Where some RPGs are a little bit fiddly, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is downright daunting. It's got systems inside of systems inside of paradox barrels, and it gleefully throws you into the deep end with a minimal amount of explanation. If ever a game begged for tips, it's this one. We've got you covered.
Image credit: Larian
These tips are mainly focused on helping you get your bearings early in the game, giving you a foundation from which to build up characters and explore on your own, which I would argue is where the real joy of Divinity: Original Sin 2 lies. These tips are also single-player focused, so if you're planning to play co-op, all I can really say is best of luck and don't drink the "health" potion your "friend" just handed you.
Anyway, on with the tips!
Plan your party
Like its predecessor (whose great tips post by Kirk still applies, in many cases), Original Sin 2 is a game where skill combos often matter more than raw stats. You might be the same level as a bunch of holier-than-thou magisters you're fighting, but if they're charming your heaviest hitters into attacking their allies and dropping your weakest links into lakes of cursed fire, then all your precious experience points won't do squat.
It's important to have a party that can competently counter situations like the one I just described, and a good way to do that is by figuring out which role(s) you want each of your four characters to take on.
That's harder than it sounds, because unlike many RPGs, which are more rigid in terms of skill selection, Original Sin 2 lets you multi-class right after your first level-up. Here are some basic tips to help give your party direction:
Focus... at first: Pick an initial class for your main character, and whether it's melee, magical, or ranged, put points into that class' primary two stats for a few levels. Give yourself a strong base before going wild with experimentation. Original Sin 2 doesn't let you re-spec until the start of its second Act, and if you spread yourself too thin, you might end up hitting a wall before you ever get there.
Spend money on spell books. In Divinity: Original Sin 2, level-ups grant you better stats and new passive skills and talents, but not spells or abilities. Those come from spell books that you can find or buy. It might be tempting to drop precious dollops of early-game gold on better weapons and armour, but you'll usually find better gear out in the field, and it's important to establish some good skill synergies as soon as possible.
Armour or magic armour? Enemies (and your characters) have two meters that guard their HP: armour and magic armour. You've gotta knock down one or the other before you can do direct damage, inflict many status effects, and implement your most elaborate strategies. I've found it most useful to make sure each of my characters is extremely efficient at bursting down either armour or magic armour. Most of my party is focused on regular armour, so that they can team up to down especially troublesome enemies in a single turn.
Keep roles in mind. My Divinity: Original Sin 2 party has a tank, DPS, ranger, and healer. They all do other things as well (my healer is also my primary elemental magic user, for example), but each one has a primary function. When thinking about new skills outside their original classes to teach each of them, the first question I ask is, "Will this skill help them perform their primary function better?"
Here are some examples of that:
- My healer/elementalist has a point in Polymorph so that she can sprout wings and fly. This allows her to both escape from tricky situations and manoeuvre to allies who might need healing or buffs. I wasn't trying to, but I basically made Mercy from Overwatch.
- My DPS, Fane, is primarily a Polymorph, but has a point in Scoundrel so that he can use "rupture tendons," a skill that makes enemies take damage when they move. Combined with the Polymorph skill "chicken form," this makes for a brutal combo in which helpless poultrified enemies flee across the map while bleeding profusely from their ruptured tendons.
- Since my tank, The Red Prince, usually absorbs at least as much damage as he deals, he's got a few points in Geomancer so that he has access to abilities like "fortify" and "mend metal," which allow him (and the rest of my party) to regen armour and shrug off status effects.
Also keep non-combat roles in mind. There's a lot more to Original Sin 2 than fighting. It's good to have each of your characters specialize in one of the following: persuasion (for talking), bartering (for getting big discounts), thievery (for picking locks and pockets), and loremastery (for finding secrets and identifying items). Don't have one character do, say, thievery and loremastery. That's a waste of stat points.
Make sure your tank has a shield. This is kind of a no-brainer, but shields are seriously OP in Divinity: Original Sin 2, giving characters' massive armour bonuses, a skill that lets them regen armour and magic armour in a single go, and access to a long-range shield throw skill that hits multiple enemies like a truck hitting multiple saplings.
Heals pls. Early in Original Sin 2, especially, good healing abilities can be a life-saver. Make sure that a couple of your characters have points in either Huntsman or Hydrosophist, and keep an eye out for "first aid" and "restoration" spell books.
Just give everybody a point in scoundrel. "Adrenaline" is a great scoundrel skill that gives you two extra ability points (basically, an extra attack) for a turn. I recommend teaching it to all of your party members. It can be a huge difference-maker when you're trying to bring down an enemy quickly. The drawback is that you have two less ability points on the next turn, but you can fret about that after the biggest threat to your whole party is dead.
Don't worry about which characters you choose to have in your party. When you recruit party members in Divinity: Original Sin 2, they straight up ask what role you'd like them to focus on initially. So don't worry about travelling with somebody because you feel obligated and not because you're interested in their story. Pick whoever and make them do whatever.
Those basics out of the way, here are a few good early game builds:
- The Polymorphing Power Ranger. Start out with a Polymorph character and then branch them into Warfare. Both classes scale with your "strength" stat (even though the game implies that "finesse" is the Polymorph's primary stat, which is weird), and each point in Warfare boosts your damage output pretty significantly. Go for stun abilities like "chicken claw" and "battle stomp" to make sure that you can control not only the tide of battle, but also the pace of it. Grab "spread your wings" and "bull horns" so that you can minimise the number of ability points you don't spend attacking. As for weapons, I do this class with two-handers, but I've heard some people say that dual-wielding is just generally better in this game. It's your call!
- The Life-Saver. This class combo isn't the most exciting, but it is effective. A good healer in Original Sin 2 doesn't just take care of HP; they keep your party topped off on armour and magic armour as well. Put a couple points into Geomancer, Hydrosophist, and Pyromancer for a buffet of buffs and heals with a side helping of explosions. Focus on grabbing skills like "restoration," "fortify," "soothing cold," and "mend metal." Also put a point in polymorph for flight, which hugely ups survivability and ensures that you can reach party members before they go down.
- Death From Above. Huntsmen (basically, archers) are mad powerful in Original Sin 2, mainly because the game includes a lot of raised surfaces, and high ground gives you a default damage percentage boost of 20 per cent, which goes up by five per cent for every point you put in Huntsman. Put points into both Huntsman and Scoundrel to boost your attack from up high and your crit rate. Make sure to get "cloak and dagger" so that you can leap to the top of towers and other raised surfaces without missing a beat. Also be sure to collect and craft plenty of elemental arrows, then examine enemies and take advantage of their elemental weaknesses.
Now onto some more general tips.
Get 'pet pal'
This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. Get the "pet pal" talent immediately. It lets you talk to every animal in the game. Talk to dogs. Talk to cats. Talk to rats. Talk to birds. Talk to sharks. Talk to crabs. Mostly, it's just amusing, but sometimes they will clue you in on quests or point you toward cool items.
The elements are your friends
Elemental surfaces are a huge part of Original Sin 2's combat. Focus on making them an ally, rather than a liability. If none of your characters have high fire resistances, grab the Hydrosophist rain skill to put them out. If you've already done that, you might as well grab some Aerotheurge lightning skills so you can electrocute wet surfaces and potentially stun enemies. Always examine enemies to find out what their elemental weaknesses are and take advantage of them. Also, grab the Polymorph "terrain transmutation" skill as soon as you're able. It lets you swap surfaces, meaning you can do things like drop lava or poison on crowds of unsuspecting enemies. It's extremely powerful.
Keep in mind, too, that elemental surfaces aren't just good for doing damage. An angry, red splotch of fire can force enemies to take the long way around in order to get to your squishier characters, wasting precious turns in the process. You're almost always outnumbered in Original Sin 2 combat encounters. Good crowd control is paramount. Speaking of...
Stuns, stuns, stuns
Early in the game, especially, stun skills are your best friends. Enemies capable of obliterating you in a couple hits can't do shit if they're lying on the ground, frozen, or transformed into a chicken. Must-have skills include "chicken claw," "battle stomp," "battering ram," "global cooling," and "hail strike." During my early goings, I would have characters blitz down strong enemies' armour or magic armour and then trap them in a stun prison.
One would use knock them down for a turn, then another would turn them into a chicken, then another would freeze them, or what have you. They could never touch me, and I could take my time and whittle away at their HP pools.
Mobility, mobility, mobility
Original Sin 2's battlefields are large and varied. Traversing terrain can take multiple turns, and obstacles can cause line of sight issues that prevent your characters from attacking or healing. Grab skills like "spread your wings", "cloak and dagger" and "phoenix dive" as soon as possible so that your characters can get where they need to be with minimal effort.
Get the teleport gloves
In Original Sin 2's first main area, Fort Joy, there's a quest called "The Teleporter." You get it from a guy named Gawin, who sketchily approaches you and tells you about a vague plan to get off the island, but only you (and not your party) will be able to escape. Disregard that part, because it doesn't end up mattering. What does matter is that this quest gets you a pair of teleport gloves, which give you a skill that lets you teleport enemies (or party members) great distances.
They can be used, for instance, to send a powerful enemy to the other side of a map so that you don't have to deal with them until you've cut down their cronies. Alternatively, they can help you reach weird spots when you're exploring or cheese your way around or through tough battles. They rule.
After you escape Fort Joy, go back and kill all the magisters
This is actually a specific example of a more general piece of advice, which is: If you start feeling under-powered or under-leveled, go kill some shit. Original Sin 2 doesn't have random encounters or traditional no-name "grindy" enemies, but that doesn't mean you don't need to grind sometimes. You've just gotta be creative about it. So in Fort Joy, there are five or six different ways of escaping, but you'll probably only do a combo of one or two, perhaps with minimal violence.
Well, good news: that means tons of leftover enemies and a couple leftover side quests. Go back and do those too. Reap the level-appropriate encounters and experience points before taking on challenges that are out of your depth.
Also, a corollary: if you find yourself suddenly out-leveled by all the enemies you're coming up against, you might be in the wrong area. Original Sin 2 technically offers you the freedom to go where you want in each act when you want, but it's not always advisable.
Separate your party
Speaking of cheesing, Divinity: Original Sin 2 lets you un-link your party members from each other, so that they can move and explore entirely independently. Start taking advantage of this immediately. See a bunch of enemies you know you're gonna have to fight? Don't just rush in as an easily dunked-on clump. Have your characters stealth in and surround them. Take advantage of high ground and other potential advantages. There are very few throwaway battles in Original Sin 2, so if you see an encounter on the horizon, treat it like a boss fight. Prepare and strategize, then strike.
The other advantage of this tactic is that you can have some characters in battle and others out of it. Out of battle characters don't have to play by the rules until they have hit somebody or gotten spotted, so send in just one character, then immediately switch to your hidden ones. Have each attack from out-of-combat. Boom. That's three free attacks — enough to fully bring down some enemies. Is it kinda cheesy? Sure, but well…
When in doubt, cheese it out
A major part of the fun in Original Sin 2 is breaking the rules, or at least partially circumventing them. If you're getting creamed and spread across artisanal avocado toast by a tough encounter and you have a weird, dumb, or crazy "what if" idea about how to cheese your way through it, go for it! There's actually a good chance it will work.
Case in point: the strategy I used to beat the game's first big boss, who I stood no chance against otherwise. A little creative thinking, it turns out, goes a long way. And if that doesn't work, then fuck it, turn everybody into chickens and die with your dignity intact. Or well, more intact than theirs.
'Spirit vision' is rad
During Original Sin 2's second act, you gain the ability to glimpse into the spirit world. In any other game, it'd be a throwaway thing or a plot beat relegated to cut-scenes. In Original Sin 2, it changes everything. Spirits abound, some of whom will offer you quests or do wild things like solve their own murders. If you see a corpse or grave or noose or just want to press a skill button for the sake of it, use "spirit vision". You never know what you might find.
Teleporter pyramids rule
Right before the beginning of the game's second act, you can find a pair of teleporter pyramids on a table aboard The Lady Vengeance, the ship you're on. Take them. No matter where one is in the game world, you can use the other to immediately teleport to it. You can use this ability to do everything from shepherding your party through trap-riddled areas to cheesing your way into and out of boss fights. The teleporter pyramids compel you. Do not ignore their calls.
Bring a shovel
There are buried treasures and other hidden items sprinkled all across Original Sin 2's world. Shovels are pretty common, so make sure to have one in your inventory at all times.
Have a character with a bunch of points in sneaking and thievery. Have them skirt the perimeters of encounters and take everybody's best stuff before you fight them. It will make them a bit weaker and you a bit stronger. Also, stealing is fun. Quit school and be a criminal. You can quote me on that.
Save the kitty
Near the start of the game, there's a kitty that begins following you around. Mostly, it will keep out of the way of danger, but don't let this one jerk-arse magister in the center of the town square kill it. Once you escape from Fort Joy, the kitty becomes a summon that's not super useful, but is very cute.
Fuck the chicken
Near the beginning of the game's second act, there's a baby chicken that begins following you around. Unlike the kitty, who is perfect, the chicken is a huge pain in the arse to keep alive, and you can't complete its quest without a main story power you might not have yet. Anyway, it's evil, so if it runs through fire like an insane idiot 13 times, just let it die. Let it die and laugh.
Roll an undead character
Undead characters are so interesting that you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't have one. In Original Sin 2's world, people are repulsed by the undead, so they have to disguise themselves using magical helms or tools that tear people's faces off. In addition, the rules of healing and damage are different for them.
Healing potions and spells hurt undead characters, something that's true for allies and enemies alike. Poison, however, heals them, meaning they can wade through puddles of the stuff like it's nothing, and you can toss down puddles of it to harm your foes and help yourself. Undead characters are also immune to deathfog, a rare but pernicious substance that spells instant death for anybody else.
You can travel to any waypoint from your minimap
This should be obvious, but I didn't notice it until I was, like, 20 hours into the game. Once you've found a fast travel waypoint, you don't have to physically be near another waypoint to travel to it. Just hit the little blue icon on your minimap to pull up the waypoint list. No more pointless hoofing it between locations! Thank goodness.
Save early, save often
Original Sin 2 is not an easy game. It might be smooth sailing one moment, but then an enemy gets a big critical hit or focus fires down one of your people, and suddenly your ship is touching hulls with the Titanic. Save all the time! Save before big encounters, because you'll probably lose the first time. Re-position your characters and then save again before trying again. Save when you've mostly got the battle in the bag, but you're still not sure.
Original Sin 2 is a video game, which means your most powerful skill isn't biceps of magic; it's the fact that you're a goddamn time traveller. Use it to your advantage.
If you just mainline Original Sin 2's central plot, you'll miss out on its best bits, and you'll have a borderline-impossible time making it to the end of the game. Talk to everybody. Do every quest. Seek out every secret. It's the Objectively Correct way to play the game.
I've covered this a bit in other sections, but it bears repeating: Original Sin 2 is a game that rewards creative thinking and experimentation. If you hit a wall, don't give in to frustration or defeatism. Instead, think about the possibilities. What skill combos haven't you tried? Have you considered flying around an area and then using your teleporter pyramids to bring the rest of your party to a spot where enemies can't touch them?
It's entirely possible for a battle that's a one-way blow out in your enemies' favour to become a lopsided trouncing on your part if you just reshuffle the deck a little. So do that! And never forget: it's not cheating to keep an Ace or two up your sleeve. In Original Sin 2, it's downright encouraged.