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"We're experimenting with something that nobody's done before" - Larian On Original Sin's Enhanced Edition

Better than the original

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Divinity Original Sin [official site] is one of the finest and most distinctive RPGs of recent years. That’s quite an accomplishment given the level of competition that exists at what is hopefully the dawn of a renaissance for the genre. When Larian told us that an Enhanced Edition of the game was coming later this year we spoke to Larian’s founder, Swen Vincke, to learn more about what exactly this massive overhaul entails.

Free to people who own the original release but also releasing as a new game on console, PC and Mac alike, it contains much more than visual polish. Quests have been rewritten, new side stories have been added, splitscreen co-op and controller support are in, and full voice acting has been recorded. We discuss all of that, as well as some of the smaller changes, along with some hints as to what’s next for Larian.

RPS: We only know the basics of what you’re announcing and that it involves a console version. But I hear that it’s more than that and therefore relevant to our interests!

Vincke: Yes. We’re doing the console version but it’s more than that – it’s called Divinity Original Sin: Enhanced Edition and it’s probably more enhanced than probably all the other enhanced editions you’ve ever played. We’ve gone a little bit overboard with what we’ve done.

It’ll be released as a new game, so Divinity: Original Sin as it was launched will still exist, and then there will be this new version. Everybody who has Original Sin will get the Enhanced Edition for free but there won’t be any compatibility between the two versions because, as I said, we went overboard. There’s a drastic rewrite of the story, with a lot of new story moments and a much more satisfactory ending, with big new things there. We fully voiced everything, which meant we had to touch up all of the dialogue. We’ve been recording since the end of December and we’re still recording.

And we added a lot of extra stuff in terms of new styles of playing, new modes, new quests that have been added, old ones modified. Anything we could find that was worth doing, we did it. There’s also everything that we did with the controller for the console version – that is supported on PC as well, which means you can now play on a couch with splitscreen, through Steam Big Picture for instance.

RPS: The fact that you can do this for free for PC owners presumably has something to do with how successful the game has been in its original form?

Vincke: Yeah, we’re nearly at a million players now. There were a lot of publishers that wanted to pay for the console version, which helps. But it’s a straightforward decision to give it away for free. We could have charged, given all that we’ve done, made it a DLC or something, but you know my stance on DLC. I’m not really crazy about that.

It made sense to do it this way. From an economic point of view, it does mean there’s a new reason to play Original Sin for new players, but people who have already played will be in for a treat when they go back. There’s a lot of extra stuff and a lot of it is different as well.

RPS: So you would say it’s worth going back to if I’ve already played the original for almost a hundred hours. I feel ready to go back but haven’t really had a reason.

Vincke: Yes, absolutely. There were things that were off in the original release and I don’t like having anything off in one of our releases. We could improve it, and therefore we should, and therefore we did.

There’s an image of the game as we pitched it back in 2011 that I think I showed to you, of people playing on a couch with a controller. We started trying out controller support once the game had been released and we’ve been working on all of this for a year with almost forty people.

The controller implementation was surprisingly smooth and the splitscreen worked also, so we decided we had to do the console version. And we figured if we were doing that, we should improve some of the other things and before you know it, we’re recording all of these voices and all of the rest. It’s a huge undertaking. The guy who organised the recording deserves a medal.

I was reviewing it the other day and it’s a really different experience. I think it’s much better than Original Sin.

RPS: When you say that you wanted to go back to fix the things you weren’t happy with – when we’ve spoken before you’ve mentioned that there were things you had to cut because of time and money. Is this now the game you wanted it to be?

Vincke: We always want more. I don’t think we’ll go back again. Maybe to fix whatever bugs are still in there or portability issues, but I’m quite content now. I finished right up to the ending and it felt complete. The holes that were there and that were visible have been closed. The middle part, which was one of the weaker parts I felt together with the ending – so basically two-thirds of the game (laughs). We are always very harsh about our own work.

We’ve done everything we can to make it more fun. The economy has been completely revamped. There’s a lot of stuff in there that you might not have noticed was missing but you feel its presence when you play it now. It goes to the very first encounter – that’s very different now and that’s a signal from the game to you, to tell you that somebody has been thinking about every detail and has consistently worked to improve them.

RPS: I know you can’t tell me exactly what else you’re working on just now but presumably it’s been quite a task balancing this Enhanced Edition and the rest of your workload? Does this reworking feed into the work on the next game in any way?

Vincke: It’s a bit of both. We have been postponing the new things because of the Enhanced Edition because as we got ourselves into it, we dedicated ourselves to finishing it off properly. It’s always more work than you expect, even when you’ve done it several times before. It’s always more.

But for us, strategically it was important because we now have an engine that as a basic feature runs on Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac, Linux, SteamOS. It supports multiplayer and local co-op with splitscreen. Has mouse, keyboard and controller support, and has all of these RPG features. It’s a very cool thing to build on.

On page two, the CRPG landscape, pen and paper RPGs, nostalgia vs innovation and what comes next.

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