The Nintendo Switch has a knack for porting over any and all games capable of running with its relatively modest hardware. Those specs can slide even further when the Switch is in handheld mode, causing graphics to take a hit to keep up with the gameplay. Developers at Larian Studios have somehow managed to port over the vast, complex world of Divinity: Original Sin II, conceding very little to make it run. Though the game may not be a brand new release, the portability of the Switch breathes new life into a game that may take countless hours to complete.
Originally released for PC back in September 2017, Divinity: Original Sin II is a feature-rich RPG, feeling closer to a tabletop Dungeons and Dragons game rather than standard video game RPGs like Final Fantasy or Xenoblade. Most items have some kind of interaction, while certain combinations can have some lethal effects. For instance, if you throw a torch into a poison gas cloud, it’ll violently explode, dealing damage to everyone in and around it, but also clearing a path through.
Has someone been bleeding close to your assassination target? No worries, just strike it with lightning to cause an electrically charged floor. These ever-changing environments can also play a major role in combat. Character skills might also interact with those variables, adding special elements to attack spells or spawning different types of creatures when summoning on certain terrain. Items may collapse or explode, given the proper force. It’s almost overwhelming at first, though once it comes together, the possibilities seem limitless.
This is just the surface of combat, though. Characters have a wide array of skills they can utilize both in and out of a fight, and party members can be positioned separately in case you think a brawl is coming. Once it’s started, combat takes on the standard turn-based progression, with each character acting in a given order at the top of the screen.
In the Switch’s handheld mode, this can be relatively tough to read, as just the barriers are colored friend or foe, and the portraits leave something to be desired. The game world itself still carries so much detail in handheld, yet the character portraits look more like 8-bit renders blown up past the useable sizes, forcing me to strain my eyes in order to see which of my allies would act next.
Each turn consists of spending action points to perform any variety of actions, from outright hitting to spellcasting and moving around. Adaptation is key, as you could spend your action climbing to higher ground, or you could take the more immediate approach by firing off multiple attacks while holding ground. With so many options available to the player, each move should be handled with extreme care and planning, else you’ll just end up killing off your friends.
Surprisingly, the details of combat aren’t lost in handheld mode. In fact, most of the graphical features seem catered towards working while in handheld, creating this seamless transition from one mode to another. The camera can be a bit too close when a major attack lands, so some damage numbers and effects may occur offscreen, yet it’s the same case when docked. For better or worse, this game is tailored for the mobility of the Switch.
Aside from just the combat, NPCs across the realm are chock full of interesting stories, side quests, and perhaps some tradable goods that help on your journey. Even the animals can talk and hang out, given that you have the ability to communicate. Party members can be individually controlled, each handling different NPCs in their own way as dictated by their character and story.
Therefore, you aren’t necessarily constrained to always lead the party with whoever you chose to play as in the first place. Though the character you chose is always required to be in the group, maybe Sebille is terrible at socializing and you’d rather schmooze the upper class as The Red Prince. It’s all up to how you want to play this intricate puzzle that is Original Sin II.
That’s not to say everything transitioned smoothly to the Switch, though. Menus are a real task in this game, given that there’s so much to consider when playing. Luckily, there’s a hotkey solely for the different menus so that you can select between them easily, though that doesn’t alleviate much when sifting through the party’s ridiculously large inventory.
At the outset, each person is able to carry 100 different items, and that may grow depending on which stat points you allot them. Everything picked up in the world goes directly to your leader’s pouch, so you may need to later divide that up so other party members have potions to use and scrolls to revive.
However, Original Sin II doesn’t take advantage of the Switch’s touch screen, so inventory management must be done through menus. Leveling up, though not as frequent as some RPGs, can still take a bit of time as you flip through each character sheet deciding what would balance out the party best. Even the quest display can take up a bit of time as the quests and sub-quests are a bit vague to tell you what has and hasn’t been completed yet.
One of the most beneficial features added into this version of Original Sin II is the ability to cross-save with the PC version. Though this wasn’t applicable to me personally, it’s nice to see these ported games acknowledge and include the other versions’ data so that you don’t have to restart from scratch every time. It’s a feature I wish was included in all Switch ports.
Though Original Sin II does an amazing job to carry over such rich features into a semi-handheld device, it still leaves a bit to be desired from its original PC counterpart. However, it’s a small price to pay when considering the illustrious game you can now play on the go. As a total package, it’s an easy pickup for those looking to play a wonderful RPG while traveling around or relaxing at home. Even with the downsides of a console RPG, Original Sin II finds a great new home on the Switch, bringing in a new audience with its portability, and allowing the exploration of this fantastic world while travelling around our own.
A Switch key was provided by PR for the purposes of this review
Divinity: Original Sin II on the Switch does a wonderful job of staying true to the original PC and console versions with no major drawbacks, despite the Switch’s hardware downgrade, even if the menus can be their own mini-boss.
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