Given the sheer complexity of it all, there were some concerns over how well this deep, PC original RPG would translate onto the console setting, but now that it’s been out for about a week, I had enough time to get to grips with it, traverse its magnificent world and report back on my findings. Surprisingly, the conversion has proven to be top notch though, matching and perhaps, in some areas, even besting the original, coming – as it does – with all of the additional features provided by the Enhanced Edition update that PC gamers have been able to enjoy, including fully voiced characters, an improved story and local co-op play among others. The original release, which graced PCs mid-2014 was already an excellent effort, so it perhaps unsurprising then that this revamped version is a top notch contemporary RPG that is more than worthy of your attention.
Describing Divinity: Original Sin as “contemporary” might actually be a tad wide of the mark though, it is, after all, a traditional PC adventure, viewed from an isometric perspective and packed with more detail than a Tolkien novel. There are tons of missions to complete, battles to win – these are played out in a turn based style – and a dense amount of text to sift through, though this is alleviated somewhat by the addition of voice acting. Despite the potentially serious nature of the game, the developer, Larian, have gone to some lengths to lighten the tone, from witty character observations whilst out on the road, to the use of rock, paper, scissors as a means of breaking the deadlock should an argument ensue. It all adds up to an RPG of great personality, which should bode extremely well for the sequel when it arrives.
In terms of its story, Divinity starts things off with a seemingly innocuous quest to investigate a murder, before quickly escalating the gravity of the situation to see its heroes trot off to save the world entire. And this is a world that is as deep as any featured in a previous role playing game, one where people form opinions about the protagonists and their party based on their actions and dialogue responses, where some NPCs will simply snub the opportunity to converse with some characters if they are not the designated leader of the party. Sure, other games have attempted to implement conversation wheels to enliven situations and a layer of interactivity, yet none have prompted the level of thought that Divinity encourages, with every action and response becoming a carefully weighed up decision. Sure, this might slow things down a tad, but there’s no doubting its importance, even if it will come at the cost of alienating many console gamers used to the high octane thrills supplied by the likes of The Witcher and Mass Effect.
After all, the initial release of Divinity: Original Sin was created solely with the PC gaming market in mind, and it does show in several aspects of its design, most notably, the UI, which is perhaps not as user friendly as one would like. Menus, particularly, the inventory, can become overly cluttered, making it difficult to sift through – or at least a time consuming affair to do so – which is further worsened by the fact that each character has their own inventory to manage. To a certain extent, this is a great feature, but remembering who you were controlling when an item was collected, and trading between a party of up to four characters has a tendency to bog players down in unnecessary details.
Combat is another such example, with the screen at times becoming perhaps a tad too cluttered for my liking, and, in battles with numerous enemies, targeting became something of an issue as it’s just so damn fiddly. However, putting aside these grumbles, the combat system that Larian uses here is actually very good, and immensely tactical, with the game placing a greater emphasis on the use of magic than most games, leaving physical attackers as tanks to protect the fabled backline of their formation. The use of elements cannot be emphasised enough, making it extremely important to pay attention to one’s foes, understanding their weaknesses before exploiting them, yet this also extends to simple adventuring, where fire proves a rather deadly obstacle, though a simple water spell can render it obsolete. Naturally, this works the other way too, so if a group of enemies are found to be carelessly standing in a puddle of oil, igniting it will soon finish them off before combat has even properly begun, otherwise, battles can become long, drawn out affairs.
Combat can go on for some time, which can become frustrating should defeat be the outcome of it, there can be no messing around here, Divinity: Original Sin is rock solid, it won’t pander to any gamer, it’d surely rather set them on fire before standing proudly over the smouldering corpse. Save and heal regularly, and make sure that you are well stocked up on healing potions at all times, I made the mistake of simply wandering off on mini-adventures of my own and paid the price for it several times. I believe if was Benjamin Franklin that said “by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”, so consider that.
Visually speaking, the game runs extremely well on both PS4 and Xbox One, with a level of visual fidelity that matches the PC version running on its highest settings, the only compromise – if one even sees it as such – is that the frame rate is locked to 30fps, from which it does not deviate. I imagine that most gamers will unlikely be wowed by its looks, but personally, I found it to be most pleasing on the eye, particularly given the original’s humble beginnings as a Kickstarter funded project.
A nice touch that the game brings to the fold is the inclusion of local split screen play, this is a dynamic system that sees the screen divide only when the two players drift apart, before reuniting when they do so. It’s rare to see an RPG offer this, and it’s just one other way that Divinity stands apart from the crowd, especially in this day and age where even Halo has abandoned local play and placed even greater importance on an online connection.
With anywhere between fifty and one hundred hours of gameplay, superb visuals, intriguing combat, interesting characters and locales, co-op play and even a novel stealth mechanic, it’s a pretty tall order to find enough faults in Larian’s efforts to not recommend this as a purchase. Sure, it may have a couple of irksome issues and be brutally hard, but overall, it is an immensely impressive RPG adventure, so for fans of the genre, this is surely a must have release. After all, it’s a deathly serious game with a fantastic sense of humour, and that, as Schopenhauer said, is the only divine characteristic of man.