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And now, let's talk about Original Sin II's tactical turn-based combat. After all, this is your main way of conflict resolution in this game.
For the most part, if you played Original Sin, you'll find the sequel's combat to be quite cozy and familiar. During your turns you spend Action Points to do direct damage, inflict status effects and create various elemental synergies, and then you hope to survive your enemies doing the same to you.
Important to note here, is that Action Points work slightly different now and are based around a system where everyone starts with 4 AP and then gets them all back on their following turn. With most skills costing a set amount of AP, this creates a bit of a weird situation where stabbing someone with a dagger costs 2 AP and swinging a giant axe costs 2 AP as well, and both an agile rogue and a heavily armoured fighter can perform roughly the same number of actions per turn. You quickly get used to this, however, and it starts to feel quite natural.
A great change since the previous game is the added verticality in level design. Wherever you go, you can find a variety of ledges, rickety old structures, and low walls that all add a whole new layer to combat that was previously absent. Learning to think in three dimensions will transform you from someone who struggles with the combat into a true master of Divinity who always has the high ground.
And trust me, you'll need it. I played through the campaign on the Tactician difficulty and that was quite a challenge. I had to constantly reevaluate my strategies, use consumable items with no regard to the "too good to use" syndrome, and attempt many fights multiple times in order to win.
However, this is a game from Larian Studios and it employs Larian's signature difficulty curve, where you start extremely weak and everything is out to get you. But as the game progresses and you get more levels, skills, and your understanding of the game grows, things become much easier, and by the time you finish your journey, you're cutting through enemies like a knife through butter. So, if you're looking for something even more challenging than what the Tactician mode has to offer, you can also try the Honour mode that imposes Ironman rules on top of the Tactician difficulty.
On the other side of the spectrum, if something feels too difficult, you can always look for ways to cheese the system, so to speak, as the game provides plentiful opportunities to do so. How about teleporting the enemy leader away from his subordinates, beating him up while he's separated, and then fleeing from combat, only to later regroup, return, and deal with the remaining foes? After all, no one has as many friends as the man with many cheeses.
With multiple weapon types, skills and spell schools that synergize with one another, an abundance of consumable foods, grenades and potions, and a great encounter design, Original Sin II's combat is nothing short of spectacular. Or at least it would have been, if not for one thing. Armour.
You see, unlike Original Sin, both your characters and your foes have Physical and Magic Armour. And here's the thing – in order to inflict any sort of status effect, you first have to destroy your opponents corresponding armour type. To knock them down you'll have to go through physical, and to set them on fire, you'll need to preemptively destroy their magic shields.
And herein lies my biggest issue with Original Sin II's combat – armour makes no sense. Why would you create such a robust system of synergistic status effects, but then make it so that you can't use any of them for the majority of the fight? In order to do anything you will want to load up on destructive abilities to get through armour as fast as possible, but once you do, it's much easier to just keep bursting your enemies down, rather than trying anything creative.
Things do get better in the later stages of the game where your characters can destroy the armour of their enemies in a few hits and not turns, and they themselves can take a bit of punishment and don't get stunned if a light breeze blows in their general direction. At that point the armour system becomes less obnoxious and even grows on you a bit.
However, even with armour in mind, the combat has a lot to offer and there's a lot of versatility to it. In fact, after beating the game with a party geared towards dealing physical damage and turning enemies into chickens, I realized that I didn't get enough of Original Sin II. Right now, I'm thinking about a new party, one that consists of spellcasting shock troopers who wield magic wands and shields, and shower their foes with various elemental spells without doing any physical damage at all.
And this kind of metagaming and theorycrafting is exactly what makes an RPG system attractive to me, to the point of wanting to replay the game solely on the basis of trying something new with its combat. Pair this with a desire to experience another Origin story and try a different approach with some of the game's quests, and a new play-through is all but assured.
And now that we've opened that can of worms with the armour system, let's take a close look at all the other things I found lacking with Original Sin II. After all, reading the review up to this point, you might have thought that the game was pretty much perfect. This is not the case, of course.
Larian Studios feels pretty strong about randomized loot in their games, and I can certainly understand where they're coming from – when you have random loot, opening every chest is exciting, since you never know what you may find. And pairing that randomness with abundant unique pieces of gear sure seems like a great compromise.
The issue with Original Sin II's loot is in the game's linear gear progression, and how much of a difference a level or two can make. When that unique set of armor, you've spent hours trying to collect, is suddenly obsolete and blown out of the water by any common piece of garbage you find two levels later, you feel cheated, like you have wasted your time. And if you are to enjoy Original Sin II, you will just have to make peace with its neverending pursuit of better gear.