Thoughts on Divinity: Original Sin
Earlier this week, I posted a couple of screenshots from Divinity: Original Sin for the Screenshot Safari. I got a couple of comments on the post and on Twitter from folks expressing interest in playing the game. I know that the screenshots look rather nice but they don’t tell the whole story about the game, what it’s like. Having spent 122 hours in the game and completed nearly every side quest in the official campaign, I think I can safely say that I have an informed opinion about it. I’ll try to break this down into three lists.
Caveats: I played Original Sin entirely in co-op mode with Lord Crumb so I have little to no experience with the single player mode. The only Divinity game I’ve played before this was a little bit of Divinity II.
The graphics. As seen in the screenshot above as well as my previous post, the graphics are quite well done. They paid a lot of attention to detail when they created the landscape and I only wish I could have gotten a better angle with the camera to take some beautiful shots. There was everything from deep forests to underground caverns to windswept deserts to floating islands in space.
The environmental effects. This is something that you don’t see very often in games. If your character was on fire and walked into water, the flames would be put out. If you throw a fireball at a piece of ground that’s covered in poison, the poison will explode. Casting lightning on an enemy standing in water will electrify the whole puddle, possibly stunning other enemies (and allies). It made for some really interesting gameplay where we had to be conscious of our surroundings and who was standing where. There were more than a few times when we accidentally (or intentionally) lit our own characters on fire or stunned them with electricity. The graphics for these were also very cool.
The turn-based combat. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this. In the past, I’ve stayed away from turn-based combat because I found it slow and boring. I think a lot of my enjoyment here came from playing with a partner. It was quite fun to strategize with Lord Crumb about the best way to take out a pack of enemies and constantly revising our strategy as the situation changed. We also work quite well together as a team.
The co-op. More games need to be co-op, I say. And for the most part, Original Sin does a good job at this. Joining through Steam is pretty simple and even the times when we disconnected from Steam, we stayed together in game. As the host, I was able to assign characters to each player, so most of the time, Lord Crumb has his customized scoundrel Lord Gingerballs (blame him, he chose the name) and our marksman/geomancer Bairdotr, while I played my created warrior/aerotheurge/hydrosophist Adelaide and our witchcraft/pyrokinetic Wolgraff. This way we were able to familiarize ourselves with only two characters each rather than switching them all the time. And if Lord Crumb needed to do some scouting ahead, I could easily take Bairdotr off his hands and have her follow my characters.
The customization and the lack of classes. While the game asks you to choose a “class” when creating your characters, you can customize them to your heart’s content afterwards. There’s no reason that you can’t dabble in all of the skills but it does make more sense to specialize in just a couple. Adelaide began as just a warrior, but it wasn’t long before I was picking up water spells to heal us and air spells to do some ranged damage. Probably the best example is Wolgraff, a henchman who has scoundrel skill when you first meet him. We already had a rogue character and really needed someone who was a caster, but the only mage henchman was an jerk that neither of us liked. So instead we found some +int gear to throw on Wolgraff, taught him a couple of spells, and soon he was mastering both fire and witchcraft spells. Probably not the best idea roleplaying-wise for a character who can’t talk but it worked out great for us.
The bugs. Both Lord Crumb and I were surprised and dismayed by the number of bugs that we encountered. Some of them were incredibly persistent too, such as when Lord Crumb would join my game, pieces of his characters’ armor would be greyed out. This happened every single time he joined. After several months of having to rejoin over and over again, he discovered on a buried forum thread that the problem was his characters’ stats not syncing with his client when he first joined. This caused items with stat requirements to appear not useable to him, and this could be solved by reloading the game after he had joined. At least we knew how to fix it after that.
There were also cases where conversations would glitch and we couldn’t get out of a conversation without reloading. Or sometimes when we each were suppose to give input on a choice, one of us was able to select choices for both of us when it clearly was not designed for that.
I think the one bug that dismayed me the most had to do with the Petrify debuff. When one of our characters was turned to stone, I remembered that I had a spell to remove it and quickly used it. Only it didn’t work. Neither did it the next time. When I did a search, I found out on the forums that while the spell listed it could remove Petrify in game, it was bugged and didn’t actually do it. The sole purpose of the spell was to remove certain buffs and debuffs. How could they mess something up like that and not fix it in a patch?
There were graphical glitches as well. Most notably is seen in the screenshot above. While Wolgraff may look half-naked, he’s actually wearing Trethon’s Old Robes, or The Emperor’s New Robes as I like to call them. They are one of only two craftable robes in the game (the other being one that gives random stats) but it’s another known bug that they are graphically glitched. So poor Wolgraff had to run around looking like that for the last portion of the game.
The female armor. Wolfgraff’s showing so much skin might have been a glitch but the designs for the armor on women was completely intentional. Which makes it all the more disappointing. For some unfathomable reason, putting regular boots on female characters turned them into high heels every time. I could see maybe casters wearing them but what self-respecting warrior or rogue goes clomping around in those? I wonder why it’s so difficult for some people to understand that it’s okay for men and women to wear similar things, especially when it’s something functional and designed for keeping you alive like armor.
Surprisingly, it was the robes that have the least difference between genders in Original Sin. At least at character creation, I can’t vouch for the rest of the game.
Metal armors suffered from a whole lot of boobplate and an eye-rolling lack of pants-ness at start but I was able to find leg armor not long after starting.
The worst offender was leather armor which also did not like pants and showed more skin than was necessary. Especially on the shadowblade starting armor which featured an exposed midriff and cleavage, while inexplicably having a single boob protected by plate. Man, that breast must be very important for her to protect it better than internal organs.
I’d feel cold in that outfit too, Bairdotr.
Also, I don’t think I need to point out the massive differences in body structure between the genders, do I? And there was no changing that. So Adelaide always looked tiny wielding her huge weapons, while Wolgraff looked awkward standing in the back casting spells while having the body of an MMA fighter.
The mods. I haven’t tried any player-made maps/campaigns that are floating around the Steam Workshop but Lord Crumb and I did try a couple of mods. We discovered that you can only have one on at a time for some reason, and the few that we tried didn’t even work. You would think a mod as simple as switching the colours of item names (the default is green being better than blue) would pose no problems but we’ve discovered otherwise.
The crafting. When I think of crafting, I generally envision collecting a lot of materials and creating my own armor, weapons, and other items to my liking. I can tell you that I collected a hell of a lot of materials at least. I was the designated crafter/blacksmith so my inventory was crammed with ingredients. It’s a good thing I was also a warrior because it took a lot of strength to carry all of it. Ultimately though, I didn’t find the crafting system terribly useful. First of all, the recipes were generally not intuitive and I was tabbing out often to look them up on a comprehensive forum thread I found. While the only armor I couldn’t craft were bracers, I never had a need to make much past the start of the game. There were so many item drops for us that any crafted armor I made was usually worse than what we had. Besides, I needed to put my skill points into fighting abilities rather than crafting/blacksmithing just so we could survive some of those early fights.
One of the oddities of the system was cloth scraps, of all things. You would think in a system where materials are abundant and we encountered legendary/unique items enough to sell at least half of them, cloth scraps would be simple to find. Not so…we found only two pieces of it throughout our entire game. It made crafting cloth armor all but impossible.
Crafting turned out to mostly be useful for improvements/enchantments. Sharpening weapons, adding more resistances to armor, that sort of thing. Weapons at higher levels were also quite good, usually an improvement over the dropped weapons. But that’s not exactly what intrigues me when I think of crafting.
The controls. The click-to-move system isn’t one of my favorite ways of running around. And if we weren’t careful, our characters would run straight through damaging ground effects, causing us to sigh and shake our heads. The targeting system in combat isn’t that great either. Characters both friendly and otherwise tend to shuffle around or jump while they’re waiting for their turn, and since their outlines are used for targeting, it’s possible to click at the wrong moment and waste your attack, move out of position, or even hit one of your party instead. There were many times where Lord Crumb would accidentally move his character out of back-stabbing position because of this, and there were several moments where we hit our own characters with a spell meant for the enemies. It was quite frustrating. We later found out that we could target spells on enemy portraits but that did not fix the problems with melee attacks.
A lot of the items exist in the environment and there’s no easy way to find them on their own. If you hold down left ALT, their names will appear and make them much easier to spot. Unfortunately, this isn’t a toggle so we spent a lot of time running around while holding down ALT. It can be tough on the fingers after a while.
The graphics are 3D, but the camera can only be rotated about 90 degrees which bothered me. I would say that I should be able to rotate the camera all the way or not at all. You can actually change an option in the settings so that you can rotate it 360 degrees, but the game warns you that the developers did not design the campaign for it and some of the environment would appear broken because of it. Which makes me feel like I got a half-finished game.
The voice acting. The majority of the voice actors were alright but not particularly memorable. Some of them were plain weird but that might have been the effect they were going for. I have no idea why, but the rogue voices for custom characters are the only ones that have an American accent. All of the other custom voices, as well as just about every NPC, has a British accent. Lord Crumb chose the rogue voice for his character so he always felt out of place to me among everyone else.
As an aside, it will be hard to forget the cheese vendor and his trademark, “No one has as many friends as the man with many cheeses!” Then again, it will forever haunt me that I never found and killed the sailor that constantly sang an off-key “Cyseal, Cyseal! Shiver me timbers and slither me eels!” I’ve never wanted to murder a townsperson so badly.
The quests. The main storyline follows the classic “The Chosen One” plot, of which I’ve never particularly been a fan. Combine it with true high fantasy and you can imagine just how ridiculously out of proportion the entire thing got. Maybe it’s just me but I prefer characters who need to prove themselves or work their way out of dire situations. They seem more interesting that way and more deserving due to their hard work and own wit. I expect RPGs to grab me with their stories and worlds, and keep me enthralled. None of the quests, main or otherwise, accomplished that in Original Sin. In fact, it got to the point where the story just dragged on and on, and we just wanted to finish the game once and for all. The ending was not so much a sense of accomplishment but a feeling of relief that we could finally move onto something more interesting.
I’ve come to understand that Original Sin is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but some of the “jokes” were just brutal. There were a number of times when Lord Crumb and I would hear another campy line and ask each other “Who wrote this?!” And this is coming from two people who watch bad movies to make fun of them for heaven’s sake.
As I mentioned before, there were times where our characters would have conversations with each other or NPCs and we would both be prompted to make a choice. Our choices would affect our character’s traits, which would sometimes give us bonuses depending on which way we leaned. An interesting concept in theory, not so much in practice. I suppose we could have “optimized” our choices but instead we just picked what we personally would do. Half of the time, the traits we gained didn’t make much sense so we’d just shrug and continue, because there was no way to undo our actions short of reloading. At one point, the ghost of a woman asked us if she had to forgive her husband, who had purposefully let the ship she was on sink with everyone on board drowning, just because he had heard a rumor that she was cheating on him. To Lord Crumb and I, the key here was she asked if she HAD to forgive her husband, not if she SHOULD forgive her husband. I believe that forgiveness is not something that should be expected or can be demanded. It’s up to the injured party to decide whether they have it within them to forgive. So naturally we answered that no, she did not HAVE to do it. For that, we both got one point in the Vindictive trait. Thanks for saying we’re jerks, developers.
If there was a single change I could make to the system though, it would be some sort of indication for which quests you should follow next. Original Sin is not one of those games that levels up with you, so you could follow a quest and end up fighting enemies 3 levels higher than you. In most games, 3 levels isn’t a terribly big deal but it is here. Taking on enemies one level above you isn’t too hard. Two levels is getting quite difficult. At 3 levels, you pray that the RNG is kind to you because otherwise you’re looking at most, if not all, of your party dying. One memory that stands out for me is when our group was stuck in a temple with no way out except to go through a group of enemies 3 levels above us. I think it was on the fifth try that we killed them all, only because luck was on our side and we knew by then what the enemy tactics were. Thank goodness for frequent quicksaves. Original Sin boasts being an “open world” but I don’t know how it’s suppose to be so open when we were mainly having to do the quests in a certain order just to survive.
So there you have it, all of my long and rambling thoughts on Original Sin. Would I recommend buying and playing this game? Maybe, if you get it on sale and have a friend to play it with. Or if you already own it. I wouldn’t say it’s worth the $44 Canadian that it’s currently selling for on Steam. I’ve certainly played many more entertaining and less buggy games in my time. But since it’s gotten good ratings elsewhere, it’s possible that it was made more for fans of the Divinity series, which would make me not the target audience. I’ve heard talk of them releasing an enhanced edition soon and I hope, for the sake of the players who buy it, that they fix a lot of these issues. Once was enough for me, thanks.