Game Preview | Divinity: Original Sin

by Scott Christian Editor: Rick


Author’s Note: The following is based on an Alpha build of the game. Mechanics and quality may change on final retail release. This is not a final review.

The ground is stained in blood and my body is weary from the fight. Nearby the waves from the ocean lap against the sand–a calming juxtaposition to the chaos prior. A band of soldiers cheer to one another, jubilant in the victory we shared. Suddenly my attention is turned to a nearby crate possibly stuffed with loot. I walk over to it and decide, why the hell not, and lift it with my mind and stack it on top of a barrel.

Thus far this has been my experience with the Divinity: Original Sin closed Alpha. Between the Diablo-inspired isometric camera, randomized loot drops, and old-school sprite design I feel at home in traditional RPG tropes. All of this is not unfamiliar to the Divinity series, the first title Divine Divinity shared all of these in common though sporting a real-time action-based combat system. Original Sin tells the story of a freed prisoner and a resurrected mystic and their attempts to circumvent an evil using ancient magic to sinister ends. While the plot sounds familiar it is handled quite differently than most RPGs. Original Sin combines a solo and co-op experience between its two PCs and allows for players to actually roleplay their chosen character as they wish. Given different dialogue options for both characters players can respond to certain inquiries or statements in their own tone or style creating a dynamic experience for either character. In practice it comes off quite well, though it is merely aesthetics and doesn’t seem to change much in terms of quest options or NPC attitudes at this point.

Showing its classic RPG roots, Original Sin also utilizes branching dialogue trees that provide opportunities to learn more about NPCs, locations, and lore or perhaps discover new quests or complete objectives. All of this works well as characters are fairly well fleshed out with more to apparently come. Locations are detailed and unique with plenty of lush landscape and detail abound. Sadly because I run a lower-end PC I was forced to lower the settings to the minimum to achieve play-ability. At this level, the graphics became jagged, murky, and blurred. It would be nice to have lower resolution textures and shadowing optimized for the lower end of the requirement spectrum as the game loses a lot in the process. Going any higher than that with my hardware caused the game to lag and commands not input properly. Though this is entirely because of my computer specs, I hope to see more degrees of optimization. Just for brevity’s sake I threw the game on the highest possible settings and from this point in development the game looks fantastic. Everything wields a classic feel with a modern resolution, giving it a polished and vibrant look.

Original Sin uses a camera system fairly similar to StarCraft, dragging the mouse to the edges of the screen allows you to navigate across the world map and scout ahead to a place you intend to go next. This allows for a faster movement system versus Diablo‘s repeated clicking to advance. However the camera swing works only in a 180 degree arc, which sometimes blocks out doorways and vital pathways. AI path-finding is a bit awkward considering to go into buildings you have to manually open doorways. Neither PC does this automatically if you try and click inside a building to go in, leaving you to click the door first, then click on the location inside to where you wanted to go. It’s a minute niggling issue, but still would make navigation smoother. Thankfully once a door is open you can openly navigate from outside to inside with little to no extra effort.

Another benefit to the game would be path-finding using the mini-map or even using waypoint traveling with the larger map. Considering the map is missing vital information on what building is what, even after discovering it yourself, this can make navigating to areas you need to somewhat confusing and time-consuming. At this point in development doors identify as “Door” with only one I found that identified the building it was leading into. Buildings on the outside tend to lack defining features to distinguish their purpose in town from other non-essential buildings as well.

However, in spite of the obvious alpha-based issues, Original Sin is a fantastic title and shaping up well. For me the crowning moment was the combat system Larian Studio implemented. I’m staunchly against Action Point strategy combat systems and most often pass on titles that use them. Larian Studio has single-handedly created a combat system that feels comfortable, gradually complex, and satisfying. In fact, Original Sin is the first game with an APCS that I genuinely loved playing. I sought out fights solely just to mess around with my skills and combat options versus XP/Gold farming. Use of telekinesis to create personal battlefields also lends a level of user customization that feels organic and deepens the experience.

Everything in the combat plays out perfectly with one another, and at the beginning provides a more forgiving introduction into how it works. This was inviting for me and definitely added to why the combat system works. During a battle on the beach I used my mage’s fireball spell to set off an oil drum, which heavily damaged and/or killed the enemies who foolishly stacked up near it. Later I was facing off against an agitated family of crabs and was able to deftly defeat them with my warrior’s arcing attacks. Combat can be tailored to different situations and a degree of skill and thought is needed to win. But your characters are not set in stone. You can pick a class preset, but ultimately you can build your PCs to whatever kind of class or specialty you want, and if you change your mind you can go in an entirely different direction with no hassle.

Original Sin‘s focus is intended to be a player customized RPG experience and it is pulling it off nicely. There are some rough edges though this is expected considering we’re still in the alpha builds, but everything I’ve seen so far hints at a solid cRPG experience coming. The alpha build itself is 15-20 hours long, and Larian Studio says that’s only 1/3 of the content available.

If you’re a fan of the Divinity series you cannot in good conscience pass this one up. If you’re new to the series, this will definitely get your interest. Either way, it looks and plays amazingly.

Divinity: Original Sin is tentatively slated to release in February 2014.

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