Divinity: Original Sin Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Larian Studios
Developer:Larian Studios
Release Date:2014-06-30
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

While completing puzzles and defeating enemies, you find a ton of equipment, including blue (magical) items, green (rare) items, orange (legendary) items, and brown (unique) items.  Sort of surprisingly, almost all of the loot in the game is random -- there are only about a dozen unique items found in fixed places -- but if you feel so disposed, you can save before opening a chest or defeating a boss, and then load your game until you get something good.  There aren't any set items.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the equipment is the game's comprehensive crafting system.  Just about everything you find can be combined in some way to produce something new.  A knife and a branch produce an arrow shaft, which can be combined with an arrowhead to produce an arrow.  A knife and pillow produce a feather, which combines with a knife again to produce a quill, which combines with an inkpot to produce an inkpot and quill, which can be used to write out spell scrolls.  Flour and water produce dough, which combines with tomato sauce to produce pizza dough, which combines with an oven to produce pizza.  Any RPG that allows you to cook pizza can't be all bad.  You can also craft armor, weapons, jewelry, potions, and more, and add substantial bonuses to your existing equipment.

Unfortunately, the downside to the crafting system is that you find all sorts of junk, and the game doesn't give you too many hints about what you can do with it.  Even when you find a recipe the game isn't very helpful.  The interface stores the recipe book text for you, but you don't get any sort of Skyrim-style menu system letting you know what sorts of things you can manufacture.  You just have to write down the recipes that are important to you and hang onto any item that might be useful -- or everything, if you're not sure what's useful and what isn't.  Luckily, the inventory objects in the game are very light, so you can tote around a bunch of stuff.

Sound and Graphics

The sound and graphics for Original Sin are fine.  There isn't a lot in the way of voice acting, but the game has so much text that this is actually a good thing.  The cost of voice acting everything would probably be high, while the quality of the actors would probably be iffy, and by skipping actors Larian can now edit the text to their heart's content without worrying about re-recording anything.  The music and sound effects are competent without being notable one way or the other.

Meanwhile, the graphics get the job done without providing any "wow" moments.  But it's clear what everything is supposed to be, and there is some nice variety to the environments, including deserts, jungles, and even arctic regions.  One thing missing from the graphics is a good set of character portraits.  For some reason instead of just creating 2D versions of your characters on the fly during character creation, you have to pick from a set of pre-rendered portraits -- and hope that one of them looks a little like your character and isn't repeated too many times inside the game.  That's unfortunate.

Bugs

As I mentioned earlier, it took me 100 hours to play through Original Sin, and amazingly enough, I didn't encounter a single crash bug during that time.  If that's not a record, it's certainly a rarity.  However, while there weren't any crashes, the game had other minor problems, like a glaring absence of movement keys for characters, low level loot repeatedly found in high level dungeons, and overly basic AI decisions made by enemies (where, for example, enemies healed by poison still avoid poison patches on the ground).  The problems I noticed are so basic that I'm sort of surprised Larian hasn't fixed them already, though I'm optimistic that they'll get everything in shape soon.

Conclusion

I've seen lots of reports of people really enjoying Divinity: Original Sin -- including PC Gamer calling it the 16th best RPG of all time -- but I'm just not there.  I liked Original Sin, but I didn't love it, and it's not even my favorite Divinity game (it's actually third for me, behind Divine Divinity and Ego Draconis).  Some of the problems I had with Original Sin -- like the lack of movement keys -- will no doubt get fixed eventually.  But other problems -- like the storyline that is too basic for a 100-hour game, and the difficulty that starts out on "brutal" and ends up on "cakewalk" -- are probably here to stay.

Still, while you shouldn't necessarily believe that Original Sin is the best thing since sliced bread, it's still a worthwhile purchase.  The campaign offers 100 hours of content (which will only grow larger once modders sink their teeth into the game), there are some good puzzles and fun quests, and the combat engine is unique and interesting.  Plus, there's always that chance that I'm in the minority here and Original Sin really does deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Baldur's Gate.  I'm just not going to be the one who does it.