Divinity: Original Sin - Enhanced Edition is a, well, enhanced edition of 2014 PC release Divinity: Original Sin, available as a free update to previous owners and for the first time on console.
So Wolius the Wizard and Roderick the Default set out on their adventure, and before long the two naturally began to engage in conversation… “What’s this?” We thought. “We’re controlling what both characters say and simply echoing our own decisions back at ourselves. Is this what the personality traits were about during character customisation? Wish that was made more clear, but sod it - we’ll soldier on.”
These foibles were easily fixable in a short space of time by restarting with our newly gleaned knowledge, but it’s testament to the writing and VO that despite our laziness in sticking with the botched creations, we began to grow attached to the pair and find humour in the perpetual-back-patting-echo-chamber that was the dialogue. Of course, it’s also testament to the game that we could forgive such monumental misdirection.
The story may have been rewritten, but the main quest line remains largely unengaging. That’s not to say it’s bad - there’s a complex murder mystery and a huge bloody dragon threatening to end time itself, for God's sake - exploration and side quests just happen to be the stars of the show.
Wandering the world of Rivellon is a treat, a plethora of interesting diversions awaiting around every corner, with an eclectic cast of eccentric characters to meet along the way. We stumbled across more highlights than we can share whilst pottering about, but a few include: stealing soiled underwear for an excitable dog to smell and deduce whether the garment’s owner was responsible for a murder; a clairvoyant revealing our future in rolling the game’s credits early; and four elemental demons devoted to preventing a cave’s contents from ever escaping. What horrors lay within? A harmless wizard speaking only in rhyme, you’ll want to re-trap him for the rest of time.
Unfortunately, the quest system doesn’t really make these moments easy to come upon and is a little obtuse on the whole. There’s no way to know who has a quest to offer, actively track quests, know if you’re appropriately levelled to tackle a quest, or differentiate between main and side quests. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends wholly on the player and how they feel about the game necessitating devotion of their full attention and the thorough reading of all materials (notes, books, diaries, etc.) in order to make good progress.
Yes, it can be frustrating and obstructive, but given time to blossom, Divinity is a moreish adventure with incredible depth...
The humour, slow pacing and lovely ambient music otherwise create a really chilled out experience, but that illusion’s further shattered when you partake in bouts of tactical combat along the way. They’re a challenging, partially luck-based chess match akin to the likes ofXCOM: Enemy Unknown that’ll have you praying to RNGesus in no time. Allies and enemies alike alternate turns in which they can move, use skills and take actions; each task costs a set number of Action Points (AP) that generally limit a turn to one large movement, a small movement and one action, or two actions without moving. This keeps a brisk combat pace, whilst still allowing time to engage your brain and achieve great tactical depth.
The element of randomness can definitely be irritating, you might lose a battle despite perfect positioning because inexplicably your attacks miss and your enemies land successive critical hits, but it’s just part and parcel of the genre. Don’t let that put you off, however, as Original Sin features an “Explorer” difficulty mode for those just wanting to come along for the adventure. On the flip side, there’s “Honour” mode for the clinically insane people that fancy playing on the hardest difficulty setting with one save slot and permadeath that’ll wipe it clean when your party fall.
If even dropping the difficulty isn’t enough for you, you’re able to bypass some combat by fleeing, though we know that isn’t your style, right? Well, for the Solid Snake and Big Boss wannabes, you can stealthily don a barrel/rock/bush/whatever’s to hand and tip-toe around enemy vision cones to escape scot-free.
Sneaking serves more purpose than simple combat avoidance, however. You might use it for combat initiation - sneak into a group of enemies and plant an explosive barrel, before sneaking out and igniting it with a fire spell - or you might distract an NPC by talking to them with one character, switching control to another and ransack their home without them ever knowing. Those starchly North-facing on the moral compass need bring magnets, as sometimes breaking and entering to ‘borrow’ items just has to be done.
Freedom of approach also permeates questing, with many offering multiple routes to completion. As with everything else in Divinity: Original Sin, these options aren’t spoon-fed to you as a list of choices, but must be found independently by acting upon subtle hints. In one instance, we were tasked with eliminating a robot created by a specific NPC - rather than setting straight off for battle, we went to talk with its creator. He was kind enough to gift us the machine’s remote control, but with no idea how to work it, we had to find and read the misplaced manual. After doing so, we were simply able to disable what we knew upon arrival to be a devastating, electricity-spewing, mechanical behemoth and dread to think what would’ve happened if we’d tackled it head-on. Of course, that was an option regardless, as was using the three levers around the room to cut-off its power-supply amidst the barrage of attacks.
Victory granted some tasty rewards in the form of loot, as it always does, equippable by any party member with the stats to use it. You’ll be spending a lot of time in menus, managing up to four (your maximum party capacity) character inventories at any one time. After picking up an item non-applicable to one character, you’ll need to manually transfer it over to the inventory of whomever it is (if anyone) - the process works just fine on controller, but is a laborious one regardless.
Before long you’ll drop that hoarder mentality, taking only what need be taken, and the search mechanic works wonders in accommodating this. Holding A on the Xbox controller will search your immediate surroundings and return a list of the items held within ordered by priority, so key items, weapons and chests place above typical RPG junk items. This quickly and easily allows you to never miss valuables and never clog your inventory with crap. More games need it.
Whilst Original Sin makes strides of its own in that department, its inspirations are clear and it borrows quite liberally from them. Genre stalwarts like Baldur's Gate are obvious ones and overall, Divinity serves as a love letter to them, but some more modern games also receive a nod of the head. In setting, narrative, characters and systems it’s reminiscent of Dragon Age: Origins, whilst the humour and combining of elemental magics reminded us of the Magicka series (good things by all accounts).
These inspirations and the initial release make the developer’s PC lineage evident, and it’s refreshing to see that features typically reserved for that platform make the transition to console unscathed. A multitude of save-slots with quick-save and quick-load capabilities, the option to toggle movement to a point and click mouse-like format and an in-depth options menu home to the best voice audio slider in gaming - put that quote on the box - all make welcome appearances. It’s just a shame high-end PC grade graphics don’t also feature; Original Sin isn’t necessarily an ugly game, but it’s far from a looker and riddled with frequent pop-in.
The Divinity series has been a mixed bag over the years, but you shouldn’t let previous entries put you off what is very much a step in the right direction and a game narratively welcoming to series newcomers. Yes, it can be frustrating and obstructive, but given time to blossom, Divinity: Original Sin - Enhanced Edition is a moreish adventure with incredible depth, full to the brim with memorable quests and characters. It's an easy recommendation for fans of the genre and the best game of its kind currently available on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4.