The Flaws of Divinity: Original Sin II

This is a compilation of the various issues of Divinity: Original Sin 2 that I’ve noticed over the course of multiple in-depth playthroughs. I waited until the ‘big patch’ Larian had teased for well over a week, that was sent out almost a month after release, but it seems that it did little to abate the vast majority of issues.
I have elected to upload this in an easier to read format than WordPress HERE on GoogleDocs if the slight changes made to accommodate this webstyle bother you.

I’ve chosen this format because trying to engage in a detailed discussion or explanation of each issue and how it relates to other segments of the game, even describing the elements of broad categories like Character Building and Combat, becomes a monolithic task that quickly spirals to multi-page proportions.

Each category below represents a different impact and severity that the issues pose; with Systemic Flaws causing issues with large segments of the game and Minor Flaws contributing to more specific areas or being self-contained problems.

These criticisms are leveled at the game as a whole, and do not usually reference the Origins Campaign specifically; these criticisms come not only from me as a player, so please treat these as also from the perspective of someone who would use the current content available to make their own campaigns with the studio-provided tools.

And no, “Mods can fix it” isn’t an excuse for anything listed below.

 

Systemic Flaws in Divinity: Original Sin 2

These are flaws in the game that have a deep, resounding impact that generates numerous other issues, cripples other systems and mechanics, and are generally responsible for a great number of problems in the game.

  1. The Initiative System is nonfunctional.
    Round-Robin Initiative defeats the purpose of Initiative/Wits investment and has produced many other issues. Almost all relevant mechanics seem to still rely on and indicate the previous system, and the new system is not explained anywhere.
  2. The Armor System is boring and underutilized.
    There needs to be more agency involved in investing in armor, and more things that interact with the armor of yourself, allies, and foes; numerous issues in functionality and balance are produced from this one mechanic’s current implementation in addition to just being a bore.
  3. HP/Damage scaling is exponential and detracts heavily.
    Scaling needs to be scaled back quite significantly; currently it produces a major gear cycling trend, ruins the gameplay of the second half, devalues unique items to worthlessness and many more issues.
  4. Random Loot Generation is broken, shallow, and overrepresented.
    Random loot makes up the vast majority of items and power progression, is out of place in a game with limited wealth and encounters, has generic and nonsensical item generation that also hampers class selection, and provides very, very little other than stat bumps and economic issues.
  5. Character Building has been overly streamlined and unbalanced.
    Most Talents need to be reworked from the ground up. Attributes are reduced to damage investment with a Memory Slot tax. The Abilities vary wildly in quality and have their own bedlam of errors. There’s so little depth or choice and so many issues here it could be a list itself.
  6. The User-Interface needs many improvements.
    Consumable items and learned abilities automatically assign themselves to your hotbar,  managing your inventory is an absolute pain, using containers is buggy and incredibly slow, sorting is underdeveloped, investing points is instant and permanent; there’s a lot of issues that need ironing out and QoL changes that need to be made. For Combat UI you only get a single cycleable hotbar and cannot cast from spellbook like the previous game.
  7. The AP System is painfully restricted.
    You start with very little AP and there is no gain or development of AP throughout the game, outside of a small handful of consumable items, a trio of talents, and a three~ statuses; which is a huge downgrade from the previous game, of which AP management was a huge part and has left a painfully unfilled void in the mechanics.

Decline

It wasn’t perfect, but it certainly beat “+5% Base Damage”.

 

Major Flaws in Divinity: Original Sin 2

These are flaws in the game that are noticeable themselves and have a significant impact on the game and potentially other mechanics and systems, or are otherwise prominent enough to deserve attention as a larger flaw in the game.

  1. The AI is riddled with issues.
    NPCs often take Opportunity Attack-triggering steps to make melee attacks and touch spells, will randomly change targets, abandon advantageous terrain, kill themselves on terrain effects, and abuse Loremaster so heavily that player weaknesses are overexposed; and many, many more small problems that add up.
  2. Source as a Mechanic is pointless.
    Source is freely available between encounters, just like restoring health and armor; it only serves to attach a grocery trip to a series of absolutely broken abilities, including abilities that had no such mechanic attached in D:OS1.It also double-dips with the increasingly pointless once-per-fight restrictions on many Source Abilities.
  3. Combat Skill & Ability balance needs an overhaul.
    The balance between abilities is an absolute joke, and the scaling issues only exacerbate the problem. The majority of abilities are have or have-not, with only a few being situational or niche and build-enabled. Source abilities are the end of the game’s challenge.
  4. Tactician Mode needs to be expanded upon.
    Tactician Mode only has a few token changes to encounters, and does not drastically alter the game to be a more challenging experience. It only introduces number bloat outside of small encounter changes, and it does not provide a meaningfully different or difficult playthrough.
  5. There is no Aesthetic control.
    Players end up looking like clowns while assembling piecemeal equipment due to the randomly generated item monopoly. There are no Visual-only slots for items, and only helmets can be toggled. Item dyes are present but are vestigial.
  6. Equipment diversity is lacking.
    Weapon types are not differentiated from one another, armor types are simply a numbers shift between armor types. Equipment skills are very shallow and there are a pitiful amount of them compared to what was implied.
  7. Terrain Effects (and traps) are forgotten.
    Compared to D:OS1, Terrain effects deal pitiful amounts of damage and are stopped wholesale by armor outside of Oil’s Slow and Ice’s slapstick. Terrain effects are changed too much and too often by even basic attacks and you have so little battlefield control potential with the initiative system, to the point where any setup terrain is volatile or gone within 2-3 actions.
  8. Summoning is restrictive and has lopsided support.
    Despite the presence of a dedicated Summoning Class, summons are still linked 1:1 with party members, and the Summoning Ability dramatically overshadows all summons from other skill trees (barring one or two exceptionally unbalanced examples) or makes them absolutely broken when used in conjuction with it.
  9. Chain-CCing hasn’t been properly accounted for.
    Chain-CCing every foe from slugs to bosses is still the dominant strategy. There are no after-Stun immunity periods, and seldom few creatures have CC immunities, resistances and weaknesses. Choosing not to use Stun effects leads to wildly unbalanced encounters with over-scaled foes.
  10. Status Effects are smothered.
    Numerous minor statuses are blocked by Armor, and many status effects have effects that scale poorly or are outright useless. Utility, debuff, and resistance-altering effects are either removed or blocked by armor; at which point they are overshadowed by stun combos or outright death.
  11. Persuasion is unclear.
    The exact mechanics behind Persuasion and dialogue checks are an enigma, and are an absolute crapshoot for the vast majority of players. Dialogue is a central feature of D:OS2 so this ambiguity is frustrating and confusing.
  12. The Quest Log is broken.
    Quests fail after being completed, frequently become impossible to complete, constantly give out-of-order hints or entries, or otherwise becomes arcane, incorrect, or incomprehensible. This carries on into the Epilogue of the game, which is haphazard and comedically incorrect. Updates have been released to fix this, but it’s still overwhelmingly broken.
  13. Risk Management is gone…
    Elements such as accuracy, ability success, and so on have been removed or drastically reduced in impact. This is not an error in theory, but currently many core aspects of the game are frustratingly deterministic, to the point where there is little to no risk or chance to strategize around.
  14. …But RNG remains.
    In spite of the numerous efforts related to the above point to reduce RNG and savescum-enabling mechanics, many random chance and otherwise RNG-based mechanics and systems exist, including some terrain effects, critical hits, equipment features and generation, and many more smaller mechanics.
  15. Widespread lack of support in character building.
    Single-Handed, Non-Caster Tanks, Spears, Necromancy and many other builds or available choices are disappointing or are outright crippling trap options to specialize in due to a lack of support available.
  16. Crafting is crippled.
    Crafting recipes still rely on oddly specific and confusingly scarce and expensive ingredients. Crafting material bloat as at an all-time high. Crafted equipment is worthless and the vast majority of craftable consumables are subpar at best. Alchemical crafting is an especially arduous offender. There is no way to convert the large breadth of items into a sensible amount of more universal crafting materials like many other systems.
  17. Line of Sight & Pathing are underdeveloped.
    There is no way to preview your line-of-sight on your turns, and pathing must be done manually in the presence of just about any terrain effect or obstacle, but especially around Opportunist foes. AI know what their LoS will be with any movement, allowing them to pull off frustratingly insane shots; whereas a player trying to line up the perfect shot over cover/height cannot.
  18. Cursed Terrain overshadows the Terrain mechanic.
    The amount that Cursed drastically overshadows and nullifies the lovingly crafted Terrain and Elemental mechanics is disappointing. Terrain setups, beneficial terrain, etc are all thrown out the window with Cursed spreading wildly and turning the entire map into a hazard.
  19. Accidental Felony is at an all-time high.
    It is still incredibly easy to accidentally loot an owned object, use an owned object, or move an owned object (or even just move or damage something within sight of the AI). There is no toggle available to enable/disable criminal acts.
  20. Players are punished for tackling content out of order.
    Level penalties applied to gear, viscous scaling, and other factors discourage players from freely exploring and instead focusing on finding the crumb trail like good little mice.
  21. Stealth is completely broken.
    You can be spotted out of LoS, enemies will always search out a stealthed combatant, the AP cost prohibits its use almost entirely, invisibility is a crapshoot, and AI ‘attention shifting’ will mass-break stealth (Ex: When someone attacks an NPC in combat, huge swathes of areas will be ‘seen’, sometimes including behind the NPC).
  22. Civil Skills are scarce and of wildly varying importance.
    Some skills are significantly more important than others, where some are forgettable, others are nigh-absolutely necessary to every party. The shallow pool of points means that most characters should only ever specialize in one at a time until deep in the game, where small investments in them are pointless.
  23. Cooldowns are prohibitive.
    Ways to reduce your cooldowns are nearly as scarce as AP manipulation, despite this being a mechanic in the previous game. Many abilities still seem to be balanced around this (or just straight ported from D:OS1) or the EA’s spell cooldown reduction.
  24. Description Tooltips are constantly misinformative.
    Ability tooltips frequently do not state requirements, state the wrong scaling or do not inform you of weapon-based scaling, lack information on terrain interactions, and so on. Even status tooltips are infected with minor errors or incorrect descriptions.
  25. Defensive Skills are a mere shadow.
    Armor and Shield specialties are gone without replacements, Perseverance is a misplaced boss mechanic or gear modifier, and Retribution is just shockingly bad in every way. It feels like this category just shouldn’t exist in D:OS2.
  26. Talents are in need of a rework.
    Talents are stripped down to a far scanter number, have no support for higher levels or investment in skills, and have an absolutely horrendous balance spectrum.

Enhanced Edition Epic Encounters

Enhanced Edition and Epic Encounters worked together to practically become an industry standard for modern cRPGs for me. D:OS2 has a lot to learn from them.

 

Lesser Flaws in Divinity: Original Sin 2

These are flaws in the game that are either standalone or are related to other mechanics, but are minor enough that they are overshadowed by more prominent issues.

 

  • High Ground is an inappropriate damage type.
    High Ground’s Damage Bonus is added at the same time as Critical Damage, which makes Huntsman remarkably less useful than Warfare’s Damage Bonus(in addition to it being incredibly niche in comparison); leading to the latter being maxed even on pure archers.
  • There is no Physical Resistance Rating? Phys. Resist is abandoned.
    There is a true lack of physical damage reduction in the game, which is very disheartening and contributes heavily to physical damage superiority.
    Edit: After some research, I’ve found that Physical Resist is still in the tools, and that it actually is used in-game; but it is not involved with any mechanics, equipment, character building, etc. It’s just something attached to objects as far as I’ve seen.
  • Block and Dodge are underutilized.
    These mechanics seldom show up, and when they do they have very little support.
  • The inventory clutter is out of hand.
    The sheer number of miscellaneous, crafting, alchemy, weapon-modifying, consumable, sellable, and outright junk items is incredible, and coupled with a poor UI & organizational features is especially grating.
  • Equipment Swapping is unnecessarily difficult.
    There is little support for NOT selling an item, keeping gear in a specific place without unsortable containers, and swapping on multiple pieces of equipment (and any non-skill granting/weapon equipment) in combat. In the event a player is stripped, they can re-equip themselves in less than a turn, but swapping to non-skill equipment in combat is an absolute waste. There are no weapon or equipment set hotswitches.
  • Combat AI has no discernible character.
    Enemies in combat make the same irrational or overly logical choices no matter their actual presence in the world.  Enemies are very predictable with their actions and always engage in the same suicidal fight to the death. Enemies do not behave in any world-influenced manner, whether they are an animal, abomination, soldier, or civilian. No combat encounter involves enemies fleeing for their lives, raising an alarm, or other non-death-or-glory course of action.
  • Grenades & Scrolls are only usable as utility.
    Grenades & Scrolls have exceptionally disappointing damage scaling, and are only ever useful for applying hard statuses on foes such as Charm or Knocked Down, or other utility purposes like re-positioning, terrain effects, and buffs.
    Edit: Scrolls now scale with your Attributes, this is a step in the right direction.
  • Consumables are too restricted.
    Potions, Grenades, Scrolls, etc are all incredibly expensive and scarce for how little they do and how quickly they can be used up. The crafting recipes to generate them are generally expensive, involve hard-to-come-by containers/parts, or require multiples of some object.
  • Food is pointless.
    The percentile healing is laughably small, but the temporary effects of food last for such little time that they can be half over by the time you start talking to someone.
  • Tag-based dialogue changes are not always clear.
    Several dialogues, especially those from greetings can be influenced by your tags; but if a normal reply or NPC statement is tag-influenced, there is no indication like there is when you make a tag-enabled choice. This is especially noticeable with the “Hero” and “Villain” tags.
  • Movement Speed and Item Pickup are sluggish.
    Moving through areas, climbing animations, trying to pick up items (especially multiple items with items highlighted) and trying to move multiple objects takes far too long; and backtracking between waypoints and previous progress can take minutes.
  • Too many unnecessary wait times.
    There are pointless loading/action bars for too many things, especially identifying. They make sense with crafting, since you may want to cancel, but a toggle (and batch crafting) would be appreciated.
  • Ability Animations are excessive.
    The animations for most spells and abilities are extensively long, and lose their luster after being cast hundreds of times, becoming long, bloated wait times between actions. There is no toggle for short casting animations like similar RPGs.
  • Effects are ephemeral.
    Nothing in the game lasts a significant amount of time, and just about every effect in the game lasts 2 rounds, with 3 being fairly uncommon and 4-5 being exceptional, and only found on consumables and very few abilities. There really is no out-of-combat use for positive effects and preparing for combat with buffs without dialogue cheese is almost impossible.
  • There is no consistency with status cures, blocks, and immunities.
    Effects like Clear Mind and Fortify end some effects, grant immunities to some effects, and are removed to stop certain status effects from taking hold—but they also, seemingly without cohesion, allow different effects through, don’t stop other effects, or are eaten to stop effects that they grant immunity to.
  • Runes are surprisingly underwhelming.
    Runes do not provide any meaningful customization, help further showcase the lack of non-standard build support, and are incredibly shallow and few.
  • Party Member controls need refining.
    Party members making automated movements when not controlled, the inability to link/unlink via shortcuts, and the inability to interact with multiple objects at a time amongst other small issues make managing a party more of a hassle than it needs to be.
  • Tanking is impossible.
    Enemy AI will actively ignore party members that are designed to tank hits, the Guardian Angel skill is a good alternative but it has a minimal range. It’s not really possible to invest in armor to tank hits pre-CC better than anyone else, or draw attention to yourself. Taunt doesn’t work.
  • Skill and Ability terminology is backwards.
    Skill is your proficiency, an ability is something you can do. Seriously, I’ve audited this thing like 3 times and couldn’t get it 100% ‘right’ so I just did it right.

HourlyShoppingTrips

Hourly shopping trips are a long, drawn-out occurrence common to Tactician Mode.

 

Improvements in Divinity Original Sin 2

Larian isn’t incompetent; they made several uncontestable improvements as well.

 

  • Armor System is indicative of good things.
    The Armor System, while leaving much to be desired in implementation, is a great note in Larian’s favor: It shows they’re willing to introduce and overhaul mechanics completely to try and fix fundamental issues.
  • Thievery is Fixed.
    Thievery was merged with lockpicking, and was given a completely new, RNG-free system, as well as a meaningful limitations with a limit of one thievery session. This was an excellent change that gave players a lot more agency and helped fight unnecessary RNG; but they forgot to merge Sneaking into it as well.
  • Crafting Skills are gone.
    Crafting Skills in D:OS1 were a skill point tax, and they served no real purpose in the game other than gating crafted equipment. Their removal is very appreciated, but Larian did forget to put something in to replace them and their effect on crafting, and they left Loremaster in.
  • Telekinesis ignores weight.
    A welcome change that actually makes it useful; unfortunately it’s still not worth investing in unless you’re cheesing fights with crate-o-mancy.
  • Weapon/Fighting Style abilities are cool.
    The fighting style abilities granted by your weapon selection are a great mechanic, and help define the different equipment and combat choices a player can make. Unfortunately they are unfortunately scarce and incredibly bare-bones.
  • Memory is a better system than the Spell Limit.
    Pretty much exactly what the bullet point says. It’s a genuine improvement in every way and represents a tradeoff between raw statistics and versatility.

that might have been a little optimistic

I really don’t want this game to devolve into “Wait For The Enhanced Edition” wallowing.

 

The Big Issue

This is the problem that even mods can’t fix.

  • Larian Studios has not opened a dialogue about or openly respected feedback and criticism.
    Larian Studios came forth last year on their forums stating that they would be reading and taking into consideration all criticism and feedback, and would be incorporating it. Come release, and not only were massive complaints of the community, long-standing bugs, and other issues left unaddressed but major, sweeping changes were dropped in the release version with no public testing—People who were so excited about this game they literally paid to help test it were not consulted on out-of-the-blue gut punches like Initiative being effectively removed.

 

Fast-Forward to where we are now, and the dedicated community is growing less complicit in the shadow of Larian’s stunning success; having brought a cRPG to the public’s eye in the first time in easily half a decade and blowing them out of the water with that experience. However the radical changes and still-standing issues, as well as more uncovered by or brought with the full game have gone completely unmentioned by the studio at large; and while this is acceptable with a plate full of bug-fixes and patching for the full release’s content, there has been a serious lack of acknowledgement of the concerns of the community.

This is not helped by the increasingly present moderation of the official forums only amplifying Larian’s silence; numerous threads full of long and detailed criticisms, feedback, and alternatives have found themselves locked after users lash out at eachother or grow heated in debate; and while community managing forum members have stepped in to shut down more emotional and crass discussion, there has been scant but a brushing aside from these individuals in terms of official response.

In the end, though, this might not even matter: D:OS2 is wildly successful and has introduced an entire generation to an actual cRPG, however imperfect. Their success speaks volumes that no criticism might be heard over; even if among those many supplicants only 10% have reached the end of the second act.

4Honour

If you’ve made it this far, I’d like to thank you for your time and consideration, and I hope I’ve managed to spark some sort of discussion for you or opened a more critical eye of the game; there’s always room for improvement, and the things we love are no exception.

Despite what all this might tell you, I found Divinity: Original Sin 2 an overall enjoyable experience, which while marred with flaws was still very fun and engaging for multiple playthrough– something I can’t say for most modern franchises or cRPG releases. Larian Studios has shown a deep level of passion for their game and it’s evident a lot of this love was there for the whole design process; so I think it’s only fair that we as a community share our passion with them, especially if it means ‘tough love’ like this. D:OS2 is a game with enormous potential, and I’d love to see it lived out to its fullest extent.

 

Author: SilverAge

Operator of Silver Age Rants.

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