Backlog Review: Divinity: Original Sin from Larian Games
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.