Preview: Divinity: Original Sin

Preview: Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity: Original Sin feels like someone took the idea of a role-playing game and broke it. I don’t mean that as a bad thing; quite the opposite in fact. Divinity: Original Sin feels refreshingly original, for lack of a better word, and it does so because it feels “broken”. When I say broken I don’t mean that the game’s controls don’t work, that it’s buggy, or that it’s a bad experience in any way. As this is the Alpha version of the game we’re talking about there are certainly issues to address and content to fit into place but that’s neither here nor there. So instead let’s focus on what is in the game which is; an interesting and cohesive combat system, witty and enjoyable dialogue, and a game world that allows players to do whatever they want to do.

Let’s say you need to get into a house but said house is locked. This sounds like a quest if I’ve ever heard one. Most RPGs would have the following options; find the key in Location X or, if it’s a choice based RPG it might say save Person Y who has the key or let Person Y die and take the key from their corpse. You see where I’m going with this: despite the idea of choice and freedom there are still constraints within any and all game worlds. Divinity: Original Sin likes to let players make up their own mind when it comes to opening that door. Do you want to go find the key? Well you can do that but you can also: pick the lock, kill the person who has the key and take it, or just teleport inside. The last option, teleport inside, is what hooked me. The fact that the characters can make this decision, realize it’s a possibility, and then act on it is just entertaining and feels unprecedented.

Many of these choices you’ll face mix in with the game’s much touted dialogue system. For the first time (in a Divinity game for sure, and possibly in a RPGs in general) you can control the dialogue of both heroes in your party. That means you can tailor your rough rogue to be an absolute jerk while your female warrior is filled with faith and spirituality. Or you can make your female ranger a wise-cracking smartass while your warrior turns to the dark side and asks the worst of people. What really makes this system shine is the fact that the game can be played in a co-op format. That means one player controls one character, dialogue and all, and the other player does the same with their own hero. There’s a weird sense of power in that fact as one player will always know what their character will say, whether it fits their previous behavior or not, and has no idea what their partner will say until the moment comes. The promise of organic characters, or at least unpredictable ones, makes for a very intriguing twist on the RPG formula.

Larian Studios’ first big hit, Divine Divinity, was praised for being more than a pretty looking game with good RPG mechanics. Divinity: Original Sin is looking to make that same claim while also upending what people think and know about RPGs. The game world, as of now, is beautiful and while not everything is filled in within the Alpha version you can see the game is going to be spacious, time-consuming, and easy to get lost in. In fact, I wasted a few hours playing detective at the very start of the game. This was something I thought I had to do but later found out I could’ve skipped entirely. That’s the beauty ofthis game; you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. Larian Studios has allowed any and all NPCs to be killed without it affecting the game’s story. Imagine, getting a quest from Deckard Cain and then killing him on the spot, it’s unheard of. Quests morph and change to fit the deaths you see fit to dish out in their game. Want to kill every quest giver you can? That’s fine, the game will morph to your rather violent and aggressive behavior towards people with shiny objects above their heads.

All of this wouldn’t be much fun if the actual gameplay behind the world wasn’t at least somewhat interesting. Even a simple click-to-attack system would suffice but Larian Studios has turned Divinity: Original Sin into a fast-paced turn-based strategy game. Each character has a set number of points per turn that can be allocated to movement, attacking, and special abilities. Knowing when to back off and when to go in for the kill is all part of the fun as you assess the battlefield and decide when to strike. While I found this early version of the combat system to be a bit cumbersome I’m sure that, if it gets as fleshed out as the rest of the world, it will fit into the game just fine.

There is a lot riding on the back of this Kickstarted epic. Many fans of the Divinity series are clamoring for this apparent return to form and even more are begging to test out the strange additions Larian has made to the RPG formula. I can tell you this, while this game may not be for everyone when it comes out, it will certainly have a way to please just about anyone that plays it as the game is more concerned about morphing to your play style than it is making you learn its rule set.