I think it’s pretty well-established at this point that, when it comes to both Kickstarter and early access games, things are often a bit of a toss-up. There’s a huge gap between what people want to see, and what ends up in the final product; for both of these, it’s a bit of a crapshoot whether you end up with anything worth playing, and it can be a rough ride for players, developers, and everyone involved in the project on either side. Fortunately for Larian Studios – and for us – Divinity: Original Sin looks to be emerging on the right side of that struggle, and shows a great deal of promise.
Just to be clear, this is a preview, and Divinity: Original Sin is very much still in an alpha stage, with a lot left to be done to fill it out. That said, the promise shines through very clearly, and I’m really excited to see where it goes from here. I’m a pretty big fan of both RPGs and the fantasy genre in general, so this is a home-run for me. I put hours upon hours into Neverwinter Nights back when it was the new hotness, and there’s a lot of the same feel here I think, with some notable exceptions. Firstly, the combat is a turn-based thing; rather than integrating all the rolls, movement, etc into a single fluid-motion, combat stops time and allows for a lot more strategic planning as you maneuver your characters and set up your attack. You get a certain number of ‘action points’ per turn, determined by stats, and those left unused in a turn roll over to the next, so you’ve got a lot to work with in that regard.
One of the most exciting aspects I haven’t had a chance to try out, but get hints of, is the multiplayer. Since you’ve got two protagonists making up your party, you can play with a friend and really get some stuff done. There’s a pretty cool conversation mechanic that’s built in to the game to allow in-game / in-character deliberation when it comes time for the two to make a decision; while it’s optional in the single-player mode, I left it on just to try it out and it was a pretty fun way to argue with myself for the sake of arguing, and I think it’d work out really well in the final product, both as a gimmick and as a functional means to progression. Basically, you’re able to choose a few different responses based on all your typical RPG interactions — you can intimidate, reason, or even plead with one another, and the end result of the conversation will affect how you move on from there. While it’s limited in usefulness when you’re playing alone, it’s still kind of cool, and I think there’s definite promise.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a lot of time to really dig in and see what’s finished, but as I said, there’s still a lot of holes that need patching before Divinity: Original Sin is final-release ready. Character customization is still pretty rudimentary, and there’s plenty of room for fixing up some of the inventory and object-interaction stuff. Again, though, I see a ton of promise here, and I think the final product is going to be easily worth the $39.99 price tag; but, as you might expect, I’m pretty hard-pressed to call any alpha-stage product worth that kind of investment. If you’re a huge fantasy-RPG fan who just can’t wait to get a bite of this, then go for it; anyone else, though, I’d say it’s one to pass on until more of the polishing is done, and the game is ready for a final release. Especially since, on Steam, releases often pair with generous discounts.