Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Maximum Games
Platform: PS4, PC, and Xbox One
Release Date: October 27, 2015
ESRB: M for Mature
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game
It is easy to forget that Kickstarter success stories most certainly exist. One clear proof of concept was when Larian Studios originally pitched an old-school computer-RPG that would display "new ideas and a modern execution" back in 2013. After more than doubling their initial Kickstarter goal and officially launching mid-2014, Larian Studios easily exceeded expectations from both critics and would-be fans alike with an incredibly positive reception of Divinity: Original Sin.
Still, because Divinity: Original Sin was so strongly rooted in PC origin, it was hard to believe that console versions would ever surface from a basic gameplay standpoint. As if to go out of their way to prove such sentiments otherwise, however, Larian Studios has now given PS4 and Xbox One owners the chance to finally play the cult-classic, and seemingly definite version, with Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition. Are the fruits of the original's success still intact or wastefully consumed with unsuccessful consoles ports?
Let's get this out of the way first -- Divinity: Original Sin is a pretty weird game, but it may not seem so (at least at first) with its baseline premise of two player-made "Source Hunters" who are sent to investigate the town of Cyseal for a certain bizarre murder. Source Hunters themselves being individuals who generally deal with matters involving, well, the "Source" (dark magic essentially), and are known ruthlessly try to cleanse it even if means brandishing their weapons on those that practice possibly nefarious magic. But, Divinity: Original Sin quickly proves it is far less straight-laced than its concept is on paper.
I tried to play what I assumed to be normal. The main story had me investigating clues about Jake's murder early in. So, straightforward enough, I prodded local townsfolk and tried to gather evidence. But as I was gathering evidence, I learned that one of my characters had a unique talent tree skill where he could talk to animals, leading to eventually inquiring Jake's dog to see if he can help with investigation. Things then quickly escalated in a strange way as I questionably snuck through the houses of possible suspects to steal their underwear to literally catch the scent of the potential murderer through Jake's dog.
Funnily enough, the quest really did not have to go that way at all, but Divinity: Original Sin loves to nonchalantly reward finding unorthodox solutions that play upon your party's strengths from quests to even combat.... and in this instance it was apparently stealing underwear and dog whispering.
Character-building in Divinity: Original Sin is very complex, making expansive RPGs like the very recent Fallout 4 seem quite straightforward in comparison. I don't think I have felt so overwhelmingly lost with how I should be playing a game in quite a while than I had been in Divinity early in. I probably spent my first 5 hours feeling like a headless chicken when it came learning the most of the gameplay nuances.
Tutorials are pretty minimal (even if the Enhanced Edition apparently adds way more) and it is very possible to make a character that is next to useless if you aren't paying attention to where you are allocating points for talents, skills, and actual stats per level up for every character, which add up long term. This alone proves it was firmly made as a classic computer-RPG through and through. However, when it clicks Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition becomes incredibly fun to play because how much free reign you are given with its quite versatile gameplay mechanics.
The most enjoyable, and also cruelest, part of it all is undoubtedly its very strategic and highly rewarding turn-based combat system. No one battle is the same and the enemy is just as capable of bringing you down as you are them, if not more so. Pro tip: save often.
Learning is more than half the battle in Divinity: Original Sin. There are many variables that you simply won't know until you test them out in actual combat (or see them used against you) and find out what works for you. One seemingly innocuous skill that I grew to adore is the teleport ability for my Aerothurge. Sure, you can use it to slam enemies into the ground for damage or create distance but the real value I found in it is by manipulating the terrain.
For example, I'd occasionally toss a nearby barrel on the floor to cause an oil spill and then quickly ignite floor with a fire spell or molotov grenade to incinerate foe. In more devious instances I'd use that same spell to toss objects to trigger a switch from afar and have enemies quickly met with a barrage of arrow traps. The value of understanding character builds becomes especially apparent as one gains mastery over its excellent and deep combat system.
Honestly, I could gush all day about the combat and the versatile gameplay systems that only gets more fun over time. That said, the real gameplay issues seem exclusive to console when it comes to more mundane tasks like navigating the interface. For one, managing inventory can be needlessly time-consuming because there are no real sorting options. There are many quest relevant items that may require literally reading specifics items you pick up, and considering how much randomized loot there is, or allies having separate inventories altogether, it's needlessly cumbersome to find specific items at times to say the least .
The more serious issue is that fixating on specific targets outside of combat is oddly difficult. I had more difficulty than I should have early in trying to simply talk to NPCs instead of accidentally stealing the item behind them and getting in trouble for it. These feel like situations that would non-issues on PC, or inventory-wise less of one when playing via local or online co-op with a friend (which I hear is incredibly fun), but it is certainly a problem nonetheless on console.
The general presentation is less of a problem, minus abnormally long initial load times. There is not much to comment on the visuals themselves. I mean, it looks solid in motion, with the environmental and particle effects standing out the most, but otherwise it is hard for me to not feel spoiled by the much higher production values of recent western-RPGs like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (which is unfair, I know). The voice acting acting is appropriately hammy with the many eccentric characters and writing but the soundtrack easily outclasses any other part of the presentation. Its orchestral soundtrack is frankly phenomenal, from the dynamic town themes or the eclectic score as you traverse from one battlefield to another. It is all the more heartbreaking that the composer passed away earlier this year because of how much I would love to hear such talent return in the upcoming Divinity: Original Sin 2.
Even a year after its primary PC showing, Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition more than holds up on console. It may be clearly old-school with its classic computer RPG depth (and unapologetic obtuseness) of yore, but it is also noticeably far less archaic than those games in execution. Divinity: Original Sin brings an incredibly satisfying gameplay depth for those willing to learn its combat system and versatile gameplay design that most western RPGs have seemingly lost in their focus on scale with open-worlds as of late. Some clunky console-specific idiosyncrasies aside, Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition is heartily welcomed as a truly great RPG and I can not wait to see what the talented developers will have in store in eventual Divinity: Original Sin 2.
+ Immense depth to character builds and ways to play the game
+ Challenging and very tactical turn-based combat
+ Fantastic soundtrack
+ Generally goofy, but appropriately whimsy writing and storytelling
+ Rewards finding unconventional solutions through gameplay to many scenarios
- Can be pretty overwhelming to get a feel on how to even play the game early in
- Interface and control quirks make basic actions more slow and cumbersome than they should be
- Long load times
Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10)
Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition brings a genuine depth that many RPGs have seemingly forgotten as of late in their focus on scale. Though it may be difficult to learn early in, few RPGs are as rewarding as Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition in the long haul when it comes to the mastering its very strategic combat and versatile character creation.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.