One of the downsides of Blaugust was that it afforded me far less time than I’d like to actually play many videogames. By the time I get in from work, sit down and have some food, then write an article, it’s not too far off time for bed. As such I really haven’t played a great deal, especially in the last fortnight. Now that I can afford to post a bit less often than everyday, it feels liberating having so much more free time. In the last couple of days all of that free time has been taken up by one game, Divinity: Original Sin.
Divinity: Original Sin is part of the line of games descending from the abysmally named Divine Divinity, which was very much a Diablo style ARPG with a bit more of a narrative focus (I think anyway, I played it a bit 12 years ago). Divinity: Original Sin utilises the same isometric view as many of those titles, but in the opening 5 hours or so that I have played has so far demonstrated far more depth and character than many of its competitors.
The game has a party system like many RPGs, but unusually you control two main characters. The customisation options for these characters are hugely extensive in terms of classes and skills. I lost an hour just considering my options, before choosing two pre-made classes because I’m a big wuss and I’m scared I’ll gimp myself be being an idiot or not understanding the systems correctly. Your characters are ‘Source Hunters’, it isn’t entirely clear what that means but I think it’s basically magic hunters. Think Templars in Dragon Age: Origins. Your purpose is to investigate a murder which has taken place in the town of Cyseal.
I’m far from deep enough into what is clearly a very dense game to comment on it overall, but thus far I’ve had a lot of challenge, intrigue and laughs out of the game and right now I’m still largely pottering about the town, with only the odd (punishing) foray along the orc infested coastline. There are so many NPCs to talk to, and they have so much to say too. And that isn’t a bad thing here. The writing is of a very high standard and I’ve appreciated many silly jokes already. One of my characters has the ‘pet pal’ trait, which allows them to converse with animals, which can lead to additional quests and flavour text. I adore how different animals have different manners of speaking which reflect their character somewhat. Cats are, unsurprisingly, somewhat cool and aloof, whilst the dog I met repeatedly referred to how awesome his master was in every sentence. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of reading to do in this game.
Something I’m already in love with is the freedom and options given to the player which allows them to roleplay their characters. For example, during character creation you can select the AI of your two characters. This defines the, for want of a better term, alignment of the characters. Or, you can do as I did, and choose no AI, allowing you to choose your characters dialogue responses yourself. Let me give you an example of how this works in practice. Whilst standing in the town market I noticed a man stealing some fish, which prompted me to question the man. This led to a discussion between my two characters about whether the man should be arrested, or whether punishing a starving man who simply wanted to eat was the morally proper thing to do. So, as I picked no AI, I got to choose the answers of both of my characters. At the end of the discussion they both disagreed, and the conflict is then resolved by a game of rock paper scissors. This may sound a little gimmicky, but in practice I feel it gives me a lot of room to define the characters myself, which I really appreciate.
Combat is a turn based affair, and can be very challenging. The elemental system in the game promises much experimentation. For example, I have a mage who can make rain appear in an area, and as such everybody in that area becomes wet. Being wet decreases resistance to cold attacks, but increases resistance to fire attacks. So if I then use a chill spell on a wet enemy, instead of just slowing his movement speed it will freeze him outright for a period of time. Shooting fire at water creates steam which reduces chance to hit, shooting electric at the steam creates static which then has its own set of effects. These are only a handful of examples I have discovered so far, but there’s a lot to play with.
Much of the environment is also interactive and sometimes destructible in a manner which feels pretty refreshing for this sort of game. Some items can be picked up and moved around by clicking and dragging them to solve puzzles, uncover items or clear paths, whilst doors and chests may be destroyed at the expense of weapon durability. This is one of the systems I haven’t had too much time to play around with yet though, so I’ve yet to see how meaningful this will all be.
I’ve often wanted to get really in to many of the great CRPGs of the 90s and early 00s that I missed out on. Planescape: Torment, Baldurs Gate, Neverwinter Nights and so on. I own them all in some for or another. However, whenever I sit down to play them I always find them a bit slow to get going, or sometimes to have punishingly hard combat that makes progress very slow. I’d like to sit down with them one day and make a good go of it, particularly with Baldur’s Gate 2 which many still consider to be the best RPG of all time. Perhaps what I really needed was a game like Divinity: Original Sin, which captures the essence of many of those old school RPGs, but brings with it a sense of modernity; a reimagining of many of the features in those games which makes them immediately more palatable and expands upon them. And, much like Neverwinter Nights, Divinity appears to aspire to recreate that pen and paper style experience with friends too, offering co-op mode and Steam Workshop functionality for player made adventures.
There’s a lot of game here, and I’m glad I picked it up. I’ve been eyeing it up for months, and if any of this sounds interesting to you I’d advise you to check out a few reviews, which have been glowing. I think this one is going to take a while to get through, so expect me to report back again when I’m a bit further along on my adventure.