Divinity: Original Sin is a fantastic RPG experience that rises above the sea of mediocrity that the genre has become. I just thought I’d get that out of the way.
In D: OS you play as a source hunter; two, actually, but I’ll get to that later. Source Hunters are tasked with hunting down Sorcerers and other foul magical things, but for your mission you are sent to the town of Cyseal in order to investigate a murder. A councilman has been killed and the scene of the crime was hinky enough for the local wizard to request the aid of Source Hunters. However things aren’t quite as simple as they seem and soon you find yourself wrapped up in something much larger than you realize. Sound fun? Read on for our full review.
Visuals, World, & Interaction
Divinity: Original Sin uses a zoomed out birds-eye perspective that is reminiscent of older, classic RPGs. You can zoom in and out a bit as well as rotate the camera. The graphics are nice and get the job done. I suppose that might make it sound like they aren’t very good but that’s not really what I mean. I’m not one to really get hung up on graphics, especially for a game like this. The visuals are really nice, though.
The game world is larger than I had anticipated. The first area consists of one large zone and some smaller and medium sized areas you can access. Generally you won’t have to do much loading at all which is great. Even when you teleport to a waypoint far away you rarely have to load to get there. The teleport markers are all over the place so it makes getting around and any backtracking much easier. There’s also a lot of nice variety in the scenery with beaches, forests, and snowy areas. Plus, weather effects like rain and terrain effects like fire and lava can really add to the atmosphere.
Most objects in the game world can be moved around. Source Hunters start out with a limited form of telekinesis which lets you move objects like barrels and crates around or even larger things like anvils. Doing so may reveal hidden switches or objects but you also might want to use an object to trigger a trap or cover a grating that is seeping poisonous gas. If you put points into telekinesis and develop it further then you can reach and move objects from farther away which can be handy when trying to overcome some obstacles or to find certain secrets.
Character Creation, Skills, & Combat
When you start up a new game you get to create two source hunters and customize them to your liking. You get a few options when doing so and can pick various skin tones, hair, faces, and hair color along with one of three voices. Initially you choose which class you want to play as from a range of stuff like Witch, Cleric, Ranger, etc. There’s quite a few there. If you are fine with the default stuff then you are good to go, but really that’s no fun at all. Once you pick a class, which really only seems to determine what equipment and weapon you start out with, you can completely change which skills, traits, and stats you want.
There are several different types of skills. Weapon skills consist of One-handed, Two-handed, Bows, and Crossbows. Defenses skills are Armor Specialist, Body Building (resisting physical things), Shield Specialist, and Willpower (resisting magical things). Personality skills are Bartering, Charima, Luck, and Leadership; mostly self explanatory stuff I imagine. Craftingmanship classes include blacksmithing, crafting, loremaster (identifying objects), and for some reason telekinesis is here. Lastly there is the “nasty deeds” category which has your lock picking, pickpocketing, and sneaking skills. The one category that I didn’t mention yet was the Skills category which is where all of your abilities come from. I won’t bothering naming them all, especially since the magic categories have fancy names that I can’t remember, but they cover magic from pretty much every element along with fighter skills, rogue-ish skills, and bow skills. There’s like 8 or so of these. It doesn’t seem very possible to be a jack-of-all-trades so you should consider specializing in only a few things.
The combat is easily my favorite part of Divinity: Original Sin. I’m a huge fan of turn-based mechanics and I think they work very well. When combat triggers an initiative track appears at the top of the screen and shows the turn order. This is most likely decided by character stats like speed so expect slower characters to be further down the line. Each character has action points to use on things like moving, skills, items, etc. How many points you start out with and get each turn is determine by several different stats. If you don’t use all of your point then some of them will carry over to your next turn. No spells require mana for casting and instead rely on having enough action points. The higher your skill is in the specific spell category, the more or less AP you will need to use it. Everything also takes X amount of turns to refresh so stronger spells will usually take much longer while simpler stuff is almost always available. Movement also consumes AP at a different rate depending on stuff like your speed, so your light rogue might be able to zip around for only a few points while your heavily-clad warrior might have to use ALL of his points to get as far. It’s all very fun and strategic and there’s tons of variety and awesome combos you can perform, like lighting oil on fire or blowing up poison clouds. My go-to tactics usually involves teleport-dropping a bad guy on top of something toxic, expolsive, or just right onto another baddie.
The crafting in Divinity: Original Sin is very fun and intriguing. It requires a lot of trial and error when trying to figure things out and that’s half the fun. You can try dragging any specific item onto another and if they work together you can craft something. Mostly these will be specifically marked as crafting components but other objects can interest with them as well. For instance, you can use a knife on a piece of wood to make a take or use a hammer on the same wood to instead make woodchips. You can make all kinds of different things from weapons and equipment to scrolls and potions. Most things can be accomplished with just the crafting skill but the blacksmithing skill is required when you are working with different kinds of ore or when you are making weapons. The two skills mostly worth together though so it’s good if you have somebody who can do both or two characters that can do at least one of them. Here’s just an example of some of the cool crafting stuff I have discovered on my own:
Stardust herb + Mortar = Stardust, Bone + Mortar = Bonedust, Stardust + Bonedust = Pixie Dust, Pixie Dust + Quill and Ink = Magic Quill and Ink, Magic Quill + Blank Scroll = Spell Scroll
So you get the general idea there. You can make it even more “from scratch” if you make the paper yourself and then enchant it with pixie dust to make a blank scroll. You can pretty much combine pixie dust with lots of ingredients to get a “magic” version. I have a magic eyeball and antlers floating around in my inventory since I still don’t know what to do with them. I was able to combine stuff like magic skulls, claws, and feathers onto objects like rope, string, and rings to make belts, amulets, and obviously rings. And that’s just with screwing around with pixie dust. You can make a whole lot of other things without it as well. Pretty much any plant and an empty flask will get you a potion of some sort which can then be augmented with an augmenter. A knife on animal hide will get you leather scraps, which can then be combine with needle and thread to make armor. Hammer + nails will get you lock picks. There’s just way too much stuff to list everything but maybe you can get some small idea of the cool stuff you can do.
So all of this sounds really fun, right? Well it would be even better with a friend and that’s exactly what you get with the drop-in/drop-out co-op. Either over LAN or Online you can join together with a buddy and play through the entire game. Keen and I have been trekking through it together and we are having a blast. In addition to your own character you can each have a hireling to control. They can essentially do they same stuff as you and the added help makes combat more manageable. In the options you can choose who gets to control what so if you really wanted to you could have one guy control three characters and the only person control one. Even so the game is still limited to two-players and the game is saved on the host computer. Also the conversations in game seem to only be view-able by the person in them which can be difficult for some people to get past.
In addition to cooperative play there are cooperative conversations. Every so often when talking with an NPC you will trigger a co-op convo where one character weighs in on something and the other follows it up. These can be at real important moments so if you disagree on what to do you will have to play several matches of “rock, paper, scissors” to determine who has the final say. Your charisma skill will give you a bonus here and make it easier to ultimately win. So maybe you’re in agreement over something or perhaps one of you wants to kill this guy and the other thinks he should live. How you respond to these scenarios will also influence your characters in specific ways and give bonuses to certain skills. It’s an interesting idea, but I would have liked to see it fleshed out more. The conversation system in general is a little lacking in my opinion. I mean, it’s not Classic-Bioware level stuff but maybe it’s unfair of me to want it to be. Still, most conversations seem to boil down to things like: Tell me about yourself, What is X?, and I’ll take my leave. There’s not really a lot lot of depth to it and at times it can seem straight up out of place. For instance there is one scene where you meet some guy at his Inn room. Beforehand he seemed like some normal dude but when you got to his room he suddenly changed into some crazy guy talking about child-snatching and all sorts of craziness. You’d think your character would get to respond to that level of WTF-ness but no… You can say “Tell me about yourself.”
Overall, Pros & Cons
Divinity: Original Sin feels like it will become a classic. It features fun gameplay and an interesting world to explore filled with tons of content. It does have its flaws but what great game doesn’t? Ideally they are the kind of thing that could be remedied in a sequel or expansion, which I really hope we get. You should play this one. It’s just good.
+ Awesome turn-based combat
+ Fully co-op
+ Crafting is fun
+ Great character customization
+ Interesting and interactive world
– Lacks deep conversation system. Rock, Paper, Scissors mechanic is a bit shallow.
– Co-op partner can’t see conversations