Let’s talk a little bit about Divinity: Original Sin, specifically the Enhanced Edition for the PlayStation 4.
When I first heard about this game I was very excited. As I’ve mentioned before, I love a good turn-based RPG. The game sounded amazing with its deep crafting system, open-world(-ish?), and freedom to tackle challenges in a number of different ways. The only problem was the crowdfunding attempt wasn’t planning to bring the game to consoles, which is my preferred way to play.
Given the current state of the industry, and how often PC-only titles end up ported to consoles for those of us who are patient, I decided to wait and see if an announcement would be forthcoming. Eventually I got tired of waiting (glowing reviews didn’t help) and gave in, buying a nice Steam package that was on sale and included a second copy which could be given to my favorite co-op partner. Before we made time to jump in and start playing it was announced that the Enhanced Edition would be coming to consoles… Crap! Oh well…
The end result is that I now own more copies than I need of what would turn out to be an amazing game, in my opinion.
Who Are You?
When you start the game you first must create your characters. Surprise! There are two main characters that can each be customized to your liking. Gender, appearance, voice, class, etc. are all in your control. “Class” is a bit misleading though, because the reality is that it only determines your starting equipment as you can make any adjustments you wish to each character’s attributes, talents, and skills. Even those are not limiting in any way; you are free to develop your character however you like through the progression of the game. My main character started as a rogue, dual-wielding daggers and working from the Scoundrel skill tree with his high dexterity. Eventually I decided to add Aerotheurge (air magic) to his repertoire and began boosting his intelligence attribute to be effective with it.
Any given piece of equipment is only limiting by experience level or attribute level requirements, though certain effects will obviously work more in harmony with your vision of a character. Heavy armor will reduce the movement of a character who you desire to be highly mobile. That awesome hammer I just found? My lightning-tinged assassin could easily wield it if I so choose, but that would render his Back-Stabber talent completely ineffective. You can’t back-stab with a hammer, that would be silly.
Once you are satisfied with the characters you’ve created you head out into the world to begin exploring and defeating evil, you know, like an RPG. There are countless NPCs to talk to (even animals if you’ve the necessary talent), things to buy or craft, quests to complete or ignore, and enemies to defeat, which all culminates in saving the world.
While there are always the two main characters you create, you also have the option to recruit up to two others to join you in your quest for a maximum of four. I use the word “option” but I can’t really imagine playing it any other way (perhaps I’ll investigate further at a later date). There are multiple potential companions available, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, which can help to round out your party’s capabilities. I like to try to have most of the magic elements covered, with a good mix of melee and ranged combat. These companions can also open up side-quests specific to their story.
To compliment my dual-dagger-wielding rogue and my wife’s dual-wand-wielding mage, we added a fighter skilled in heavy armor and two-handed weapons and one who is proficient with a bow.
As you wander around the world, controlling one character at a time, the others will follow you in a tight group. Alternatively, you can “un-link” any or all of them and they will stay put, which comes in handy when navigating areas littered with traps. When playing multi-player (local or online) each of the two players controls one of the main characters, with the companion characters being assigned however you wish. By way of example, I assign myself control of the two-handed warrior while my wife takes the one with the bow. I’m responsible for the front line and she takes care of the ranged action.
It’s not exactly an open world, but it’s still pretty open. The game world is divided into several maps, and you are free to go where you want, when you want. Of course you have to survive first. You may find yourself in more trouble than you can handle and forced to flee until you are more prepared.
The citizens of the various towns go about there business, and can often be overheard in conversation. Personally, I love the endless “marketing” from the vendors in the Cyseal market. “Join the spud club if you’ve an eye for fine potatoes!” As with most RPG’s, talking with everyone will unlock several side-quests and provide plenty of background info about the state of the world and its people.
You can attempt to trade with every NPC you see. Merchants will obviously have a more substantial inventory to browse through, but most everyone will have at least one or two items you can buy or barter for. It comes in handy when you want to unload a couple of cheap items to make some space.
You are free to behave however you wish, for the most part, in nearly the same way as in a Bethesda open-world RPG. You can pick up anything not nailed down and swing your weapon at any living thing, provided you accept the consequences for actions “frowned upon by the establishment”. This can make things tricky, especially using a controller instead of a mouse. For instance if you are trying to initiate a conversation with a shopkeeper to purchase some of their goods, but said shopkeeper steps away just before you press the right button, you may find you’ve targeted a useless item to pick up instead. Suddenly the whole town is against you because you’re an accidental thief and you have consider if you’d rather reload a save… or burn the village to the ground (so to speak, you can’t actually burn the village to the ground).
You can choose to be helpful or careless when it comes to the plight of the world’s denizens. And you can tackle many obstacles in multiple ways. If you’d rather not fight your way through you may be able to use your powers of persuasion. Just because you can find a key to a door doesn’t mean you must, lockpicks or heavy weapons can open a door too! And while we’re on the subject of weapons…
My favorite part of the game is the fighting. The combat system is pretty deep. Everyone involved in the fight takes a turn in an order determined by an initiative stat. You have all the time in the world to decide what to do with your characters’ turns, and you should use as much as you need. Each character has a number of Action Points (AP) determined by their stats and any lingering status effects. Each action, be it movement, special skill or spell, simple weapon attack, etc. requires a certain number of AP and unused AP carries over to the next turn. You can save up to use your most powerful spell, or use several “cheaper” ones depending on the situation.
Pay close attention to the environment, particularly the elements at play. Want to throw a lightning bolt at that zombie? You sure can, but if the rest of your party is standing in a pool of water nearby there’s a good chance they’ll all be stunned as the electricity races across the entire wet surface. Maybe a fireball instead? Probably safer, but when fire meets water it creates a steam cloud that will obscure your vision until it clears. While each enemy can have resistance or weakness against specific elements, neglecting to consider how those elements interact with the current environment, can have disastrous effects. Pulling off a well planned strategy that makes the environment work for you, instead of against, feels great every time.
You have the option to play by yourself, controlling all the characters in your party, or with someone else via local or online multiplayer. I recommend joining forces with someone you trust, or at least enjoy. There are an infinite number of ways a random troll could ruin the experience for you. Remember the example of an entire village turning on you I described above? Choose your online companion carefully if instances like that will detract from your enjoyment of the game.
If you choose to play online, remember that the save file only lives on the console that started the game. Invited players join and participate, but can’t continue the story on their own later. They also don’t get trophies, if that is important to you. Local co-op partners, however, will be rewarded appropriately if they are logged in to their account when playing with you.
One of the best multiplayer features of the game, besides being able to divide the party members for combat duties, is weighing in on what you think should be done at a number of different junctions throughout the course of the adventure. You will often come to a point in conversation where you must venture an opinion. Both of the main characters get choose what’s best, even if they disagree (sometimes I suspect my co-op partner disagrees just to disagree) which can add a sense of personality to each character. When playing alone you can set the AI of the main characters so that the one you aren’t currently controlling can have their own “mind” about things. Often these disagreements, when they happen, will lead to a game of rock/paper/scissors to determine the final outcome. You can’t simultaneously agree to be escorted by the guards peacefully AND pick a fight in protest, after all.
I love this game! Having already seen the credits roll I have no problem starting all over. There are multiple difficulty levels to choose from, including Honour Mode which includes permadeath, and a nearly infinite number of potential character builds or party member options for great replay value.
I guess the only issues I have are the controls. Accessing the inventory, stats, and equipment for multiple party members, as well as crafting, requires a lot of menu navigation that is easily handled by mouse and keyboard, but can be frustrating at times with a gamepad. I think Larian Studios did a great job bringing the same experience to consoles without sacrificing any depth, but cumbersome is cumbersome. Overall a small complaint that probably couldn’t have been handled any better. A must play for any fan of strategy RPGs!
Play nice, everyone!