Divinity: Original Sin Hits the RPG Sweet Spot

Some games never leave you. Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment—these games left their mark, and every now and then, I yearn to go back to that golden era of computer RPGs. You know the ones: heavy on dialogue, choice, and character development; isometric camera angles; fantasy backdrops with D&D roots; and so much more. I have many fond memories of cobbling together a party of misfits and fighting through hordes of enemies together. Not to mention the fantastic artwork—I loved pausing the game or just standing still to take in the environment.

Luckily, I’m not the only one who missed that type of gaming. Fans showed up in massive numbers to support games on Kickstarter, like Pillars of Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera, that sought to revive the classic era of CRPGs. But out of all these games, one came out of left field and truly recaptured that spirit for me: Divinity: Original Sin.

Going Back to Where It All Started in Divinity: Original Sin

Nick Snow actually introduced me to the series. We’d be racing at incredibly high speeds in Need for Speed or blasting through round after round in Overwatch, and Nick would say something in passing about a fantasy RPG called Divinity. Eventually, I caught the game on sale, downloaded it, and let it sit there unplayed for way too long. It wasn’t until earlier this year I finally decided to give it a try. The last big game I sank time into was Breath of the Wild, and I was itching for a new mega-long challenge.

Before I knew it, Divinity had me hooked. From the moment the main menu booted up and the theme by the masterful Kirill Pokrovsky started playing, I was mystified and excited to dive in. The story begins simply: You are a “Source” hunter. Source is basically magic, but the people who use it tend to wreak havoc. And so, you are on a mission to hunt down these Sourcerers (see what they did there?) and destroy them to protect humanity.

Bam, that’s it. No time wasted on convoluted cut-scenes weaving elaborate epics with information you’ll forget two minutes later. That’s the way I like it—straight to the action—and Divinity: Original Sin does not mess around. Aside from a short tutorial section, you are immediately cast into the city of Cyseal, and you can do anything you want. And it’s terrifying.

Divinity: Original Sin Official Color Artwork
Official artwork from Divinity: Original Sin.

From Story to Gameplay, the Fun Never Stops

Larian Studios, the developer of the Divinity series, loves giving the player total control. Don’t care about the story? Fine, you can run off and do side quests. Or maybe killing random NPCs is your idea of a good time: Have at it. (Connor Strader ripped through this game by killing literally every character. Entire towns were left desolate, silent except for the flies buzzing around the rotting corpses of innocent townspeople).

You’ll spend a lot of time in Cyseal and the area around it. This first area is humungous, filled with life and detail, and you’ll need some time to figure out what exactly you should be doing and when. Failure is key. I can’t tell you how many times I picked fights I couldn’t win, but that failure opened new pathways I could try instead, and eventually, I got the hang of what I was doing.

The gameplay demands clever thinking and strategy. Seemingly derived from D&D, the combat relies on an action point system determined by your attributes and other stats. You can divvy up your AP into movement or sick spells, abilities, and various attacks. The turn-based combat allows you to think for as long as you need to pick your actions carefully.

For instance, one of the standout features in Divinity is the environmental factors. If you throw some oil on the ground, you can light it with a fire spell and watch as the field glows bright with flame. If you throw a water balloon at someone, you can freeze them solid or electrocute them with your shock spell. The game is filled with these mechanics, and it keeps the gameplay interesting at every turn, because you can use your creativity to come at an encounter from dozens of angles. If you choose the perfect angle, you might be able to end the battle in one turn with no damage to your team. Choose wrong, and that same battle could take six turns with multiple casualties.

Divinity: Original Sin Elemental Battle
On the left, you can see a lightning spell in action, while on the right, you can see smoke clouding characters’ vision in Divinity: Original Sin.

It’s All About Strategy

Playing into that elemental strategy, you will collect a variety of weapons with different advantages. Some are enchanted with fire, while others boost your HP. Again, the possibilities are many, and I sank at least 10 hours into my inventory management alone, trying to perfectly match each companion in my party with complementing equipment to bring out their ultimate potential.

Skill books also add a layer of customizability. Each character has a pre-set “class,” like rogue or ranger, but you can teach each character whatever skills you want. I had a flame-spell wielding melee fighter who specialized in two-handed weapons and a warlock who mastered all elemental magicks. You could have any combo you want, and that adds a lot of fun without the traditional class restrictions.

Going back to the story, you also have a decent amount of choices you can make when it comes to quests, with plenty of consequences dependent on those choices. This helps create your own true characters and makes your relationships with the pre-made characters who you may choose to add to your party really interesting. You may not get along with them at all if your choices rub them the wrong way!

The Lore and Detail Deepen the Immersion

Adding to the story is the depth in each location. Every area is dense with a rich loot system and fascinating lore. You can spend hours rifling through baskets and barrels or reading every book in the local library. And I recommend doing so—Divinity is overflowing with small stories in random sheets of paper, and you’ll learn a lot by simply studying your surroundings.

The game also has puzzles galore, some of which are incredibly difficult. It took me a long time to discover the obscure answers to some of the puzzles…and speaking of difficulties, Divinity has hundreds of debilitating traps. I’ve never played a game with so many deadly booby traps EVERYWHERE. Sometimes, curiosity kills the cat—as does impatience. I lost many lives to instant-kill traps.

In the End, Divinity: Original Sin Delivers on All Fronts

The amazing artwork meshes the entire Divinity package into one coherent masterpiece. The End of Time, which is essentially the homeworld or hub of the game, is one of the most dazzling set pieces I’ve ever seen in a game, and there’s a strong sense of peace you feel when admiring the hard work put into that area (and all others!).

Overall, the story, the quirky characters, the inspiring music, the fresh take on D&D-style combat, and the beautiful scenery and artwork create a game worth playing—one I won’t soon forget. It hit the RPG sweet spot and scratched an itch I’ve had for a long time. Just like the classic CRPGs of the golden era, Divinity: Original Sin left its mark.

I’m beyond excited to try out the sequel, Divinity: Original Sin 2, which comes out TODAY on PS4. We’ll be streaming a co-op playthrough over on Twitch if you want to come hang out and see what the game is all about, so stay tuned for specific times!

All copyrights to the above images belong to Larian Studios. No copyright infringement is intended.

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