Originally released on PC in 2017, Divinity: Original Sin II has finally landed on consoles. Losing none of its charm and depth in the transition, Original Sin II is one of the best RPGs to be found on PlayStation 4.
Newcomers rejoice – Original Sin II is set hundreds of years after the last game, in a fantasy world where magic (known as Source) is outlawed as its use draws monsters into the realm (known as Voidwoken). Waking up aboard a prison ship, fitted with a collar that suppresses your Source, you’re headed to Fort Joy – a comically misleading name for what is essentially Divinity’s Alcatraz. The world is pure Dungeons and Dragons, almost to a fault, following plenty of the genre’s tropes. Throughout your seventy to eighty hour quest, you’ll find that you are chosen (as most RPG heroes are) – you are Godwoken.
What differentiates Original Sin II from its contemporaries, aside from the gameplay, is characterisation and humour. Each dialogue tree is voice-acted impeccably, full of whimsy and witticism. There are genuine chuckles to be had in the first hours of the game, while the more you learn about your party members you’ll find yourself learning to know them as characters. One such example is “The Red Prince”, a Lizard with delusions of grandeur – and an early favourite character. When recruiting party members, you’re able to mould them as you see fit – The Red Prince prefers to use magic, but if you’d rather you can send him into battle with a sword. This allows for a constant sense of choice.
So many characters could be considered as scene-stealers, but you’ll have your own chance to make an impression. Character creation is impressively deep – not necessarily in terms of aesthetic, but in terms of the skill and talent trees, classes and races. Skills are spells that can be assigned to your hotbar for quick use, and talents are passive bonuses. Your class determines the fighting style and some dialogue options, while the race is my favourite section.
In Original Sin II, each race has their own inherent idiosyncrasies that wildly affect gameplay. Playing through the game as a human will see you welcomed in most towns while playing as the Undead means everyone will be terrified of you. This affects gameplay on a systemic level – the Undead cannot heal using potions, but poisons can heal them. They also have to wear a helmet to enter a conversation with someone, even if the said helmet is a bucket – like I say, Original Sin II is nothing without whimsy. Dwarves are better at sneaking, Elves are able to absorb memories from consuming flesh and Lizards are more resistant to fire and poison.
Choice permeates Original Sin II. From every obvious choice such as your starting race (even the option to select which instrument you want to be predominantly featured on the soundtrack), numerous smaller changes trickle down – choices upon choices upon choices. Say the wrong thing in conversation with a particularly angry character and you may find yourself duelling to for survival. Saving a character early in the game could completely change the plot twenty hours later, as could killing someone.
Played entirely from an isometric perspective, the world of Rivellon is full of details both major and minor – tapestries hang from walls, NPCs chatter in the background and there are dozens upon dozens of books to read out in the world. With all this in mind, developer Larian Studios allows players to scan for interactive elements in the game world by holding “X”, cutting the fat of opening every single chest in a room.
While all of the above may sound obtuse at best and downright indecipherable at worst, all players are catered for with a variety of ways to play through the campaign – there are options for more combat, less combat, or just a way to play through the story.
That combat is one of Original Sin II’s biggest elements, full of hidden depth and nuance. Whereas turn-based combat can often seem dry and unexciting, every move matters here. Entering combat with multiple enemies, movement and combat are both tied to the same resource, “action points” – it’s more X-Com than Final Fantasy. There are twists, however, to the formula – take the first battle, for example, you’re fighting alone against two Voidwoken monsters. There’s a patch of poison nearby, and by leading the monsters into it you’re able to set it alight with a molotov cocktail for bonus damage. This escalates as the game progresses – you’ll look for water to electrify, water to freeze or high ground to take. The same rules also apply to your adversaries, so watch out for puddles! That first battle took me two attempts – Divinity pushes back, right from the start, in a way many games either don’t or would be afraid to do so.
If you need help, however, you’re able to play through the entire game in up to four player co-op in online or split-screen. This means clearing rooms of treasure and items is twice as fast, while the game will lean into its tabletop RPG roots by requiring a dice roll if players can’t agree on a decision or dialogue choice.
In the transition from the PC, everything has been mapped effortlessly for the Dualshock 4, making smart use of both triggers to open radial menus and the game also runs at a dynamic PlayStation 4 Pro.
There are some nitpicks, however – the game’s journal has been improved since the original PC release, but it does still give some incredibly nebulous directions for how to complete certain quests, while the PC version’s Game Master mode is (perhaps understandably) absent – it allowed the creation of custom campaigns and scenarios.
All of these barely detract from what is one of the greatest RPGs of this generation, easily able to stand among Game of the Year contenders such as God of War. Original Sin II is a dense, complex and strategic RPG which feels right at home on your home console.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*