Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Divinity: Original Sin Review!




The Divinity franchise is probably the most spread throughout the video games genre. The series started in 2002 with Divine Divinity, which was an isometric RPG and continued with Beyond Divinity which was a spin-off to the original game. The story of the series was continued in Divinity II: Ego Draconis and the expansion Flames of Vengeance which are action RPG games. In 2013 another spin-off was released in the series, Divinity: Dragon Commander, a game combining RTS with RPG elements and with competitive multiplayer and co-op mode.
Larian Studios managed to bring the Divinity series on the screen in different ways and none of these games were disappointing, but ever since the launch of the original game, Divine Divinity remains the best in the series. Or I should say, it was the best in the series up until now…


On 27 May 2013 a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign was started by Larian Studios aiming for additional content in an already in-development title. The campaign was a success, raising over 1.000.000 dollars out of the initial goal of 400.000 dollars.
After the crowdfunding, Divinity: Original Sin went to an entire adventure of release dates and postponing. The game was expected to be released in the autumn of 2013, but was delayed to 28 February 2014 later on to be delayed for 20th June of the same year and ending up to be released on 30 June 2014 (that was quite a ride!).
Divinity: Original Sin is a prequel to Divine Divinity. The story follows the actions of two source hunters who came to the city Cyseal to investigate the mysterious murder of the city councilor. Source hunters are specially trained warriors who follow in the footsteps of sourcerers (source mages) in order to stop them from using this tainted and powerful form of magic.
As the investigation of the murder progresses our two heroes unveil a sinister plan that is going to unleash terrible things over Rivellon (the world in which the Divinity franchise is set) and are forced to move forward and fight against this power that is threatening the world. In their journey the two champions discover a secret about their existence which makes them understand why they are in the middle of this mess.
                The action of the game takes place in four distinct (huge) areas that can easily be traversed through a system of portals. Each area is well developed and has its own story, art style, quests and many other things that will make the players feel like they are in a unique place. The exploration feeling in this game is enhanced by one of the best pathfinders I have ever seen. Party members are able to find the shortest way to the target location and avoid dangerous terrain on their way to the set location.
Besides the two main characters, two NPCs can be recruited in the game who have their own personality, interests and background story.
                I would like to emphasize (with sorrow) that the story in Divinity: Original Sin is probably the weakest point of the game, being nothing more than a generic tale that can’t even surprise the younger players of the RPG genre. The lack of choices which affect how the story unfolds makes the players feel like they have no impact in the game. There are no memorable characters, your party members are really annoying and they don’t make you feel any attachment to them.


The dialogue system in the game is well done and quite unique. Besides the standard dialogues between party members as reactions to the game story which is something common in good RPGs, Divinity: Original Sin has separate dialogues for the main characters. These dialogues are meant to help the players in taking difficult decisions in the game by adding an arguing element between the main heroes. The heroes can try to convince each why their action is the best to take in a certain situation and if they can’t come to an agreement a small game of rock, paper, scissor will take place (that’s right!) to decide the winner of the argument. The arguments of the hero character not controlled by the player are based on the personality that was chosen when that particular character was created.
The heroes’ dialogue system was designed with Co-op in mind, to make players argue between themselves, but I can say it is quite interesting (and annoying at times) to see something like this in singleplayer as well.
Trolls...
This can turn into a total mind game in Coop games!

Divinity offers eleven classes to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. These classes can be customized as players think it fits their play style. There are enough abilities, traits and spells to choose from in order to create unique builds. There are enough random generated items in game to equip characters the way players want and if someone is unlucky with drops, crafting is always a viable option. I find myself forced to say that the random item drops from monsters was not the best idea, at first I thought it might help replayability, but as I played the game more I found it annoying that I was depending on luck to get some better gear and it affected my experience in a negative way. Even if there are some unique items in the game that drop from certain bosses, those drops are affected by luck.
Enough skills to choose from.
Some of the items are quite cool.

               The combat system of the game is one of the best I have ever seen in an RPG. Divinity: Original Sin uses a turn based tactical combat with an action points system. Action points are spent in combat in order to move, attack and use abilities or items, the number of points a character has can be increased through various stats or items. At the end of the player’s turn the action points that were not spent are saved for the next turn, this opens up multiple possibilities, since you can save more points for a stronger attack in a future turn.
The synergy between the turn based combat, character skills and environment is absolutely amazing. Spells can be combined for an increased effect, e.g. players can cast a rain spell on the enemies an after that cast a cold spell and those enemies will freeze or if you combo with a lightning spell those enemies will be electrocuted with a chance to stun them. There are so many spell combos in the game and these combos are suitable for any kind of play style. Besides the combos between spells, players can also use the environment to their advantage by dropping boxes on the enemies’ head or throwing barrels of oil that can be ignited afterwards.
               The difficulty level in the first half and close to the end of the game is very high and this forces the players to use all kind of abstract and ingenious tactics in order to overcome the enemies in battle. I had to improvise multiple times throughout the game in order to have a chance in some fights. I was engaged into a battle (on the hardest difficulty) with a boss that was a higher level than my party and because of the crazy tactics I used I ended up winning (one hour later) and this was a very satisfactory experience.
Water and lightning, the combination that helped me beat act one.
Arachnophobia hell!
                The Divinity gameplay experience is at one of the highest levels. With a good dialogues, a combat system that always leaves you wanting more fights, a huge world to explore riddled with puzzles (good luck with those!) and a story in a continuous development, you won’t have time to take a breath in this game.
                On the technical part the game stands quite well, considering the budget it had for development. The graphics are crisp, colorful and with some impressive effects. On top of this, the engine managed to deliver four distinct looking areas in full details. There are still some washed up ground textures or some models that could use some more details, that some players that are more focused on graphical fidelity will find annoying, but the overall look of the game is pleasing.
The game does come with an editor included, which gives players the opportunity to change the world of Rivellon to their liking.
Artistic.
Stifling atmosphere.

                Divinity: Original Sin delivered one of the best audio experiences of this year. The music is godly and is so well used for each situation in the game. The sound effects are well done and in combination with the music they reflect the atmosphere of each area in the game. But as expected by anyone who followed this title’s progress, the game has no proper voice acting and in this day and age the lack of voice acting can be considered a big minus by many.
                The game doesn’t escape the curse of isometric RPGs and has some problems. The most annoying problem people encountered in the game is the corruption of save files which messes up player’s progress.
Some issues which I found very frustrating were the UI navigation and inventory sorting, but as today these problems have been fixed.
                I think the biggest problem with this game is the fact that it didn’t fully deliver what it promised in the Kickstarter campaign. This might not affect all players in the same way, as those who bought the game at release might not be aware of every feature this game should have. But as a Kickstarter backer I found it very disappointing that the developers didn’t deliver the day-night cycle which should have affected the AI and the way some spells work. Another thing that wasn’t added is the end-game dungeon that should have been in the last map of the game, which based on the amount of Kickstarter backers, should have had ten distinct levels (1 level for 1000 backers). Before I found out from the internet that this dungeon will not be present in the game, I was so excited to experience this difficult area and search every corner on the map in order to find it. You can imagine that finding out that the dungeon is not really in the game made my lust for the game drop immensely.
I do understand why the developers didn’t manage to do everything they promised. A working day-night cycle implies a huge amount of work in order to get the entire world to adjust to the different times of the day. But I find it odd that the dungeon was nowhere to find, as in August 2013 it was showcased on Larian Studio’s youtube channel (hopefully it will be added in the future).
On an ending note, I have to say that Divinity: Original Sin is one of the best games I played this year and one of the brighter RPGs in the last couple of years. With a campaign over seventy hours long, an absolutely amazing combat system, a keen attention to details, a beautiful world and Co-op, the game sticks out from the ocean of mediocrity in which RPGs have been lately.
I recommend this game to any RPG enthusiast, you won’t be disappointed (especially if you didn’t take part in the Kickstarter campaign and if you can overlook some of the writing flaws). And I look forward to an expansion.


Pros:
+ 70+ hours of gameplay
+ Impressive tactical combat
+ Combos between spells
+ Good character progression
+ Artistic and colorful graphics
+ Beautiful music
+ Co-op mode with an interesting dialogue system
+ Map editor
+ Good pathfinder

Cons:
- The story is not on the same quality level with the rest of the game
- Doesn’t deliver the entire content promised in the Kickstarter campaign
- Random itemization negatively affects replayability
- Some of the fights can go on for too long
- Problems with the save system and other annoying bugs
- Average production value
- Hard to navigate UI (at release)




Nodrim

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