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Review: Divinity: Original Sin Kicks it Old School

by on July 19, 2014 12:00 PM 30

Divinity: Original Sin growing from a rudimentary project into a highly successful Kickstarter campaign into the fully realized game of today has been a wild ride. It’s good to finally get my hands on the actual title and see what the small team at Larian Studios could really do. And I wasn’t exactly disappointed with the results.

Staring the game takes you to a short narrative on the history of the world. Magic wielders called Sourcerers used their power, called Source, to heal and help those in need. One day that same source of magic became corrupted and the Sourcerers fell to darkness, using their vast magic gifts to kill. Meanwhile, large scale Orc attacks — even some led by humans — have become increasingly frequent and villagers can barely hold their ground. Source Hunters soon came about, with the purpose of defeating both Sourcerers and any other threats that endanger the populace.

This is where your characters come in, as they are (depending on their backstory) either already Source Hunters or simply roped in for various reasons. After a brief and nicely illustrated cutscene, players will immediately launch into the character creation, which provides a good amount of customizing choices, including skin color and black hairstyles. This sounds like a no-brainer but a surprising amount of games’ character creations lack black hairstyles which sucks when I want to give my character braids, dreadlocks or an afro.

sand3

Another notable feature is that you can make two characters, which is excellent for immediate co-op. Of course mere aesthetics isn’t all the game has to offer, as you can also choose your starting class and two additional abilities, although I wish one of them was a trap-detecting perk as hidden traps in the field can easily be a cheap death in the beginning. Choosing proper builds early on is vital for progression, as certain tactics and options may or may not be available to you depending on which abilities, weapons and skills you learn. Another cool aspect about the title is that depending on the class, you’ll get a nifty backstory for that character.

For instance, my Witch clearly has clashes with Source Hunters in the past but they managed to negotiate a cease-fire in exchange for her aid. Meanwhile my Knight, now an honorable Source Hunter, has a bone to pick with those responsible for the wrongful execution of the entire House of Sturmgrave, the house in which she and her parents belonged.

After your masterpieces are complete, you then jump right into the story. I love that cutscenes are very rare and you learn about what is happening in the world as it naturally unfolds. You two characters will often chat with each other, alerting you to possible danger, plot happenings and general things to look out for while traveling. Sometimes you may even have to role play decisions between your party members.

A good example was when my two ladies came across a crying Orc mourning the death of his brother (you hear him long before you actually spot him). After speaking to him at length, you find out that his brother has been buried with excellent armor, as per Orc tradition, and that it can be yours for the taking if you garner the grave’s location from him. Naturally my Knight was more honorable than that but the Witch saw no issue with a little ransacking (it must be noted that each character’s response is completely up to you). They then tried to Charm each other but reached an impasse and had to actually play a game of rock-paper-scissors to decide, which my Knight badly lost. After another bout of R-P-S with the Orc that I actually won, he led me right to the grave.

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Depending on the choices made, party members get certain bonuses to different stats, including those that affect how NPCs will perceive and interact with them. Those bonuses also affect your ranking on stats that give you advantages during the little R-P-S matches.

What I also love about quests is simply how interesting they are. The NPCs’ unique personalities and issues combined with the variety of objectives makes for fascinating interactions. Taking it further, objectives and end results (as stated before) can change depending on your characters’ decisions, making for numerous unique outcomes. However, the lack of hand-holding can also be troubling when you spend an hour trying to figure what to do next in a quest or how to get past such-and-such obstacle. It certainly reminds you of old-school RPGs that refuse to interfere with your exploration at any level, which makes for a very unique experience.

Gameplay itself is polished and the controls are surprisingly easy to pick up, but you will be punished if you’re underleveled. I wish there were more enemy encounter initially, as I found it a bit challenging to level up properly in the beginning.. Combat is turn-based, giving you unlimited time to strategize in battle. Each party member is given a certain amount of action points per turn and different actions — such as movement, physical skills and spell casting — uses a different amount. Learning how to wisely spend points is vital to smart fighting, especially in early game when you don’t have much to use.

Target range is very important when using abilities in battle, which is why understanding the maximum range of attacks versus the party members’ position is necessary. Positioning is further compounded when considering that in order to move during a sorte, you must use action points. Now throw in the variety of spells (healing, elemental, slow damaging, buffs/debuffs), the many physical abilities with their own unique properties and uses, and you have an incredibly strategic battle system.

There are also plenty of other features to consider, such as perks that aid in and out of combat, defensive and ailment checks based on that characters resistances, which stats to allocate points to and, most importantly, the ability to greatly impact and control the environment using magic and weapons. For example, you can use fire magic on oil puddles to ignite enemies and give them the burning status or casting a rain spell to put out a ship on fire.

Co-op

Single player is where I rule, but if isn’t your thing, feel free to take part in some multiplayer action. You can choose between offline and online MP and parties of up to four characters can join in the fun. The community is strong if you go the online route, although roping a friend to tag along with your own misadventures while RPing quests and decision making holds its own charms.

Visuals are stunning, especially if you crank it up to ultra settings. The textures, lighting, vibrant colors, particle effects and animations are all excellent. Original Sin also has quite the soundtrack, really putting that orchestra stretch goal to good use. A bit of a tangent, but I was pleasantly surprised with how gruesome and detailed the character deaths are, particularly when they are burned by a powerful spell or trap and turned into a pile of ashes. The screams are especially convincing and sent chills down my spine every time I heard them.

NPCs also have pretty good voice acting as well, which helps to sell each quest and story encounter. The fact that they also hold their own personalities and alliances that are directly affected by your actions adds to their humanity.

A major issue I did have concerns the menu interface: it’s a bit too clunky and takes quite a while to become accustomed to. This also leads to another annoyance: when you need to present an important item, the character holding it must be the current party leader (aka the one initiating conversation) for it to given to the NPC. In other words, your lazy allies don’t like handing over items when they’re not the focus of conversation, which is hilarious but a bit bizarre. The journal is also pretty useless, as the tips and information contained within do very little to aide you in your journey.

FANTASTIC WORLD TO EXPLORE

Divinity: Original Sin is a western RPG that dives head first into the nostalgia pool; while it doesn’t exactly reinvent the contents, it manages to make its own ripples. Larian Studios put a lot of love and polish into this title and it shows in nearly every facet, from the characters to the world building to the graphics to the finely tuned combat system. While it has a few hiccups, they are nothing compared to the sheer wonder and joy players will experience exploring and influencing this vast land.

As an extra bonus, check out this awesome Let’s Play series of Divinity: Original Sin to see how both the game itself and co-op works (thanks Special Attack’s Gaming Channel!).

rated rating-9.0
Review: Divinity: Original Sin Kicks it Old School
  • Divinity: Original Sin
  • Windows
  • Larian Studios
  • Larian Studios
  • July 1, 2014
  • $39.99
  • Review copy provided by the publisher.

Join the Discussion

  • Porcu Peth

    no comments…guess not many pc gamers come here
    i love it, awesome game. best RPG of the year along with Transistor

    • Jorge Jimenez

      Iv’e been playing it for a few days now and I’m loving it. Nothing is really explained which is actually kind of refreshing.

    • Allisa James

      Thanks for being the first comment then ;)

      And it really is an awesome game!

  • Quincy

    I come to this site daily (because I like the variety and sometimes original) and I really hoped that you guys cover this game in the slightest but you didn’t then out of nowhere (maybe because word of mouth?) I guess because it’s popular, it got a review. Oh well.

    Even IGN the most trolled site got at least around 90% of posts are positive from users. That’s how great this game is. I guess thanks for the review.

    • Kenichitr

      I think its review came late both on DS and IGN not because of the interest of sites. Game is too long to be reviewed in one or two weeks. You need to play at least 100 hours and developer could not give a early review copy of the game to sites.

      • Allisa James

        Yep! You pretty much nailed the reason–for DS at least, not my place to assume for IGN.

      • Quincy

        You misunderstood, what I’m talking about is them doing preview and any kind of article.

        I know how long the game is, myself is over 100hrs but like I said again my main concern is anything but the review.

        • Allisa James

          Thanks for pointing out about previews–that’s a good point.

          To clarify, we don’t always do a preview of a game before it’s reviewed and I wanted to wait for this one so I could get a taste of the finished product.

    • Allisa James

      Thanks for being such a great fan of DS! :D

      Also, the site covered this game quite extensively, from Kickstarter onward. Type in the search box “Divinity: Original Sin” (or look to the right of the review) to see all the news coverage.

      As for the latter, the reply below nailed it: we didn’t get the copy early and I needed to really take my time with the game to get a good feel for it.

      • Quincy

        Hmm, that is weird I did do a search and saw the previous article and how the heck did I miss those? Maybe theyre old like 2013 old? I started being a daily visitor since close beta test of FF14 ARR. So that’s around oct.-nov 2013 and I have never seen a D:OS article or preview from then till now. It’s no biggie I just wanted more more players to know about D:OS before it was released but thanks to its greatness word of mouth just about did the trick.

        • Allisa James

          Nah it’s cool haha and while many of those articles are from 2013, there are plenty in 2014. But yeah we never did a preview though (the other comment explains why).

          It might be because the Divinity updates weren’t that often so they got buried under other news by the time you came to the site. But it’s cool, I know the feeling of wanting people to know about an obscure game just because it’s so good.

          • Sucka Free

            Wow! So much praise! I have to admit, this game flew under my radar.

          • Quincy

            See Allisa, this is one of the reason (and my point) why I was hoping for previews for this game. I have read so many post from gamers like him in here and different sites that they didn’t know about the game till it got a good review.

          • Allisa James

            You make a very valid point and I’ll definitely consider previews for these kinds of games in the future to let more people know about it.

            Thanks for the feedback :)

          • Allisa James

            I’m not surprised since it’s such an obscure game. But yeah it’s pretty great and definitely worth checking out.

  • Boerewors

    I reviewed the game myself and I’m about 150 hours in. I visited Larian a few times and witnessed their dedication and passion firsthand, but not in a million years I expected this game to be this good. In the back of my mind their was this voice saying: if they are this good, why try your luck on kickstarter? In the end it was just free publicity they otherwise not might have had. As a reviewer I have one ground rule, no matter the genre, no matter my personal preference… I don’t give away 10s.. I just don’t…. But this game made me come closer to actually giving a 10, then any game has ever done before: it is everything I could want from a CRPG. No game is flawless, hence my refusal to hand out 10s, but this game is so awesome I easily overlook the little flaws. Especially the first week I couldn’t stop playing… I reviewed it as I went, but sometimes I got so caught up in the game I totally forgot I was supposed to review it professionally. Ended up giving it a 9,8, and I don’t believe there will be a game this year that will even come close to snatching away my personal GOTY award… Games like these can ruin the industry; cause if you have this, why on earth would you wanna go out and buy something else?? Taking the incredible co-op in account, I can easily see myself playing this game for 2 years without ever being bored!
    Great review btw DS!

    • Allisa James

      Thanks so much for the kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed the review! And yeah, it’s amazing how this much polish, creativity and effort stemmed from a Kickstarter title. This game is a real gem honestly.

      Also, your insight on review scores is pretty fascinating. I definitely understand where you’re coming from. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Anarky

      That good huh. How good would the game work on a 2009 acer laptop? If it can’t run on my laptop then I’ll need to cross my fingers for a console port.

      • Boerewors

        That ain’t gonna cut it I think, but I’m not sure. Funny that you mention a console port, because I was hoping the same. I wouldn’t count on it though; the devs said they didn’t have any plans regarding a console version because they don’t feel the game belongs on consoles technically (100+ keys vs. 15/16) , but they also fear console players wouldn’t be interested at all…. This was about 3 months ago when I asked them.

        • Anarky

          Well that blows plus why do devs usually assume console players wouldn’t be interested in games like this if no one has ever bothered releasing games like this on consoles? It doesn’t make sense. Also what website are you’re reviews on?

          • Boerewors

            I reviewed it for a newspaper and a bi-weekly magazine in my native language of Afrikaans. I don’t think it’ll come available online, most of the “tech” stuff usually doesn’t. Also my contract specifically states they have to pay me more if they do publish it online :)
            I’m not a FT journalist btw, I used to be a freelance journalist when I was a student. But since I’m overseas a lot for my current job (I wanna say: ever since I found a real job, to mess with the DS crew a bit ;) ) and games are still my passion, I still (p)review some games every now and then, mostly for the perks of being a journalist. In the last few months I reviewed 2 games, but been to Larian, Guerilla, 2K and 2 post e3 parties, just because I help these guys out sometimes :)

          • Anarky

            I have an idea. I’ll buy a steam machine and get Divinity on it.

          • Boerewors

            Why not buy a regular pc which isn’t “steam branded”? You’ll probably save some money and you can connect that to your tv just as easy.
            That whole steam box idea is great if there would be more guidelines, regulations and restrictions: they have to make a box which offers the best of pc combined with the best of a console. Now they’re actually picking the worst of both imo.
            If they would just make a modular pc/console with easy to swap parts, but make sure there are standardized parts and steam boxes to begin with, they can’t go wrong. Make a “gold” and a “platinum” steambox which you can later upgrade at fixed times when you deem necessary and devs know exactly what to program for and can easily tell their customers which box with which parts they need in order to play their game.

          • Anarky

            I don’t have enough space in my house for a good desktop PC plus I like playing on my TV more.

          • Boerewors

            So do I! I have my desktop linked to my tv via hdmi…works flawlessly! I bought me one of those cheap “table-mates” and I just game away sitting in my lazyboy.

          • Anarky

            I could use a table mate but my gaming space isn’t appropriately spaced to use it comfortably so I’m forced to probably buy a Steam Machine with my situation.

      • Allisa James

        Yeah, to run this game well you need a pretty decent rig and a 2009 laptop is probably not strong enough :/

        Unfortunately this game was funded on Kickstarter with no console port stretch goal so it won’t be coming out for consoles anytime soon, if ever.

  • TRICO

    Great review for a Great game :)
    its not early access anymore so i’ll buy it

    • Allisa James

      Thank you very much for the kind words! And I hope you enjoy :)

  • LC

    Nice review! :)

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