Backlog Review: Divinity Original Sin
Baldur’s Gate, Fallout and Planescape: Torment were some of my favorite games around two decades ago. Before those (along with Daggerfall and Morrowind), I had never seen a game create a world quite so massive. But, as we know, the genre of huge, open world RPGs fell off for many years (or, at least, it seemed to me that it did) and there were no successors to the isometric overhead throne upon which Bhaal sat. But that was then, and now there are many who are vying for that title with Divinity Original Sin and Pillars of Eternity (which I have not yet played), along with the upcoming Torment: Tides of Numenera (among others) all trying to make a case for being the rightful successor.
The Pros and Cons
So. Divinity: Original Sin. I have not played a Divinity game before, although I have been aware of the series for a long time. Luckily, Divinity: Original Sin does not demand any previous knowledge of the game series in order to be enjoyed and I cannot say with any certainty whether or not there are things that those that played the original game might get out of it that I did not. So, with all of that said, here are the pros and cons of Divinity: Original Sin:
+ The game is massive. It took me around 70 hours to beat the game, by which I mean that I completed the main story line. There are side quests that I did not complete, but I do not feel the need to go back and visit them. I saw a lot of the game, and it takes place across several large maps.
+ The combat provides for some really neat strategic options. There are several effects that can occur on the battlefield (fire, lightning clouds and the like) that react with different kinds of magic. This allows you to, say, shoot a poison arrow out and then use a fire spell to cause a massive explosion. It’s a very neat combo based system.
+ Divinity: Original Sin is well-written. There is plenty of dialogue in Divinity: Original Sin and much of it is well executed. To be sure, Divinity: Original Sin occasionally veers off into the realm of overwrought fantasy, but that is a trope of the genre and so, in this context, does not bother me. The world is large and well developed.
+ There is strong character customization. There are lots of different skills that give you access to different magic powers or lockpicking or identifying items or whatever. You get skill points (as well as talent points for more unique bonuses) as you level up and you can really end up with all of the characters in your party designed how you want as you micromanage their attributes, skills and talents.
+ I really liked the in character conversations. Occasionally, your two characters will have a chat where you get a chance to define how they view the world. It’s a nice touch and my two each had defined personalities that added a lot to the game for me. I would, however, on occasion game the system because I wanted a given decision, but I tried to have the characters argue how they would and then resolve it with a game of rock, paper, scissors (which is how everyone resolves arguments in this game, with a bonus from high stats to get you to the required number of points).
– I never quite got the hang of the combat, honestly. Again, I played this game nearly six dozen hours and I was never quite able to figure out how to effectively engage in combat on Normal difficulty. This might not be a negative for you. You might be great at it. I wasn’t. Maybe it was how a customized my characters to better complement each other? I don’t know. I felt like I had a well-balanced party (I ran with a rogue, a warrior/mage, a mage and an archer) and I felt woefully underpowered and I didn’t feel like the game was tactically engaging. Enemies moved freely and tended to move far enough that I found any sort of strategic placement felt like a waste of time. I mean, you get a free swing at the enemy but it never seemed to deter then from charging the mage or Archer. I ended up turning the game on Easy mode in order to enjoy playing through it and still felt like there was at least some challenge to it. This may be more of a reflection of me than of Divinity: Original Sin, but that was certainly my experience.
– Status effects. Look,I loved them when they worked for me, but all to often I found my whole team shocked or frozen the first turn off combat. It’s a good system but it added more frustration than strategy for me.
– I found that the game dragged on. As is often the case in this sort of game, I found myself frequently running back and around the same areas. That is part and parcel of this sort of game and the is a quick travel system, but it just seems a little too deliberate.
– There are some really annoying “puzzles” involving finding tiny, tiny switches. I put puzzles in quotes because they don’t require ingenuity, they just require you to stare really hard at your screen. There aren’t tons of them, but there was more than one occasion where I got completely hung up because I couldn’t find a tiny switch hidden in an obscure place. I don’t think that is fun, guys, and to the extent it is challenging, it is not the sort of challenge I am interested in. There are other puzzles that have somewhat obscure answers, but the game does give you something to work with generally. These, on the other hand, not so much.
– The story really isn’t much to talk about. Really, it all feels a little disjointed, overall. It’s neat to see the world, and there are some really neat set pieces, but it never feels entirely coherent as a game world. The fiction is good and the writing (as above) is good, but I never felt like the world was terribly in danger.
– I really hate having to constantly change between a billion weapons and armor with mildly different stats. I hate it. I know it’s a thing in a lot of games, but it really doesn’t do anything for me. I felt like there were several times I had to do a thorough review of identifying a meticulously comparing weapons to make sure I was appropriately equipped. Across four characters it is tiresome.
Overall, would I recommend Divinity: Original Sin to you. Yeah, if you want a big, meaty CRPG game, I would. It is not perfect, but it is a highly polished game that does way more right than it does wrong. I really wish I had found the combat more engaging, but I did enjoy exploring the world, even if I never quite engaged with the story. There is also an upcoming Enhanced Edition that makes the game fully voiced (the reading didn’t bother me, but there you go) and adds a reworked story. It will be free to those that already have the game, so you might go ahead and grab the game and just wait for the huge patch to hit. The game was already very good, so it’s exciting to see it will be even better. So, maybe it’s not Baldur’s Gate or Planescape or Fallout 2, but it’s a solid game in its own right in a genre that I love.
Game Chef 2015 RPG Design Competition Launches June 13, BattleLore 2nd Edition Shambles Forward With the Undead, Steam Summer Sale Launches
Game Chef 2015 RPG Design Competition Launches June 13
Game Chef, the tabletop RPG competition challenging designers to make a game in only nine days using 2 – 3 of the announced ingredients, will launch on June 13. The contest has been running since 2002 and gives the participants a limited time to make a game with the theme and ingredients assigned. The ingredients and theme will be announced at June 13th at 12:01 a.m. New Zealand Standard Time and the contest is being run in seven languages, with the winners of each competition then going against each other in a final, global round. You can check out the full rules if you are interested in competing. The designs must be original and under 4,000 words. I can only imagine the length of the texts turn in without the word limit, and I really like the constraint in forcing you to be creative with the design of your game. Previous themes include “There is No Book”, “Last Chance” (a game that can only be played once), and “Journey”, to give you all an idea of what might come out. I have never competed in Game Chef before, but I may well do it this year. It sounds like a fun intellectual challenge.
BattleLore 2nd Edition Shambles Forward With the Undead
Fantasy Flight Games has announced an upcoming expansion for BatteLore Second Edition. The two army packs – Terrors of the Mists and Heralds of Dreadfall – will each contain an entire new army for use in BattleLore Second Edition and include units like Death Knights, an undead dragon called a Barrow Wyrm, Banshees, Wraiths, and Skeleton Archers. The two army packs can also be combined to make a single horde of the undead. The new expansions will be available in the third quarter of 2015 (so sometime in the next three months, basically). No price was announced, but previous army packs have had an MSRP of $39.95 and have had more than 30 figures, so that might provide a guide as to what to expect for the two new BattleLore Second Edition army packs. BattleLore, of course, is based on the Command and Colors system that powered the original BattleLore, as well as Memoir ’44 and Command & Colors: Ancients.
Steam Summer Sale 2015 Launches
The Steam Summer Sale (called the Monster Summer Sale) has officially started as of June 11. As for first day sales, I can vouch for XCOM: Enemy Unknown for $7.49 and Valkyria Chronicles for $4.99. I am also sorely tempted by the inclusion of the Homeworld Remastered Collection for $13.99 and Tales From the Borderlands for $12.49. Still, I am trying to abstain as best as possible this year, no matter how much I would love to build a ridiculously large backlog of games. In recent months, I have come to realize that I am better served playing the games I have and buying a new game (even at a higher price) when I am prepared to play it than I am by investing in additional games that I may not get to for months or years, even at amazing prices. Still, it’s hard to argue that there are bargains to be found. As usual, the sale includes Flash Deals that change every twelve hours, as well as a new mini game that, when played, unlocks new bonuses at the start of each day. I haven’t gotten to play the actual game yet, as all I have gotten is an error, but it certainly seems like an interesting system to keep people engaged with the sale. The sale runs through June 20, so there are many days of sales ahead, with new daily deals unlocking each day. Sales on Satellite Reign, Pillars of Eternity and Sunless Sea, although not currently available, are some of the games that I would have to think hard about caving in over if they are to go on flash or daily sale. Still, there’s already a good selection, and I’m sure my resolve will be worn down under time. Is there something you’re definitely grabbing or hoping to see on sale?
No Thank You, Evil Doubles Original Funding Goal, New Iconica Expansion Up For Pre-Order, Mega Man Legacy Collection Announced for PS4, PC, Xbox One and 3DS
No Thank You, Evil Doubles Funding Goal, Hits Stretch Goals
With X days left in its crowd-funding campaign, No Thank You, Evil – the child-oriented roleplaying game based on Numenera’s core system from Monte Cook Games – has more-than doubled its original goal of $40,000 and now includes a number of additional stretch goals. At this point, the additions to the game includean adventure book, reusable character sheets, and some purchasable swag in the form of ‘Hero Stuff’. The currently announced future goals include character standups at $82,000 and a new adventure at $90,000. For more information, you can head to the Kickstarter page or the official No Thank You, Evil web site. No Thank You, Evil – as mentioned – is a tabletop roleplaying game meant to be played with children using dice pools based on the characters’ attributes. Something that really caught my eye, as well, is that No Thank You, Evil has a colorful design that really pops out that seems to fit the anything-goes kid friendly theme really well. I am really interested to see how adaptable No Thank You, Evil is and if it, maybe, can fill a spot somewhat similar to Evil Hat’s FAE, which – although super light – does a nice job of telling compelling stories and concentrating on how people do things. Yes, I am already thinking about reusing a game that is not even out yet. I’ve put in a video of Shanna Germain and Monte Cook explaining how the game plays, above. As of this writing, the No Thank You, Evil has about eight days to go.
New Expansion for Iconica Up For Pre-ORder – Iconica Travels: The Hiveland Expedition
Designer Eric Torres has put a new expansion for his Iconica game series up for pre-order – Iconica Travels: The Hiveland Expedition. What is Iconica, you ask? It is, fundamentally, a tabletop game where each person builds a team from a set of cards each of which with a unique set of skills represented on large cards. Each turn you roll to determine which skill number you can use that turn, but having your three characters gives you a variety of skills to choose from on any given turn. All of that doesn’t fully capture what I love about it, though. Iconica caught my eye with its wonderful graphic design, as well the storytelling and world building on each card. The game itself is heavy on dice, but each character design is colorful and compelling and there is something about the way that Torres writes about the world that makes it feel more real. Now, Torres has announced, which includes 111 game cards that are available for $35.00 plus shipping. For more information, you can check out the Rynaga Etsy page, which also includes links to purchase the older sets of cards, as well. Travels is an expansion for use with other Iconica sets and sends the player on a journey through a region of Rynaga with three characters.
Mega Man Legacy Collection Announced for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC
If I were listing games that defined my childhood (or, at least, listing series) that list would include (in some small part) Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior (nee Quest), Mario and – as much as any of them – Mega Man. And so I was excited when Capcom announced that they would be releasing a new Mega Man collection for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. The new collection includes 1080p resolution for the first six games in the series. Sadly absent are Mega Man 7 and 8, which were included in the Mega Man Anniversary Collection released back around 2004 on the PS2, GameCube and Xbox (as well as the two previously Japan-only fighting iterations that were included in that collection). Still, the Mega Man Legacy Collection will only be $14.99 and – so long as the ports are solid – will be a great value at that price point, which includes the aforementioned 1080p upgrade, a museum of sketches and original art, online leaderboards and a challenge mode. Plus, I would have to plug in my Wii in order to play the Anniversary Collection (which I have actually done before), so it will be nice to load up Mega Man 1 – 6 on my PS4 whenever I want to in order to make sure that I am never too out of practice. You can look forward to collecting the powers of a whole bunch of evil Robot Masters this summer on PS4, PC and XOne and this winter on 3DS.