The first Divinity: Original Sin had an excellent combat system, where elemental skills and abilities combined and clashed to interesting effect. You could rain on an opponent's parade and then cast an ice spell to freeze them in their tracks. Need a breather? Bring fire and water spells together to create a steam cloud. You could use a teleportation spell to rejigger the battlefield to your liking. Half of the fun of Divinity: Original Sin was finding the right skill combos and planning elaborate traps using them.
Larian isn't a studio to relax though, so they've expanded on the games' combat this time around. There's a new armor/magic armor system. Physical skills deplete armor, while magical attacks destroy your magic armor. Some characters have one or both, depending on where their affinities lie. The armor protects you from debilitating effects like Fear, so getting rid of your opponents' armor should be your first step.
Divinity: Original Sin II now takes height into account for spells and abilities. Your attack range is increased if you're doing so from high ground, giving you a tactical advantage. If you want to win, get up high!
Another tactical change is the ability to cast certain effects on the ground. Bless, Blessed Earth, and Nature's Curse were spells that were available in the first game, but they were target-only or aura abilities. Now, you can choose to cast them on an area instead. If those areas intersect with other fields like fire or poison, they force modified effects upon anyone who treads upon that magical ground.
I was shown the new combat system in Divinity: Original Sin II's new PVP arena. The arena is 2v2 combat: I chose a Ranger and Warrior as my pair against Larian creative director Sven Vincke. We were thrown into a relatively small arena map, with the opposing side only a few moves away.
Original Sin II's combat is all about movement and line of sight. You want the high ground to increase your attack range, but you don't want to stand out in the open too long. A Mage's Teleport or Rogue's Cloak and Dagger become important skills for getting into the right position to set up combos or get in some solid opening shots.
Original Sin II features a new Source skill system, where certain abilities only work if you've collected Source points from silver glowing pools around the battlefield. But you can't just make a beeline for the Source pools. Where you're walking is important, because a number of spells have negative ground effects that smart players can use to entrap and manage their foes.
My Ranger shot a fire arrow into a poison barrel near Vincke's Rogue, dousing the area in green, poison mist. He could've just moved out of the affected region, but instead he blessed the poison ground, turning it into a healing stream. Larian's eye for detail is apparent here: when the poison ground is blessed, plants and flowers curl up from the dirt to denote the healing properties. A lengthy PVP battle eventually becomes a game of finding the places on the map that aren't on fire, ice, or poison.
And the combos that made Original Sin great still work great in Original Sin II's PVP. Vincke blew up around barrel near me, spreading fire on the ground. He then cursed the ground to do additional damage, which I countered with my own blessing. Finally, he used an ability called Phoenix Charge to make his warrior immune to fire damage, so he could wade in and finish my hurt Ranger off. I ran away, but the previous attacks had stripped my armor, so he cast fear on my Ranger, taking him out of the battle temporarily. This back-and-forth and exploitation of weakness is a key facet of Original Sin II and the arena PVP mode.
In the end, my canny intelligence and strategy handed me the battle. (Also, I think Vincke was going easy on me.) All those fans who wanted PVP in the first Original Sin, I can tell you that it's as awesome as you imagined. Combined with the new combat changes, Original Sin II's PVP takes the tactical options of the first game and puts a human behind your opponents. It's a great mode that expands a sequel looking to outdo the magnificent original.