When Divinity released in 2014, I was caught more than a little bit off guard. Up to that point in my gaming career, I’d had very little experience with classic PC RPGs, having only heard stories about the likes of Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. When Original Sin entered the zeitgeist, I jumped in with nary an inkling about the love affair I would soon fall into.
Conceptually, Original Sin captures everything I love about the roleplaying genre. It’s a game filled with meaningful decisions. You roleplay your characters in the truest sense; the way you interact with others shapes your personality, making your heartless pragmatist a more intimidating foe than my rose-eyed romantic. All of this fits in a world just brimming with lore, but one that doesn’t bog itself down with the “serious business” of high fantasy. Original Sin is a charming, funny game, both in its writing and its mechanics.
In fact, one of the things I love most about the game is that you can spend hours doing everything but the main quest. As that game opens, you, a source hunter -- which we can think of as a kind of magic-focused sheriff -- are sent to the town of Cyseal to investigate the murder of a local noble. After three hours, I had barely made a dent in the quest; however, I had stolen nearly every painting in every house the town then sold them back to their owners for mountains of gold. Before I’d even moved on, I had my party decked out in greens and blues ala World of Warcraft, feeling like the most duplicitous hero Cyseal had every seen.
What made this so interesting is the ability to split the party and send each to their own task. If you’re playing on console, two players could go split-screen and adventure together, or if they choose, do their own thing entirely. For my part, I sent my party members to distract the homeowners while I robbed them blind. Thanks to dual dialogues and the ability to roleplay both of your main characters, my companion often gave me the holy guilt trip about taking things which didn’t belong to me, but, charming as I am, I played this off with a wink and a smile.
Also making its return is the wonderfully strategic elemental combat system. Skills in Divinity interplay, causing status effects on enemies that can then be exploited. Casting a rain spell, for example, makes them an easy target for electricity stuns or blizzard freezes. Wizards can cover enemies in oil then set them to burning with a quick fireball. Characters don’t level up often, so strategizing far ahead of your next turn becomes the norm. Matters are made even more interesting with the limited action point system. Everything has a cost, so you have to play smart. Divinity doesn’t pull any punches and you’ll learn from failure.
This month’s Enhanced Edition brings a number of new changes to the game. Most interesting is that more than 88,000 lines of original voice over have been recorded, giving life to previously text-only NPCs. While the acting is undeniably good, the pacing seemed off. Characters too often drawled along short bursts off dialogue long after I’d finished reading what they had to say. While this is personal taste, there is just so much dialogue that I found myself skipping through it just to get on with the game. I also had trouble because I’d played the original; I already had an idea about many of these characters and many of the new personalities just didn’t match up with what I had imagined. They’re well done, but as a former player, I wished there was an option to turn them off without muting all of the dialogue in the game.
More troublesome is that on Playstation 4, dialogue boxes are now these great bland abominations that insist on blocking out the entire center of the screen. Rather than see the characters animate, you’ll be stuck looking at a big dark box just translucent enough to remind you what you’re missing. You can switch characters to see the scene, but it’s a band-aid to an unnecessary problem. When the majority of these boxes consist of empty space, one has to wonder what drove this change in the first place.
Other improvements include the addition of wands for spellcasters and dual-wielding, which makes off-hand weapons that much more useful. Both were conspicuously absent in the original release and make for a welcome if less exciting additions.
More interesting is the addition of Tactician Mode. This mode, not for the faint of heart, is meant to wipe the floor with even veteran players. Divinity’s combat mechanics allowed players to come up with unique approaches to many of the game’s bosses. Tactician Mode takes all of those into account, making bosses smarter and harder than ever before. Original Sin was never an easy game and figuring out unique exploits was one of its greatest pleasures. Starting a new game on Tactician should make the game feel fresh, even for the most experienced of players.
In terms of value, it’s hard to argue that Enhanced Edition is anything less than packed to the gills. The game will take upward of 60 hours on the main story alone with completionist runs taking far longer. That said, it’s strange that PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game are so much more expensive than on the PC. Even though this is the first time the game has released on home consoles, it’s still over a year old and far from the prettiest girl at the ball, even with the graphical improvements. If you already own the game on PC, Enhanced Edition comes as a free update, and if not, it’s only $40 versus $60 on either console.
Is it worth returning if you already played last year’s Original Sin? I think so. Even a year on, Divinity is still one of the best roleplaying experiences of the decade, particularly if you enjoy the old school stylings of a pulled back camera and heavy dialogue. There are some strange design “improvements” that will hopefully become optional in future updates, but overall this version of Divinity is a stellar improvement on an already excellent game.
Gameplay: 9 Divinity’s addictively strategic combat and deep character building systems make it one of the best RPGs in years.
Visuals and Sound: 8 Divinity has color and character in spades. The improvements Larian made are also clear in battles. It’s light on fine detail but rarely worse for it.
Longevity: 10 Not only does the base game offer dozens of hours of content, the new Tactician Mode offers a brand new level of challenge for a second playthrough.
Polish: 8 Enhanced Edition is, fittingly, the most refined version of the game. Still, those dialogue boxes on the console versions are absolutely terrible.
Value: 9 As a free update for current owners and $40 on PC, it’s hard to beat. If you’ve played it before, shelling out another $60 for the console version should give you pause.