Feature Article

Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition, and the Art of Split-Screen Adventuring

Forbidden fruit.

"How many CRPGs on console can you think of that feature split-screen co-op?"

This question from Larian Studios creative director Swen Vincke gave me pause, because honestly, I couldn't think of any. Cooperative action role-playing games are clearly represented on consoles, but split-screen play, and co-op outside of the Diablo-esque realm, are hardly common. The other reason this question struck me was that Vincke used the term "CRPG"--that is, Computer RPG--instead of the more common "Western RPG" moniker. Vincke and I understand each other; we were playing games at a time when different terms were used and different styles were cultivated.

Of course, one of the things I adored about Divinity: Original Sin when it was first released on the PC was that it didn't just rely on old role-playing tropes: it introduced new mechanics that made the game feel as fresh as anything else appearing in the RPG space. At E3 2015, I played Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition on the PlayStation 4 while speaking to Vincke at length about what this new version of Original Sin has in store for us. As it happens, the list of what's new is exhausting and exciting. And if you already own Original Sin on the PC and worry that the new iteration leaves your version of the game obsolete, the Enhanced Edition will be available to you free of charge.

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Allow me to share some of these adjustments. There are new skills like boulderdash and rain of arrows, some of which initiate the elemental interactions that make Original Sin's turn-based combat such a joy. Skills themselves are now separated into novice, adept, and master levels, with the higher-level skills costing more action points. Every graphical asset has been modified, so the camera can be rotated 360 degrees, giving you whatever view you desire. It's much easier to inspect enemies to see their strengths and weaknesses, and thus more easily plan out an appropriate attack strategy. The inventory is much less cluttered, and it's easier to move objects around between party members. Every line of dialogue is voiced, and every spell effect has been revamped. And, vitally, missions, puzzles, and story points have been overhauled. "Things we didn't like, we improved. You will recognize things when you play, but you will say, 'Shit, that's twisted completely, that's different now.' We got rid of all the filler, essentially."

And, of course, controller support was added, and feels as natural as it should as you steer your character around with your party members in tow. Split-screen support is just as natural, incorporating a method that should be familiar to anyone who's played one of Traveller's Tales' Lego games: when you and your partner are near enough, you share the same screen space, and when you separate, the screen vertically splits. Just as in the original release, cooperative partners are not required to stick together. In fact, Vincke and his partner purposefully split, both of them approaching the same quest in two different ways, reminding me what makes Original Sin such a special game.

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The quest in question involves infiltrating a cult called The Immaculates (a quest veteran Original Sin players will recall). Vincke reached his destination--Sacred Stone--by using an invisibility spell, then engaging stealth mode in order to pick a priest's pocket in the middle of a sermon. The key you steal from the priest opens a hatch, which in turn leads you to a portal that takes you to Sacred Stone. It's a shortcut of sorts, an unexpected quest solution that results from Divinity: Original Sin's systemic possibilities, and not the path most players would think to follow. The second player followed another systemic path that most people wouldn't consider: he got himself arrested. A little inventory fiddling, getting another party member to break you out of jail, and use of a teleporter pyramid also provides a shortcut--as does pickpocketing the jailer, if you so desire. Every non-player character is required to follow the same rules as the players, so you will not run into objectives that break the rules in order to force you down a specific trail.

This quest also exemplifies the game's exploratory freedom, which gives players the chance to split up and converge as they see fit. I got to experience some of this freedom myself when Vincke handed me the second controller and we traversed Original Sin's opening region. It didn't take long to get used to using a controller; movement is handled using the left analog stick, as expected, the D-pad provided quick access to inventory, and the triangle button opened access to the skill bar. One tweak in particular that I like is that you can hold X not only to reveal nearby objects that you can interact with, but also interact with them from the menu that opens when an item is nearby. This makes pesky lever- and button-hunts much easier to handle, as you don't need to pick a tiny visual cue out of a cluttered screen.

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The fundamentals, however, remain beautifully intact. As you (or you and your local/online cooperative partner) navigate Rivellon, you move objects around when they block the way, solve environmental puzzles, engage in conversation minigames with other characters, improve your core attributes, and, of course, use the elements to your benefit by, for instance, spreading oil on the ground and then setting it aflame with a fire spell. Aiming spells is a breeze using a controller, and the conversation interface has been enhanced to make dialogue simple to handle. (Don't expect Witcher 3-style complaints about font size, in other words.) Then there is that Divinity charm, evident when Vincke and I encountered a pair of inebriated guards who were almost too silly in their drunkenness to keep alive. Almost.

Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition is due out this fall--hopefully October, if Vincke has his way. After playing it, I'm excited to get back to Rivellon all over again. I am also excited to see the game gain a new audience on consoles. Original Sin has lost none of its unique flavor in the transition, and I can't wait to compare notes with everyone stepping foot into this world for the first time.

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Kevin VanOrd

Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.

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Avatar image for whitewarriar75

so your required too play with 2 people or can u play solo

Avatar image for Thanatos2k

Personally, I think the one thing Larian obsesses over too much is adding multiplayer to the game. I have to believe a very tiny fraction of people play it multiplayer, but they seem to spend a lot of their design time getting it to work.

Avatar image for Etagloc

@Thanatos2k: I played this with my brother (on pc) and its one of the best multiplayer games we have ever played.
because it was tailor made for 2 player, story is not to personal "no main character", and the turnbased and R-P-S conversation system, is simple yet brilliant.

Avatar image for kresa3333

@Thanatos2k: But now that they are going to release it for console its not so true anymore, is there a better way to show a friend/family etc... a game then to give them the second joystick and let them tag along? ^^

Avatar image for Thanatos2k

@kresa3333: There really isn't a good way to get people into cRPGs. You get them interested in normal RPGs first, then give them Baldur's Gate or Fallout 2.

Avatar image for grove12345

Even though this is a product of a Computer RPG I am sure this game will transition well to the consoles.

I cant wait to get my hands on the XB1 version. I had to pass on this game since I heard Pillars was better (I had to choose one since my time and computer resources are limited). The two player mode sounds amazing.

Avatar image for Ovirew

I'd still like to give this game a shot. I bought it on PC, but it simply doesn't run very well on my comp. I'm happy they are making a console version, but now it's just a matter of deciding when I will want to buy this game, amongst all of the other games coming out that I want.

Avatar image for Frozzik

Cannot wait for this on PC. Hook it up to the TV and force the wife to play Splitscreen. At gunpoint if I have to.

Avatar image for stormcloud29

Throughout my playthough of the game, the last thing I wanted was another person controlling one of my characters. Someone joined my game for the first time, and it terrified me seeing them run around with one of my characters.

Avatar image for umair_s51

I am really looking forward to this one. I am hoping that this will be a special game

Avatar image for AyatollaofRnR

Xbox One version?

Avatar image for Deathhawk4

@AyatollaofRnR: Yes it is getting an Xbox one version

Avatar image for ahpuck

This is game is glorious and terribly bad all at the same time. If you are a fan of the genre, you own it to yourself to play it, just know that it will test your wits to the max. As someone said before, the crafting seems to have been an afterthought for the developers, it's pretty much useless. I tried crafting gear and potions in the first 5-10 hours, but after that I gave up and never tried it again. At the end, there was no need for it, I finished the game without crafting anything useful.

Avatar image for Gamer_4_Fun

@ahpuck said:

This is game is glorious and terribly bad all at the same time. If you are a fan of the genre, you own it to yourself to play it, just know that it will test your wits to the max. As someone said before, the crafting seems to have been an afterthought for the developers, it's pretty much useless. I tried crafting gear and potions in the first 5-10 hours, but after that I gave up and never tried it again. At the end, there was no need for it, I finished the game without crafting anything useful.

Crafting is one of the most elaborate systems there is! To the point the game is designed to have you make and carry your own craftbook all the time, that is hardcore.

Avatar image for LordCrash88

@ahpuck: Haha, crafting is useless? It shows that you haven't played the game properly. Crafting is a huge deal in the game, especially on higher difficulty settings. You can hardly survive without using crafting.

And no, it wasn't an afterthought for the devs. I suppose the problem in this particular case was again sitting in front of the monitor...

Avatar image for ahpuck

@LordCrash88: I finished the game, how is that not playing it properly?

Avatar image for syzyty

>Finish the game on easy
>Looooo crafting is useless

Avatar image for LordCrash88

@ahpuck: You didn't do crafting properly. If you get through the game without it good for you. But critizicing the crafting without ever using it properly is just pointless.

Avatar image for killock

Does anyone else find the character image on the right of the title graphic disturbing!? I thought it was a female, now I'm not sure.. O.o

P.S. I loved the game, just wish the crafting system was a little more involved/mature.

Avatar image for killock

@killock: Its HUGE !!

Avatar image for LordCrash88

@killock: It's a female orc.

Avatar image for killock

@LordCrash88: yes well, the one on the right has a huge wiener.. guess I was just looking for it. LOL

Avatar image for Gamer_4_Fun

I absolutely loved Original Sin. It took me 10 hours to get the game and know what everything meant, but it was worth it. The game is mechanically perfect and it took me around 110 hours to finish it. I can't wait for the enhanced edition, thanks for giving it free by the way!

By the way, I thought CRPG meant Classic RPG.

Avatar image for bbq_R0ADK1LL

I put about 40 hours in & lost interest due to multiple issues. I'm just hoping that the enhanced edition makes it worth jumping back in.

Avatar image for jinzo9988

This makes me think back to the time that I owned Diablo for the PS1. Good times... sort of. I loved the game and it worked well enough but it needed almost an entire memory card all to itself, the load times were long if I remember correctly, and the frame rate was fairly choppy compared to the PC. Still a great game though with same-screen multiplayer.

Avatar image for gameroutlawzz

@jinzo9988: Me and my friend played D1 like a year ago we were enjoying the hell out of it until we finally beat diablo,moved to Nightmare and lost all the uniques we had found. My friend had a windfury and had it removed from him when we started NM.

Avatar image for leviathanwing

@gameroutlawzz: yeah, i remember dumping all of my gear out in town to retrieve them later because no crates no chests to keep your stuff. thats how you avoid that bit there.