panic if you were to approach them! So if you're not a fan of having the city guards chase you all over the place you will need to cover your skeletal body in armor or robes to not draw suspicion, which might not always be ideal depending on your character build. As you can plainly see, none of these little pros and cons are so crazy that they will completely dictate the course of your playthrough, but they do add some very distinct flavor and make the whole journey just a bit more exciting.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 screenshot of the Elf character creator

Hmm, I think can understand why people think my character might want to eat them...

Now that I've spent far too long detailing minute elements only I am probably interested in, its time to jump into the most important part of Original Sin 2 - the combat. On first glance it looks like your standard 3D turn-based affair, but delving even slightly below the surface reveals a variety of features that make this one of the best turn-based combat systems I've seen in quite a few years. That might sound like an exaggeration, but I'm being completely honest here - it really is one of the best!

The way it works is that you can perform multiple actions per turn, but everything you do uses up Action Points (AP) which regenerate in bulk each turn, so there is a definitive advantage to having superior positioning over your enemies. You want them to waste as much AP on movement as possible, all the while spending as much of your turn as possible shelling them with fireballs. Since you can't always control where fights occur, characters with high mobility, teleportation, or crowd-control spells are often more useful than raw damage, which is not exactly a common scenario in RPGs.

So if you're like me and you love picking those weird spells such as "Blind" or "Fortify", you'll be glad to hear that Original Sin 2 allows you to make great use out of them! Combine this with the ability to have your characters dabble in just about any school of magic or fighting, and you've got yourself a combat system with a ridiculous amount of possibilities. Best of all, the same rules apply to both you and your enemies, so despite the combat being quite challenging it never feels unfair. No matter what the AI hits you with, you can always return the favor... with interest!

Divinity: Original Sin 2 allows for powerful elemental combos

Original Sin 2 allows you to use just about anything to your advantage, even small puddles of water

While most of the combat system is similar to Original Sin, the sequel brought with it one tiny little addition that pushes it far above its predecessor: physical and magical armor! You're probably thinking I'm crazy for celebrating a boring mechanic like armor, but what Original Sin 2 does with it is far more interesting than simply reducing damage by a percentage - it lets you completely ignore it, along with all of the negative effects that come with such abilities! So if an enemy wants to stun or damage your highly armored tank, they're going to have to 'waste' their turns by destroying his armor first, all the while accomplish pretty much nothing of any real value.

This not only makes tanky characters viable, but it also gives the combat system an additional layer of depth. Spamming your most powerful spells and curses on cooldown is simply not a winning strategy, you have to account for enemy armor and play around it. Sometimes this will even mean focusing on the tankiest enemy first, a common mistake in other RPGs, purely because you need to strip them of their armor in order to unleash a hail of crowd-control spells to prevent them from messing up your back line. I never expected such a basic system like armor to offer so much, but as I went further and further into Original Sin 2 I only became more and more impressed with how much better it made the battles feel, especially ambushes!

The one and only problem I have with the combat is that enemies can sometimes get lost in all of the visual spectacle. A flaming skeleton is easy to see, but a flaming skeleton standing alongside three other flaming skeletons in the middle of a flaming patch of oil is an absolute nightmare. Even with the specially designed key to highlight enemies its sometimes impossible to find your targets, which can lead to some highly frustrating moments where the enemies just seemingly pop into existence right in front of you. This can easily be fixed by making the enemy outlines contrast more against the background, and I certainly hope the developers will do just that as its an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise superb combat system.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 screenshot full of way too many special effects

The visual effects are great, but after a while the battlefield just turns into a proper mess

Given how good combat was in Original Sin I'm sure very few of you are surprised to hear that its even better in Original Sin 2, but the following might just come as a bit of a shock: the story is actually interesting! The original, uhh... Original Sin had an utterly cheesy storyline that felt like playing through a checklist of everything that makes a generic RPG narrative, so I'm very glad to say that Original Sin 2 takes itself a lot more seriously while still being able to crack a joke every now and then. It still has a bit of a problem with timing as you'll occasionally encounter situations where highly emotional and somber scenes are followed by intentionally terrible jokes, but its still leagues ahead of its predecessor and highly enjoyable in its own right.

Similar improvements have happened to the companions as well. They were a fun bunch to hang around with in Original Sin, but in Original Sin 2 they are so full of personality that I genuinely struggled to choose only three to accompany me. All of them have distinct backstories and motivations, great writing and voice acting, intriguing side-missions and general interactions, as well as a whole bunch of comments throughout the campaign that offer a great insight into their personality. Original Sin 2 might be best in 4-player co-op, but if you're like me and you opt to go in solo, worry not as the companions you'll meet are an excellent substitute and well worth getting involved with.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 screenshot of Ifan Ben-Mezd

Ifan might look completely generic, but he's one of the most heartfelt characters out there

Much like the companions, the world in Original Sin 2 is vastly more interesting to explore. Instead of starting in a boring ol' town where you spend your first 2 hours without any action, Original Sin 2 provides you with a variety of different quests, points you at the door, and sets you free to do whatever you want. You can go sneak around in order to gather information, declare war on the entire town and beat up all of the guards, run around the island looking for treasure, or just talk to a variety of interesting NPCs which usually leads to hidden quests or extra piles of loot.

But whatever you do, make sure you're aware that your actions have consequences! If you anger the local guards you're going to be the public enemy number one and nobody is going to want to talk to you, whereas helping someone important will go a long way towards making your life easier. This doesn't just apply to quests, however, it applies to everything! If you randomly attack someone or steal from them, they will rightly hate you. On the other hand, if you use a powerful healing spell on a dying man he's going to be beyond ecstatic once he gets up, and will be quite eager to offer any help that he can. All of this makes Original Sin 2's world feel alive and ever-changing, which goes a long way towards helping immersion and getting players invested in all of the various characters. 

The final thing I simply have to mention are the secrets. Original Sin 2 is not one of those games that gives you two branching paths, one leading to a boss and the other to treasure, and then pretends you found a secret when you explore both of them. No, no, it demands you work for your loot! Chests and powerful equipment can be hidden just about anywhere: behind fake walls, on top of steep cliffs you can only reach through teleportation, buried deep underground, hidden inside a devious puzzle, or just standing in the middle of a well-lit room like the most obvious trap in all of existence. Sometimes it even tries to fake you out by giving you an expensive item, only to hide an even better one just out of reach so you hopefully move on thinking you've found everything! The secrets, much like Original Sin 2 as a whole, respect your intelligence and perseverance as a player, and for that I simply must praise it!

Divinity: Original Sin 2 screenshot of a character reacting to being healed

You can heal wounds, but unfortunately you can't heal stupidity

Closing Thoughts

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is without a doubt one of the best RPGs I have played in quite a few years. The storyline is genuinely interesting to follow, the characters are full of great dialogue and excellent voice acting, the combat is one of the best examples of turn-based strategy I've ever seen, the visuals are downright gorgeous at times, and the world is so reactive that it actually feels somewhat alive. Playing through it these past two weeks has been an amazing journey for me, and one that I am eager to experience once more in the near future. So if you're a fan of either turn-based strategy or RPGs as a whole, I would heartily recommend you give Original Sin 2 a try - it really is deserving of all the praise!

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