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Best Battle System

Divinity: Original Sin II

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When Divinity: Original Sin first arrived, its seamless blending of turn-based tactical gameplay and free-form exploration heralded a wonderful new addition to the PC RPG renaissance. Divinity: Original Sin II, by comparison, is an improved evolution of those same concepts in every conceivable way. No longer do mages solely dominate the battlefield, and enemies are no longer trapped behind easily-abused initiative scores. Experimentation is encouraged and nearly always results in an interesting and satisfying result. Armor has been repurposed into a temporary health pool that can also block special effects of skills, adding an additional layer of defensive tactics to the proceedings. The inclusion of new, playable races also helps. Combat does not reinvent the wheel for the series, but instead iterates wonderfully on an already near-perfect system.

But the single most entertaining aspect of Original Sin II is just how much variety it has to offer. Want to mix swords and lightning? Go for it. How about a stealthy summoner who uses a bow from a distance while the summons do all the heavy lifting? Sure thing. Or maybe you want to grow a pair of horns, ram into someone, and then follow it up with a hail of meteors? Totally doable. Every enemy encounter provides a unique location and scenario that encourages trying new things and almost always ends up rewarding the effort, whether it's a deadly combination or disastrous backfire that triggers several explosions. With free respecs and the ability to learn every skill, the game only seeks to support this open-ended system. Add to that the ability to play through the entire campaign with four people and what Divinity: Original Sin II offers is one of the best combat experiences of the year, both shared and solo.

Horizon Zero Dawn looks like an action game, but it's not. Sure, there are customized arrows, grenade launchers, and three-hit spear combos to use against freakin' robot dinosaurs; but no, combat in Horizon Zero Dawn is a puzzle game in RPG clothing. Every creature is its own mix of challenges, and it's up to the player to decipher what tools to use in what order to make short work of a laser T-rex. There's also some basic stealthery, such as keeping Aloy from getting shredded, and that works well. Mostly, the incredibly satisfying tension, release, and excitement cycle from nocking and loosing an arrow to watching its effects on a target is what makes this shine. Along with the rest of this, the moment to moment shooting and stabbing just feels great for the entire run of the game, which just feels amazing.

Remember when Ys Seven introduced the idea of more than one character fighting simultaneously in an Ys game? It was already pretty fun in that game, but Memories of Celceta improved things, and now Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana continues to apply that good old Falcom finesse. Each character has lots of moves, plays differently enough to feel unique and things move fast. This is not a game where blindly hitting 'attack' will do the job, because enemies keep changing and the environments in which they are fought do too. Whatever flaws this game has, the combat is not one of them.

by Zack Webster, Scott Wachter, Mike Moehnke


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