PC gamers have been roaming through Divinity: Original Sin since the middle of last year, after a successful Kickstarter campaign and some hefty delays. For these day-one players, it's been yet another long wait for the Enhanced Edition to roll out: an immense - and free - update to the initial release that fleshes out and extends an already large role-playing game. It provides controller support, fully voiced characters, split screen local co-op, a revamped story, and many, many other tweaks that take it to the next level. Now, we console users are getting our first taste of Divinity: Original Sin, with the extra features that the Enhanced Edition adds built in as standard - and what a feast it is.
This is a dense, richly detailed game with a unique personality. It is presented as a classic RPG, with an isometric viewpoint, turn-based battles, and dozens of quests to tackle. You start off by creating two characters, both of whom are Source Hunters, tasked with eliminating dark magic - source - from the world. It offers some presets, but you can mess around with them as much as you like. These two characters will stay with you throughout the game, but you can have up to four characters in your party at any time.
Whomever you decide to take with you on your quest - which, initially, is simply to solve a murder in a small town - Divinity makes each character their own, with some brilliantly over-the-top voice acting that lifts the otherwise text-heavy conversations. They'll regularly make observations while you're roaming about and exchange thoughts, and sometimes they'll disagree. Arguments are dealt with, rather novelly, via games of rock, paper, scissors. You'll find yourself going through conversation trees rather often, though an excellently written script helps. It's clear that Larian Studios doesn't take itself too seriously - a glance at its logo suggests as much - and here the developer has implemented interesting, quirky, and often very funny dialogue.
But you should be careful what you say back; people that you speak to all have an opinion of you, and if you say something that they find insulting or disrespectful, expect their attitude towards you to fall, and vice versa. In fact, during the murder quest line that we mentioned earlier, one of our characters completely lost favour with a major suspect, and he wouldn't speak to us again - he absolutely hated us. One quick tip: keep merchants happy, otherwise they put their prices up.
This reactive world that Larian has created goes some way to increase the level of immersion, and it makes you truly feel that you're role-playing - you're having an effect on people, positively or negatively - and it does this effortlessly. There is an attention to detail in Divinity that elevates this sense of being in the world. You can't waltz into people's houses and steal everything without expecting some kind of backlash, for example. Meanwhile, if you recruit someone who's on a lower social peg, don't bother trying to speak to anybody while they're leading - the person will just ask to yatter to someone more important, and you'll have to switch characters.
You can do this by holding L2 and selecting a party member on a radial menu, while accessing the inventory, quest log, equipment, etc. is on a separate radial menu, pinned to R2. The user interface has been adjusted from the game's PC origins as effectively as can be expected, but it can be fiddly at times, especially when you have a full team on the go. You'll spend a fair amount of your time in menus, and these menus can get rather crowded once you've accrued a healthy number of potions, magic scrolls, crafting items, and assorted paraphernalia. It's clearly a game made for PC first in this sense, but if you can forgive the UI for its busyness, it really doesn't do a bad job of things.
It's a similar story in the turn-based combat, with the screen getting a little too hectic at times. However, ignore that and what you have is a rather excellent fighting system. It puts the focus on elemental attacks and magic, which not only impacts your enemies, but can also impact the environment and your allies. This means that you have to play strategically and manage where your crew members are on the field, as well as simply kicking orc backside. Fire on the ground can hurt you and your adversaries, but it is easily dealt with by water spells and items. Similarly, if you notice that some bad guys are standing in a puddle of water, send an electrical spell their way and the damage is increased - but it means that the puddle isn't traversable any more. Enemies can cause these effects too, so, for example, if you're fighting a fire elemental or two, try to avoid standing in oil.
Battles can be long and they can be very tough, especially if you haven't stocked up on healing potions and means of dealing with the different states that you'll end up in. Divinity: Original Sin doesn't hold your hand at all; in fact, if anything, it tells you the basics of gameplay, gives you a pat on the back and says, 'go on, then'. You aren't told the many intricacies of the game, presumably because if you were, you wouldn't get to the actual game for quite a while. If there's one thing that we can unequivocally say Divinity: Original Sin is, it's difficult. Save often - you have been warned.
While it may be a tough cookie, the surface certainly doesn't show it. The style of the visuals is almost cartoon-like, with a bright, vibrant, varied world, and some fun character designs. The environments and architecture are chunky and intricate, yet they use simple colours. One or two small bugs aside, the end result is rather lovely, though it doesn't hold a candle to PlayStation 4's graphical top brass.
What it lacks in mind-blowing graphics, though, it makes up for in scale, as this is a vast game. Expect to put anywhere between 40 and 80 hours, possibly much more, into one playthrough. You will easily fill your quest log with the seemingly endless side quests, and you can spend hours simply tinkering with your party members.
The game is full of little touches that make this management side of RPGs a bit easier. For example, if you find a really cool weapon in a chest, but it isn't suited to your current character, you don't have to switch control to another hero; you can choose to send it directly to the suitable character's inventory, rather than do it the long way. This can be useful in battle, too, as you can send items to each of the characters, so if one has a bunch of health potions, for instance, you can distribute them to the others. Also, there's only one experience bar, and it affects your whole team. This means that the whole of your posse level up evenly and everyone gets a boost, so there's never a point where one of your characters feels less powerful than the others.
If the idea of controlling up to four party members at once sounds like a daunting task, you can always make use of the Enhanced Edition's local split screen co-op, which is as simple as pairing a second controller and pressing a button. This puts the second player in control of one character while you deal with the rest. A nice touch, and something that can come in very useful is that if player two strays too far from you, the shared screen splits dynamically, and joins back up again when you're reunited. The local co-op has been seamlessly implemented, and is a fun alternative way to play.
There are many small things that we haven't got space to write about - things like the stealth mechanic that lets you scope out encounters before they happen, the game's easy-to-understand crafting system, and even that all of the animals that you see walking around have things to say, providing you've unlocked the 'Pet Pal' talent. Speaking to animals may not sound important, but it can come in handy during certain quests - and yes, they can even give quests as well. There is a lot of game in Divinity: Original Sin - Enhanced Edition, and it's well worth seeing it all.
A splendid RPG that tests your skills and your brain, Divinity: Original Sin - Enhanced Edition is a challenging, sprawling, and enchanting title from the very start. Our only quibble is a complex UI that can sometimes get a little too busy, but it doesn't take away from the game's many strengths. Not only does it have an impressive combat system and interesting quests, it features a reactive world that you can truly leave your mark on. Add in a winning sense of humour, well thought-out gameplay systems, and a charming aesthetic, and you're left with an RPG that would be a sin to miss.