I’m heading towards the town square, my companions and I returning from an abandoned house nearby that was riddled with the undead. As I enter the merchant square, the sounds of stall workers advertising their goods fills my ears.
Not in the mood for cheese? That excuse has more holes than a slice this fine Gorgombert!
I pass an artist selling his wares, an enchantress selling spell books. A woman is going over her grocery list in the corner of the market:
Lets see, halibut, sheep’s cheese, toe-mah-toes…
I’m on my way to the fletcher to buy some more arrows and repair my bow, but I’m stopped by a homeless man. He wants to know if he should steal fish from the fishmonger to feed his family. I contemplate it carefully and decide that in my ideal world, everyone would have a fish to eat. My companion sees it differently; Not only are they against the thievery, but they implore me to report the vagrant to the town guard. I plead my case to my friend, and they’re having none of it–and we come to impasse. We do rock-paper-scissors to decide who is right, and I win. He takes his fish and leaves, and I follow suit. As I leave the market, the sounds of the stall barkers slowly fade away.
Divinity Original Sin is the latest in the long-running Divinity series by Larian Studios. The Divinity games are well-regarded for their extensive and unique lore. The game has an interesting tone; at one moment you may be investigating a serious murder, while in the next you are talking to a cat about why he can’t get a lady-cat to like him. It has made me openly laugh a few times, but in exchange I found it very hard for me to stay focused when it wanted to go serious again.
The plot starts simple enough, as you and a companion arrive at the seaside town of Cyseal to investigate a murder which is suspected to involve source, the magic of the world. You are source-hunters, people who hunt sourcerors(yes, really), that abuse source. As is often the case, the story quickly gets more complicated as you stumble upon threats to all of existence.
Divinity Original Sin is an isometric role-playing game in the vein of the classic Infinity Engine games like Baldur’s Gate or Planescape Torment. Unlike most RPG’s, you will create a pair of heroes instead of just “your” hero. In a co-op game, your partner will create and control the 2nd hero.
The character creation has a lot of skill choices. My first time loading it up, I spent no less than an hour stressing over whether I wanted to have Geomancy that allowed me to summon a pet spider, or water magic that gave me healing spells. I settled on a magic using archer that could teleport enemies away from me, doing damage to them as they slammed to ground. It worked well with my ricochet arrows, as I could set enemies up in a zig zag pattern to maximize my bounces. I also took a trait that allows me to speak with animals; It serves no combat purpose, but is adorable and fun. My partner picked a warrior with the ability to lay down slowing oil–which could then be set aflame with my fire arrows.
Combat in Divinity is very well done. While walking in the overworld, you can click and move freely. When you stumble into a battle, the game switches to turn-based combat. Every character gets to move and act in turn, determined by their initiative. The higher speed and perception a character has, the more action points(AP) they get allotted per turn. Any unused AP gets added to your next turn total, up to a maximum determined by your constitution. Each action, be it walking, attacking, or casting a spell costs a different amount of AP. This forces you to think tactically as the more powerful moves could drain all your AP in one go.
Divinity‘s combat is fleshed out with an elaborate weather effect system. Some moves may burn or chill a target, but if that target is covered in oil or wet, it will cause them to burst into flames or freeze solid. Water from rainfall or a spell also creates puddles in the environment, into which electricity may be cast to create a paralyzing trap that can catch a whole group. If the rain lasts too long, the water level will continue to rise, which could catch your team in it as well. It causes every battle to be more than just moving and hitting, and turns some battles into tense stand-offs to avoid slipping up and losing your turn. Unfortunately, it can also make battles one-sided. In one battle, we were vastly outnumbered and outleveled; But we won easily after rain had created a small creek dividing our forces. Half the team spent 5 consecutive turns casting lightning into the water and keeping them at bay, while the other half picked them off from afar. It’s an unfortunate oversight, but can be fixed by making a personal rule not to cheese the AI.
One particularly neat feature with the co-op: Over the course of your adventure, you may recruit other characters to join your cause. With two players, each player can be given exclusive control of a henchman, allowing for two defined teams of two. It’s a lot of fun to gear “your” henchman, and to see your friend do the same to theirs. If your co-op partner and their henchman enter battle, it doesn’t force you to join them. This leads to instances where your friend is woefully outmatched, and you can sit on the periphery of battle and laugh at them; You can join the fight at any time, but you don’t HAVE to…
When playing solo, you get full control of up to four heroes. This is good for those with a need for control, but it leads to some silly situations. Like many RPG’s, dialogue choices will pop up. During these choices, each of the two starting heroes gets to decide their own answer. When you are alone, this means you can pick two conflicting answers; This causes your two characters to argue with each other over choices that you made them make. It’s a funny way to role play with yourself, and can lead to a situation where you have to play rock-paper-scissors to decide your own schizophrenic choice.
If I had to pick Divinity‘s weakness, it’s that ambient NPC noises repeat on a loop constantly. Remember my story above? Those merchant calls will be forever etched into my memory–I heard them hundreds of times. Even the most clever one-liner quickly becomes a noise rattling in your head as you hear it again and again. If I sound like I’m overreacting, you’re right. The game is so good, and it pays such a great attention to detail that this small nuisance quickly ruins the atmosphere of wherever you are. If you are prone to getting things “stuck in your head”, just be warned.
Overall, Divinity Original Sin is a fantastic game. There is variety in weapons and abilities, and choices in the ways you solve your problems. The world is full of life: Every corner of the world has treasure, or curiosities like a bull that can tell your fortune, or even a severed head that still speaks. The combat is fun, with elemental effects turning large battles into sort of a puzzle, with your spells and abilities being just half of the pieces. The story isn’t as engaging as say, Baldur’s Gate II, but it’s still serviceable in support of such fantastic gameplay hooks.
If you like isometric or turn based tactical RPG’s, Divinity Original Sin is the game for you. You can purchase the game on Steam here .
[+Skills are fun to use][+Lots of loot][+You can talk to animals][+Unique crafting system][-NPC dialogue repeats FOREVER]