|Title||Divinity: Original Sin|
|Release Date||June 30, 2014|
|Age Rating||Unrated by ESRB (Mature)|
The world of Divinity: Original sin is one full of turn-based combat, eccentric NPCs and interesting design quirks, but isn’t that what truly makes an RPG great? All right, perhaps those aren’t the requirements for everyone, but regardless of that Divinity: Original Sin was an entertaining experience, and I’m here to tell you why.
When it comes to the presentation, graphically I found the title to be competent. The level of detail in some areas reaches ‘impressive,’ though I will admit I’m not as fond of the style that generally comes with top-down perspective games such as this. The environments vary enough to not feel boring, and this helped the world to feel alive. Sound-wise, I feel much the same. The music and voice acting is decent, sometimes even reaching levels of ‘great,’ but, all in all, it’s nothing I was truly blown away by. I guess the take away message is that, while the game is appealing enough to look at, none of it is striking enough that it will stick with you once you stop playing.
You enter the world of Divinity: Original Sin with a simple enough quest in mind. You and your partner (both of whom are characters you create) are sent to solve a murder. In the grand tradition of RPGs, the game quickly turns into a much more grand adventure where you won’t only be saving the world, but the very fabric of space and time (quite literally, I might add). I don’t want to give away too much because seeing how the story evolves is part of the fun, especially when it comes so far out of left field. You will learn of this grand mission before you are even half-way through solving the initial murder, and things just get more interesting from there.
While the story in itself is interesting, the character’s don’t fare quite as well, and this is mostly due to the fact that you control the dialogue of both of your main two party members. This is actually one of the more unique aspects of Divinity’s design, you can make your character’s argue with each other over moral choices or agree at will. This was implemented with the two-player coop mode in mind, where two players may actually have differing opinions and will have to ‘debate’ with one another, using their different charisma-based skills along with a rock, paper, scissors mechanic to determine who was the more persuasive with each particular argument. I found this mechanic interesting at first, but as I was playing the game solo, it didn’t have much bearing on what I did. In fact, I’d often have my characters argue on purpose over moral decisions just to let the game decide for itself what choice I should make. To be fair, the game does implement the option to set your character’s level of loyalty if you don’t want to manually make their moral decisions. Doing so could potentially make for more organic-feeling conversations, but, aside from these moral decisions, your party contains close to no personality anyway. The same goes for the generic goons you will need to hire to stand a chance in combat.
Speaking of characters (and bad transitions), Divinity: Original Sin allows you to choose from a variety of character classes at the beginning of the game, to the point where I agonized a bit over what I wanted to play because their were so many fun options; everything from the usual Clerics and Knights to Shadowblades, which are essentially rogues with magic. It really leaves room for a lot of experimentation. Don’t fret too much if you feel you made a bad decision, though, as you can truly customize your characters as they level up, branching out into other weapon types or schools of magic, making leveling up extremely addicting. The character appearance customization, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired. It’s not really a huge problem, but I was left disappointed when I realized the body types never changed, so the male characters are always built like a truck and the female characters are always consistently built whether you are playing a mage or a barbarian. Your clothes and weapons change appearance as you pick them up (which is standard with this type of game), but a bit more variety to body types would have been a fun addition.
There were a few strange glitches and occurrences that happened throughout my playthrough that are fairly common to games of this scope and with this many variables present, and I thought I’d share a couple quick instances of that with you so you know what to expect. First, the shorter and funnier story; upon entering the first town, there is a side quest where a butcher loses his chicken and you are free to chase it down for him. Logically, I assumed that, since he was planning to eat the bird, bringing it back dead wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, the killing of the chicken made every guard in the city immediately turn to kill me, leading to my first ‘Game Over.’ Another interesting event occurred when a gentlemen asked me to go to a hotel room so he could discuss a quest privately with me. I followed him all the way there and upon entering the room, I shut the door because I figured he wanted the privacy. Instead the simple act of shutting the door caused him to pull out his staff and a rather entertaining fight took place afterwards. At first. I thought this was an intentional ambush, but upon checking my quest log I found that I now had a quest that was impossible to complete because I killed off the quest provider. I had no idea that shutting a door was such a hot button for mages these days. In a game with this many options (such as the ability to attack nearly anyone and steal nearly anything), there are bound to be glitches, and I found nothing game breaking. Honestly, these occurrences really just added to the game’s charm for me.
Outside of these occurrences, the game is genuinely funny, between the sarcastic conversations your two main characters share to the fact that you can (and should) get the ability early on to talk to animals and inanimate objects. Admittedly, the jokes did lose their effectiveness after a while, and the quirky tone the game sets does make it a bit more difficult to take the serious moments, well, seriously, it still made for an entertaining experience.
When it comes to gameplay, exploration in this title is highly rewarding. There is a plethora of quests and treasures hidden throughout the world, and it really rewards you for searching every corner. The game boasts that you can trade with every NPC in the world and, while that is true, a lot of characters in one area share their stock, and a lot of NPCs will repeat dialogue, which makes the experience a bit more dull. Speaking of which, if you are the type of RPG player who wants a Diablo hack n’ slash title, you will NOT find it with Divinity. There are sections of the game where you could go hours at a time without a battle, talking to every NPC about several topics to try and get information and quests. Pacing is admittedly not Divinity’s strong point, but in my experience, very few games of this type succeed fully at this.
Like most games of this type, Divinity: Original sin is based very strongly on tabletop RPGs, and, because of this, I was highly impressed and interested in how they implemented certain mechanics. I already mentioned the game’s unique persuasion system above, but there are other fun occurences as well. For example, your perception stat increases your chance for rare drops and finding money because the thought is that, with a high perception, you are more likely to see it. Also implemented into the game is the ability to not only pick locks, but to smash them open with your weapon, so you aren’t forced to have a rogue in your party just because you don’t want to miss out on treasure. There are also sneaking mechanics that allow you to see your opponents line of vision, and if you walk into it you are immediately spotted. NPCs keep a tally on whether or not they like you based on your actions. It all fits well together to make one of the best examples of tabletop gaming fully realized in a PC title without being too bogged down, and the experience really shines because of it.
Of course, what is an RPG without combat? Divinity: Original Sin implements a turn-based system taken, once again, right out of tabletop RPGs. You have an ability point bar that fills every round, and every action from moving to attacking takes points. This makes combat highly strategic as terrain, attack range, area of effect and flanking all need to be taken into account with every move you make. The game adds even more to combat by taking weather effects into account. For example, fire becomes dramatically less effective when it’s raining, yet fire can also temporarily dissipate poison clouds. All of these small details truly made the game feel alive and made it a fun challenge, as well.
Divinity: Original Sin is easily one of the best RPGs I’ve played in a while, and that is due to the fact that it puts fun first. While it may not be as deep in the story department as say, something like Dragon Age: Origins, it makes up for it with charm and wit. This game has countless hours of gameplay if you are willing to experiment with the character classes. It took me about 80 hours for a single playthrough as it is, though I was very thorough. The game costs $40 and is worth every penny. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to indulge myself by playing all of the previous Divinity titles that I’ve purchased since starting this review. Congratulations, Larian Studios, you’ve truly made a fan out of me.
Review copy provided by publisher