Divinity: Original Sin 2 Definitive Edition Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC and Microsoft Xbox One
Playing a role playing game with friends, rolling dice, pretending to be some fantastical character and going on adventures is a feeling that is incredibly hard to replicate in a video game. The freedom offered by your imagination is considerably more impressive than anything a digital game can offer, it'd be incredibly hard to program for everything a player wants to do and as such RPGs tend to lean into more linear and restrictive affairs.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 was already a truly exceptional experience, one that allows the player to define how they play through it, it is all about the systems in place and how you choose to use them. It's the closest to having free reign in a game that this style of game has come. The interaction of the various elements somehow works exactly as you'd expect, if you want to play a high strength character how throw heavy objects at enemies instead of using weapons you can. If you want to mix and match skills until you are a shape-shifting undead lizard ninja, well then you can do that too.
The ability to play as whoever you want is one strength, the fact that you can choose to play as one of six original characters is another. Each one of them fantastically fleshed-out fascinating figures finding or fumbling their way through their own fables. Every origin character carves their own path through the overarching story, each one having unique character or background interactions that help some of the different stories you come across feel uniquely built around them. Somehow Larian Studios have balanced having a handcrafted story and world, that feels like an open and fully interactive world. The combination of complete freedom and a brilliantly told story is sublime.
While exploration is all in real-time the battles are turn-based; it is also where the game offers some of the best experiences. Your stats will define the style of character you have, strength for heavy weapons, finesse for back stabs or bows, intelligence for dramatic spells from different elements. You can mix and match of course, but if you go down one path you'll find your damage output being much higher. You weapon dictates some of the skills and their scaling, while the warfare skill is meant for two-handed swords and giant battle axes, it can be used with a magical staff if you want to be a battlemage. Once again, the customisation potential is phenomenal and allows for a different experience in each playthrough.
You'll want to see the game more than once too, seeing the different characters interacting with the world is fascinating, challenges that were impossible previously can easily be overcome if you happen to have the right person in your midst. When you factor in the various difficulty levels, one of which being a hardcore mode where if your team gets wiped your save file suffers the same fate, that's when you realise you might not need another game for some time. One of the downfalls of this kind of game is that it is a single-player experience, which isn't a bad thing by any means at all, but sometimes you want to share the fun with friends. I have some good news for you; you can play the entire game in co-op online or offline and all be in charge of your own characters. Truly Divinity is the gift that keeps on giving.
The controls have been mapped to fit on a controller nicely, despite being at home on a keyboard everything feels just as natural using analogue sticks and buttons. Guiding your character through the world is incredibly easy and even inventory management is surprisingly efficient. The hotbar integration is an essential part of this which is fully customisable and allows the player to make their regular actions easy to access. There are actually several hotbars as well, this means if you want to keep all of your buffs on one of them and all of your area-of-effect attacks on another than you can, good news for the neat freaks out there.
Visually everything is either beautiful, or grotesque, it really depends on where you are and how messed up everything is at the time. Bloodmoon island remains an incredibly unsettling area, covered in viscera and grotesque displays of the morbid tastes the inhabitants posses. Where as Arx is still a magnificent sprawling city filled with backroads and secrets, more so now than ever. You see for this version a lot of this act has been reworked in order to better match the high standards set by the rest of the game. You can now prepare yourself for an unrelentingly enjoyable experience throughout, one that will pull you into it's characters and lore.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Definitive Edition is, frankly, a better version of an already tremendous game. The fact that console players can finally immerse themselves in this fantasy world is a wonderful thing, the fact that it has been done with so few issues puts that achievement on a completely different level. The writing and voice acting make every character feel truly alive and even the merchants have stories to tell. You'll want to examine every single stone when venturing through this magnificent experience and you'll probably find a quest under some of them anyway. Whether alone or with friends, this is the best CRPG you can play and you're doing yourself a disservice if you let it pass you by.