Title: Divinity: Original Sin
Platform: Steam, Windows, Mac, Linux (TBA)
Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Tactical RPG, Action RPG, Adventure
Players: Single player, Co Op
Written by Whistler 22nd July 2014
I always felt like the Divinity series was one step behind and always playing catch up with the Elder Scroll series (though I do fondly remember older iterations like Beyond Divinity), however with Dragon Commander in 2013, Larian Studios showed they were coming back with a vengeance.
After they were finished with Dragon Commander Larian Studios took to Kickstarter with the goal of producing a true to old-
Divinity: Original Sin was that Kickstarter project, I’ll admit I only came to know of it when it cropped on Steam under the Early Access banner. Even when it had all of its bugs and glitches in EA I completely fell in love with this game (whoops gave away the whole review).
Honestly it’s a crime not to consider this an instant GOTY for many reasons as while D:OS utilizes many of the tropes of old and indeed captures that feel of ye olde RPG-
Before we get ahead of ourselves though, D:OS is a turn-
While the story didn’t get my 100% attention like Shadowrun Returns’ (I really must stop referencing this game in most of my reviews), the storytelling however did. In most RPGs it is a given that you talk to npc, get your quest, find the marker, deal with shenanigans and complete the quest; D:OS on the other hand takes us back before quest markers or shining beacons and instead has you investigating every possible lead, looking for clues and referring to the quest journal for reminders. In fact that’s the thing, exploring for once doesn’t take a backseat, it instead thrusts itself into the front row of game mechanics and provides some long forgotten gameplay elements as you get your quest on.
While obviously most of the methods (while there are a lot of them) are fairly obvious for how you go about progressing through quests they genuinely feel like they were your choice, whether it’s interrogating that shopkeeper, convincing that lady to hand over an important item or doing some covert investigating in the cellar of that house while picking up every object that isn’t bolted down (for evidence of course) you’ll genuinely go about crafting small unique stories of your time with D:OS rather than the usual narrative pathway modern RPGs take though it can be said that the lack of hand holding might prove unwanted for those of you brought up on likes of Skyrim and other modern RPGs.
Along with the game’s no hand holding policy, D:OS sports an interesting mechanic that mainly comes into full effect with its cooperative play style (which I’ll divulge later). Similar to other RPGs like Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Shadowrun Returns, dialogue can change various scenarios from getting a wizard to help you out or to summon a hundred skeletons to destroy you however your fellow hero whether they are controlled by a personal AI or a friend have a chance to alter the outcome of certain dialogues and events that even effects each hero’s personal attributes like compassion, romantics, and pragmatism. This elevates so many scenarios into a more organic experience, especially with a friend you can redirect the outcome to what suites the individual. Those who like to role play will definitely enjoy being able portray their inner character by becoming pillars of righteousness or takers of every opportune moment; while playing with Xeno we would usually agree on what actions to take, having a play through where both players take separate moral paths would be very intriguing and also allows for a lot more replayability.
Where Original Sin strays from the typical tactical RPG path isn’t with the turn based combat, but instead how it handles the turn based combat. Once fighting starts all participating characters are locked into a distance based battlefield similar to tabletop games like Warhammer 40k and Warmachine; upon their turn each character will have a set amount of action points based on their stats which can be spent on moving, attacking etc. I highly recommend getting to grips with D:OS’ tropes when it comes to combat, of course being an RPG there are a plethora of spells and abilities but the elemental ones are key to most scenarios.
I’ll even admit that in our first hours of playing the game in its early access phase had us wearing down our f5 and f8 keys (quick save and load) as combat can be frustrating if you don’t have a couple of elements at your disposal; while it doesn’t show too early in the game, battlefield control is what plays a massive role in make or break situations whether that’s setting fire to a gas cloud or electrifying a puddle of water.
Learning elemental synergies are vital to some successful sorcery, and the enemy knows this too.
Rainfall (and thusly the rain spell) will make all combatants susceptible to a shocking stun or a freeze ray, douse out fires and clear up patches of poisonous ooze or flammable oil spills. Poison makes you more flammable, and even bleeding can be combined with a little electrical lockdown, and all of these combination can backfire (though I am saddened that it seems large scale bloodricution seems no longer doable in the full release).
Elemental combinations aren’t all about maximizing damage, as mentioned previously, control is key; spells that hinder foe and bolster friend can turn the tides for better or worse.
While it’s daunting at first, D:OS sports what is probably the best example of turn based combat at it’s finest; every movement made, every potion quenched, every arrow fired and every enchantment cast with every new enemy or enemy combination forcing you to learn new strategies and every fight means something rather than a repetitive experience gain.
Now Divinity: Original Sin is still a fantastic single player experience, however Co Op play is where the true
experience shines. While Co Op seems like nothing more than allowing someone else to be the 2nd hero it allows for so much more, experimentation (much like playing with lego) is what sets up a lot of experiences to be had in D:OS, and experimenting with a friend enhances this to create some of the most organic experiences I’ve ever had in a long time. Cooperation allows you to do simple things like having one player distract a shopkeeper while the other pilfers everything in sight (for evidence), or one hero lures a particularly bloodthirsty mod while the other sets up a trap; it also allows you to explore and investigate more thoroughly (as two minds are better than one), and cook up some crafty plans like teleporting the dungeon’s boss into a four way pain-
Of course no game is without its flaws; in D:OS’s case though, they are few and barely effect the overall quality (whoops gave the end away again).
These are flaws nonetheless, the interface is cumbersome at times, level progression isn’t as smooth as difficulty doesn’t scale with level progression thus somewhat forcing you down a singular path at times.
While I enjoyed the lack of hand holding in some cases it felt like it was needed, even just a tad; for example there is a crafting system in this game, while some combinations are simple (like flame arrow head + arrow shaft = flaming arrow) but there is so much the game just doesn’t tell you like the hidden forge in the town that would allow you to sharpen your blades and smelt your junk into more valuable materials, you can even make jewellery and enchant items; but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you how.
D:OS also doesn’t warn you of how important elemental synergies are, it gives you the basics like “oh you should use this rain scrolls to clear out the fire or place that box on top of that grate to stop the poisonous air seeping in” but it doesn’t explain just how much you’ll want to grab every elemental item and spell for dear life which can put off new players as they are flung into fights where a rouge and a knight will be majorly disadvantaged for the majority of fights until either put some points into sorcery skills and learn to magic. While it seems like nit picking I also found the lack in visual changes for weapons and armour to be rather disheartening, when the only change from my +1 fire sword is going from red to a green aura when swapping for a +2 acidic blade shouldn’t make that much of a negative impact on the game, it makes looting a lot less interesting and seeing the same gear on my allies after several hours of gameplay starts to be a real eyesore.
For every flaw D:OS has though it has +3 in positives to make up for it as there is so much more I could’ve wrote about this title. I could’ve wrote a book’s worth about my individual experiences, about how engaging each section is, about how much longevity this title holds, but that’s for you to discover and that’s experiences for you to share with your friends.
Much like you’re first playthrough of Skyrim or Shadow of the Colossus, Divinity: Original Sin is a game you sit around an imaginary camp fire with your friends as you tell tales of your hero’s quest and argue over your methodology of how you slayed that one giant robot in the cave around level 7.
Divinity: Original Sin is a delicacy, it’s a fine wine that tastes even greater over time as you take your time with it and slowly learn its flavours; and while yes this is one of the corniest metaphors I’ve ever wrote, it’s a game deserving of it as D:OS is an RPG that will have me coming back time and time again where I, after 40 hours, have barely scratched the surface of what it has on offer and I don’t want to stop.
Hours of game play,
Brilliant Co Op play.
Little armour/weapon visual variations,
Can be daunting at first,
Sudden brutal difficulty curves.
Divinity: Original Sin easily scores a 9/10.