Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition (Xbox One)

Going into this review I'm going to approach it as a new game as I have no clue as to what the new additions are about. Bare with me, please ...

When I first began playing Larian Studios' "Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Ed." I was truly overwhelmed by the attention to detail. So much so that I had to spend a little more time with it than normal to give it a fair chance. It had gorgeous landscapes, impressive character design, and tons of menu management options to boot. What you have to understand is that at first the immense amount of text based dialogue, accompanying voice-overs, and multi-layered menus had sort of left me lost without a proper grasp, or understanding. I thought all of it was too overbearing, and that it took away from the actual gameplay portion of the game.

Upon spending some quality time with it though the game grew on me. I became thankful that I didn't just quickly brush it off as some game not worth buying, and that I actually got to a point where I enjoyed it so much that I took to Twitter to boast about the find. I told my followers that it was a gem, and that it was very much worth the asking price. Both of which things I wholeheartedly believe. I also mentioned that it reminded me of a combination of other RPGs including Fable, Diablo, and D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) due to the implementation of things like a moral Q&A system, and Diablo-like perspectives/looting. It truly took me by surprise, and actually brightened the miserable week I was having through it's embedded sense of humor. The game definitely has an irresistible charm about it, and one that is so alluring it reminded me of so many wonderful fantasy films, and fantasy book adventures I partook of in my younger days. The movie, "The Neverending Story" comes to mind.

When it comes to plot Divinity is not lacking in the slightest. In fact I'd say it's more about the massive amount of branching, and sometimes optional stories than it is about the turn based mechanics in it's core battle system. I'll get to the latter part of that statement later though. When it comes to the story itself you'll find that you take the helm as a created pair of 'Source Hunters' (through online co-op, local co-op, or dual management) who are on a quest to unravel the mystery behind a murder that was supposedly committed by an unknown "Sourcerer". In the land of Rivellon, where the many events of the game take place there was an uprising of evil in the form of Sourcerers, or rather magicians who used Source to perform magic of varying sorts. The Source ended up corrupting these individuals, and it was up to the Source Hunters to hunt them down before they could cause trouble.

When the game begins you, and your created partner are on a ship on your way to Cyseal which is a part of Rivellon itself. It's a local island that is unfortunately plagued by the undead, and an army of unrelenting Orcs. This is where the crime occurred, and this is where the story begins to evolve into something much larger in scope. Once in Cyseal the Source Hunters, through your guidance, and management will become familiar with the situation through conversation with village folk, tutorials, and the battles that draw you in whether you like it or not. There's plenty to do in the way of quests, and side-quests all of which are kept track of through a character journal of sorts in a time oriented fashion. Of course figuring out the happenings surrounding Councillor Jake's murder is but a drop in the bucket of what you'll experience, story-wise.

When it comes to character creation, which is the first step you'll take after selecting the difficulty/game mode (Explorer, Classic, Tactician, Honour) you'll find plenty of options to tweak ranging from the name, gender, appearance, skills, and the class of said characters. Gender in particular can be as you wish in regards to your two character team. If you want a two person team of the same gender that is perfectly okay. I personally went with a two lady team, and had their class set to 'Shadowblade', and 'Wayfarer'. What you need to understand about the classes is that there's a decent amount of them (Fighter, Inquisitor, Knight ...), and an unusual variety at that. Each with their own set of skills, and underlying character attributes. Some are magic oriented while others play out as melee type character classes only. There's even hybrid characters that are more balanced in the ways of combat, and magic. Within the character creation menu you can press "Y" to look at all the class info in order to make an educated decision as to which type of character/s you want to main. Once that is done you get to bare witness to Cyseal's current state of being as your initial sea fairing voyage gets you where you are going.

Through animated oil painting-like art panels the pirate captain, and shipmates of the no-name ship you boarded acknowledge you as the Source Hunters you are, and briefly mention your intended goal of meeting up with certain persons of interest when you get to your destination. Once on land pop-up messages will appear in a sort of tutorial form cluing you in on what you can do control-wise, and in doing so will eventually have you engaging in your first battle with some mystery characters. In the way of combat, and exploration options you'll find that the game has a few governing menus, and pie-like systems which come into play as you progress. When it comes to combat the fights will be triggered once you are within distance of an enemy, or group of enemies. Much like the conversational dialogue that begins when you approach a more friendly NPC (Non-Playable Character).

After the combat sequence is triggered a row of square character, and enemy images will appear at the top of the screen. This is where the turn-based combat order comes into play. When your duo's images are highlighted it will be your turn to either move your character, or attack the enemies before you, and visa-versa. This along with every other action you choose to make takes up what is known as AP (Action Points). AP, as it were is limited per turn, and unless managed intelligently it could leave you at a huge disadvantage. Once your character's AP is depleted you'll have to end your turn by holding down the "B" button, and wait for the enemy to do whatever it is they choose to do. Whether you use your weapons, skills, or choose to move the applied AP will be used up. You definitely have to keep that in mind when you are making your choices lest you suffer the consequences. When it comes to melee attacks, or ranged attacks simply dragging the aiming circle onto the enemy character, and clicking "A" will cause your character to attack. If you wish to perform a skill, which will also use up AP you'll have to press "Y", and then select a skill from the bottom skill panel. After that follow up with a press of "A" to select, and then "A" again once the aiming circle is on top of the character you wish to use it on. The same goes for the use of items which can be equipped for use in the same bottom panel by bringing up the "Y" skill menu, and assigning the items therein via "X". When it comes to skills not all of them are damaging, and some can actually benefit your team of Source Hunters in a variety of different ways. Choosing wisely what to do with each is a must if you want to survive the often times unforgiving battles. Keep in mind that there is a save, and auto-save option though, and that it's advisable that you save frequently.

Outside of battle you will be spending a lot of time looting crates, and vases as well as searching areas for items that can be used, or equipped. This is accomplished by holding down the "A" button to bring up a search radius/circle around your currently selected character. Once the search circle extends outwards, and covers a highlighted environmental object you'll be able to search it, and any other nearby containers for items, and armor. The same can be done for dropped weapons which simply require that you collect them after bringing up the search circle. When it comes to looting the treasure chests they have to be looted in a different manner, and that is by pressing "X" once it's highlighted, and selecting either open (key required), or "pick lock (lock pick/skill required)" via the "actions" sub-menu. Once this is done you can collect the chest's contents as you please. It should also be noted that there are various types of traps in the world of Divinity. Some can be disarmed with a disarm skill, or tool while others must be dealt with by using spells, or by breaking element containing barrels that are usually nearby.

Getting back to the description of menus, and available menu options ... You will find in Divinity that there are two segmented pie-like menus which will allow you to manage the characters' equipment as well as perform other actions that pertain to character attributes/stats, traits, skills, and the gathered intel (Log) that becomes so plentiful as you journey along. There are even some secrets to uncover which will also be accessible via one of the two available menu systems. When it comes to character equipment management the "R2" menu, which requires the holding of the R2 trigger button to bring up will allow you to manage the currently played character's equipment via a simple squared off equipment hub ("Equipment"). Weapons go in the weapon slots, accessories in the accessory slots, and armor in the specific armor slots. It should also be noted that armor, and weapons wear out with damage, so repairing them via skill or blacksmith is a must.

This menu system which houses several different menu options (Crafting, Log, Equipment ...) will be how you fine tune, and better understand your characters. In the 'Traits' sub-menu, for example you'll use the various types of points to make your characters learn new skills, and increase their base stats among other things. Through the in-game moral decisions that take place in certain conversations between characters you'll also inherit traits, or character qualities that alter how your character/s are perceived in-game by the NPC (Non-Playable Characters). Some traits will allow for influence over trading, or how easily you can get away with crimes. These traits (and there are a lot of them) usually become tied to your characters in a stacking manner as you make conversational answer decisions or as you perform actions in the view of people. As far as crafting goes it's similar to Minecraft's mechanic of the same name. Basically you'll be taking to items that you've looted, and collected, and try to fuse them together to create, or enhance other items. If you mess up, and the fusion makes nothing it will not empty out your item stock, but will instead return it to your inventory until an item is successfully crafted. Through these two base menu systems you'll be micro-managing your characters, their loot and their personas as you journey forth into Divinity's deeply involved world of wonders.

The Verdict ...

I stick with what I said in the intro paragraph of this review. This game is an absolute charming gem of a game that should not be missed! It's a mixture of various types of RPGs like 'Fable', 'Diablo', and 'Dungeons & Dragons', but it does it's own unique thing at the same time. While there's more story than gameplay listening to the ramblings of the in-game characters is entertaining enough to make Divinity one of the most noteworthy story driven RPGs available on new-gen hardware. The graphics are more impressive than that of "Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Ed.", and the vastly diverse cast of contributing voice actors is the stuff Hollywood directors dream of. Even the combat system was designed well enough to be notable, and it's not often times that you see such a successfully implemented combat system in a rogue-like RPG. If you are into RPGs, or even if you are looking for a game that's worth your hard earned money I think you will enjoy this complex fantasy adventure. I truly do. There's tons to do in Rivellon, and with the multiple difficulty settings in place as well as the massive amount of in-game content to explore you can definitely invest tons of time into fully completing the game. The added fact that it has online, and local co-op multiplayer is a huge plus for those of you who like to enjoy your RPGs with a friend, or family member. Do not miss out!!!

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