Sunday, 10 August 2014

Review: Divinity Original Sin

The Divinity series is one of PC gamings older roleplaying games.  Developer Larian have even taken the risk of adapting their world to other genre types with Divinity Dragon Commander, a RTS roleplaying hybrid and the earlier Divinity II a third person action RPG.  They haven't always been successful but hats off to Larian for expanding their universe with new experiences.  In a step back to their original hit, Larian started a kickstarter campaign to create a new Divinity game in the vein of their first isometric RPG and the result is Divinity Original Sin.

The story is quite in depth and grandiose as it should be, but the basic introduction is that you are a Source hunter, a person trained to hunt down and exterminate users of a dark but very powerful form of magic.  You arrive in a small seaside town where a murder has occurred and the victim was believed to have been slaughtered through the use of this source magic.  From here your tale begins and the plot spins out to become ever more twisted and complex coming down a world saving battle for all humanity.

The inventory is clean and easy to use with plenty of tooltips
Character creation is limited visually with only a few face and hair options open to you and no body options.  You always create two characters who act as your main protagonists, both can male or female it's your choice.  But don't expect to create two wildly different people visually but in the stats they can be worlds apart.  There are plenty of pregen character classes to choose from with your tried and true fighters, rangers, wizards and rogues.  You can choose more interesting classes such as the battlemage, warrior druid, monk and more and even better is the ability to create your own unique class with whatever starting skills you please and it's here that character creation is at it's best.

The games world and questing system does allow for a large amount of freedom in how you approach encounters and NPC's.  There is no wrong way of doing a quest and usually there are multiple ways of achieving your goals either through reason, thievery, intimidation or flat our murder if all else fails.  Every NPC can pickpocketed, every building explored and every box rummaged through.  Loot is randomly generated so it's worth indulging your inner magpie.  The environments in game are broken into zones with each being a fair size and to fully explore and complete them taking a few hours at a time.  Most of them contain several dungeons, monster parties, quests and a location to buy and sell your loot for better equipment, spells and potions.

The quest system is good but it isn't truly flexible.  It is entirely possible to jump to a later part of a quest and effectively break it.  The main plot is exempt from this fortunately but there where several quests that became broken when another NPC was killed as part of a different quest, robbing me of vital experience.  My other gripe with the quest system is a lack of markers for dumb players like myself who needs that little reminder about where I am supposed to go.  It would be nice to have that as an option in the game again.

Spell effects are cool and using the environment is advised
Combat is very entertaining and can be quite rewarding when you setup the battlefield correctly.  Divinity makes use of the elements to create combo attacks between characters and is really fun to experiment with.  An example would be to drop a boulder on a group of foes which poisons the ground around them.  The following character then uses a fire attack to ignite the poison and blow them up, setting the enemies on fire while also poisoning them.  There are other types of combinations to experiment with as you play.  The flow of combat is also quite good as the game uses a turn based system rather than a real time system.  Using action points you can move around the field, cast spells and attack foes in melee combat and there are a good mix of enemy types to come up against so the combat doesn't get tiresome.

Crafting is also a big feature of the game with numerous items that are seemingly useless having a part in some recipe somewhere.  Pillows for example can be cut open with a knife to get feathers which can then be used to create arrows.  Nine inch nails can be attached to footwear to make cleats so you don't slip on ice and many other creations are out there to be found.  There is also cooking, potion brewing, enchanting, blacksmithing and spell creation to experiment with also, so it pays to be a hoarder as you never know what items could come up in a recipe.   

Divinity isn't just a solo experience either.  The reason you create two characters is that another player can join your party and play as any number of characters you choose for them.  Party sizes max out at four and there are NPC's to recruit to your side who also have their own back story and reasons for helping you.  The cooperative experience only makes the game better with players getting into in game arguments over what to do in certain quests, kicking off a game of rock, paper, scissors.  Conversations between the party can crop up with benefits being conferred to you after most of them.  It just makes the partying and adventuring more fun with another person and I hope more games do this in the future.

At launch Divinity comes with steam workshop support so new mods will trickle in over time and the game has a full editor built in that can be used to create your own adventures in entirely new areas should you want to continue the story of the Source hunters or make new characters entirely.

The world looks nice if not a little low res when zoomed in
The game is visually fine with some nice environmental touches here and there but close up some of the textures can be a little flat or pixelated at times.  Still the visuals are good for the projects size and the overall visual style of the game keeps in line with previous Divinity games.  Spell effects are powerful looking and animate well, the characters are generally expressive when casting or attacking and the monsters look good, sometimes even quite intimidating.

The sound I feel is a mixed bag with voice acting being the worst.  Some NPC's are fine but the poor attempts at English accents are outright bad at times while others are fine.  Madora one of your party members has a pretty grating voice that will make you seriously consider dropping her from the party while monster dialogue and the few brief cutscenes are generally well done.  The battle sounds are good with spells being the stand out again for the work done on them in particular.  The in game music is a mix again with some decent looped tunes for the towns and villages that can get old quick.  The battle theme is forgettable really but it isn't tragic to listen to.

In closing Divinity Original Sin is one of those games that really rewards you for playing with a great story, awesome combat mechanics and some good old school roleplaying.  It isn't polished in every area but the overall package is brilliant and can only get better with patches and updates.  Here's hoping for a few expansions and sequels in the future.

SCORE: 8.0/10


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