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Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity: Original Sin | Game Review

I gritted my teeth as the fire elemental simmered across the room. Any other day and I’d have asked Jahan, my wizard friend, to send an Ice Shard down the bodyguard’s flaming gullet. Instead, I tried to ignore my plate armor baking me like an oven.

My fellow Source Hunter, a cheeky rogue who stabbed first and asked questions later, fidgeted as we faced a haughty officer. We’d finally infiltrated the inner circle of the Immaculates, a bloodthirsty cult intent on gaining power at any cost.

The Best Co-Op RPG I’ve Played in Years

AKA A Jolly Good Time Smashing, Reasoning and Arguing with Your Gaming Buddies

We needed the Immaculate leader’s location, but my partner’s patience was wearing thin.

Divinity character
An example Divinity character

I grabbed the rogue’s hand just as she attempted to shank our lead.

“Are you mad? Killing her would ruin our chances of finding the Sourcerer!” I hissed.

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic. We could get the same intel by shaking up some peons.”

“I’ll convince her to talk. Don’t you remember how I charmed that cave troll?”

“It had an IQ of 10. Much as I hate this woman, I give her more credit than that.”

“Let me try!”

“But… stabbing!”

“There’s only one way to settle this.”

“ROCK. PAPER. SCISSORS!”

This event was one of many I enjoyed in Divinity: Original Sin. A mixture of classic RPG traditions and quirky humor, it’s the most fun I’ve had with co-op in a long time.

Many of my best gaming memories have centered around couch co-op specifically, a feature the industry has neglected of late.

But Divinity has you covered—whether you’re playing from a distance or sitting right next to your partner, you can go on a journey together at any time.

Raising Expectations

When Divinity: OS was first released, it rocketed into my world with all the intensity of a glue-covered snail.

The marketing played up its crafting system and quests, which didn’t sound particularly groundbreaking. I passed it by for several years until I happened across Larian Studios’ Kickstarter for Divinity: OS 2 and was captured by a far more polished pitch.

Foes explode in poison gas lit with fire, get stunned if they’re zapped in water and have their vision obscured in smoke.

You could roleplay disagreements with co-op partners? Combine an Electric Arrow with a Rain spell to shock enemies? Slip a dyed poison bottle into your buddy’s inventory and laugh as they choked on a “health potion”? Sign me up!

 

Divinity Argument
Getting along swimmingly in Divinity

 

Considering D:OS 2 seemed like my perfect match, I decided to take another look at the original game. I brought my trustiest gaming partner along for the ride and ended up having an absolute blast.

Becoming a Well-Rounded Source Hunter

Divinity’s combat and character system are far more versatile than its peers. While you can combo abilities to some extent in most top-down games, Divinity’s system presents truly extensive options and allows you to make heavy use of terrain. Foes explode in poison gas lit with fire, get stunned if they’re zapped in water and have their vision obscured in smoke.

Divinity‘s penchant for variety doesn’t stop at status effects. You’re not tethered to a single character class either. Start out as a tank then turn yourself into a flame-wielding witch if you like—the sky’s the limit.

Larian released the Enhanced Edition of Divinity in October last year, and an impressive number of fixes and improvements have been made.

Getting the most powerful abilities in talent schools does require some specialization, but you can delve into three or so without getting overwhelmed. This is a plus if you enjoy playing solo or with limited party members, allowing your character to learn a range of abilities you’d normally only see in larger groups.

 

Fighting in Divinity Original Sin
Combo your abilities for the best results

 

While the combat is versatile, it does have its downfalls. Battles can be difficult early on as you struggle to survive without advanced combos. Compounding this problem is the fact that there are few tips and reference materials.

Most people can figure out that oil and fire will explode, but electrifying blood puddles? Knowing which enemies are weak to bludgeoning versus piercing weapons?

There’s no real way to learn these things except by trial and error. And oh, the errors as my partner and I would accidentally fry one another in the middle of a fight. Enemy stats can be revealed with a high enough Loremaster skill, but this information isn’t kept in any reference journal.

Wait… Where Are We Again?

What I found even more frustrating was the lack of guidance when it came to addressing quests. Need to go to the chapel and the graveyard, and decide on the chapel first? Oops, you’re five levels below these enemies and yes, that ogre would just love to turn you into paste.

Now to find the graveyard, which no one has pointed out for you, so you spend the next 15 minutes wandering around the map finding other level-inappropriate areas. Good times!

Divinity Cyseal map
If only it had been this clear in the game.

The least I would have liked to see was some mention of directions in the quest journal, but for the most part we were left to figure out where and how to reach the next plot-relevant areas on our own.

There’s something to be said for giving players freedom to explore, but feeling confused half the time isn’t any fun.

One final nitpick is that even though you can resolve quests in a variety of ways, you aren’t rewarded equally based on your choices. For example, if your character has a high enough Charm skill to talk their way out of a fight, you’re usually given less EXP than if you just went on a murder spree.

Polished Progress

Thankfully, there’s been an answer to these pitfalls. Larian released the Enhanced Edition of Divinity in October last year, and an impressive number of improvements were made. Including my much-desired place markers.

What I can say is that beyond the generic “protect the universe” plot, Divinity: Original Sin has a lot of humor in its bones.

Minor frustrations aside, I enjoyed the mechanics and gameplay in Divinity. But what about the story and characters? This is the definitive marker of quality in an RPG, and I’m conflicted.

The main reason I had so much fun was because I got to mess around with a friend in a game that felt warmly nostalgic. And yes, you really do play Rock, Paper, Scissors to settle disputes. The journey could have been about saving puppies from a mud pit and I would’ve been happy.

 

Rock Paper Scissors in Divinity
Who will come out on top?

 

Divinity’s plot is generic—the Source Hunter PCs are chosen ones and you’re saving the world from a Big Bad. Major NPCs aren’t fleshed out and the four companions are shallow until you reach their personal quests. As soon as those are finished, they’re back to being mute non-entities.

What I can say is that beyond the generic “protect the universe” plot, Divinity: Original Sin has a lot of humor in its bones.

I laughed out loud at some of the side quests, along with the little touches the developers put in to make players smile (like “Party Animals” wandering through your stronghold).

What a Charmer

Details like this strongly reminded me of the quirk and charm in Baldur’s Gate 2, a game that balanced great storytelling and world building with quests that didn’t try so hard to be dramatic, just fun.

Divinity has that je ne sais quoi. I give it major props for that. Note: Grab the “Pet Pal” talent that lets you talk to animals as soon as you can. They’re a hoot.

Larian is mindful of harmful tropes against women and non-heterosexual gamers, and it doesn’t make you feel like a pariah if you’re part of these groups.

The game was bolstered by another strong story-building element: the soundtrack.

Smaller developers don’t always have the resources to deliver music that sets their world apart from hundreds of other fantasy locales, but Divinity‘s songs are distinctive and have real character.

After you’ve been listening for a while you get a sense of Divinity’s “sound,” and it adds a ton of flavor to your travels. I actually felt the music wove a more comprehensive story about Rivelon than the writing did.

Sadly Kirill Pokrovsky, Divinity’s composer, passed away on June 1, 2015, but his work stands as a testament to his talent.

Equal Footing

Let’s segue into a brief discussion on gender politics before closing. When Divinity: OS was in production there was a firestorm over the game’s promotional art when Larian revealed a scantily-clad female PC next to a modestly-dressed male PC.

Skimpy Divinity orc
WHY

To their credit, Larian took the mature option in response to the outcry and made the female character’s armor more logical.

While high heels and a few instances of boob plate (the poor female orcs, stuck in literal leather bikinis) still inexplicably made it into the game, I was mostly pleased with the depiction of women.

My PC was never dismissed because of her gender, many of the main NPCs were female and there were a few occasions where same-sex romances were shown. Your own character can’t romance anyone, though this will be an option in Divinity: OS 2.

Aside from the handful of poor armor choices, Larian is mindful of harmful tropes against women and non-heterosexual gamers, and it doesn’t make you feel like a pariah if you’re part of these groups.

 

High heels in Divinity
Heels are such functional battle gear!

 

To sum up—Divinity‘s main story is lackluster, but side quests have the ability to unexpectedly charm you. Paired with its top tier co-op mode and the EE’s enhancements, anyone looking to adventure with a friend should take a close look.

Let’s Do It Again!

I have nothing but high expectations for this game’s sequel, especially since the devs have shown they listen to their fans. With the number of players who can join you raised from 2 to 4, it’s sure to be a blast. There are so few co-op RPG experiences in the marketplace that it’s great to see Larian setting the bar high.

The true appeal of Divinity is being given a strong platform where you can roleplay, battle and wander with your friends on a quest of your own creation. Give it a shot and you’ll make new memories to treasure, just like old times.

 

 Good Strategic, handcrafted battles Couch co-op done right Extensive class customization
 Bad Story is bland Early game can be confusing A few instances of bikini armor and boob plate

 

Grab an RPG for Two

 

Rhylan Dane

Rhylan Dane

Formerly a freelance copywriter, Rhylan now manages Armorbelle and creates marketing thingamajigs for personal clients. She has wanted to be a pirate since the age of 3, and although she still has no idea how to sail, she’s become very adept at stabbing and plundering.
Rhylan Dane

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