Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity: Original Sin may be the best RPG of its kind in years.

It is smartly written, patiently paced, fun to play and hard enough that success feels like an accomplishment. Set in a complicated world that developer Larian Studios has been tinkering with for years, its narrative comes with a rich lore already in place and an easy confidence in its history and foundations.

To say that I recommend Divinity: Original Sin is an understatement. As far as computer role-playing games go, this particular one threatens to steal a place in my mind on the shelf with games like Baldur’s Gate, Ultima VII, Planescape: Torment and Fallout 2. Though I’m not ready to crown it to those heights yet — I’ll need a year or two to ruminate on whether it really achieves that level of greatness — it has passed the first initial gates to get into the running.

I do wonder, though, whether at least part of what makes Divinity so great in the modern age is simply a function of how few games do what it does anymore. It is in some ways as though Divinity is a game that was created mostly in 1996, and fell through a crack in time to the year 2014, where Larian simply added all the technical whiz-bangery of the modern age. There is a sensibility to the game that doesn’t really exist anymore in most western RPGS — or most games for that matter — a sensibility that by its nature spoon-feeds you nothing, but rewards you time and again for just being smart enough to figure the world out.

Divinity’s most daring aspect may simply be that it is unapologetic in demanding the player put in a meaningful effort to succeed. In a way, as a gamer, it’s just nice to be treated as an adult.

Divinity is far from a flawless game. Time and again its camera proves too limiting. It can be far too easy to mis-click in combat, which is all the worse because your character can be quickly hacked to bits if you command him to move instead of shoot-gouts-of-horrific-magic-fire as intended. Puzzles aren’t always intuitive, particularly if you haven’t specced your characters in a certain way. The NPC AI outside of combat is stilted, simplistic and obviously scripted. And so on.

As an example, you can sneak right into an NPC's bedroom, steal their ridiculously expensive painting off the wall, walk out and sell it back to the owner.

“I’d like to sell you this painting for 1000 money units, please.”

“Weird, I have a painting exactly like this on my wall.”

“How odd. Anyway, about that 1,000 … .”

“I mean, this is literally a painting of my husband, and I can see from here — because someone apparently opened the door to my bedroom without closing it — that my version of this painting is missing from my room. Also, my treasure chest is open, and my desk is a shambles.”

“...”

“...”

“So, do you want to buy this painting, then, or not?”

“Of course! Here’s 1,000 monies.”

There are some games, though, where the shortcomings of the game go on to define the game and the way I think of it. I suspect a game like Watch(Underscore)Dogs may suffer from such a perception. It wasn’t a bad game, but it was the inconsistencies of the world — the little things that just crawled under your skin — that somehow became the definition of the actual game itself.

Divinity, to me, falls in that far more rare place though, where the problems with the game lend it character. I almost like the game more because of the imperfections, and because the sum total of the experience of playing the game ends up being so rewarding.

I honestly have no idea how some games do that while most others don’t. I suspect part of that is, again, that I just very much want to like Divinity, and it gives me so many opportunities to do so that when it does slip up, I end up treating it more like when my kids does something dumb rather than when that one guy down the street who I don’t care about does.

The thing is that when Divinity is at its best, it’s a superb game that takes me to a place in my gaming-lizard-brain where I haven’t been in a long time. Coming out of the tutorial area and finding myself in a town solving a local murder mystery with far greater implications (shades of Ultima VII there) was a pleasant surprise, but discovering that the narrative didn’t simply use the murder investigation as a construct to get me into a fight as quickly as possible was revelatory.

It was like, after a year of eating at Chili's, I'd walked into a fine dining establishment that carefully prepares its food. When the waiter comes to my table, I’m programmed to expect to ask for nachos and a beer, but he just calmly smiles at me and hands me a wine list, letting me know in a very subtle way that the food will come in due time and not a moment sooner — and when it does, it will taste much different and much better than I’ve come to know.

Which is not to say the game is simply slow. Divinity doles out plot beats and new lines of inquiry at a healthy pace over the first few hours, but it never hurries to resolve them. It builds. Time and again I would reach a place in a quest where I was trained to think I was at the end of that particular journey, and instead of ending the quest, the game would just raise the stakes and leave me to find the next new direction to pursue.

Being careful to avoid spoilers here, you could arguably think you’ve finished the main quest for the opening area of the game without realizing that in fact there are still several layers to go. That's exactly what I did. I reached a point in that quest where I simply assumed the game had delivered its solution to me, and it wasn’t until two hours later that I realized: Oh! Things are definitely not as tidy as they seemed. Not by a long shot.

Let me also stress that when I talk about finishing the first main area of the game, I’m talking about a 30+ hour time commitment. It’s reasonable, at minimum I think, to expect a 70-hour first playthrough of the game, and if you get obsessive about exploration and quest completion (and you absolutely should get that obsessive), then you’re looking at a 100-hour runthrough.

What’s most impressive to me about that is that none of it feels like filler. That’s not to say that I loved every area, every puzzle or every quest line, but it always felt like things were there for a narrative reason and not just because someone was trying to fill empty space.

My playthrough of Divinity was entirely solo, but it can be played cooperatively with another player, each of you controlling one character and potentially one follower. If I were to try such a thing, it would likely be on a second playthrough, because I would have hated to be rushed through or miss some part of the interactions trying to keep in step with someone else's pace and agenda.

Divinity: Original Sin feels like it was created with an unflinching philosophy from a different age in gaming, and for whatever problems the game may have, it never strays from the ethos it lays out from the very start. It’s weird, and probably a little unfair to everyone else to characterize it as such, but Divinity feels like a game created with exceptional integrity and love. When I’m playing it, I genuinely feel like the game is committed to delivering me an experience I haven’t had in a while.

Divinity won’t be for everyone, and that’s precisely part of what makes it so great. It’s not made for everyone. It’s made specifically for people who love these types of isometric, strategy-driven, deep RPGs. It doesn’t compromise on its pace, its difficulty or its requirement that the player stop and think.

You must gather your brain before venturing forth.

Comments

I am on the final encounter of the game, I'll probably finish it tonight. The final set of puzzles that get you there are batsh*t and buggy, though. Don't be shy about Googling some of those to save you some sanity.

I love this game so much. What flaws I do find (see above) are patchable which is awesome. I bet Divinity in six months is going to be a hell of a Steam sale darling.

But in the mean time, highly recommend dropping the measly $40 on it.

I kickstarted Wasteland 2, Shadowrun, and Pillars of Eternity. Those, I figured, would be the things that sufficiently scratched that RPG itch I've yearned to have scratched for what feels like ages. I also kickstarted D:OS as a lark. I had never played any other Larian game, but my wallet was in an uncharacteristically flush place, so I figured "why not?" I threw down the minimal pledge to get a copy, and promptly forgot about it for years.

It was the best not-at-all-thought-through decision I've ever made.

Shadowrun was good. I continue to have high hopes for Eternity. Wasteland 2, even in beta, was cruising towards being my no-doubter GOTY. I don't think Divinity is going to wrestle that crown away (the writing is Wasteland 2 is outrageously good) but man has it come close in the 29 hours I've put into it so far. The character customization options alone actually come close to bringing me to tears. Joyful, joyful tears.

There is a sensibility to the game that doesn’t really exist anymore in most western RPGS — or most games for that matter — a sensibility that by its nature spoon-feeds you nothing, but rewards you time and again for just being smart enough to figure the world out.

Divinity’s most daring aspect may simply be that it is unapologetic in demanding the player put in a meaningful effort to succeed. In a way, as a gamer, it’s just nice to be treated as an adult.

You'll probably roll your eyes to read this, but it really is a shame that you don't like Japanese RPGs, because this is actually decently common in that genre, particularly in games developed by Atlus. The Etrian Odyssey and Shin Megami Tensei series are absolutely unapologetic about requiring you to pay attention, plan your actions, and learn how to survive without any hand-holding.

I really do wish that Divinity were available on a console, even one I don't own, since it's right up my alley. It sounds like exactly the kind of RPG I've been wanting to see from a Western developer for awhile but haven't. It's even turn-based! But the likelihood of me playing a PC game these days is pretty much nil.

You'll probably roll your eyes to read this, but it really is a shame that you don't like Japanese RPGs, because this is actually decently common in that genre, particularly in games developed by Atlus. The Etrian Odyssey and Shin Megami Tensei series are absolutely unapologetic about requiring you to pay attention, plan your actions, and learn how to survive without any hand-holding.

Definitely fair, and something I hear often. My objections to JRPGs are definitely not related to most of the game systems. It's much more a cultural thing with me. The story telling and acting methods common to Japanese media is not one I enjoy. I actually tend to like the way the games are constructed, just not how they're delivered.

But is it strong enough to pull you away from EUIV? Enquiring goodjers want to know!

mala wrote:

I cherish this diversion to such an extent. What imperfections I do discover that some are patchable which is wonderful. I wager Divinity in six months is going to be a whale of a Steam deal sweetheart. *snip!*

I think the spammer is mocking you Certis.

Elysium wrote:
Clocky wrote:

You'll probably roll your eyes to read this, but it really is a shame that you don't like Japanese RPGs, because this is actually decently common in that genre, particularly in games developed by Atlus. The Etrian Odyssey and Shin Megami Tensei series are absolutely unapologetic about requiring you to pay attention, plan your actions, and learn how to survive without any hand-holding.

Definitely fair, and something I hear often. My objections to JRPGs are definitely not related to most of the game systems. It's much more a cultural thing with me. The story telling and acting methods common to Japanese media is not one I enjoy. I actually tend to like the way the games are constructed, just not how they're delivered.

I was going to make a joke about how everything Sean wrote about this game can be said about Dark Souls. Part of the reason I wanted to say that is because everything is compared to Souls, and I know how much it would irritate Clock, but at the same time a lot of what was said here is true of Dark Souls.

While a Souls game isn't a JRPG in the more traditional sense, it is Japanese and it doesn't contain the sort of story telling and acting more common to Japan. So, consider my joke post as being a pro-Dark Souls post anyway.

Finished it last night! 92 hours is my Steam play time, but it's probably more like 85 hours if you count in idle time and some beta play. In comparison, I never totally finished Baldur's Gate 2 and I had endless free time back then. Interesting.

Certis wrote:

Finished it last night! 92 hours is my Steam play time, but it's probably more like 85 hours if you count in idle time and some beta play. In comparison, I never totally finished Baldur's Gate 2 and I had endless free time back then. Interesting.

O.O you never finish games! Especially 92 hours worth of gaming. I'm guessing this gets into your GOTY discussion.

You must have me mistaken for someone else on the podcast *cough* Julian *cough*. I tend to finish single player games once I start them

My mistake. You all sound alike

Taharka wrote:

My mistake. You all sound alike ;-)

When I first started listening to GWJ, I basically did a mini-binge. I had an audition just after the binge (like, I took my headphones off and went into the room), and after I read the sides, they asked me if I was Canadian.

The accent is sneaky and, apparently, irresistible.

TheHarpoMarxist wrote:
Taharka wrote:

My mistake. You all sound alike ;-)

When I first started listening to GWJ, I basically did a mini-binge. I had an audition just after the binge (like, I took my headphones off and went into the room), and after I read the sides, they asked me if I was Canadian.

The accent is sneaky and, apparently, irresistible.

That's awesome! I've probably infected all the Americans with my accent. Elysium is basically Canadian at this point.

Certis wrote:
TheHarpoMarxist wrote:
Taharka wrote:

My mistake. You all sound alike ;-)

When I first started listening to GWJ, I basically did a mini-binge. I had an audition just after the binge (like, I took my headphones off and went into the room), and after I read the sides, they asked me if I was Canadian.

The accent is sneaky and, apparently, irresistible.

That's awesome! I've probably infected all the Americans with my accent. Elysium is basically Canadian at this point.

I haven't listened to the podcast in quite awhile, but I still have traces of your accent from when I did. I can't think of where else I'd have picked up a slight Canadian accent.

Has anyone tried playing through the campaign completely co-op? I really like the idea, but it seems like it would be impossible to coordinate schedules that much. While it is fun to have someone jump into your game for a while, that you are basically replaying a section of the campaign that then doesn't remain "yours" means that I probably won't do it unless I agreed to take it slow whenever my partner was also available.

Certis wrote:
TheHarpoMarxist wrote:
Taharka wrote:

My mistake. You all sound alike ;-)

When I first started listening to GWJ, I basically did a mini-binge. I had an audition just after the binge (like, I took my headphones off and went into the room), and after I read the sides, they asked me if I was Canadian.

The accent is sneaky and, apparently, irresistible.

That's awesome! I've probably infected all the Americans with my accent. Elysium is basically Canadian at this point.

Well, he is a Minnesotan.

MHR wrote:

Has anyone tried playing through the campaign completely co-op? I really like the idea, but it seems like it would be impossible to coordinate schedules that much. While it is fun to have someone jump into your game for a while, that you are basically replaying a section of the campaign that then doesn't remain "yours" means that I probably won't do it unless I agreed to take it slow whenever my partner was also available.

I'm actually starting that this weekend! Since my co-op partner and I are tying the knot in a few months, I suspect that we're going to be able to work around each of our schedules :).

Regarding the woman in the image, where is her right arm? Behind her?

Yoyoson wrote:

Regarding the woman in the image, where is her right arm? Behind her?

Look, you try and pull off that outfit in combat without getting the occasional wedgie.

I currently have Original Sin on stand by because i have been playing a lot of turn based games lately. However, because of a previous steam sale i started Divinity 2(Directors cut) and you can see the groundwork laid for Original Sin. Its a lot more action focused with Pause combat but the no hand holding and excellent writing is solid. If you havent had a chance, give Divinity 2 a shot you will not be dissapointed.

Divinity 2 is a completely different sort of game. I am curious what you mean by groundwork. Certainly not in how you play it. I liked it quite a bit myself, though it was super clunky and contains quite a bit of jank.

It's an action RPG, it most felt like a two worlds game to me.

Divinity 2 and Original Sin both share some elements, but those elements are from Divine Divinity's ground work. Now get off my lawn!

I really want to play this game, but I need to keep my will power and work on my back log

Darkhaund wrote:

I really want to play this game, but I need to keep my will power and work on my back log

OR, alternatively, just get this game because it is awesome. WILLPOWER SCHMILLPOWER.

(though seriously, when you get the game, invest in willpower. Really useful.)

I haven't enjoyed this game much. Granted, I didn't get past the first town. I thought the entire "detective" quest line was complete guess-what-the-developers-want malarky, and I didn't like that virtually everyone I talked to seemed to be exaggerated in some way. There are no halfway normal people, I guess.

Also, the co-op is awful because it's very difficult to follow conversations your partner has engaged in, and vice versa. That was very disappointing to me, because I backed this game on the promise of a good co-op campaign, and the disagreement mechanic is very unique.

Basically this game strikes me as Baldur's Gate 2, but not as good. Like that game, Divinity plops you in the middle of a main quest and a hoard of side-quests without giving much direction, and some of the "puzzles" are solved mainly by walking around and clicking stuff until you find the right item. But the city is smaller, the initial options available to you (in combat and out) fewer, and the writing is not as good.

Trying to play, but the input lag is terrible.

Faceless Clock wrote:

Basically this game strikes me as Baldur's Gate 2, but not as good.

IGN.com?

MagneticPuppet wrote:

Trying to play, but the input lag is terrible.

Turn off Vsync. It's on by default, I believe.

garion333 wrote:
MagneticPuppet wrote:

Trying to play, but the input lag is terrible.

Turn off Vsync. It's on by default, I believe.

That worked, thanks

I just checked out the specs for this game and noticed that my laptop meets all of the minimum requirements to play this! I am pleasantly surprised by this, and wish that more developers did this. It is now on my Steam wishlist, waiting for a Steam Sale, my 1/2 marathon in the fall being done, or some kind soul buying it for me, whichever comes first.

Edit - I have no idea how that Purchase for Myself button got clicked. Oh well, seeing as how I have it, I might as well play it. Good thing that tomorrow is my "work" at home day, and my wife and kids are gone all morning!!