Divinity: Original Sin Review – Classic Challenges Return
Divinity: Original Sin conjures a classic role-playing game feel without being bound by all the constraints of its predecessors.
Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment are much-beloved classics of the RPG genre. When a new RPG pops up with an isometric camera and turn-based combat, those are the games that immediately come to mind. If you played them, you can’t help but compare newer titles to them; and very few measure up.
Divinity: Original Sin is a little different. Sure, much of its gameplay could be said to be inspired by those classic titles, but it goes beyond the constraints of those games to make its own unique, if somewhat flawed, mark on the genre.
You learn how to interact with the world through experimentation. Deadly, enjoyable experimentation.
Divinity: Original Sin is, unusually, a story of two main characters. Both are “Source Hunters,” which are basically adventurers tracking those who are dabbling in magic, known in this word as “Sourcery.” You select the class of each character at the outset of the game and send them out to save the world.
The most important thing to learn about any role-playing game is how you affect the world as you move through it. In many games, you do this by reading quest text, following on-screen tutorials, and receiving instructions from NPCs. In Original Sin, you do none of these. Instead, you learn how to interact with the world through experimentation. Deadly, enjoyable experimentation.
Early on, you’ll happen across a burning ship. If you’ve got a rain spell, you can actually put the flames out and save the sailors onboard. There’s no quest for this. It’s just something you do because it’s there. That’s how Original Sin works throughout — you’ll discover far more than the game will tell you — and that’s a good thing.
Even crafting follows that same formula of encouraging experimentation and discovery. Don’t expect an easy-to-understand interface that shows you precisely what to combine to make something new. Instead, you can find books that tell you which items to combine (which you’ll do by dragging and dropping items on top of each other in the inventory) to get your desired results. It might sound tedious, but what it leads to is more experimentation. You might not always find the perfect combination, but those few times it works, creating something new is very rewarding.
There aren’t any circles on the map or golden arrows to point the way.
Likewise, the quest system doesn’t involve bright yellow question marks over the heads of non-player characters. You’ll discover some quests through conversing with NPCs, and some others you’ll run across as you travel. Some you’ll just impulsively complete, as in the case of the aforementioned ship. However you find the quest, plan to spend some time deciphering it. There aren’t any circles on the map or golden arrows to point the way. You’ll need to read through the quest and follow the directions therein, or maybe work out some clues to find out where you need to go.
Combat is fun, but it can be punishingly hard if you aren’t paying attention. It’s turn-based, and each character has a pool of action points to spend each turn. Unspent points carry over to the next round, allowing you to save up points for later in a fight. There are some amazing combinations of elements you can call upon to dispatch your foes, but it’s easy to have those same combinations backfire on you. For example, you can detonate poison clouds (which occur in some areas of the world) with fireballs. That sounds great until you realize that you forgot that one of your party members was standing in the edge of that cloud as well. Toss a lightning spell at a wet enemy and it’ll do extra damage, but if you didn’t notice that you were standing in the same puddle, well, prepare for an unpleasant surprise.