The greatest sign of my anticipation for an open-ended game is the sentence “Think of the possibilities!” running through my mind over and over again. It’s happened with many, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Fallout 3 to name a few. At this moment, though, that chant of optimism is being sung with the following games in mind: The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid V, Rust, a few others, and now Divinity: Original Sin.
You’re a Source Hunter (two Source Hunters, actually, but more on that in a bit), an individual hand-selected by the Council of Seven (a group of highly powerful peace-keeping wizards, as it seems) to stop the use of Source, a particularly dark and powerful magic.
Besides it marking the series’ return to being a hardcore isometric-cRPG in a vein similar to Ultima VII, one of Original Sin’s biggest draws – at least in my eyes – is that one of its main goals is to be as interactive, and malleable as possible. While much is yet to be seen, the game appears to be on the right track to meet that goal.
An instance of this openness and malleability is in one of the first quests I encountered. In it, a seemingly sweet, older Elf man approached my party on the street. He talked to us of a small job that would bring great justice, and cleansing to city of Cyceal. Interested in what the job was, I pried slightly, but he quickly told me that he couldn’t speak of the details in a public space, and invited me to his room at the local inn. I then jogged to the inn, and met with him and was surprised by his request to say the least.
As do most of the people in Cyceal, the old man had a great beef with the Orcs. As such, he explained to me that Cyceal’s mayor had adopted a female Orc when she child. He wanted me to kill her, and bring him an amulet that she wears regularly as proof of her having been dealt with. Somewhat surprised by his request, I decided not to agree, or deny that I would do the job, and instead searched for the young Orc. I talked to her, but opted not to tell her that the old man wanted her dead. I found that she was well-spoken, friendly, and completely civilized.
I decided this particular quest could go a few ways, so I made a save and decided to explore the different means by which I could deal with the issue. I first opted to kill the old man (a quick aside: all NPCs can be killed) while he was unarmed. This proved somewhat rewarding considering that the old man was somewhat high-leveled, but unarmed, it was a relatively easy way to gain some gold and XP.
Next I decided to see what would happen if I killed the Orc woman. At first I attempted the feat with brute force, and was quickly killed thanks to her knowledge of sorcery, and Orc strength. Next I tried a more hands-off method. Both my primary companion and I have the ability to transport both NPCs and in-world objects a fair number of feet in the air and drop them. It does a pretty good amount of damage, and leaves the target NPC and those surrounding him/her unaware of who’s doing the damage, thus they don’t really react. It’s goofy, and totally immersion-breaking, and I can only assume the skill will be altered in the final game, but I repeatedly picked up and tossed the Orc woman to the floor, her every impact left marks of damage on the room’s wood flooring. All the while, a man who was in the room continued about his business, and the Orc herself would get up each time, and also continue going about her business as if nothing was wrong. An exciting “victory” it was not, but eventually she fell, again, the man in the room none the wiser, and I was able to loot her amulet and take it to the old man. I don’t recall receiving any reward, but the man shared his gratitude and went on his merry way.
Then I went on to see if I could report the man’s plotting to the authorities, and I was quite surprised to find that I could. I talked to the head of the guard, and was told to find evidence of the man’s intentions. I didn’t try to terribly hard, but I was unable to turn anything up. It’s hard to say if this is, or will be a viable option in the final build, but the fact that it can even be explored is sort of neat.
My final attempt could very well bring on future consequences. I talked to the young Orc woman and made her aware of the situation. I then talked her into allowing me to take her amulet, and hand it to the old man as proof of her death. Once I gave it to the old man, he (again, I don’t think he rewarded me) gave me his thanks and left the inn. Curious, I then returned to the house of the Orc, and spoke to her father, the city mayor. I told him that I’d tricked the old man into thinking his daughter had been killed. He was immediately concerned, and said that instead of knowing the elf’s whereabouts, that he and his daughter would have to live in fear until he was properly dealt with. Whether by lethal force, or by arrest.
The fact that almost every feasible means by which to deal with in-game issues I could think of ended up being a valid means of completion excites me immensely. I only had the opportunity to play what seems to be a fairly small chunk of the game, but if the trend of many options continues, I could see myself pouring hours into Original Sin thanks to that fact alone.
In another quest, I was told to retrieve an item for the mayor. I wont go into its specifics, as it could play a key part in the story, but he was unsure of the item’s whereabouts. He had ordered it, and it was lost during shipment. As such, he gave me the name of the man in charge of the ship that was delivering the item, and went on my way to question him. When I got to the docks where the man was located, I made a save because I wanted to test something. I walked up to the man, and did the same teleportation trick I did on the young orc. After not too long, the man died. I returned to the mayor and informed him of the man’s passing. Instead of cutting of the quest as I thought it might, he told me to continue snooping around, and that I’d likely find some information on the item somewhere. Sure enough, I did, and was able to complete the quest even though I’d killed a key player.
While the openness of each quest plays a huge part in my enthusiasm for the game, there are also a lot of other things going for it – and I’m not just talking about its gorgeous art-direction.
While it certainly isn’t the focal point of the game, the combat system acts as you might expect from a decidedly old-school CRPG. In the turn-based system, each member of your party has a certain number of action points, same goes for your would-be enemies. Each movement, attack, or spell costs a certain number of action points. Standard fare, but it works well.
You can also use the environment to your advantage in battle. To demonstrate the environmental interactions, let’s throw together an exaggerated example of an in-game combat. You’re fighting a group of baddies (or good guys, if you upset them) that are standing in a shallow pond. At this point, it’s probably be a good idea to cast a lightning spell on the water — causing the electricity to spread through it — and do a fair bit of damage to all of your combatants. Then, maybe the enemies run out of the pond, realizing it leaves them at a disadvantage. But they’re still wet, so they take an increased amount of damage when attacked with lightning. Realizing that, they take cover behind a nearby wall of ice (I mentioned this was an exaggerated example, right?). You could then use a fire spell to melt the ice into water, creating a puddle that encompasses all of your enemies. This allows you to once again target the water, and do a bit of damage to everyone.
Stepping away from combat, each NPC in Original Sin has an opinion of you. Their thoughts on you are presented on-screen via the Attitude Meter. Accuse someone of something they didn’t (or did) do? They’ll probably like you a bit less for it. Get caught stealing in the market? People will not only think less of you for it, but they’ll (according to the game’s Kickstarter page, anyway) start spreading the word of your wrong-doings to other people in the city. On the other hand, people will think more of you for doing good deeds.
Another interesting tidbit is that the entire game can either be played alone, or in two-player co-op. This probably sounds odd since the game presents a lot of decisions to make, but they deal with that issue pretty elegantly. You see, even in single player, the game has two main protagonists. When there are decisions to be made, the protagonists will discuss it. For instance, in the quest with the old man I mentioned earlier, one of my characters might decide that he was obviously wronged by the Orcs to the point of insanity, for there is no justice in killing an innocent and adjusted young Orc. The other might argue that the woman is an Orc sleeper agent of sorts. You go back and forth for a while, and I can only assume that the decision is made via a behind-the-curtains dice-roll that alters the dialog choices of one of the players to finally agree to his/her comrade’s plan.
It has some really neat systems in place, what appears to be an interesting story, and a great sense of humor. I really enjoyed my time with it, but it still has quite a ways to go. The Alpha includes only a handful of quests to go on, and even then, there are a few quests that don’t seem to be working properly. If you’re willing to put up with that fact, along with a few bugs, then you can buy the game through Steam’s Early Access Program. If not, maybe wait until the game releases later this year.