This simple in-depth guide will help you understand all the basics of the game to have a better experience and not hit difficulty walls frequently. There is not one way to play this game but there is overall rules to understand to better survive in Rivellon. With this guide you will feel like you are the cool kid and not the underdog anymore!
Divinity Original Sin 2 is a very vast game with a lot of things to do and many difficulties to overcome, it can be overwhelming for some players and this guide is here to help you out. There is not one way to play the game so I will do my best to give very general advices and keep always in mind that you should take those advices for what they are: advices.
This guide will cover all the basics of the game split into different sections so if you are interested only in one specific topic feel free to skip to the desired section.
Whether you play alone or with other people the first step is always the character creation. In this game you create by default only 1 character per player in the game at the start. Even though you can recruit other characters to join your party very early on the character(s) you create at the start of the game will be considered as the main one(s). You can control only your character(s) created during key moments of the plot related to your character(s) in particular and you can only interact as your external point of view to your companions stories. So choose very carefully what character you first create!
The first thing you decide for your character is whether you want it to be custom or to be an origin story. Custom characters are the name implies are characters you tailor yourself by choosing race, gender and their backstory while origin stories are fully fledged characters with a developed background and a past. Origin stories offer specific content related to their adventures throughout the game as they all pursue a specific goal. While you can help them achieve their goals as companions (as stated above) if you play them as your created character(s) you will have full control over your dialog options and your decisions.
Let's start with the origin stories and then detail the customization options in general. There is 6 different origin stories to choose from:
- Ifan ben-Mezd, a male human
- Lohse, a female human
- The Red Prince, a male lizard
- Sebille, a female elf
- Beast, a male dwarf
- Fane, a male undead eternal (an ancient race not existing in the world of Rivellon anymore)
I won't get into the details of their stories as you can see them in the character creation screen but know that you can customize both their appearance and skills entirely, only their back-story and sex are pre-determined so your Lohse may look entirely different from another player's Lohse!
So after choosing what type of character you want you can choose the appearance of your character which has no impact on the gameplay, it is only cosmetic.
Then comes the choice of your preset. Each preset are pre-made archetypes to help you start the game with a somehow organized character. You can fully customize your starting attributes and skills and go entirely away from the preset if you want. I would still strongly recommend that you pick the preset closest to your desired character as the starting weapons are influenced by it.
You can then customize your starting attributes, abilities and skills.
Attributes are your typical stat points you find in most RPG. There is 6 attributes in DOS2, here is the listing of the attributes and their effect:
- Strength: each point gives +5% for all strength-based weapons and skills and +2% of total physical armor
- Finesse: each point gives +5% for all finesse-based weapons and skills and +1% ofchance to dodge physical attacks
- Intelligence: each point gives +5% of all intelligence-based weapons and skills and +2% of total magical armor
- Constitution: each point improves your vitality (maximum health points) by 7%
- Memory: each point gives a new memory slot to learn new spells, the stronger the spell the more memory slots are required
- Wits: each point gives +1% of critical chance and +1 Intiative on top of giving a better chance to detect hidden traps and treasures
Attributes in this game are interesting because they are both reather easy to understand and pretty impactful. I recommend you focus mainly on one of the 4 first stats depending on what type of character you want to build and then add Memory and Wits whenever you need. If you start to feel you need to broaden your tactical range but don't have enough memory slots then get enough Memory to do so and never forget that Wits affect your Initiative (which determines the turns order in battle, the highest initiative goes first). You don't want to let the oposition controlling the battlefield before you can even play your first turn or you may get in trouble very quickly.
Some builds can balance a bit more Attributes but to begin with I really suggest you try to focus your strategy for your character on one specific thing (depending on what you like to do). You will get 2 Attributes points per level for the rest of the game.
Abilities determine what your character can do and are of two types: Combat Abilities and Civil Abitilies. You have two Combat Ability points and one Civil Ability point to spend when you create your character and can't transfer points from one type of ability to another.
Combat Abilities can do two things:
- They can give you access to a skill school in the case of Skill Abilities (for example you need at least 1 point in Hydroshophist to learn Regeneration)
- They give you a bonus perk for each point spent no matter the type of Combat Ability (including skill abilities!). In our Hydrosophist example each point spent gives +10% of healing effectiveness and +10% of magical armor given through the use of skills.
I recommend when you start the game to focus on only one type of weapon per character and to begin with maximum 2 type of skills to build a cohesive strategy. You can later pickup other skill schools to get access to some specific spells that go well with your initial idea but it is best that you first focus on one articulated strategy for your character.
There is no true bad combinations of skill schools thanks to how the battles are handled but you need to know what your goal is for your character or you will end up going in all directions and be good at nothing.
Civil Abilities are used mostly outside of battle for your interactions with your environment whether it is having better prices when you trade, persuading others, stealing etc. Overall you never want to have the same civil abilities on two different characters unless you have a very specific idea in mind. It is best to have one good loremaster, one good barterer and so on. When you play in Multiplayer it is best that you make sure that you are working along with your comrades to avoid having 4 characters all very average in everything and not gaining any benefit from Civil Abilities (such as better prices in shop, better items found in the wild etc.).
Skills are pretty straightforward: you can pick up to 3 skills from the one or two skill schools you chose just before in your Combat Abilities. As always it is best to have an idea in mind as to what your character will be doing in battle. If you are meant to do a lot of physical damage try to pick skills that do physical damage and inflict effects when the physical armor of enemies is down (more on that in the combat section of the guide).
You also automatically acquires two spells based on your race and your type of character. Each origin character gets its very own spell while all custom characters share the same. Those unique spells are Source spells (check the combat section for more info on what a source spell is) and threfore are not used as often as other spells but have stronger effects. Racial skills on the other hand are regular skills that can be used during every fights and are pretty decent. I still suggest you choose your character because you like it and not because of its special racial and story skills as they are not game changer and can be used on any-build one-way or another!
Talents are strong passive perks that can modify your character in many ways, be very careful when you pick those as you gain new talents very rarely during the game and some can have very drastic effect (Zombie for example transform any healing into damage and poison damage into healing).
Finally Tags allow you to choose what type of background your character has in the case of a custom character (origin stories have predetermined ones) which leads to brand new dialog options that can sometimes drastically change how people see you.
Introduction to combat
Combats in DOS2 are turn-based. Each character plays according to the timeline at the top of the screen with the character with the highest initiative going first.
During each turn characters can perform a variety of actions costing Action Points (AP). Those actions are mainly: attacks, skills, movements and the use of items. You can do actions in any order as long as you have enough AP to act. Your turn ends whenever you are out of AP or when you press End Turn. By default every character gets 4 AP at the start of each turn. It is possible to keep some AP for your next turn to do more actions then for a maximum of 6 AP (this limit can go higher with special actions such as the skill Adrenaline or Flesh Sacrifice).
In most cases you win a battle simply by defeating all your opponents but sometimes some specific events may end the battle (for example if you used force to calm down a possessed character after a dialog).
Health and Armors
DOS2 battle system is pretty unique and features a very interesting interaction between Health, Armors and Crowd Control effects. The idea is that every character has a Vitality score which translates to a number of Health Points and whenever they reach 0 the character dies. But on top of that Vitality Armors are protecting your character. There is two type of Armors: Physical Armor and Magical Armor. Both work as a barrier to sponge damage before reaching your Health Points. If you recieved Physical damage your Physical Armor will have to go down before it reaches your Health Points (same for the Magical Armor). Typically every character tends to have one type of Armor much higher than the other or an average mix of the two. Obviously you want to take advantage of the weakness of each enemy and destroy the weakest of their two Armors to kill them as fast as possible.
This is even more interesting because of how Crowd Control (CC) work. CC are effects that will affect your targets negatively whether by slowing them down, knocking them down or applying very unique effects. The catch is that CC work against saving throws. The idea is that each type of CC is connected to one type of Armor or the other and as long as that armor is intact the CC won't take effect. For example the skill Hail Strike chill any target hit by it if their Magical Armor is down. This means that not only your target will start taking damage when you get rid of at least one of their Armors but it will also becomes sensitive to all associated CC, those effects can potentially make a target completely harmless!
Many strategies can work but I would suggest when you start the game to have 1 party member focused on physical damage (targeting low physical armor enemies), 1 party member focused on magical damage (targeting low magical armor enemies), 1 supportive party member that will make sure to help allies whether at getting rid of enemies or protecting them (giving them more armor, healing etc.) and 1 last party member that will cover his allies to avoid them being CCed.
Be careful as enemies will most of the time used your weaknesses against you and any target with a dangerously low Armor will become an easy target and very likely become disabled soon enough.
Make sure to also balance your skills that are mostly meant to do heavy damage and skills that have particularly strong CC effects. For example a Rogue with Scoundrel and Polymorph will first use Throwing Knives to get rid of his target's armor (as it is a high damage skill with no CC associated to it) and then use Chicken Claw on his target only when his Physical Armor is down as this skill does no damage but turns the target intot a chicken for 1 turn as long as it doesn't have Physical Armor.
Note that the CC applies after the damage are dealt which means that if you deal 10 damage and the target has 5 Armor the CC effect will work so you can use Skills with CC effect on low Armor targets if you can destroy it at the same time (Tentacle Lash from the Polymorph is a good example of a decent mix of damage and good CC effect).
Master the elements, master the fields
I don't want to go too much into details with the elemental fields as they are actually pretty intuitive but they still are extremly important and can turn the tides radically whether for good or for worse. The elements can effect not only the characters but also the environment. A harmless pool of water can quickly turn into a deadly area if you cast an electric spell in it. Elemental fields can be there because of the environment or created by characters in combat (works outside of combat too and has impacts in many puzzles). In DOS2 as you can expect if you read the previous section elemental fields work in relation with Armors. Most elemental fields are connected to the Magical Armor (not every though, Ice is Physical for instance) and moving in a harmful field will both deal Magical Damage and eventually CC you depending on the field. There is so much to say about fields that I won't add too much (a full guide on fields should be required and I will do it if you are interested) but note that there is one major addition to DOS2 concerning fields that DOS1 didn't have which is the effect of Bless and Curse.
Bless and Curse are effects (and also spells, let's make it simple for now) that will transform a field entirely to modify its effects. If you bless a field of fire it will turn into a blue Holy Fire that will not only remove all burning effects but also heals characters in it. Overall Bless will turn any field into a positive effect and Curse will create very destructive and impairing fields. Fire for example will turn into Necrofire which can't be extinguished by normal means and requires to wait its natural end or to use Bless on it to counter the effects.
Those two effects start to be available towards the end of the first Act and can change drastically your strategies. They can be used both on a single target (which will then transform the fields it walks inside) or on a specific field to affect this one only. Be very careful with those effects as both affect enemies and allies alike!
More combat tips will be given at the end of this guide in the random tips section so be sure to check it out!
Adventuring, Chatting and Questing
This section is all about your adventures outside of battles because yes DOS2 is far from being combat-only and has very deep adventuring whether it is through conversations or exploration.
Exploration is a big part of the game and can be easily overlooked. Yes you can go only from point A to point B but by doing so you will miss out a lot of things including very interesting things (both in terms of rewards and entertainment). Overall I recommend you to turn every stone and to go everywhere (and I mean physically bring your cute little happy characters there, not just the camera you lazy nerd!). First of all by doing so you will often find things you wouldn't have find otherwise and secondly hidden treasures and interactive things (lever, traps, you name it) are not rare to find (so get a shovel in your bag!). Also you will want to display interactive items pretty much all the time when you discover a new location (by default the key is Left Alt on your keyboard) not only it shows the items you can collect but also sometimes interactive things you may have missed (what appears in red is things that belong to someone so don't click on it unless you want to steal it obviously). The AI should normally naturally avoid to walk in hazards but sometimes it will just happen, try not to let your character run around too long without you looking or a BOOM could happen without you even noticing.
There is technically a million other details I could put here but in-game tutorials are there too to help but know that you can do a lot of other things like sneaking, pickpocketing and staring at your stupid character falling all by himself on a tiny ice pool.
Conversations and trades
As with the rest of this section of the guide it is very hihgly recommend to talk to EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING (yes, even animals, specially if you have the Talent Pet Pal, and yes, you want the Talent Pet Pal on at least one of your characters). Every NPC in this game has something to say and even the ones with a very few lines of dialogs you often can get something useful out of them (like special discounts when you trade because you said something they liked). You should ALWAYS check what each NPC has to trade (I suggest you do it at the very start of the conversation before you forget because the conversation was so fascinating). It's rare to find NPC with nothing interesting to trade as most of the time each NPC will want to trade a specific type of items (for example one will sell Geomancer skillbook, another one Scoundrel skillbook etc.). I very very very VERY strongly suggest that you open right away your map and place a marker on it where the NPC is to write what type of items it sells so you can easily remember where is that one Hydrosophist vendor when you need it hours later.
Dialogs are pretty big in this game and important so please take the time to read them and if you start to feel you are skipping a bit too much dialogs just take a break and come back to play later, trust me you will enjoy the game a lot more that way. First of all dialogs are very interesting and secondly there is so much hidden content to find thanks to dialogs even kids can lead you to secrets in this game (even dogs, pigs and cows yowdy!).
There's not a whole lot to say about quests aside from the fact that the game won't ever hold your hand to do them. It's good to open your Journal often (L key by default) to check what quests you forgot about and could easily tackle right now. I heavily suggest you always keep a very close look at your companions Quests (in some cases you need to talk to them or other things to activate them or make them progress) as they are going on throughout the course of the game and you love your companions that want you dead so badly right ? Again don't forget you can place markers on the map, those can be handy for quests too.
Few tips about inventory management
And lastly a quick list of tips for adventuring with the smile:
- Keep a shovel in your bag, obvious but just do it (Lizards don't need one actually they have claws for that)
- Grab a Bed Bag as soon as you see one and keep it in your inventory (you can find some at the very beginning on the game on the boat actually). This holy grail item instantly heals all party members at full around you and can be used infinitely as long as you are not rested and not in battle. It's a lot more convenient than spamming healing spells after every fight right ? (also gives a sweet little bonus if you use it right before a fight).
- Don't forget the Pet Pal talent, animals have so much secrets to share!
- Quicksave (F5 by default) and Quicload (F8 by default) are your friends. Press F5 anytime you did something that would be a pain to do over again such as a fight, a big session of trading etc. Trust me you will save a lot of time doing so. (you can choose how many quicksaves are being kept as backup in the options by the way!)
- You can place items as "Wares" in your inventory which are then all instantly put in the Sell window when you click on the Icon at the top of the screen making selling a much easier task.
- In singleplayer in particular it's good to have each party member inventory fulfilling one purpose. One contains all the "Wares" to sell (the character with the highest bartering), one contains all the crafting items (preferably not your main to avoid struggling to find a specific item you just picked up), one having all quest items etc.
- Bags (and containers in general) can make inventory management a LOT easier, you can for example place all your consumables in a bag and then place the bag in your hotbar so when you use it in combat you have all your consumables in one place! Likewise you can use one container for all your keys, another one for all your potions, your scrolls, arrows, grenades etc etc etc. Containers are your friends!
- You can rotate objects you are about to move around in the environment (By default by using the mousewheel as you hold left click when you move the item around). It sounds silly but some very heavy items that block your way can be moved more easily by being rotated than moved entirely somehow (barriers for example).
- You can change your party formation in the Menu which not only changes how your characters move around as a group but also at the start of the fight.
- You want to save the black cat in Fort Joy, trust me, you do.
Here is a list of random but useful tips that should help you out to get better in combat:
- One character = One strategy: It's best that each of your character does what it is supposed to instead of trying to do everything with every character.
- Be ready, be adaptive: It's good to specialize your characters but don't rely too much on the same strategy or you may have serious troubles in some situations. You will face very varied encounters and if for example your main source of damage is fire any Magical Armor heavy or Fire resist heavy team will completely destroy you. It's also good for each of your character to do a tiny bit of what it's not supposed to do such as having one Magical Armor CC on your heavy Physical Damage character (and vice-versa) for that moment where you can only that one type of CC.
- Synergy is the key: Synergy between your characters but also within each character's build will get you anywhere. If you feel your characters lack synergy try to figure out why, sometimes it can be because of their Initiative Score (you often want to put Poison before Fire for example), sometimes it can be because they are doing too much of the same, sometimes it's another reason entirely. On a team-scale try to make the count of how many CC you have, their Armor type and which character holds them, the count of your defensive options, what mobility options each party member has. On a character-scale make sure that your damage-dealer character have good skills to get rid of armors fast and decent CC options that are cheap-enough to use and with cooldowns that allow them to be used when needed to make sure you keep the upper-hand.