It's a typical day in the charming coast town of Cyseal. As usual the sun sits high in the sky, and we're wandering around looking for someone or something to liberate us from our idle state. Business as usual.
"No one has as many friends as the man with many cheeses!" A bald man yells to us as we pass the south side of the market on our way to the hospital. We're supposed to be a sorcerer hunter tracking down criminal sorcerers, but the last couple of hours we've been a detective looking for incriminating evidence. Sneaking into the back room of the clinic; looking through closets and laundry we finally find the suspect's key chain. Finally we're on the right track. Or so we thought. The keys leads nowhere.
"No-one has as many friends as the man with many cheeses!" The increasingly annoying bald man yells again as we now head east past the market. This time heading for the main suspect's shop. After a quick search we find a secret hatch. The hatch takes us down to a basement where we find another hidden entrance. A bloody knife and a book called "How to commit the perfect murder". This has to lead to somewhere! We confront the suspect with this evidence. "The knife is for meat and the book was my husband's," she says. The guard captain says it's not enough to convict her. What?! How hard can it be to put someone behind bars in this town?!
"No one has as many friends as the man with many cheeses!" I'm going to burn you and your shop down, you lactose loving son of a... my companion stops us from doing something stupid. Next time, old timer. The "fireball" button has your name written all over it. Next time we'll make toast of both you and your cheeses. We might throw the new version of last year's Divinity: Original Sin on the fire as well as it's a very frustrating masterpiece.
Original Sin is, for all intents and purposes, two things. It's a stunningly beautiful game that unites charm and depth in ways most other roleplaying games can only dream of.
After customising your two main characters and one or two companions, you're free to explore a world where every inch is filled with incredible design and atmosphere. The music sets the mood for every situation while jokes, obscure pop culture references and the option to talk with animals gives the game a light-hearted tone when needed.
The turn-based battle system will appeal to patient players, but also brings a breath of fresh air to the genre. It focusses on utilising the environment to your advantage. Explosive barrels, water puddles, oil spills and poisonous gas can be both used by you and against you. A giant list of magic formulas and skills gives you endless options both in combat and in other scenarios. Used in the right situations it'll lead to fantastic amounts of carnage and a great feeling of pride as you watch the results unfold.
Unfortunately it also has some noteworthy problems. Divinity: Original Sin makes a few things harder than they have to be, this due to poor guidance. The first few hours are especially trying. We wasted a lot of hours fighting enemies and quests far above our level and skill.
One reason for this is the fact that we can't grind for experience points. Defeated enemies stay dead and their bodies will decompose over time even after returning to the game. If you find a battle impossible you'll have to go somewhere else. Basically you'll most likely be doing a lot of walking back and forth between the fours corners of the world looking for missions that are level-appropriate. Not that it's necessarily a big deal.
The aspect that we're really not fans of is that the advancements don't feel intuitive. You'll mainly be exploring a huge, free world, but it feels like you're being restricted by hidden checklists. While there's quite a few side quests, but you'll often stumble upon their solution during the main story, which makes dedicating time to specific side-quests a waste of time.
Even the battle system has some quirks. Again it comes back to it not being intuitive. The control scheme is complicated and the menus unorganised. Character movement lacks precision, which sooner or later leads to one of your characters walking straight into poisonous gas clouds or hitting the explosive barrel right next to you with a fireball (we do appreciate quick saves). Developer Larian Studios have a great recipe, but have sprinkled a bit too much salt in a couple of areas.
As this is the Enhanced Edition there are some notable differences compared to the game released last year. Notably the game is more difficult to control without mouse and keyboard. Something that we certainly expected. There are new animations and effects that bring out added visual splendour. More voice work has been added to help with immersion. But the enhancement don't end with the aesthetics and controls. There are new story beats, scenarios, a new character, weapons, and added difficulty modes. All in all it's a more complete package.
We've dished out a fair bit of criticism, but Divinity: Original Sin deserves more praise than critique. It's an incredible accomplishment to make an adventure of this caliber, especially from what was originally a Kickstarter. You'll witness an escalating story, entertaining dialogue, and a battle system that raises the bar for the genre in certain respects.
It might be a little overwhelming or seem frustrating at first, but don't let that stop you. Instead, get back at the game. Break a couple of doors. Pickpocket a guy. Kill some people. After all, why solve a murder mystery when you can create one yourself?
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