Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Larian Studios
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Genre: Action RPG, Turn-based strategy
Of Swords and Sourcery
Divinity: Original Sin is one of the most ingenious and original games in recent years. It was crafted by Larian Studios, a Belgian dev team made up of just 40 souls that worked tirelessly to create their own dream game.
The passion that went into Divinity: Original Sin remains a shining example of the craftiness that can be achieved when shredding the bonds of big-name publishers.
To make this ambitious game, Larian turned to the fans instead of relying on publisher investments. The game’s Kickstarter was wildly successful, raking in almost $1 million in crowdfunding support. Everyone wanted to play Larian’s dream game–in many ways it was our dream game, too–and after a few delays, the Belgian studio finally delivered the finished product to our awaiting hands.
The release of Divinity: Original Sin proved that Larian has held true to their original vision, and in many ways they’ve even one-upped it. The game remains a true testament to the team’s devotion and stands as one of the most inspiring RPG’s in modern gaming.
This is the fruits of their resolute dedication.
The Stuff Dreams are Made Of
Divinity: Original Sin harkens back to the old-school days of RPG’s, where players’ mettle was truly tested every time they played. At it’s core, the game is smart and witty, but you’ll have to look below the surface to see its true charm.
There’s no hand-holding here; to figure out the quests, for example, you’ll need to do some sleuthing. Things aren’t straightforward–there’s no clear-cut indicators on where to go–so players are prompted to actually explore and interact with their surroundings.
Remember when games had that?
Investigating certain locales and–more importantly–talking to NPC’s can give you helpful clues to lead you in the right direction. Sometimes you’ll feel like an amateur gumshoe trying to put the pieces together, and honestly I haven’t had more fun figuring out the quests than my lengthy adventures in Vvardenfell.
The quests are sort of linear in nature but the real beauty is the different ways you can tackle them. Many objectives are optional–for example, one man wants you to assassinate an innocent orc named Viktorhya to make her pay for the dastardly deeds of her tribe.
But this brings up a dichotomy that jeopardizes your valor as a hero; should you mete death out to the pure soul, or would your powers best lay elsewhere? To settle these differences, players can argue both sides in one of the most interesting character development mechanics I’ve seen in any game.
Now to understand how the characters interact, we have to first be introduced to them. Divinity: Original Sin tells the unlikely tale of two famed Source Hunters (yes, that’s Sourcery, not sorcery) who get tied up in a journey to save space, time and reality from certain doom.
Gamers control not one, but two protagonists throughout their endeavors, forging a unique duo that’s the heart of
The Source Hunters are male and female, and are fully customizable from head-to-toe in terms of battle proficiency, skills and appearance–but more on that later. Their personalities are also mold-able through dialog interactions, many of which can have actual bonus effects on the characters.
Choosing to relent on the orcess, for example, will tack on Forgiving points that translate to in-game buffs. But when views clash, the hunters settle it the old-fashioned way: in a game of Rock Paper Scissors. The victor gets their way, with the loser still getting their bonuses tacked onto their building personas.
The dynamism of the dual-character approach is readily apparent, and serves as a reminder of truly innovative–if not often humorous–originality.
A Blend of Everything Wonderful: Combat, Skills and More
At its heart, Divinity Original Sin is a hybrid of epic proportions. The best way to quantify the game’s approach is a superlative blend of Final Fantasy Tactics‘ strategic excellence with Diablo‘s point-and-click action role-playing sentiments, with a helping of the turn-based J-RPG combat to boot.
The result is an incredibly dynamic battlefield that brims over with potential. Players are free to choose their own tactical approaches to any skirmish with literally thousands of different outcomes, making it take on a sandbox-style element where anything can happen.
The game also marries the liberties of MMO-style freedom with character creation and progression. Gamers can shape and form their two heroes down to the tee with a huge level of swappable skills, proficiencies, traits and talents.
Mixing and matching classes is a fundamental aspect of the game as some classes will naturally compliment one another–such as the classic Mage-and-Warrior team–but Larian has brought this age-old adage to the next level.
Every class has its own specialized skillsets and tiered spells, but like any great RPG, players can cherry pick their favorite abilities to make their own uber-hero. Pretty much all of the stats–from innate traits to persuasion skills and strength for melee attacks–are useful in their own way, providing for an almost stifling number of possibilities.
Combat is fluid and rather entertaining largely due to the chaos that ensues when certain elements are mixed. These elemental affinities are naturally logical and really outline the original soul of the game. For example, tossing a bolt of crackling lightning at an enemy who’s been doused with water renders the unfortunate soul into a living conduit of electricity.
Similar bonuses incur with oil and fire. Oil is an area of effect spell that slows enemies, but it’s also highly flammable. Igniting it with the Flare spell leads to well-cooked baddies. But you’ll need to be careful with your aim, as friendly fire is a big danger throughout combat.
Taking advantage of these synergies is an immensely enjoyable and helpful way to conquer foes. Players are encouraged to actively experiment and rely on both strategy, intuition and chance to find out new recipes for disaster.
The combat proper is held in turns, and everything from moving to activating skills spends a resource known as AP. This is akin to the “move” counter in a lot of tactical-type RPG’s, and players can augment their AP with items and spells.
The heart of any conflict lies in a party, and players will get plenty of opportunities to recruit members to their team. Having a well-balanced group of casters, healers and fighters is essential to victory–but you’ll also need to know how to operate them in their designated roles.
Formations are a key mechanic that ensure the beefy tanks stay up front, while the weaker “glass cannon” mages–or the archers that fastidiously pluck their bowstrings–stay in the back out of harm’s way. You can even assign party members to their own partners, making a “split” party, reaping certain benefits along the way.
Combat in itself is challenging, and often you will die and fail–but the key is to learn why you failed and build from those mistakes. Divinity: Original Sin doesn’t hold your hand, but it doesn’t fully restrict you, either. It’s up to players to find their own niche, but the game gives you the tools you need to do so.
Loot and Crafting
Since Divinity: Original Sin mirrors an ARPG structure, loot is an essential commodity–although it seems less pronounced than strategic cunning. Players will come across a wild assortment of treasures, miscellaneous items, potions and immensely helpful skill books throughout their journeys.
Crafting is entertaining and further embraces that experimental attitude. Many times you’ll feel like a mad scientist, trying to mix raw materials like mushrooms and water-filled flasks to make mysterious concoctions. It’s possible to mix some pretty advantageous brews that boost stats like Strength and Intelligence, as well as resistance potions that shield against elemental attacks.
Recipes are incredibly varied, but crafting leads to some pretty hefty practical advantages.
Drag and drop a branch on a knife, for example, and you’ll get some arrow shafts. You can even take empty buckets and cups to wells and streams and fill them up, and drink them while in battle to refill AP. Combining nine-inch nails with a hammer yields lockpicks, and dropping an iron sword into a furnace will smelt some iron bars.
These recipes often seem quite random, but you’d be surprised how much they make sense at times. The game actively encourages players to continually interact and discover new things, whether it’s making a quill pen or a powerful two-handed axe to smite down foes.
Divinity: Original Sin is a true love letter to enthusiasts of the RPG genre, and bridges so many different beloved mechanics while preserving a life of its own. While it does adapt a smattering of sentiments both classic and new, it retains its originality and stylish flair throughout.
The game is tailored to experienced players who don’t mind having to investigate and experiment with their characters. The heart of the game is freedom, but the mind of it is ingenuity and intuition–and players have the liberty to discover their own playstyles and explore the vast webwork of skill combinations.
Larian has preserved the hallmark staples of any great fantasy-based RPG while also seamlessly reinvigorating the entire genre, creating a brand new vision that won’t soon be forgotten.