Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Larian Studios (Kickstarter) / Focus Home Interactive (PlayStation & XBOX Enhanced Editions)
Release: 2013 / 2014 / 2015 (Enhanced Edition)
Platform: Steam, Windows, Macintosh, Linux*, PlayStation 4*, XBOX One* (* = Enhanced Edition Only)
Genre: Fantasy Roleplay
OFLC Rating: MA
Divinity is not a franchise I am remotely familiar with, but after a bit of study here’s what I can tell you. The series revolves around the central lore that provides the setting and narrative for the games – However, each game (excluding expansions) plays very differently to the next, whilst offering a deeply complex and richly satisfying experience. The original game Divine Divinity (and it’s expansion Beyond Divinity) of 2002/2004 plays like your typical action roleplaying game, in a similar manner to the first Diablo. Divinity II of 2009/2010 is an action adventure roleplaying game that looks and feels strikingly similar to the recent chapters of The Elder Scrolls, using only the third-person perspective. Last year’s Divinity: Dragon Commander is a strategic roleplaying experience consisting of one of the most eccentric combinations I have ever seen in a game.
Divinity: Original Sin is computer roleplaying game (CRPG) that follows the playing style of traditional roleplaying games which focus on deep character interaction and engaging in turn-based tactical battles. If you are used to playing contemporary CRPGs that place the focus on the action along with offering the convenience of showing you who to talk to, where to go and what to do leaving the “How to” up to you – Original Sin is NOT that game. This is a game that harkens back to the CRPG greats like the classic Dungeons & Dragons titles, the Ultima series and the original two Fallout games (just to name a few) where you would gain information from conversation and reading. Quest would be obtained from either talking to a non-playable character (NPC) or reading documents (books, letters, etc.) within the world and quests details would be found from reading your journal that contained all entries and notes taken. Completing quests actually required a degree of detective work as opposed today’s CRPGs that lay everything out for you. This can be daunting for someone who is new to classical CRPGs, but my best advice is to start with the manual and any literature that comes with the game (whether hardcopy or PDF) as this will provide enough to actually get started. Original Sin is not exclusively single player like most hardcore story CRPGs will often be, this game features “Drop-In / Drop-Out” cooperative multiplayer capability – This can be engaged in three ways: Firstly you can start a “Multiplayer” game which will allow another player to jump (depending on game visibility settings) into the character creation assuming control and customising one of the two characters. Alternatively you can start a “Single Player” game and open the session to either “Public”, “Friends Only” or “Invitation Only” allowing the joining player to assume control of a spare created character. Alternatively you can simply click “Join” and browse for a game to jump into. Otherwise if you prefer to enjoy this one yourself or with company around a single computer, starting a “Single Player” game left “Offline” is probably going to be your best bet. When you play Original Sin you start by creating the two principal characters that form the core of the party – You do not control a single character, but a party of up to four characters. These two characters you create will often enter into discussion with one another over certain encounters and can result in a debate which is resolved by way of a “Rock Paper Scissors” battle – This particular feature is designed for in-game player discussion as well as a means to develop both characters. Multiplayer whether both characters are controlled in a networked game or the AI personalities are left off for two players to share a game over a single computer, this allows players to resolve in-game arguments that may arise. With the aid of AI personalities players are able to interact with their second characters in the same way as NPCs when discussing and debating these encounters. The combat is turn-based and uses an “Action Point” system – In a turn-based RPG all combatants (Players and NPCs) take turns spending action points moving, attacking and executing special abilities. All characters (whether player controlled or NPC) have a set of statistics which determine a character’s capabilities – One of these statistics is “Initiative”, this determines a participant’s order in which a turn is taken. Once a faction has eliminated all opposition from the field of play the battle is concluded and the game resumes (or ends if you should suffer defeat). Original Sin’s world isn’t all myth and magic, there is a surprising degree of science to it – Water is a conductor for electricity, thus rain spells followed by lightning spells are sure to unleash electrifying results. Oil but also poison gas are both flammable! Fireballs, flame tip arrows, etc and… “Wooof!”, “Kaboom!” – you get the picture. You can pick objects (such as pots, boxes, etc.) and use their weight to trigger pressure plates or event detonate mines.
Objects within the world can be manipulated, either by throwing or placing them. Original Sin features a crafting system that allows one to create new weapons, armour, equipment and various other recipes through either combining items with one’s own inventory or at a facility (eg. A blacksmith’s forge, workbench, oven, etc.).
This game also uses a rather humorous stealth mechanic that I believe to be a cheeky tribute to Metal Gear’s iconic protagonist “Solid Snake” – Snake would often hide in closets and in various crevices, but everyone who knows the character will remember his signature tactic of moving under the cover a nothing more than a cardboard box of all things! Your characters will sneak around in a very similar fashion as they will disguise themselves as objects within the world, depending on their surroundings as the objects used (eg. Boulders or shrubs in outdoor or dungeon areas, barrels indoors, etc.). Stealth in Original Sins is particularly useful for getting the jump on a group of unsuspecting foes in the interest of nailing any blows before an actual fight can be initiated. It’s also handy for those who enjoy letting their inner kleptomaniac out of the closet.
So for those wanting to know the story behind Original Sin, without spoiling it for you – Your two principal characters are “Source Hunters” (Investigatory bounty hunters of sorts looking into matters where “Dark Magic” has been used) sent to investigate the murder of a political figure. This main story quest will start out like a “Who Dunnit” as you follow scandalous gossip and tidbits of information, but are sure to evolve into a far more sinister affair as you progress deeper. However, you are not restricted on this path as you can complete side-quests with potentially rich stories of their own. Further more, Original Sin facilitates and supports modding with the inclusion of an intuitive toolkit and the use of Steam Workshop – This means anyone with the desire, creativity and knowhow has the means to make additional content thusly giving players a reason to keep coming back for more!
One final comparison and why I believe this game stands out from all today’s other CRPGs – If you take Skyrim the recent chapter in The Elder Scrolls for example of today’s standard and compare that to Ultima VII: The Black Gate being arguably one of the best CRPGs ever made, you will see the deteriorating standards for consequence. In Skyrim you encounter a city of Rifkin that is the underbelly of the land practically ruled by one woman who has the rulers in her back pocket and is deep in bed with the underworld. If you’re like me and want to bring the evil house of cards down by giving one greedy power-lusting tyrannical bitch a horrible death – Guess what! You can’t, because a game like Skyrim has made her one of the game’s “Unkillable” NPCs due to programming from the game designers. However, in Ultima VII if you’re in the town of Trinsic and deem the Mayor to have looked at you the wrong way, with the right skills, abilities and/or equipped arsenal you can slay him where he stands. It’s the classical CRPGs that gave you the freedom to do as you will and to explore the consequences of your actions which developers of modern CRPGs completely lost touch with and resorted to constantly holding the players hand – Larian Studios with Original Sin will not hold your hand but toss you into the world headfirst for you to make your own decisions and learn from the consequences.
For anyone with little to no experience with traditional roleplaying games, allow me to give you some advice to help get you started – I will not tell you which characters to create or how to play them, but I will give you a few pointers (coming from an amateur at best). Firstly, the characters you create and how you play them will have an effect on the game’s overall difficulty. Whilst Original Sin is on open class CRPG, remember to play to your characters’ strengths if you’re looking to get the most out of them. Remember, there are two starting characters – If you have to keep starting a new game, that’s great! Use the opportunity to experiment with character combinations in order to find that balanced party composition that works for you. If you’re playing a multiplayer game, coordinate with your co-op partner (particularly in public sessions) and create characters that compliment each other whilst embracing your individual play styles.
Ultimately Divinity: Original Sin is very much a thinking man’s game with a rich wealth of content to offer any CRPG player.
It’s to be noted that when purchasing a copy of this game, you will have the option to either buy the Steam or GOG.COM’s DRM-Free release. These options are each a double-edged sword – With the DRM-Free version of the game, you presently have access to both Local Area Network (LAN) and Direct Connection multiplayer connectivity with prospect of GOG’s online multiplayer service supporting this title. However, the standout advantage comes from being able to install limitless copies on all your systems – NOTE: Doesn’t mean you can abuse the convenience of the DRM-Version by sharing who didn’t purchase it. The Steam version on the other hand, will offer you access to Steam Workshop which will allow you to browse, download and install community developed content with ease. Purchasing this on GOG.COM, you’re going to want both the game and the DLC. However, Steam has the game for $39.99 USD and the “Source Hunter DLC Pack” for $9.99 USD – But, you can receive both in the “Collects Edition” package that has Divine Divinity included with spare copy of Original Sin and the first game to be gifted to a friend for $69.99 USD.
Updated Notes – With the recent release of the Enhanced Editions for Steam (Windows, Macintosh and SteamOS/Linux), PlayStation 4 and XBOX One – I can safely say that hold true to the original experience and only build upon it with the inclusion of fully voiced dialogue, 360 degree camera panning, split screen multiplayer and intuitive (PS4 & XBOX One) controller support across all platforms along with improved keyboard & mouse functionality. Anyone who previously purchased the original release of the game on Steam will automatically have a free copy added to their library and at the asking price Original Sin Enhanced Edition is highly worth getting for both XBOX and PlayStation.
So, is Divinity: Original Sin worth it?
If you consider yourself to be a connoisseur of roleplaying games… You will NOT be disappointed!
If you enjoy CRPGs in general… Enter this experience with an open mind and you will come to love what Original Sin has to offer.
If you are looking for a good game to be enjoyed with company… Play this one at your next weekend-long LAN party – It’ll be a hit!