Whenever an old genre gets some sort of HD remake of a classic, it’s almost always seen with the rose-colored spectacles of nostalgia, so it has proven itself and its flaws are already well-known. But when it’s an original release, there’s none of that except for longtime fans of that genre. But being able to objectively critique such a game means that its technical and elements must be taken into consideration without pointing out the “outdated” feel of the gameplay since that’s a moot point. That seems to be the case with this particular title, which has been getting quite a bit of attention lately.
Divinity: Original Sin is a top-down role-playing game by Larian Studios that was the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s a prequel to the classic title Divine Divinity from back in 2002, as well as the spin-off Beyond Divinity. The sequel to the first game was Divinity II: Ego Draconis, which was of a different style altogether as a third-person game, as well as the other spin-off Divinity: Dragon Commander, which was a hybrid role-playing and strategy title.
This new game is a return to the roots of the franchise as a traditional top-down title, which is something that was once thought of as dying (if not already dead). This game does have some more bells and whistles as well that make it engaging for today’s audiences. It features both singleplayer and cooperative multiplayer modes that both work rather well, especially considering that games of this type tend to have rather lackluster multiplayer experiences. With this game, you can actually get a friend to play with you and go on an adventure. It even has direct connect, a feature that big studios have long abandoned many years ago, but nothing can replace that low latency experience.
You play as a pair of Source Hunters, who are tasked with ridding the land of evil Sourcerers. From there, the game’s story pans out with various twists and turns that are to be expected from a role-playing game of this type. The gameplay is of the party-based turn-based tactical sort, so expect to control up to four characters as it goes along. Think of it more like Arcanum than Baldur’s Gate in terms of combat, although both have their share of tactical goodness with each character being able to play a role in the party to battle against whatever may come your way.
There are plenty of character customization options that are so crucial nowadays in creating a truly immersive role-playing experience. The user interface is easy enough to use and make out, seemingly designed by someone who actually understands the intricacies of this genre. Most of the dialogue in the game are in text, so it does feel like those old school games that do the same, but most people expect more in 2014. But for the characters who do speak, their voice acting is done very well. It sounds like Larian hired actual voice actors instead of just doing it themselves, so the characters sound how they should sound with little to no cheesiness to make the experience cringeworthy.
While not in combat, you’re exploring the world that is fleshed out and interactive at a level rarely seen in a game like this. Whatever is not bolted down can be interacted with, whether you move stuff around or take them as your own. You can also make heavy objects move by using telekinesis, so you have much reason to stick around at any given area and look around instead of just blasting through it like you’re speed running. It does mean that you can loot just about everything in the vicinity, which isn’t really heroic but is very much like RPGs of old.
As for the technical aspects, the game looks and feels well-optimized, so you can crank up the graphics options without causing much slowdown. It does seem like they did a good job with the game engine, which means that you don’t have to feel guilty about making everything look pretty. The music may not be as good as that of Divine Divinity and it can sound a bit all over the place at times, but it still does well enough to capture the atmosphere of the game. Overall, this game fits the classic western fantasy RPG bill quite well by itself.
While known titles like the classic Baldur’s Gate series has had HD remakes and Icewind Dale about to follow suit, this game serves as fresh material for fans who have been wanting to dig their fangs and claws into new adventures and not having to just redo old ones with new characters in various configurations. It’s nice to see that this particular genre has not breathed its last just yet. Some may think that Kickstarter campaigns don’t yield that many good results, but this game should count as another case for the contrary.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8.5/10