30th June 2014
Divinity: Original Sin Review
A couple of years ago, the Divinity franchise was resurrected from obscurity with Ego Draconis, a by-the-book RPG that had one amazing feature – you could turn into a dragon and lay waste to everything before you. Still, it wasn’t an especially inviting nor fascinating title, so its audience was spread thin, so to say. Definitely too thin to create a cult following. However, everything is set to change now that Original Sin is out. If you were interested in this title before the release and followed its development, as well as read the previews, you could tell it’s going to be a good RPG. However, it’s the complete version of the game that has blown my mind away more than any promotion ever could.
While I haven’t spent too much time with the original Divinity or Ego Draconis, both titles had a certain shroud of sobriety that, sincerely, took away from the game. We have a plethora of roleplaying titles that take themselves too seriously, so why invest in yet another grayscale landscape with little in the way of real beauty? Original Sin seemingly recognizes the mistake of its predecessors, and sports a lush, vibrant world with as many witty comments and funny occurrences as there are enemies to kill. Oh, rest assured that the story does not suffer, nor that the characters are nothing more than caricatures. You will be faced with serious matters that concern time itself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun while you’re at it.
As far as visuals go, Original Sin is a pretty, if not remarkable title. As I mentioned before, the colours are vivid and pretty, and give off a nicely fantastical vibe. The textures and models are nice too, but not something to write home about. The whole thing in conjunction, however, makes for a nice experience that can definitely hold its own in this day and age. You’ll quickly come to appreciate the little touches in the form of cool and numerous animations you’ll encounter on your way through the given world. Another interesting feature is that every looted chest, corpse, pool of blood and such remains on the map for the forseeable future, once placed. This ties in nicely with some skills, such as the one that heals the character if he/she’s standing in spilled blood. The soundtrack is appropriately epic and/or atmospheric, and it definitely made me want to buy it. In combat, it gains a quirky, offbeat tone that accents the humorous nuance nicely. The only real problem I have with the technical side of the Original Sin is that there’s no voice-over for the most of the game’s dialogue. While I do understand the reasoning behind, well, not doing it (finances), it’s a damn shame since the available spoken dialogue/monologue does sound pretty great. All in all, both visually and auditively, Divinity: Original Sin is a well-rounded experience with plenty of eye-candy to boot.
Now, onto the more interesting stuff – the gameplay. You begin your game by creating the two main characters. The character creator isn’t too robust, but it does offer a fair number of options to customize the appearance of the two given avatars. The more substantial part of this editor lies in its vast choice of starting skills and statistics that allow you to create an entirely custom „class“ based on the chosen archetype. My dynamic duo consisted of a paladin-alike high damage/healing combo male and a spellcasting assassin female. This has proven to be a good choice, due to the way spells and environments mutually affect each other. Since I chose a lightning spell for my assassin, I quickly learned that the world of Divinity doesn’t ignore basic laws of physics like RPGs usually do. For example – you will often destroy barrels found in levels to spill liquids such as oil or liquid to try and burn/shock everything caught in said fluids with appropriate spells. Or even weapons with elemental effects. Touch the water with your lightning-infused sword and the two will react accordingly. This gameplay feature makes combat much more inviting and dynamic than it would have been without it. Hell, you can even carry the barrels you’ve grown especially fond of with you. Also, to touch upon object manipulation, Original Sin offers a surprisingly well made system to move the clutter found around levels. Simply drag and drop the box/barrel/chest/whatever in question and your character will react as is your will. Invest enough skill points in telekinesis, and you will manipulate the battlefield in no time, throwing boxes and barrels at your enemies with ease. It’s the way these skills and abilities are implemented and ingrained into the core of the gameplay that makes everything work as wonderfully as it does. My favourite skill has to be the ‘Pet pal’, as it allowed my Paldin to show its Dr. Dolittle skills off. Talking to a sheep has never been this amazing.
In combat, your skills and spells don’t use any limited resource other than the mandatory action points pool. Instead, they work on the principle of cooldowns, thus minimizing the amount of distractions taking away from the actual gameplay. It’s nice to simply cast a powerful fireball instead of worrying about how much mana will I have for the rest of the fight. Stealth is also, strangely enough, a valid addition to the gameplay. Taking cue from Metal Gear Solid, your current avatar will take over the disguise of a random piece of foliage/rock found somewhere nearby once ‘stealth mode’ is activated. Upon pressing the stealth button, you can see the enemies cones of vision and plan further engagement with the given information at hand. In the first couple of tries you’re going to fail miserably, but after a couple of failures (with stealthy character builds) you’ll learn how to deal with threats without causing too much ruckus. I don’t think I remember seeing stealth systems done well in an RPG since the latest Bethesda offering, so this came as a lovely surprise to me.
Another thing that amazes me in Original Sin is the organic way quests are given and dealt with. Sure, there’s an off fetch quest here and there, but it’ll never detract from the overall experience. Drums won’t mark the beginning of your assignment nor will you hear fanfare upon its completion. By talking with NPCs (of which there are numerous varieties bundled with a plethora of unique dialogue options) you will accept or decline quests and/or engage into interesting mini-games that symbolize dramatic exchanges of vocal salvo. Rock-paper-scissors is one such detraction, and honestly, it’s a fairly accurate representation of how communication works in reality. Well, at least as far as my own social life is concerned.
There’s one more thing Divinity: Original Sin does masterfully, and that is the multiplayer portion of the game. We can safely say that it has pioneered the inclusion of coop into the classical RPG genre, and that it’s a blast to play through the game with a pal. Setting the combat, exploration and all that aside, there will also be numerous occasions where both players will take part in dialogues and role-play their own conversations. This will often result in stat increases that depend on the chosen branch of dialogue. It’s a great addition that further enhances what is already a brilliant game. One that does many things as good as any of the industry’s titans does, but also one that innovates and brings new features into the play. Divinity: Original Sin is already a contender for the title of the RPG of the year. It’s the indie RPG that could. A definitive recommendation to everybody who appreciates a good role-playing game, including those who yearn for the likes of Baldur’s Gate. You just might be nicely surprised by what’s waiting for you in this package. As if that’s not enough, we’ll have complete access to mod tools and Steam Workshop in a couple of weeks, plus additional party members and some more fluff to go with the usual array of patches that are bound to fix the few bugs the game currently sports around. Perhaps the prolonged loading screens will be looked upon, too.
The sheer amount of content is mind-boggling.
Amazing gameplay, with a whole bunch of systems and mechanics waiting for you to discover them.
Co-op is a great addition and adds another layer of depth to what is already an engrossing game.
The initial loading takes a while.
Lack of complete voice-over.