Divinity: Original Sin is a game that lives and breathes nostalgia, which anyone old enough to appreciate Neverwinter Nights or Baldur’s Gate would gleefully embrace. There is a lot of roleplaying, dialogue, storytelling and creating your own experiences. While this level of complexity and deep plotline was a necessity in the past, it’s not something that many current generation gamers have come to expect or even tolerate. With its beautiful environments and complex combat mechanics, Divinity: Original Sin seems stuck in between the old and new world of gaming.
From the very beginning it’s obvious that Divinity: Original Sin is going to take a lot of patience and isn’t going to hold your hand. I’ve never had much of an issue with difficult battles or puzzle solving, but aimlessly wandering around for hours was never my strong suit. That’s likely going to be the deciding factors for many gamers, considering most games today are linear driven stories, but this game forces players to explore every inch of the world before they figure out where they actually need to go. Does this mean that Divinity: Original Sin is simply a throwback to the days of old, or does it actually have its own place in a world of tutorials and quest markers?
Divinity: Original Sin Too Much To Handle?
Before the game even starts it’s quite clear that there’s going to be a lot of depth in Divinity: Original Sin. If you thought the skill choices in Dragon Age: Origins were difficult, you haven’t seen anything yet. There are 11 classes to choose from in the beginning of the game, and you can even completely customize any of those to create an infinite number of hybrid classes. Do you want a fireball casting, backstabbing, healing Rogue? No problem, although managing all of those skills at once is probably going to make the game a bit difficult.
With that in consideration, levels do not come easily in this one. After several hours in the game you can expect to still be a very low level, and the skill points, abilities, and talents aren’t exactly thrown at you either. A few wrong choices and the game is going to become insanely difficult and has even required some players to completely start over. That being said, any veteran of RPGs should know to start out with at least one sturdy character and a ranged damage dealer or healer. However, Divinity: Original Sin is going to be painfully brutal to any players unfamiliar with the hardcore RPGs of the past.
The turn-based combat is slow and enemies are generally stronger than you. If you’re level four don’t expect to easily beat a pack of level five enemies; it’s just not going to happen. Thankfully there are three levels of difficulty, which can be changed at any point in the game and seem to tone the level disparity down, or up, a few notches. Despite being a turn-based game, Divinity: Original Sin does an amazing job at keeping the combat interesting and interactive. This isn’t King’s Bounty and your characters aren’t stuck on tiles or specific zones of the map. As far as I can tell, combat can go on indefinitely if you choose to move away from the enemy and not end combat. There are also all kinds of environmental effects that can shift a battlefield ranging from oil slicks to poison and fire traps. If you’re constantly attacking the enemy head on, you’re doing it wrong.
Combat aside, this game can become pretty overwhelming with its novel length dialogue and lack of quest waypoints. The introduction of the game feels like it drags on for hours and there are certain quests where I didn’t want to read the repetitive conversations anymore, but despite the massive lulls in action there was eventually a lot of interesting storytelling. Cutting out a lot of unnecessary filler text or adding more voiced dialogue would have greatly improved this aspect of the game. As far as questing goes, some of them are pretty straight forward and others made me want to pull my hair out. When I finally thought I had the key to get into a specific area, which contains an essential quest item, it turns out the key was just to open a different room with a chest that contains the key I actually needed. This happens multiple times throughout the game and is when smashing comes in handy because almost anything in Divinity: Original Sin can be smashed open. While arrows showing exactly where to go in the next part of the quest might be a bit too much for this game, the hints in the journal could have been slightly less vague.
Playing through Divinity: Original Sin is a pretty epic single-player experience, but a cooperative adventure can cause dynamic changes in how the game plays out. Instead of just adding another party of characters to a game, another player will take control of your second character and have a direct impact on conversation choices and the development of that character. There’s no requirement for both players to stick together and combat will happen regardless of proximity. This does create issues if your partner isn’t particularly cooperative and fighting a group of monsters solo is usually going to end in an untimely demise.
This makes the cooperation part of this experience crucial and should generally not be done with other random players, but instead those with whom you can actively communicate with. It can get overly frustrating to have to keep running in to save your ally or to constantly waste resurrection scrolls. Combat can also become tricky because a wrong use of environmental effects could ruin your plans or even kill both of you. Therefore, I found it best to stick together, if there’s even a chance of combat, and discuss combat strategies before acting them out; there are a million ways a fight can play out in Divinity: Original Sin and I’d rather not be the one standing in burning oil. However, cooperation can become invaluable when splitting up the quest tasks or trying to solve puzzles.
Conflicts with the way players interact with each other aren’t the only ones that arise in Divinity: Original Sin. Throughout much of the game players will have the choice of using charm or intimidation to persuade NPCs to do their bidding or easily hand over objectives. Most of the time these attempts fail and what results is literally rock, paper, scissors. I’m not sure I entirely appreciate the completely random nature of this style of conflict resolution and would honestly prefer something a little more stat based, although some stats do increase your progress in these “duels.” Interestingly enough, you can even play rock, paper, scissors against your teammate if you happen to come to a disagreement during one of the conversations.
While some NPCs will simply tolerate your rudeness, or challenge you to a game of “wit,” others will attack you outright if they don’t like what you happen to be doing. During the initial part of the game I was tasked with unburying some evidence from the local cemetery. I already knew which grave to dig, but I thought there might be something good in one of the others. One particular woman didn’t appreciate my grave robbing and attacked without warning. Unfortunately for her I was a warrior and she was a simple peasant, at least the grave was already dug. There are other instances of this throughout the game as well; getting mouthy with a particular merchant will send you into battle against him and his cattle. Therefore, it’s best to be particularly cautious and think about the consequences instead of just being rude and stealing everything in sight.
Old Meets New
Divinity: Original Sin might not be an instant classic, but it certainly feels like one at times. During parts of my playthrough I felt as though I was replaying Baldur’s Gate, without the terrible graphics and archaic mechanics, but I don’t know if it was truly unique enough to be remembered like the games it was attempting to emulate. It’s going to please a lot of experienced RPG gamers and those that love a challenge, but with virtually no hand holding and punishing combat mechanics it’s going to turn off the more casual player base.
The beautiful isometric artistic styling and complex turn-based mechanics pay a great homage to the games of old, but there are plenty of newer RPGs that simply do everything better. The heavy amounts of unvoiced character dialogue, and enough stat combinations to beckons the use a strategy guide for leveling up, is simply draining. If you’re looking for a new spin on an old formula than Divinity: Original Sin is perfect, but it isn’t a game for newcomers to the genre and really doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been seen before.
- Complex roleplaying systems
- Challenging turn-based combat
- Beautiful environments
- Strong cooperative gameplay
- Slow story progression
- Punishing difficulty curve
- Lack of voiced dialogue
Overall Rating: 3.5/5Related: B2P, Fantasy, MMORPG, Review