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Divinity: Original Sin

By Fr33Lanc3r.00709-09-2014
BloodyFanGirl (editor)
Bis18marck70 (editor)

The Defence

Larian Studios
Larian Studios
Adventure, Indie, Role Playing, Strategy
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5 2.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti
AMD Radeon HD 6850
4 GB
10 GB

The Case

Coming from Larian Studios’ successful Kickstarter Campaign, Divinity: Original Sin aims to be a modern take on old school CRPG. When they originally launched their campaign, Larian promised strategic, turn-based combat, an immersive, decision based world, and character driven storylines. How well did they deliver?

The Trial

Divinity opens with your two characters, members of an elite group of mage killers known as ‘Source Hunters’, being sent to investigate the suspicious death of a council member in the city of Cyseal. Once there, you are drawn into the problems facing the town, and begin to uncover the wider mystery that threatens the entirety of creation.

Welcome to your first quest.

Welcome to your first quest.

The amount of freedom Divinity provides is refreshing, if a little overwhelming to start with, and you can see that the developers did their utmost to ensure that every play style is not only legitimate, but fun too. The main questline, while not as optional as more open-world type RPGs, isn’t really highlighted at all. This is to the point where you could stumble across the major hook completely accidentally and the next steps to take aren’t specifically given up front. Side Quests aren’t telegraphed at all and players will need to work hard if they want to explore everything the game has to offer. It’s worth the work, however, as there is a wonderful sense of humor in many of them, or alternatively, a chance to truly roleplay your characters.

Because that’s what Divinity is all about - it puts the Roleplaying back into PC RPGs. The entirety of the experience is very character focused, with conversation doing much more to advance any given questline than combat in many cases. How you play the roles you give to your characters will alter their abilities, decide how people perceive them, and bring a level of depth to the game that simply skimming through conversations will deny you. It’s entirely possible to have your characters call each other out on the actions taken, and agree or disagree on matters of philosophy, on the course of action you choose to take at a given moment, and many other situations. In cases where a disagreement occurs, but a decision still needs to reached, each character attempts to persuade the other. Playing it out in a ‘rock-paper-scissors’ style persuasion mini game, the winner’s decision becoming the party’s decision.

The co-operative multiplayer takes this interplay between the two main characters to it’s logical, and greatest, conclusion. Each player takes on one of the two characters, and their actions and interactions are controlled individually. It captures the feeling of playing a traditional tabletop RPG almost perfectly, with nearly every action requiring the agreement of the players, either through like-mindedness or persuasion. The lack of an in-game voice chat does make it difficult, particularly in combat, to discuss actions but for the most part it helps to preserve the uncertainty over whether or not the person you have chained yourself to will agree with you.

On your journeys you’ll see a lot of breath-taking locations.

On your journeys you’ll see a lot of breath-taking locations.

In terms of gameplay, Divinity uses the tried and true standard for old-school RPGs. Outside of combat, you left click to go places, left click to talk to people, and use a variety of variations on the left click to perform various other actions. It’s a system that didn’t really need fixing, so its inclusion isn’t too unexpected, and the tutorial dungeon in the opening half hour does a good job of teaching players about the variety of arts they must master. The ability to switch between isometric and top down view helps immensely with navigation, especially on occasions where entrances are out of view. Moving between indoor and outdoor areas can be frustrating though, because the ability to see inside a building is dependent on whether your character is under the roof or not. This is unforgivable in games with a free camera.

Combat, however, can often be an exercise in frustration. While all the styles of combat are satisfying to use, and many of the available attacks feel powerful - even if they may not actually be - all of them are let down by the control scheme. While the controls are fine for general movement, many enemies are difficult to target if you don’t take great amounts of care; the difference between hitting an enemy and hitting the ground just in front of them is often the dependent on the smallest of movements. Obviously this isn’t as much of an issue for melee combat, but the combat is focused around crowd control and good use of status effects, both of which are the realms of the ranged combatant.

Said status effects range from simply being in a wet or warm environment, to flat out being poisoned or on fire. Mages in particular need to pay attention to these, as the biggest effect the environment has in both combat and exploration is how environmental elements react to others. Fire spells, for instance, will react with poisonous surfaces and gas clouds to produce a violent, damaging explosion. Additionally a fire spell won’t do as much damage to creatures standing in the rain. The sheer possibility of combining spells and abilities for maximum damage is astounding, and learning them is the key to properly using mages.

Let’s talk it out, shall we?

Let’s talk it out, shall we?

The visual design presented in Divinity is amazing, aiming for a vibrant aesthetic within its environments that feels like real world spaces. Even the areas that are run down and rain soaked manage to look good. Characters stand out against the background, though items often need to be highlighted in order to be seen, and it’s generally easy to work out where you are in any particular area. The music is nice enough, but ultimately forgettable, which is a shame since the Kickstarter managed to raise enough money for composer Kirill Pokrovsky to make use of a full orchestra.

The Verdict

Divinity: Original Sin is an example of how to do an RPG right. It has its issues, but the love and care that everyone at Larian had for the world they were building shows in every aspect of the game. RPG fans who wish for the good old days need to check this out and should also definitely bring a friend along for the ride.

Case Review

  • Character Driven: From the creation screen to the end of the game, the characters are what matters.
  • Pretty: Divinity manages to make every environment look amazing.
  • Discussion: It’s nice to finally see a large scale game where discussion can solve (or cause) as many arguments as fighting.
  • Multiplayer: The definitive way to play Divinity.
  • # Freedom: While it is really refreshing to play an RPG that doesn’t hold your hand, it probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
  • # Combat: Feels powerful and satisfying, but has a number of issues.
  • Crashes: Occasionally, for no discernible reason.
Score: 4/5
Divinity: Original Sin is an example of how to do an RPG right.


‘Choice’ reigned king in the 1990s and early 2000s, with the supreme leader being CRPGs. Divinity: Original Sin, a prequel to earlier released games and billed as a return to the classic days of player-character interaction, is all about choice. To begin with, the game presents you with two characters that you can create and totally customise, including their skill loadouts, as you see fit. The game progresses rather linearly for the first hour or so, whereupon you are dumped in the game’s major city, Cyseal, where the game effectively kicks you off the bus.

In an age where many decry the overwhelming hand-holding that games do these days and as an avowed fan of RPGs myself, I loved this. Scouring around the town for new quests to acquire, hidden passages to explore, and venturing out into the wilderness beyond without a care for the main story felt fantastic. I had a vague notion of what should be done, but there were a number of intertwining plot threads that slowly drew all the characters together and downward. There's clever gameplay, story integration and a true focus on dialogue choices between your player characters. While playing the game solo, actions taken lead to different personality traits sliding around, which in turn lead to further bonuses both in and out of combat. The responses themselves also build a relationship between my two main characters as well and, while it was mostly self-directed, the options allowed me to continue to develop and customize character as I saw fit.

One major gripe, however, was with the combat system. Certain character builds (mainly elemental mages) lead to better combos and an easier time dealing with enemies than, say, a sneaky rogue or lumbering bruiser. Certainly there are guides on how to optimize your builds to make the game as playable as possible, and I would recommend them for someone who has restarted their game. Overall, however, Divinity: Original Sin is a well-polished, rewarding RPG.

Score: 4.5/5


The latest entry in the Divinity series feels like such an anomaly in today’s gaming landscape. It’s an RPG that refuses to hold your hand, where hearing what characters have to say and thinking for yourself is required if you want to succeed. You can’t just skip all dialogue and open the map to find a conveniently placed quest marker to follow for quick XP like the majority of RPGs today. In fact, the game doesn’t even have quest markers at all. The turn-based combat follows suit and can at times be difficult to fully master. You’ll quickly get the hang of the game though, and it never really goes over the top hardcore. You’ll rarely find yourself struggling to get immersed into the dense, clearly handcrafted and incredibly vivid world, despite what big publishers would see as too slow-flowing game design for modern gaming audiences. Exploring and thinking outside the box yields constant rewards and you feel like it’s you who figured it out, rather than the game did it for you. There’s always an alternate way of dealing with a situation. Better yet, you can complete your entire game with a buddy. This raises the entertainment value tenfold and will make you feel slightly less antisocial for staying inside all day as you figure out the best way to take down the next big boss together.

There are a few hitches along the way though. The way co-op works, for instance, is a tad clumsy. You don’t create your own characters separately and join together. Instead, you create your own game and both main characters, and your buddy can join you and take over one of your characters once in-game. Progress will only be saved on the host’s system, which means you might end up having to start all over again if your hosting friend’s computer breaks down 20 hours into the game. The lack of dialogue voicework might also be a little off-putting to some players, especially considering how the dialogue sharing in co-op isn’t very well executed. In other words, you often end up having to retell to your friend what an NPC has told you. There is still a good amount of bugs that need sorting out, and again the co-op mode is the worst offender. Yet, I’ve never encountered any game-breaking or truly disruptive bugs.

Beyond these minor nitpicks, there really isn’t anything negative to say about Divinity: Original Sin. On the contrary, there is so much more positive stuff I could tell you, but there isn’t nearly enough space to do that here. But trust me, whatever price you pay or have already paid, you’ll find the 50+ hour campaign well worth the purchase. Every moment of the game is pure satisfaction, from the mentally engaging quest design and the freedom of choice in gameplay, to the challenging combat and the robust levelling system with a plethora of game-altering skills and abilities to choose from. I don’t often find pre-release marketing slogans fulfil their promises, but Original Sin is one of those rare exceptions. It really is a true pen & paper RPG, translated nearly perfectly into the video game format.

Score: 4.5/5
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