Divinity: Original Sin Review
Divinity: Original Sin Review
A cranky response to all that unfettered love for Divinity: Original Sin
Posted: 11/14/14 | Category: Review | Developer: Larian Studios | Publisher: Larian Studios | Platform: Microsoft windows, Apple macintosh

I promise you, no one was more surprised than I was.

I became a gigantic fan of the original Divine Divinity when it came out in 2002, and the game quickly became one of my all-time favorite RPGs. Divine Divinity managed to take the best elements from three different franchises and come up with an unusually satisfying action RPG.

  1. From Diablo, it took the zippy hack-and-slash gameplay. Divine Divinity was accessible, light on its feet and had easily graspable and satisfying combat.
  2. From Baldur’s Gate, it took the idea of having a rich storyline with memorable characters and lots of good dialog.1
  3. And from the Ultima games, it took the idea of having many items in the game world be interactive: chairs, tables, barrels, etc. For example, you could actually put items together and cook them up.

The result was a game in which the world felt alive, vibrant and dynamic, with a story that drew you in and propelled you forward, and where the combat was quick and entertaining. I happily whiled away scores of hours working my way through the original game.

Then two years later I tried the first follow-up: Beyond Divinity. Yawn. Years later I found myself not even bothering with the third installment, Ego Draconis.

But I was delighted when a Kickstarter-funded prequel was released earlier this year. People seemed to be LOVING it. Reviewers were ecstatic! Even gamer celebrities like my girlfriend Felicia Day adored it. “It’s beguilingly retro!” they said. “It doesn’t hold your hand, which is awesome!” they said. So off to Steam I went and paid full retail.

Concerns from the Start

I should have known I was in trouble when I realized I had spent half my time on the first map picking up seashells. Yes, seashells. Here’s the thing: picking up seashells in a game is even less fun than picking up seashells is in real life. Unless you’re doing it as part of a soft-focus love montage in a '60s romance film, with Warren Beatty by your side, laughing and just loving you with his eyes, picking up shells is boring.

When I finally managed to stumble into the first town I did enjoy the nice graphics and old-fashioned top-down isometric format, but the whole seashells thing continued to bug me. I now had bags and bags filled with seashells. Hmm… Crafting components! I thought. All that seashell collecting must pay off eventually. In fact, I’m sure it will! It doesn’t, and I remain at a loss as to what purpose all that seashell collecting served.

Divinity Original Sin - Look  More Shells

                                                                                   Look. More shells.

Overly Fussy Quests

So then I started questing. The quests are okay, I guess, but something about them seems sort of … fussy, not unlike the way some overly picky adventure game puzzles can be. “Oh… I have to put my moustache hairs on the left side of the mouse hole before pouring the club soda on them?”

Painfully Slow Combat Skill Progression 

The game has garnered lots of praise for its decidedly old-school turn-based combat; and don’t get me wrong, I love turned-based combat. But in Divinity: Original Sin there’s just something clunky about it. On second thought, perhaps the word "clunky" isn't the correct term for the combat. The turn-based sequence works perfectly fine. I think what bothers me about the combat is the painfully slow skill progression. In an RPG you need to feel a sense of progression with your combat techniques and abilities. New ranks in skills are extremely expensive considering the stingy amount of points you receive when you level up. Plus, leveling up feels like it takes forever, and new skills are gated behind level minimums which take a frustratingly long time to unlock. The more I played the game, the more I realized I just wasn't enjoying the combat.

Skill Trees were like Mirages

I will say that the game has very enticing skill trees full of skills you can’t wait to invest in. Except you hardly ever get to do that, because you hardly EVER level. The leveling rate felt stingier than it does in the original Baldur’s Gate games. And worse, the game has one of those systems that makes you spend multiple skill points on higher skills rather than simply working your way up to them. So despite dozens of hours of fighting, I barely felt my team of four characters had made any progress at all.

Oh, yeah, I haven’t told you about that part. Eventually you can gather a party of four by collecting characters you meet on your adventure. Kind of like Baldur’s Gate. Except that in Baldur’s Gate (as in its successor, Dragon Age), the characters you meet are FULL of story and personality. Not so much in Divinity: Original Sin.

Having Two Characters is an Intriguing Idea

But you know what? All of that I could have lived with, and before I drive the final nail in the coffin, I’ll give the game props for one good idea. You actually play the game with two main characters. These characters frequently disagree about the way to proceed during quests and interactions with other people in the game. When the two protagonists disagree, they engage in a game of Rock/Paper/Scissors to determine the outcome. This is an intriguing idea that has potential.

Tedious Inventory and Crafting

What I couldn’t live with is the deeply tedious inventory and crafting management. You’re constantly picking things up during your adventuring. That’s standard procedure for RPGs, right? Remember the seashells I mentioned earlier? The problem is, every character has a different carry weight allowance (which you have to spend incredibly valuable skill points on to improve), and each party member has a totally separate inventory from the others; therefore, it matters which character you have selected when you loot.

So I spent most of my time in the game with my eyes glazed over and my mouse hand cramping as I doggedly picked up individual pieces of loot, opened up interface windows and moved loot from one character’s bags to another character’s bags. This becomes even worse when it comes to crafting, as each character had his or her own crafting skill, you have to juggle the collected ingredients into the proper bag before you can attempt crafting (which comes with NO tutorial, by the way, thank you very much).

After playing for about 60 hours (yeah, I really wanted to like this game), I realized it felt like I’d spent 40 of those hours moving flowers and boards and clams from one character’s inventory into another. Yes, the flowers and boards and clams can be used in crafting, but no, it isn’t worth the trouble.

Playing Divinity: Original Sin is fun like cleaning the underside of your platform bed is fun. I realized this and stopped playing the game.

__________________________________________

You don’t play Diablo for the story.  Here’s the entire story of every Diablo game: “The ancient demon is back and even more pissed than last time.”

 

Final Grade: C-
 
 Attractive graphics
+ Old-school turn-based combat
+ Decent two-protagonist setup
+  Nice visuals
Deeply unsatisfying character progression, a definite minus in a roleplaying game
- Unforgivably tedious inventory management
Squirrelly quests
- Boring Party characters
 Logo

 

MINIMUM PC:

OS: Windows XP SP3 or higher
Processor: Intel Core2 Duo E6600 or equivalent
Memory: 2048 MB RAM
Graphics: HD Intel Graphics 4000 or NVIDIA® GeForce® 8800 GT (512 MB) or ATI™ Radeon™ HD 4850 or equivalent
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Hard Drive: 10 GB available space
Sound Card: DirectX9c compliant

 

MINIMUM MAC:

OS: OS X 10.8.5
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000/4000
Hard Drive: 10 GB available space
Additional Notes: HD3000 & HD4000 benefit from 8Gb of memory

 

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