By: Mike Chen
If you’ve ever used a 20-sided die to roll a perception check, then Divinity: Original Sin – Enhanced Edition is made specifically for you. If, however, Dungeons & Dragons is a level of geekery beyond you, Divinity is still a solid RPG with customizable gameplay to appeal to nearly every fantasy, RPG, or co-op fan.
Most of the time in Divinity, you’re either moving around or rummaging through menus and sub-menus. So goes the RPG experience, and the menus use every button imaginable on the controller. Inventory, character attributes, leveling up, crafting, etc. are all handled through menus, as is the turn-based combat.
The directional pad comes in handy for turning on/off split screen for local co-op and activating stealth mode (characters hide under large fake rocks, which I hope is a medieval nod to Metal Gear Solid’s famous cardboard box), but otherwise, most of the game is menu-driven. Given the stat- and turn-based nature of things, it works well, though it does take some time to remember just how to access every detail.
Divinity didn’t come with a Bioware/EA budget, and it shows in its passable but unremarkable presentation. Visuals are stuck at an isometric view that can be zoomed or rotated, though this isn’t pushing any sort of graphical processing power. While it gets the job done, I wish details like character portraits were larger so you could actually get a sense of detail.
Audio follows a same path, as you get generic orchestral soundtrack music and some solid voice work with somewhat noticeably repeated dialogue throughout.
For those of you that played the PC edition, here’s a quick list of differences in the console Enhanced Edition:
- Better graphics and animation
- Intuitive split screen/co-op
- 360-degree camera control
- Improved AI
- More weapon options (dual-wield, grenades, wands)
- More NPCs
- Adjustable game difficulty
- More/redistributed loot
Most modern gamers associate RPGs with the open worlds of Skyrim/Fallout or the level-driven gameplay of Mass Effect/Dragon Age. Many others, however, associate huge rulebooks, dice, and miniature figures with RPGs. These complex rules and turn-based combat sessions work quite differently. This is the experience Divinity tries to bring to the video game arena, and for the most part, it succeeds, often with flying colors.
To start off, it’s important to note that there are a massive amount of tutorial messages that constantly pop up over your first 4-5 hours (and more, really). And even with that, the game has a huge learning curve, the depth of which may turn some people off. But if you’re willing to invest and be patient about learning through the many layers of menus and options, you’ll be well rewarded with an intense, fun and unique experience.
The world of Cyseal feels like standard fantasy fare — there are orcs and some undead, most people have English accents, and general D&D character classes apply. As for the story, I won’t reveal too much about it, but it’s also standard fantasy stuff about Source (basically magic), evil Source practitioners, and some time/space thrown in, all spawning from a seemingly innocuous murder investigation. If you’ve played classic ‘80s/’90s computer RPGs such as the Ultima series, this pace may feel familiar.
Character creation is involved but not overbearing. Instead, the real depth comes with the many different options available during leveling up; it’s literally a D&D rulebook built into the game. These aren’t cursory attributes, either. For example, in D&D, your ability to detect traps is based on your perception score and a dice roll. In Divinity, you’ll encounter a trap hidden under brush or noxious gas. You won’t roll any dice here, but your perception score determines if you can find the exact location for the trap to disable it.
Similarly, in the turn-based combat, when you move adjacent to an enemy, they might strike you with an Attack of Opportunity — something familiar to tabletop RPGs but perhaps new to the video game crowd. Everything is based on percentages here, and things like distance, skill level and buffs/debuffs contribute to that.
Divinity’s turn-based combat is classic in structure. The order of turns is displayed at the top of the screen while action points determine how your turn plays out. Screen indicators show how many actions points are used with movement distances and a secondary menu (activated by a face button) selects actions, in addition to standard attacks. Because of the turn-based nature, combat becomes quite tactical between your party and the enemy, with some battles lasting a good 15-20 minutes if you really think things out.
Exploration and conversation are just as much part of the game as combat — in fact, Divinity’s difficulty selector actually allows you to focus more on these aspects. Some side quests are merely fetch quests while plenty of others involve persuasion through dialogue trees. When you agree to disagree with a co-op partner, Divinity throws one of the goofiest mini-games out there to resolve this: rock-paper-scissors. Seriously, it’s rock-paper-scissors across multiple rounds to push the direction of the conversation.
While Divinity can be played as a single-player experience with an NPC party, it’s designed for co-op, either local or network. Unlike, say, Diablo, you’re not stuck to the same screen, as an automatic split-screen experience activates, allowing each person to explore on their own or loot while the other player is in conversation. Party cooperation is important, as players will have to select dialogue between each other to influence whether or not you do noble or unsavory things (like robbing a grave).
There’s a huge overarching story in Divinity, and a detailed world to boot (though you’ll see/hear the same nondescript NPCs repeated). However, this game is really about customization through character development, and no matter how you play, it will prove unique to you.
Despite some clunky menu-driven interfaces and a steep learning curve, Divinity: Original Sin – Enhanced Edition is a spectacular RPG experience, particularly if you love old-school tabletop RPGs and/or couch co-op.