The first entry for the Divinity: Original Sin series was released on the 30th of June 2014. It was with this entry that developers Larian Studio brought a new way of approaching magic in RPG’s into the light: by making it both an environmental and direct hazard to their Players and NPCs. A player striking down an opponent would draw blood and paint it over the ground below, a fireball would leave lingering flames, ready to set ablaze to any man, woman or talking animal who dares walk across them. A character who is cold will be susceptible to being frozen and characters who dare walk across an icy landscape risk slipping up and hurting themselves. Pools of poison could be set alight, barrels of oil could catch fire and explode. Divinity Original Sin brought a genuine sense of dangerous power to the arcane that I haven’t experienced in an RPG ever before and if the player found a barrel full of oil or poison, they could throw the barrels into the battlefield and cause mass havoc with the enemy by setting off anarchistic chain reactions or by making use of the environment to take advantage of an opponent’s elemental weaknesses.
September 14th, 2017 was the release of Divinity Original Sin’s sequel, appropriately named “Divinity Original Sin 2”, which brought players a wider way to play the game, more ways to interact with the environment and set up traps to ambush or sabotage enemies and not one, not two but three new ways for players and NPCs to interact with the environment. There were entirely new environmental hazards with the introduction of Noxious Plants which spew out the element which matched their colour, Deathfog which could instantly kill any non-undead character, Clouds could form from evaporated water and blood, these same clouds could be electrified to stun anybody passing through. Fire clouds and Poison clouds can apply their respective status effects (burning & poisoned) to anybody brave enough to pass through them and Smoke clouds could be used to block vision, preventing enemy spellcasters or marksmen from hitting you from afar. The second new environmental interaction is Cursed surfaces.
Cursed environments introduce deadlier status effects such as Necrofire which can’t be extinguished by traditional means, Cursed Ice that can freeze the people who stand upon it and Cursed Water which applies what is every healer’s bane: Decaying, a status effect that converts all healing into damage against the person receiving it, no matter the source. These new, stronger status effects can be created from either a surface or spell and most of these new effects feel much stronger, thanks to the lack of footnote information about how to remedy them. This may serve to be detrimental to newer players, however, if not straight-up frustrating.
The final new addition to environmental interactivity is the Blessed elements, which will grant various boons and even provide buffs to the majority of characters who passed through it. Blessed Water will heal a character every time they move through the blessed surface, Blessed Poison will grant a turn of health regeneration and Blessed Oil grants Fortification (an effect which recovers physical armour to resist attacks of mundane origin).
Much like their mundane counterparts, Blessed and Cursed elements can be used to set off reactions, such as poisoning a puddle of cursed water and turning it into a puddle of cursed poison or setting blessed oil alight to create blessed fire. Players are unable to stack Blessed status effects however and will lose them if the Blessed Oil they are standing in is set alight.
The introduction of the new Curse & Bless mechanic really brings the themes of fighting back against the Void into the combat of the game, pushing players to manage their environment in ways entirely different to that of the first game. Divinity Original Sin 2 also boasts some absolutely beautiful animation work for spells, with each race having their own poses for certain spell types, with wonderful animations to match their aesthetic. It really helps bring a sense of the character drawing power from the universe around (or beyond) them and bringing it all back down into one almost cinematic movement of power & elegance. It only further helps the sense of wonder when playing a magical character in Divinity Original Sin 2 thanks to the choice of Seven schools of ‘traditional’ magic and the three schools of ‘martial’ magic (NOTE: The definition of ‘traditional’ and ‘martial’ is a one of my own choosing, Martial refers to the schools of War, Scoundrel & Huntsmen). It should also be said that players can combine two spell books from different schools of Magic and come out with a hybrid spell, such as combining Necromancy & Pyromancy in order to create: Mass Corpse Explosion. Yes, it does exactly as it sounds.
Divinity Original Sin 2 hands-down has a Magic mechanic that feels like no other, the nearest thing I can think of as a comparison would be Magicka, but even then (in my opinion) Divinity Original Sin 2 manages to deliver a weighty feeling to each spell. My biggest problem with the way Magic is treated in Divinity Original Sin 2 is that to newer players, it can easily seem overwhelming when trying to get your head around which element causes what to explode or what will make your party member who is low on health literally explode.