Divinity: Original Sin II – Definitive Edition E3 Impression
The first experience E3 served me was a second go-around with one of 2017’s strongest titles: Divinity: Original Sin II. Larian Studios, with the help of Bandai Namco, have brought Divinity: Original Sin II – Definitive Edition to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The transition seems to be as smooth as when Larian performed this same feat several years ago with Divnity: Original Sin – Enhanced Edition. After an interview with Michael Douse, Director of Publishing at Larian Studios, Pascal Tekaia and I got some hands on-time with the Xbox One X version of the game.
The demo starts at the beginning of the game with a group of Sourcerers, chosen from the established six or custom-built, waking aboard a ship headed to Fort Joy. The experience playing side-by-side was seamless, with only occasional stutters while switching between the game’s shared screen and splitscreen mode, which allows players to explore independently of one another. Coming from the PC version, the user interface feels clunkier than the simplicity of point-and-click with a mouse; however it preserves the full utility of the controls for a controller. Perhaps the most useful change is a “Dynamic Ring”, which can be activated by holding the “A” button. The ring forms around the character and pulls up a list of all of the objects and characters that can be interacted with. This is an adequate solution to the minutia players normally deal with; while it can slow down the pace of play, it is not a deal-breaker.
Content-wise, what was available in the demo is the same as what can be found in the PC version. However, Douse says many changes were made to Act III, which did not feature in the demo. He said they were looking to address community feedback of the PC release of Act III, including frustration at the combat encounters and the amount of armor many enemies had. For quick reference, magical and physical armor each acted as an additional health pool that prevented status ailments from afflicting a combatant. When one or both of those pools depleted, characters could become susceptible to the secondary effects of attacks. In the original release of the game, too many enemies featured large amounts of both types of armor, making them strong against many builds. The largest overhaul of Act III is to redesign the combat encounters entirely, removing some fights and adding new ones elsewhere. The entire act was also rewritten and new voice acting was added.
The other issue that was at the forefront of Larian’s mind when working on the Definitive Edition was improving the user experience. Along with the better-than-average controller support mentioned above, the developers looked to address the overwhelming inventory system that held hundreds of items across up to four characters. However, during our hands-on time with the game it did not appear as though this feature was yet implemented or it had been implemented incorrectly, as the two characters shared distinct inventories and we couldn’t figure out how to view each other’s. Functionally, the multiplayer works in the same fashion as the PC version, with two players able to play on the same system and up to four together online. Player’s can jump in and out at any time, taking over for characters currently not in control of the game’s host. Finally, all the features that are new in the Definitive Edition will become available to PC owners as well. Douse was not clear on whether this would coincide with the console release or arrive at a later date.
During our interview, we also asked about the long term plans for Larian Studios. The company is currently focused on the Definitive Edition, so plans for the future are still being considered. While the company plans to support Divinity: Original Sin II until it feels satisfied, there are no plans to support the game with expanded content beyond the Definitive Edition. Douse says that the company prefers for games to have a beginning, middle, and end and that if it have a new idea it would be explored in a new game. While the company is considering Kickstarter for their next project, it also accepts that after a certain amount of success that going to Kickstarter, despite its benefits, has the potential to turn customers and fans away. However, this is a question Larian will have to answer after its done putting the finishing touches on Divinity: Original Sin II – Definitive Edition, which will be available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on August 31, 2018.