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‘Divinity: Original Sin 2’: The Magic’s in the Details

Why I think Divinity does magic best

I’ve been playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 since its beta days, with nearly 50 hours across multiple profiles. But between what classes I’ve tried and seen played in my groups, nothing is nearly as sweet as blowing stuff up.

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No doubt about it, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a fantastic game that does a lot of things right. But one of the things it does most right is its system of magic.

In games like Magicka, spamming spells is much too easy, with the player decimating the spell-less, plebeian hordes. And on the other side are games like Dungeons and Dragons, where the spells per day system can often feel too limiting for spellcasters to really shine.

While wizardry can’t go unregulated, too much regulation can also be smothering. Divinity: Original Sin 2 strikes a balance stronger than any I’ve encountered before. And this comes from managing to grant mages the power they need, while at the same time working out a way to treat them with the same freedom as fighters.

There’s a few primary reason why I think it works:

The AP System

All abilities in Divinity share the same system; including spells. Rather than subtracting from an MP or PP or an arbitrary amount of allotments per day, abilities in Divinity take action points (AP). In addition to abilities, AP is used to move and perform basic attacks, with four available to each character each turn (though the AP bar is a spectrum from 1 to 6).

Aside from their AP cost, abilities have a cooldown before they can be used again. But these are the only cost of abilities; the need to plan which can be used when and the wait between cooldown resets. It’s a nice system because it encourages ability use, with no actual penalties for throwing fireballs as often as one can, which is something any real wizard should be doing.

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Memory

There are ways to work around the limitations of AP. One of my favorites is the Haste spell, which in addition to granting one’s character more movement and initiative, grants an additional AP (though rogues, of course, have significantly more options). But though AP can be gained in multiple ways, cooldowns only have one real solution; waiting.

Which is where the Memory system comes in. Only a certain number of abilities can be equipped at any time, but this can be increased by putting points in Memory, which is usually a skill chosen by rogues and casters. For instance, whereas the fighter of my group has a mere six slots available, as the wizard I currently have 14. Meaning while the fighter is waiting to use her fancy abilities in-between basic attacks, I’m casting two different spells each turn. At a certain point, one’s Memory becomes so high as a spellcaster that one doesn’t even need to use basic attacks anymore, despite the limitations on spell usage.

The Battlefield

Even if the benefits of Divinity’s system stopped there, it would be much better than Dungeon and Dragons. But a good portion of the experience of spells (especially in a videogame) lies beyond the numbers, in seeing it take effect on the battlefield. And Divinity’s system shines there as well, in all its war-torn glory.

All spells have an elemental component. This elemental component in turn affects the environment with each casting. For instance, geomancy leaves pools of oil that slow combatants. And pyromancy, as its compliment, lights up both oil and people. There’s plenty of ways to shape the environment; e.g. electric pools of blood; but as a pyromancer/geomancer, things are usually burning for me. But the environment is a dynamic system, and using spells to affect its state is a level of strategy not seen in most concepts of magic.

Additionally, it actually means something to be careful of friendly fire. It’s easy enough not to hit one’s allies in the initial blast, but as a combo wizard, I might incidentally burn my teammates with all the oil around. Though friendly fire doesn’t exist in many RPGs, it adds another layer of strategy to Divinity: Original Sin 2, and it places a restriction on my wizard far more creative and engaging than number caps.

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The Spells

On top of the components of the system being great, Divinity has it made with the raw nature of its spells even. Even with 14 Memory slots, I don’t have a single spell that isn’t a joy to use, that isn’t awesome to see take effect on the battlefield. My searing laser is my favorite, though I also love exploding burning enemies with another, or using yet a third to cripple enemies without armor.

The secret to Divinity is that each spell feels powerful. Even the earliest scale in damage as one levels, competing even with the high standards of late-game damage. Heck, I put one point in hydrosophy to get a healing spell and it’s still great for me. It helps that Divinity’s spells scale off multiple factors, but it also helps that Divinity isn’t so afraid of wizards that it feels the need to cripple them. Though enemies can have elemental resistances, these can usually be worked around, and the spells do so much damage one doesn’t even notice sometimes.

And getting through magic armor is where the fun begins. As armor is divided between physical and magical, fighters and wizards will perform their special effects at different times. Meaning while physical armor is down, fighters will stun-lock, and while magic armor is down, mages will do things like turn you into a chicken. Or blind you. Or stun you. Or freeze you, or burn you, or entangle you, or…

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Honestly, Divinity: Original Sin 2 has the best magic system out of any I have ever experienced. It feels absolutely amazing, though it still manages to not be overpowered. True, I may be the AoE damage-dealer in my group, but the rogue deals the most damage. Not that I’d trade places; it’s a blast tearing up the battlefield.

Stay tuned for the soon-to-come review of Divinity: Original Sin 2. And if you haven’t played the game yet, I recommend that you do.

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