The role-playng genre gets a dose of Divine intervention
Divinity: Original Sin made quite a splash when it landed on PC over a year ago. Developer Larian Studios’ surprise blockbuster provided an unapologetically old-school RPG framework combined with a rich and dynamic story that proved to be a potent recipe for an instant classic. Now, the game has made its console debut with Divinity: Original Sin: Enhanced Edition, allowing a whole new audience to experience the game’s rich role-playing package. More than a mere port, this refined adventure offers a host of new features and enhancements to Larian’s core game in what truly stands as one of the most engrossing adventures to be released in recent years.
For those new to Divinity: Original Sin, the game is largely inspired by games like Baldur’s Gate among other classic CRPGs of the ’90s. From the outset, you’re thrown into a massive and dangerous fantasy setting with little more than your wits to keep you alive. The game’s towns are filled to the brim with quests to undertake and mysteries to unravel, and you’ll need to pay attention to every last detail, as this adventure does precious little hand-holding. Rather, you’ll need to oftentimes think outside the box to resolve the game’s myriad side-quests you constantly uncover, which proves to be simultaneously one of the game’s most exciting and frustrating qualities. However, if you’re looking for a world where you can spend dozens of hours simply chatting up the town and digging into the nitty gritty of nearly every resident’s backstory before even setting foot in the game’s hostile wilds, this is certainly the game for you. Simply put, Divinity: Original Sin: Enhanced Edition is a game you’re not going to wrap up in a few dozen hours, it’s a sprawling adventure that demands patience and commitment, and rewards dedicated players with a endlessly involving epic that they won’t soon forget.
Divinity: Original Sin: Enhanced Edition’s story puts players in the adventuring boots of a pair of custom-made”Source Hunters”: an elite organization on a mission to destroy a dangerous magic called “the Source” and its secretive practitioners, known as…wait for it… “Sourcerers”. The duo has been dispatched to the port town of Cyseal to investigate the mysterious assassination of an important councilman. Of course, this proves to be merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg as the party is tossed into a grand adventure where the fate of the world itself hangs in the balance. While you can play the game as a solo affair, you’ll end up adventuring with at least two members in your party at all times. You can shape these core members of your team from a wide variety of specializations, from genre staples such as stealthy rogues, damage-dealing fighters and the usual stable of mystical adepts. Striking a solid balance with your party is imperative from the outset, and it’s not unusual to find yourself falling back to the drawing board a few times after you discover your party is a bit unfit for the task at hand. For example, my first party was comprised of two sword-wielding warriors – a fighter and a knight – who proved utterly hopeless against the hordes of the undead who wander the countryside outside the starting city’s walls. Simply put, without the benefit of a magic user in my party I was simply unequipped to put much of a dent in their health bars. While the trial-and-error nature of the opening hours is a bit frustrating, eventually you’ll come to grips with the game’s mechanics, allowing you to tear into the heart of this uncompromising package.
As with many games in the genre, Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition is an extremely menu-heavy experience. Developer Larian Studios really crammed an unbelievable amount of functions into the Xbox One and PlayStation 4’s gamepads. While the results are admirable, considering just how many inventory menus, dialog boxes and hotbars you’ll pore through at once, things admittedly become a bit unwieldy when trying to swap between several party members on the fly, swapping items and generally doing the things that adventurers do. It’s not impossible by any means, but even with all of the effort Larian spent in cramming every last bit of functionality out of the console’s limited selection of buttons, it’s hard not to shake the feeling this is a game that was designed from the ground up with the mouse and keyboard in mind. On the flip side, maneuvering around the battlefields feels great with the controller, and it’s easy to sway the camera to the idea angle to suit any given situation.
One of the most satisfying components of Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition is the game’s extremely enjoyable drop-in, drop-out cooperative multiplayer mode. In an age where couch co-op is nearly nonexistent, especially when it comes to RPGs, this feature proves to be one of the best parts of the game. When in close, players share one single screen, with the game smartly splitting the screen vertically as they drift apart, giving each player their own UI as they venture throughout the world. This is handled exceptionally well and gives each member of the party a great deal of freedom to take care of business as they see fit without worrying about hindering the other player’s progress. Additionally, more than mere guests, the each player is given direct control over dialog choices during missions, allowing them to dynamically affect the way quests unfold depending on their decisions, even if it’s at odds with another player’s choices. This ability to shape each character’s distinct personality through one another’s actions is simply awesome, and directly impacts the traits each member of the party receives. Simply put, if you have the option to play the game with a friend in either local or online co-op, do so. It’s one of the most brilliant parts of Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition’s entire experience.
A role-playing game is only as good as its combat system, and Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition is superb. The skirmishes you’ll undertake over the course of your adventure are consistently challenging affairs, and your party will often be outnumbered two-to-one. Each member of your party has an allotted number of available action points, which allow them to move a certain distance across the battlefield, attack, cast magic and utilize tools and items. Attacking a far away enemy may leave you with just enough action points to execute one attack, however, your next turn may afford you enough points to execute a volley of several attacks, permitted your foe is still in front of you. Simple enough, right? Well, Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition also throws a wide variety of obstacles and objects into the fray, allowing you to shake things up. Some battlefields will be littered with explosive barrels, which work well to incinerate foes congregating around them. Additionally, tossing an oil drum into a gang of baddies will slather them in the viscous crude, slowing their advance to a crawl, giving you the advantage. Additionally, enemies who thrive in the fire will be quickly uprooted if you cast a water spell, effectively raining on their parade and clearing your path to advance. While superficial at first glance, these various land-effects prove to be constant companions in the game’s battles, and can oftentimes mean the difference between life and death.
Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition may not be the best looking game to grace modern consoles, but it’s still attractive nonetheless. The game features a variety of very attractive and imaginative fantasy landscapes, as well as a wide variety of well-animated monsters that seek to make your party’s life a living hell. Waves crash on war-ravaged beaches, streams babble into churning waterfalls, and gorgeous vistas showcase ancient, awe-inspiring structures that will surely make you take notice. Most importantly, the game runs very well, even when the screen is littered with explosive particle effects and broken bodies, even when played in split-screen with a friend.
In terms of audio, Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition is no slouch either. Larian has added a ton of new spoken dialog to the game, which breathes fresh life into the experience while giving your eyes a break from the sheer mountains of script that make up even the simplest quest. All of the performances are consistently impressive, and the court jesters at Larian Studios have done a fine job of cramming as many quirky lines of dialog into the script as humanly possible, some of which is outright hilarious. The music is equally impressive, featuring a wide arrangement of orchestral tunes that fit the fantasy setting perfectly.
Simply put, if you haven’t yet experienced Divinity: Original Sin, Enhanced Edition is the perfect place to start. The game is absolutely massive, offering up easily 80 hours of play that can be experienced alone or with a friend. The game’s drop-in, drop-op cooperative play is a huge boon to the package, and proves to be one of the most defining components of an already exceptionally crafted adventure. While the game’s controls aren’t perfect, and the challenge is oftentimes overwhelming, those looking for a seriously engrossing role-playing game will find a fantastic journey that demands to be experienced.
Final Verdict: 4.5 / 5
Available on: PC, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One ; Publisher: Focus Home Interactive ; Developer: Larian Studios ; Players: 1-2; Released: October 27, 2015 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PlayStation 4 review code provided by Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition’s publisher, Focus Home Interactive.