games / Previews

Divinity: Original Sin (PC) Preview

February 5, 2014 | Posted by Marc Morrison

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I was asked to take a preview look at Divinity: Original Sin a few weeks ago and didn’t know what it was at first. Checking the game out on Steam, it looked like a Diablo-style game where you could trade-off between two party members. It’s not that, per se, but has the appearance of it. From where there is right now, it’s an interesting game, but a few points are to be mentioned that can impact it a little.

Like I said, while Divinity looks like a Diablo-style game, but it isn’t. The basic world map is Diablo-esque, you can point to run to a spot, or hold the button down to keep running, there is colored loot to find, a lot of slots to equip gear in, side-quests to undertake, etc. Everything on the surface makes it look almost like a Diablo clone. That is until you actually enter a battle and have to fight enemies.

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Combat in Divinity is actually turn-based and not real time, like Diablo or Torchlight. You control two party members, a man and a woman, where you select their role at the beginning of the game (Warrior, Rogue, Mage, or create something of your own). Each character has a limited number of action points per turn, which dictate how far you can move them, how often they can attack, or if they can use their special attacks during the turn. There isn’t a mana system in the game, it’s just dependent on how much AP you have stored up, and if you are in range of a target. The battle generally has your characters attack first (both of them), then the enemies attack (however many there are of them), and it goes between your forces, and the enemies. You can get additional party members as well, which can lead to battles being more tactical, with different characters filling different roles.

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In addition to the combat system is how you interact with people, and also with interaction with your characters. You can separate your characters (they are usually grouped together), but it’s more fun to keep them as a group. As you talk to various townspeople, get new quests, and explore dialog options, you get different alignment choices. You can pick intimidate, charm, or reason to try and deal with people. You also get experience bonuses for picking the right options. Your own characters will occasionally have chats with each other. They will usually comment on a particular quest/event, with one character stating two different views, you pick the one you want them to say. Then another character will either agree or disagree with that view, with two more statements. This will affect the personalities of both characters, and give them more bonuses. Being altruistic increases your charisma, while being egotistical increases your barter skill.

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The “warning notice” with this game is that it’s in an alpha state – a very early alpha state. The basic framework of the game is nailed down, though the game has a really long initial load time, combat appears fine, you can walk around the world more or less, and it didn’t really crash on me. However, the game isn’t done by a long shot. Some promised features, like multiplayer, I assume co-op with one person controlling each character, isn’t implemented yet (I couldn’t find anyone anyway) or the slow feel of just exploring the world can make the game sluggish.

More than that though, I did encounter a few little bugs, which I think I did submit reports to. The map system, at present, is a bit of a nightmare. It only really has notifications for doors, but you can’t get inside all of them. Pathing issues, or areas being cut off from access, are a frequent issue. I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to get to this one area of the starting town, before just giving up. There are some highlighting errors, some items will return a “LTS_Rich_Candleholder_D_008” notification.

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I’m going to make two suggestions to the developers (if they read this), or to those people who might try it out. The gold system, at present, appears highly broken. You can trade with almost everyone you meet, but almost none of them have gold. Even if you find someone with gold, like a merchant, the system in place is awkward to use. You offer an item up, and a number goes above it. But you have to manually click on a weight scale to add in the gold from a NPC to match the number. I think there is a system in place that is supposed to be a barter mechanic, like selling an item above its cost if your skill is high enough, but the first few times, it confused the hell out of me, as I was selling items for what I thought was gold, but really wasn’t, due to the initial price number.

The other light suggestion would be that they either increase the running speed of the characters, or mildly scale down the first town. The town itself feels massive for some reason, but also kind of cavernous, since not a lot of it can be interacted with at present. This is partly a map issue as well, since aside from doors, it tells you practically nothing, aside from a disappearing quest indicator. I did unlock a character with a fun “Jump up and jump down in a different place” ability, that I could use to break into houses, so that was pretty enjoyable.

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At present, Divinity: Original Sin is unfinished, but it spells that out clearly. There are some unfinished elements at present, but you know what? I really enjoyed my time with the game. There is an excellent kernel of an innovative and creative game here. I have hopes that the developers can bring it out, as the months go on. If you like ambitious games, then give it a shot (it’s on Steam Early Access now), and as more patches and updates are released they can continue to improve the quality of the game.

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Marc Morrison