It’s incredibly hard for me to review Divinity Original Sin: Enhanced Edtion. When compartmentalized into individual sections it’s a game that I adore, but as a whole, it’s a game that did nothing but frustrate me.
The story in Divinity, at first, seems like your typical high fantasy, but takes an interesting twist once time travel gets inserted fairly early on. You play as two Source Hunters searching for a reprehensible evil-magic called the Source. While looking for the Source you are sent to investigate a murder in Rivellon. Sadly, Divinity’s plot is incredibly convoluted, and I retained very little of what I completed of it. The game has issues with pacing, as well. Your quest log gets bogged down with directionless busy work and you lose sight of where the main quest was going pretty quickly. It re-surfaces at random junctions in the game – you have to talk to every person in a given area and cycle through their dialogue options to complete most quest.
“Divinity Original Sin: Enhanced Edition, when compartmentalized, is a fantastic game…”
Divinity Original Sin is a game that relies on party interaction to deliver moment-to-moment exposition, and add stakes to decisions you make throughout the game by tracking them with a trait system. These incidents of morality come across as clumsy, and usually consist of a party member saying they do, or don’t, agree with a choice you’ve made, and a point being added to one of the many traits. It feels very supplemental in it’s implementation, and never seemed to have an affect on my relationship with my party members, or how Divinity’s world reacted towards me.
Non-playable characters don’t offer much in terms of personality either. From time-to-time you will run across a NPC that will give you an interesting side-quest. Fumble, a bridge guarding troll in search of love comes to mind. He’s a self-deprecating, charming and written empathetically. His quest, however, isn’t very much fun. Like mentioned previously, I just ran around town until I found a dialogue option that was related to his quest. Any goodwill earned from the interaction with Fumble was lost the minute I began wandering the town, aimlessly looking for a way to complete his quest.
There’s something spectacular about organic exploration and experimentation in video games. Taking the time to trek over to a corner of a map, and then uncover something you weren’t expecting can be wholly satisfying. Experimenting with a game’s mechanics can be revelatory, but it’s up to the developer to establish clear and concise rules that dictate how that experimentation will, or will not work.
That is my biggest gripe with Divinity Original Sin. It emphasizes exploration and experimentation, but doesn’t offer instruction as to how to properly do those things within its world. I should rephrase that; it’s not so much that I am looking for a proper way to explore or experiment in Divinity, I’m looking for feedback for my exploration and experimentation that does not result in my death, and subsequently reloading a save – an all-too often occurrence in Divinity.
Unsurety is the word I can best use to describe my entire experience with the game. I never felt as if I was going the right way. The quests rely on cardinal directions to guide players. At first this doesn’t seem like something that would hinder the experience; they are fostering that exploration I was talking about, but the issue is there doesn’t seem to be anything interesting in-between where the quest is given and where it is completed. Divinity wants you to explore, but doesn’t fill the game with content worthy of the investment needed from the player. The vagueness of Divinity’s quest direction forces you to explore, but it isn’t because you saw something interesting you wanna checkout, it’s because you have to be thorough to complete most quest. I’ll surrender the fact Divinity is filled with diverse and beautiful environments; those environments, unfortunately, have the interactivity of a snow globe.
Little infuriating design decisions permeate throughout the game. For instance, movement is handled by clicking a point on the map, but you cannot select that point in the map menu. You have to exit out of the map, then select the point you wish to navigate toward by scrolling to it.
There are also mechanics that seem obtuse for the sake of being obtuse. There are teleportation pyramids that can be used to instant travel between party members, or a specific location, as long as the pyramid is being held by a party member or set in the location of the place in which you wish to travel. The pyramids can be transferred between party members – you can transfer items between dead party members. This circumvents some of the tedium while still being tedious.
What is good about Divinity? Shockingly, the same systems that are so annoying kept me coming back, because there is a bevvy of potential. Divinity Original Sin has a systemic combat system that is varied and thought-provoking. You’re immediately made aware of Divinity’s wealth of abilities when creating your two main-characters. A bit of choice paralysis came over me when creating the characters; I just had to press go at some point. Everything from luck to aerotheurge (a skill dealing with air-based attacks).
Combat is what really kept me coming back to Divinity, even if it is also the most deterring part of this RPG. The game does a fine job of teaching you the basics of the turn-based strategic combat, and how all skills can be used in a rock-paper-scissors way. For instance, a fire-based ability can burn poisonous clouds that are in the air, or a water-based ability can put out any fire-based obstacles placed by a foe. Enemies also have weaknesses and strengths that factor into what skills you use, allowing you to avoid resistances and play with monsters’ gaping defensive holes. Environments play a significant role in combat. Explosive barrels can be used advantageously, and help thwart high-level creatures. You can even use skills that knock-back the enemy to place them inside the smoldering ground to take a couple more hit points off their bars. An action point system is used to make all this work. This could possibly be my only gripe with the combat. Action points can be a scarce, and with the game continuously encouraging you to experiment within combat, it’s like having your cake and only having a finger full at a time.
These systems aren’t limited to having an affect just in combat. A quest comes to mind involving Bicky the Bomber, a bomb shaped monster, that had taken a woman hostage inside of a inn. In order to resolve the quest, I had to find a way to dispatch Bicky without him killing the woman. Again, this is where Divinity shines with a range of ways to complete the quest. You can confront Bicky head on by entering the room, and risk him exploding, you can teleport into the room and sneak up on Bicky with a surprise attack, or, you can do what I did cast a rain skill inside the inn and put out his fuse. I completed the quest without even entering the room Bicky was in. This quest is completely antithetical to the majority of quest I encountered while playing Divinity.
This is where some of the issues of having such a systemic game can hurt the enjoyment of said game. I wanted to experiment with the system, my attempts rarely ended in success. Part of my failure has a lot to with the game being unbelievably hard even on the lowest difficulties, and some of it is the game not starting me off with anything worth experimenting with. It teaches you the basic, but it was up to me to go check vendor’s stock and find abilities worth using. Again, this isn’t me asking for a diamond studded leash to be guided with, just a little bit more than what they gave me. It is really unfortunate to be building a character with certain skill set in mind, only to find out you don’t like it. Or even worse, you aren’t spec’d properly for the sweet skill you just found on a vendor. A really convenient quick save system is in Divinity Original Sin, and at just a press of a button you can save or load. Divinity would be twice as hard without those creature comforts, but I couldn’t get the nasty taste of save-scumming out of my mouth.
One of the big selling points for Divinity Original Sin: Enhanced Edition was the added controller support. It works excellently both in exploring and in combat. Your inventory, skills, and log can all be accessed through a radial menu with a combination of the triggers and analog stick. Controller support isn’t without its criticism, though as skill selection takes a predictable hit when using the controller. There’s just not a enough input options on a controller to match that of a keyboards. Navigating long distances can also be an issue when using a controller. Using the keyboard and mouse you can select a point in the world, and kite your characters to it with just a click. With the controller this is still possible, but the analog stick un-surprisingly isn’t as accurate as a mouse, which causes it to feel like a chore. It works but I definitely preferred the mouse and keyboard here.
Divinity Original Sin: Enhanced Edition, when compartmentalized, is a fantastic game; I love the environments, systemic game play, and plethora of skills. But all that stuff I have a fondness for comes with a ton of baggage that I rather not lug around.
I have a complicated relationship with Divinity Original Sin: Enhanced Edition. So much of it elicits indifference from me, while other parts probe at my imagination, begging me to explores its possibilities. I hate you, Divinity, but I probably will let you back into my life at some point.