When you think about the weaknesses of the Mac platform, a couple of obvious areas spring to mind. One is undoubtedly gaming. Even though Steam came to the Mac in 2010, Windows remains streets ahead in terms of the number of games released. The games that do come to macOS often run better when booted into Windows on the same machine. Another shortcoming is Apple’s inflexible hardware strategy, as the company often goes for pedestrian GPUs and unpopular experiments like the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar without offering other options.
These two issues are closely related. Almost no one uses a Mac as their primary gaming machine because neither the hardware nor software are there. A quick look at my Steam library shows that out of the last 20 PC games I played, only five are available on Mac. Three of them are indie games, two of them are old LucasArts adventure games, and one of them is an indie game that looks like an old LucasArts adventure game.
That’s not to say that Mac owners don’t care about games or that it isn’t possible to deliver a great experience on the platform. This month’s release of Divinity: Original Sin II is a perfect example.
Divinity: Original Sin II was released in September 2017, and it’s one of the most critically acclaimed PC games in recent years. It also came out for the PS4 and Xbox One last August alongside a “Definitive Edition” update for Windows that forms the basis of this Mac version, but I call it a PC game because it really is a PC-ass PC game. It’s a dizzyingly complex isometric fantasy CRPG (computer role-playing game) in the vein of Baldur’s Gate, with a huge number of people to talk to and a turn-based combat system that allows for endless creativity. Macs may not be known for gaming, but Divinity: Original Sin II feels much more at home on one than it does on a console.
It helps that the Mac port is fantastic. There are several standout features here that really make it feel like Divinity: Original Sin II has been tailored to the Mac platform and hardware. The port includes native support for MacBook multitouch trackpad gestures, for example, as well as being the first HDR Mac game available. It can be bought on Steam or the Mac App Store with various backup solutions: there’s iCloud save support, and the game also works with Steam Play so owners of the PC version can transfer progress to the Mac and vice versa.
The most surprising addition, however, is Touch Bar functionality. Divinity: Original Sin II requires regular Function keys if you’re playing on a normal PC keyboard, so something had to be done here. Indeed, boot up the game for the first time, and you’ll see a prompt explaining how to turn off the system-level functions that macOS uses those keys for as standard. On a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, however, the OLED strip displays little buttons and icons to replicate the game’s F-key functionality. You can swipe horizontally and tap icons to quick save, switch characters, view your map, inventory, and so on.
The Touch Bar support is fairly rudimentary for what it is. There aren’t any deep multilevel menus, and it’s essentially replicating keyboard shortcuts. But it does work great, particularly for new players. Divinity: Original Sin II is a seriously complicated game, throwing a lot of systems and mechanics at you from the start, and it’s almost relaxing to feel like you know where the important stuff is.
I tested Divinity: Original Sin II on my 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro with a six-core 2.6GHz processor, 16GB of RAM, and a Radeon 560X GPU. It doesn’t have the high-end Vega upgrade options added to the MacBook Pro line late last year, nor will it keep up with a 5K iMac, but the vast majority of Macs are MacBooks and this is the fastest standard SKU that Apple has ever offered. It’s definitely on the high end as far as Mac gaming potential goes. At the same time, it’s normally just a work machine for me, and I wouldn’t expect it to hold up next to any gaming laptop from the past few years — much less my gaming PC that it shares a desk with.
But like a lot of people, I don’t travel with a gaming laptop. I travel with a MacBook Pro. So with that use case in mind, I was impressed with Divinity: Original Sin II’s performance on my Mac. Russian porting house Elverils says it worked with Apple’s engineering team behind the Metal low-level graphics API, and the results are surprisingly strong for what is often a beautiful game. I ran it at high settings with V-sync on at 1440 x 900 (half the Retina display’s native rendering resolution in each dimension) and would hover around 60 frames a second. It’s not the 100-plus-fps-on-ultra-at-1440p-with-G-sync I’m used to, but it would be totally fine if I had a couple of hours to kill on a plane or in a hotel room.
That said, I can’t vouch for how Divinity: Original Sin II will hold up on more consumer-oriented Macs. Without naming the game, Apple actually gave this port a low-key tease at its MacBook Air event in October, but it showed the new laptop running it while connected to a Blackmagic external GPU over Thunderbolt 3. Switching to the Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics in settings didn’t tank the frame rate quite as much as I expected, however, so running the game on a 13-inch MacBook Pro should be doable. If you’re okay with locking the game to 30 fps, it’ll probably be fine on most modern machines.
For what it’s worth, here is the list of officially supported Macs:
- MacBook Pro: all since late 2016
- MacBook Air: all since mid-2017
- iMac: with AMD GPUs since late 2013
- Mac Pro: all since late 2013
- Mac mini: all since 2018
You’ll also need to run macOS 10.13 High Sierra or later.
Even if you have a decked-out iMac Pro, the Mac version of Divinity: Original Sin II won’t be the ideal way to play. I would still rather use my gaming monitor, Nvidia GTX 1080, a proper mouse, and everything that I’m used to on my PC. But gaming is the only reason I own a high-end PC in the first place, and as someone who otherwise largely works on the Mac, such an excellent port of such a huge game is very welcome. There really isn’t much else Mac owners could have asked for from this version of the game.
The idea of Mac gaming will continue to be a punchline for many PC owners, and that’s understandable. But for those PC owners who take Macs on the road, it’s an idea worth supporting. This port of Divinity: Original Sin II proves that when Mac games are treated as first-class citizens on the platform, they can really sing.