Divinity: Original Sin Review

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Divinity: Original Sin

PC

Divinity: Original Sin

PC

Larian Studios

Back in the old days, before video games became about fist-bumping, ‘Let’s Play-ers’ and people calling one another ‘bro’, gaming used to be a pretty solitary occupation. You played, you experienced the highs and lows of adventuring in foreign worlds pretty much by yourself. Sure, there were multiplayer games that let you stomp your friend into the dirt – but once they’d gone home to have their tea, it was just you versus the cold, unforgiving computer.

And it hated you and wanted to see you burn.

Fast forwards to today and everything is about social, multiplayer experience. Your friend no-longer needs to be sat in your bedroom, holding the crap controller, in order for you to play with or against them. In fact, they don’t even need to be your friend, as you can log in and play against similarly-minded people across the world. Most of whom, it would seem, have carnal knowledge of your dear mother.

Larian Studios have created an RPG that is at once a throwback to the glory days of PC RPG titles and a showcase of what can be achieved with a modern perspective. If you think Baldur’s Gate or Planescape Torment you won’t be far wrong – isometric display, somewhat open-world experience, although with a strong narrative thread, compelling characterisation and – at times – brutal difficulty. Original Sin offers a clarion call to all those who have been searching for a similar gameplay experience that takes advantage of the fact that we now have something a little higher-end in our gaming rooms.

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Divinity: Original Sin brings back the glory days of ‘traditional’, quality adventuring in a wonderfully realised and well-constructed world, whilst at the same time offering the fascinating spin of allowing you to play co-operatively with a second player picking up the role of one of the adventuring party. An equal role, giving them as much choice as you, an equal share in the glory and portion of the blame if it all ends in ignominious defeat. This was a key part of the Kickstarter promotion and certainly helped to generate the hype around the game – but it’s certainly not necessary to have a second player in order to enjoy D:OS to the fullest.

Original Sin does not hold your hand as you step onto its beautiful shoreline in your role as a Source Hunter and try to uncover its mysteries. Unlike most current adventure titles, the plot isn’t spelled out to you from the get go. We’re given a small amount of context as to why you find yourself arriving on the outskirts of Cyseal – you’re investigating a murder – but soon the scope of the narrative opens out considerably and becomes as engaging as any of the classic CRPG titles of yesteryear.

WHAT IT DOES BEST: LEVEL OF DETAIL

As soon as you dive into the game and are past the mercifully brief tutorial section, you’re thrown into the deep end, with a living, breathing world unfolding in front of you. Soldiers are fighting battles you can help with, and the level of strategy available to you in the opening encounter is huge. From the get go you can choose whether or not to charge in head on, flank or attempt to pincer some fairly hefty, tanky enemies as a well as a spellcaster. Unlike most modern games, it’s entirely possible for you to get killed in your first real fight if you simply decide to walk up to your opponents and whack them with a sword. Splitting your two opening party members, luring enemies into terrain based hazards, forging alliances with friendly NPCs are all possible in that opening battle and it serves as a strong indicator of things to come. You can – and must – really find your thinking cap and wedge it on tight if you’re going to succeed.

The character interaction, inventory management and mystery solving are all highly involved, and as deep and open-ended as you could possibly wish for. The world is populated by the usual generic NPC fodder of course, but aside from the surly barman, untrustworthy imps and bumbling soldiers, there are also Ogres suffering with ennui, displaced seashells with an aching desire to return home and then psychotic elderly Source Hunters. Added to this is your relationship with that second main character, which you can choose to make problematic for optimal stat bonuses but are also very unpredictable if you’re playing with a second player online.

In short, Divinity: Original Sin succeeds where so many other RPGs fail in creating a believable and engaging world that remains that way for its entire length – I’m looking at you, Skyrim.

Divinity 4WHAT IT DOES WORST: LEVEL OF DETAIL (!) OVERWHELMING

Trouble is though, all this depth comes at a price. The game raises a thick, grubby middle finger to the casual gamer. Cards on the table, if you’ve not got the time to devote to playing through the game in some significant chunks, this is probably one to avoid. It does not lend itself at all to piecemeal gaming.

If you’re comfortable with spending a half hour managing your inventory, checking various stats of weapons, popping to the merchant for a quick repair job, clicking through some dialogue trees and assessing which of your four party members would be best equipped to do a given task – all before you actually try a new section of the game – then you’re fine.

If you think that struggling through a particular cave, only to find that you’re simply under-levelled to complete it is all part of the fun of exploration – then this is the title for you.

That may sound like an obvious extreme negative – but it isn’t necessarily so. There are clues as to where you go – but you have to look for them. Not every quest begins with a character with a giant yellow exclamation mark over their head – so progress in D:OS requires time, dedication, seriously ‘legwork’ and patience. But the rewards – oh – the rewards are so worth it.

AT THE END OF THE MONTH, WHEN ALL THE BILLS ARE PAID AND I’VE GOT THAT SPARE CASH, BURNING A HOLE IN MY POCKET, WOULD I BUY THIS GAME? YES I WOULD.

The story, the detail, the sense of accomplishment when you beat a significant monster or solve a tricky puzzle is sensational. I am shocked at what these guys have achieved in a short amount of time and with a relatively modest budget. Basically, every triple A RPG from the last 10 years has been put to shame. If you consider yourself a fan of role playing games – particularly the golden age of CRPGs – you owe it to yourself to purchase Divinity: Original Sin. A true, modern-day classic.

Karlos Morale

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Divinity: Original Sin is out now on PC