Review

Divinity Original Sin is a hard game to explain. Released last year for PC, in essence it’s an isometric RPG which harkens back to the days of old where “hand holding” didn’t exist and you saved your game often because, chances are, you were about to do something stupid and you’d need to undo. In 2015, it’s refreshing to see a game like this still exists. While games like this are somewhat common on the PC, we don’t really have anything to compare it to on console.

The game begins by asking you to create not one but two characters. These characters will be with you for your entire journey and are known as the heroes. You will choose their look and class, but there’s the first catch. Much like the Elder Scrolls games, there aren’t really classes to speak of, only preset groups of stats and skills. Sure, you can start out as a fighter, but after gaining a few levels you can start to morph into a Battlemage or some kind of bizarre Thief/Fighter combo. In fact, you can eschew the class system entirely and just roll your own class. Just be careful, this is the kind of game where it’s entirely possible to roll a broken character.

Divinity Original Sin Screen (9)

So you enter the world and start walking around, free to switch between characters at any time. You’ll ascend some stairs and, here’s where Divinity throws the first-of-many curve balls, start your first combat encounter. Instantly you’ll switch from real-time to turn-based as a background initiate roll determines the order of play for every party involved. Each character has a set number of “action points” that they can spend on their turn to do things like move, attack, cast spells, switch weapons, drink potions, read scrolls, etc. The combat system is a tactician’s dream come to life. Your party, which will eventually grow to four people strong, can play off each other’s skills as they navigate their way through the challenging combat. My Geomancer will crush an enemy with a magic rock – which just so happens to leave a puddle of oil behind, drenching my enemies. Then my Pyrotechnic will cast her fire spell setting the oil on fire. My Hydromancer will cast a protection from fire spell on my Knight, who will then step into the middle of the enemy group to finish them off with a whirlwind attack from her two handed broadsword. When it works out you feel brilliant.

Of course, with a combat system this deep and complex it’s also all too easy to completely mess everything up. A dash into the flames could have set my knight on fire if she didn’t have a protection spell. Positioning is everything in this game, and occasionally you’ll start an encounter with your mages in front and your tanks stuck in the back forcing you to spend several turns moving everyone around while constantly taking damage in the process. If there’s one thing you’ll learn fast in Divinity: Original Sin it’s to save early and often.

Divinity Original Sin Screen (3)

As in every RPG, there’s a lot more to the game than combat though. You’ll spend a considerable amount of time walking through towns, haggling with NPCs (almost every NPC in the game can be bartered with), and chatting it up trying to figure out if they have a quest for you to do. There is zero handholding in this game. No exclamation points over heads for quest givers to let you know they have something they need done, and certainly no waypoints on quest objectives in the wilds. Early on you’re tasked with finding a lighthouse, various NPCs have told you about it, but all you know is that it’s “West”. So West you go! Maybe you’ll find it, maybe you’ll find seventeen other things to do and get sidetracked only to stumble upon it ten hours later and think to yourself, “Huh… I seem to recall something about a something. I guess we’ll go inside.”

The writing and voice acting is fantastic, the systems are deep, the gameplay is wonderful. A lot of this stuff you probably already knew. After all, like I mentioned in the beginning of the review, this game has been out for a year already. Essentially, everything I’ve talked about so far are things that you can learn from any of the hundreds of PC gaming reviews that have given it a solid (and well deserved) 87/100 ranking on Metacritic. From here on out though, I’m not going to talk about that stuff, I’m going to talk about what makes the console version special and unique. After all, the entire UI has been completely remade for its transition to Xbox One and PS4 – how did the developers fare?

Let’s start with what is perhaps the biggest addition: Split screen. If you’re not aware, I play a lot of split screen in my house. From Halo, to Borderlands, to Diablo… if there’s is any kind of couch co-op I’ll most likely use it. Some games get it right (Borderlands), some less so (Diablo). I am happy to report that Divinity Original Sin nails it. In fact, I’d probably go as far as saying that this is the best split screen implementation I’ve ever seen. When you start out you’ll be playing on the same screen, move too far away from each other and the screen will dynamically split in two. Each of you can be on complete opposite ends of the insanely huge world map doing your own thing, all with zero load times and no drop in graphical performance. It’s actually quite amazing.

Divinity Original Sin Screen (6)

Unlike Diablo, opening your character screen or exploring your inventory doesn’t hamper your co-op partner. In fact, everything you need will always be contained to your half of the screen. In fact, all the menus in the game are straight-forward and clear on console. The developer did a fantastic job ensuring all the UI screens are accessible with a controller and at no point did I ever lament the lack of a mouse to do things like assign skills, change gear, or manage my inventory.

The only real issue happens when you accidentally try to pick up something you aren’t supposed to. In the PC version you click on objects with your mouse to pick them up. In the console version you walk over to them and press “X” (or “A” on Xbox One). While this may not seem to be a problem at first glance, it turns out to be a huge problem when you’re in an NPC’s house, you try to select the NPC to talk to them, and *right before* you depress the button they decide to walk away and you end up clicking on one of their belongings. You instantly get accused of stealing, your reputation drops, and – aside from reloading your last quick save – there isn’t anything you can do about it other than donating some free stuff to them to improve your reputation. If you’re trying to play a lawful-good hero, this annoyance makes you wonder why they didn’t include the option to throw up a warning, “are you sure you want to steal this” dialog box. It might seem like a small thing, but do it in the wrong place and you’ll be fighting against a horde of legionnaires (the law enforcement in the game), further putting your reputation down the drain.

Is it frustrating? Yes. I can’t say otherwise. But does the rest of the game make up for it? Yes. Yes it does.

So, is Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition as good as the original PC version that preceded it? Aside from a few faults, a resounding Yes! Focus Home Interactive has done an amazing job taking Larian Studios’ game and porting it to console. Never in a million years did I ever expect to find a game as complex as this actually possible to play with a gamepad. It’s smart, funny, well written, a joy to play and one of the best tactical RPGs I’ve played since the original Neverwinter Nights. That’s just about the highest praise I can give.

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Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition was reviewed by OMG! Nexus on the PS4 using a code provided by the publisher.



About the Author

Jeff
is a dedicated game enthusiast, artist, father of 2 + 2 halves and co-host of The OMG! Hour podcast. He has worked along side great companies like Xbox Canada and ArenaNet and will continue to find ways to make the world a better place for gamers. You can follow him on Twitter as @Sinnix.