Divinity: Original Sin Preview
A few weeks ago I was invited by Swen Vincke to visit Larian Studios and have a look at both Dragon Commander and their new Divinity game. I did not want to let that opportunity pass, so a week later I drove to their studio in Gent (Belgium). I didn’t go their unprepared but came with a list of question about Divinity 3, like what improvements were made to dragon flight, if the dragon had ground combat, if the game would go in the same direction as its predecessor or be less of an action game and many questions more. A list I quickly found out was useless as they are not making Divinity 3; they are making Divinity: Original Sin - a prequel to Divine Divinity - a game that inherits everything that was good from the first Divinity, adds a lot of new features to enhance it even further and is Swen's hope to getting his Ultima VII vibe back. It was quite an amazing experience.
Divinity: Original Sin takes place a few hundred years before the events that took place in the first Divinity. A couple of things that are already known from the Divinity universe already exist, like the council, the council soldiers and the Orcs - but other characters do not exist yet as they are simply not born at the time the game takes place or are very young, such as Zandalor and Arhu who at that moment is not a cat yet and walks on two feet. In addition, we will also experience the birth of The Black Ring. In Original Sin we learn more about the history of the Divinity Universe and experience some of the events ourselves.
At the start of the demonstration I was staring at two screens - two screens that showed the same game but with a different character. Yes, Original Sin can be played in multiplayer mode - it features two playable characters that can be controlled by two different players. In this cooperative multiplayer mode, a maximum of 4 players can play, but there are only two lead characters - two more players can play using mercenaries that are be hired in the game. However, the game can also be played single-player, where the player controls the whole party.
Playable characters can summon a summoning doll or an elemental, but each of them can only summon one at the time, making the maximum party size 8. The summoned creature is not controllable but will follow the character that summoned it and assist in combat, similar to the summoned creatues in Divinity 2.
Enemies are not automatically leveled to your level, but combat will be scaled depending on how many players are participating in the game as fights would otherwise become too easy or too hard.
Multiplayer is enabled through Steamworks integration when playing on - when you play in multiplayer mode locally Steamworks integrations is not required.
The other thing that was immediately clear from the start is that the game has an isometric 3D view. Finally, a big RPG that returns to an isometric view, which I personally prefer when playing an RPG (probably because this is how I played them when I was a lot younger than I am now...). You can still zoom in or out, but it will always remain to be isometric.
Original Sin uses a new engine has been designed by Larian and is also being used for Dragon Commmander. Larian did not reuse the engine of Divinity 2, as they felt it was holding them back in accomplishing what they wanted to do.
In Original Sin there is no option to create a character at the start. The game starts with a male and a female character that can be shaped during the game into whatever you want them to be. The female character has just been resurrected - but has no clue why or who resurrected her - and because she has just been resurrected she is kind of reborn and sees the world as if through the eyes of a child. That doesn't mean she is childish or naive, but she is quite happy and lighthearted. The man has a much darker personality because the only thing he remembers is being tortured for the last couple of years and he wants to find out why he was tortured and by whom. For each of the two characters you will find out pretty early in the game who has been responsible for her resurrection and his torture. Fortunately, that is not the end of the story because they promise that there is much more to tell.
The two characters are together because they found each other in the remains of a huge citadel where a big magical battle recently took place. They find themselves to be the soul survivors of this battle, which they remember nothing of but they decide to team up to find out. Shortly after that, they find themselves in the midst of a huge battle between Orcs and the council soldiers, which you might remember from the first Divinity.
The council soldiers are losing as the Orcs have something called Chaos magic, which allows them to change almost anything in the world into a dark alternative. If they use chaos magic on a cute white bunny, for example, it turns in a big green monster with long teeth. But they can also use it on inanimate objects like rocks or trees, which will change into something that can attack. For some reason, however, the two protagonists are immune to that magic and can deflect it. They do not know why yet - but will find out soon enough.
Our heroes turn the tide in the battle and the council soldiers are victorious. This makes the council very happy and they want you to investigate why the Orcs are leaving their country in the north. They think there is someone behind it who’s making them come all the way to Rivellon as normally the Orc king is very reluctant to leave his lands.
In the demonstration the start of a quest was shown where the chief of some miners asks you to find out why his miners are all drugged and by whom. This gave a first look on how dialogue is going to be handled in the game, which is much different than before and might be different from how you know it from other multiplayer games. Usually in multiplayer games there is one leader who takes care of the conversation or the conversation is handled by the first person starting it. This is not the case in Original Sin. Both characters will get a voice in a conversation, which compares somewhat to what happens in a tabletop RPG where you discuss with other players on what to do next.
The conversation starts with one of the characters who gets a list of options to choose from, just like we are used to in an RPG. The other player does not see the options but will see the choice; based on that choice the person you are talking to responds and the second player gets to choose from a list of answers. The decision on what to do next is not decided by one of the characters, but both have to agree. If they do not, this is discussed and a virtual dice is thrown in the background with the result modified with the charisma that each of the characters has to determine who wins the conversation. At the moment the developers are also thinking about adding the option to intimidate the other party member, which would result in the virtual dice being modified based on the strength of the characters. Or, Intelligence could be used to win a conversation with arguments. This has not been finalized yet, but when implemented well, this could add a lot to the multiplayer experience of the game.
When one character is entering a conversation and the other is too far away, the other one will not participate but can see that a conversation is taking place and what is said in order to not loose valuable information. In that case, there is no opportunity to disagree either.
As far as quests go, there will not be any fetch quests in Original Sin. All quests - even the side quests - will have a certain level of complexity. Quests will be as complex, or more complex, as we know them from the previous Divinity games with different branches you have to select from and with several choices and consequences where you have to take into account that people might be lying.
Choices in conversation can also make factions hostile or friendly towards you, making some parts of the game easier or more difficult.
Like in the first Divinity anything that is not nailed to the ground can be used. Again, you can carry around anything that is not too heavy like a bed or a barrel (as useless as that might be, but if it makes you happy, you can). And you can also throw a barrel at an opponent, use a broom as a weapon to hit someone with, or break a crate because it is blocking your way.
You can also combine objects that are found in the game. If you have poisonous mushrooms you will get very sick eating them but when applied to your weapon it results in a poisonous weapon doing more damage.
Food will nourish you, as expected. It can be found in the game, but you can also create your own food. To facilitate this, there will be recipes and notes lying around that will explain what some combination of items can do for you to stimulate experimenting with them. You can find grain, for example, that combined with water results in dough and if you find an oven you can bake your own bread.
Combining objects also works on summoning dolls. They could be made stronger by combining them with rock, which the doll puts on its fists to hit harder. They are experimenting a lot with the system to find out what the limits are and what can be achieved.
Stats and skills
Every time you level up, the four basic stats can be modified: strength, intelligence, dexterity and charisma. All other statistics are derived from these and equipment you are carrying and cannot be modified directly. This system is based on what was used in the first Divinity.
Next to modifying the stats when leveling up it is also possible to choose a skill. There are six schools of skills, four of which are magical schools based on the elements of nature: Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. Your opponents will have more or less resistance to these skills, rendering some skills useless on some creatures. Fire elements for example will have a very high resistance against fire but a very low resistance against water.
The two protagonists will each have a reputation that is changed based on what they do in the world. The game starts with nobody recognizing your character, but your actions in the world will increase your reputation and change their interaction with you. This is independent on whether you do good or evil - for that there is alignment, which determines the attitude of people towards you and changes depending on you doing good or bad. If you like to play the bad guy (or girl), at a certain point the merchants won't like you anymore and are not willing to trade. Bandits like you though, so if you can find a trader who likes bandits that should not be an issue.
Stealing is no longer a safe thing to do - just like in the first Divinity if you steal and you are noticed your alignment will drop and the owner of what you were stealing might not want to talk to you anymore. There will always be an option to put the stolen item back if you are spotted, which does not change your alignment - this makes it a lot harder to steal anything or even open a hatch.
However, there are two characters - one of them can lure the owner out of a room and the other one can then freely browse through the available stuff and take what is needed.
Combat is turn-based and takes action points. Each action like moving, fighting, using a skill or equipping stuff will take action points. The switch to turn-based was made because they wanted to add something extra to the game. The original Divinity was an action oriented game. Beyond Divinity originally had turn based combat, but that was removed because of the publisher who wanted it to be real time and Divinity 2 was very much action oriented. And now Larian feel the RPG players are ready for a turn-based RPG.
If one person enters combat and the other person is near, both will be part of the fight. If the other person is further away, he or she will not enter combat and can freely roam the country and do other things, while the other character is fighting or even start their own fight. But it is never too late to join the fight and help your fellow hero out in a time of distress.
For those who are less interested in fighting there will also be possibilities to talk yourself out of combat, which will require certain levels of your statistics.
In combat, your skills will be frequently used and, like with items, skills can be combined to do even more damage. When someone is on fire, the damage inflicted can be increased by putting another skill on them like a heat wave.
The terrain can be used in combat as well. A skill that makes it rain can be used and depending on the terrain this could form a puddle of water. If your opponent stands in that puddle, using the electricity skill will do more damage than without the water. But if one of the two characters is on fire, making it rain will put the fire out.
Making it rain will also make your character wet (and it also looks wet), if you would then be hit by electricity it would hurt a lot more - but being hit by fire would do much less damage. Quite a lot of interesting combinations can be made in this way.
However be warned, your opponents have the same skill set available and could make you hurt a lot more as well.
Original Sin can be modded. The same toolset as is used by the developers will be delivered as part of the game. Also, all the objects, tile sets and characters in the game will be delivered together with the toolset. There is no programming skill required to use the engine as they have made things very simple to use.
Mods can be placed on Steam Workshop to create a community in which mods can be shared or even sold and where you can play these mods together.
Original Sin will be released on PC and Mac only. There will not be a console version and the game will be scalable to allow playing on a variety of platforms.
The length of the game is not defined yet, but the world size is as large as the world in the first Divinity, which will probably take some time to finish then. The world has zones that you can leave only at certain conditions. Within such a zone, however, you are free to roam the countryside; again this is as we know it from the previous Divinity games.
The game will be available on the market when it is finished. Currently the aim is Q2 2013, but nobody knows for sure at this point in time if that is a sensible date. What is very clear is that it will be released in 2013 at which point the game will be distributed as both a digital download version and a boxed version.
The presentation I was given was a big positive surprise to me. A turn-based, isometric RPG that takes us back to everything that made the first Divinity good is something that I certainly did not expect. Original Sin is an RPG that Larian probably could not have made if they didn’t publish the game themselves. An isometric turn-based RPG sounds probably too risky to most publishers.
I, however, am thrilled. Going back to their roots is a very good step. Building on what made the first Divinity good and adding improvements has the makings of an awesome game that will be a certain buy for me and I think many others.
Information aboutDivinity: Original Sin
Developer: Larian Studios
SP/MP: Single + MP
Play-time: 20-40 hours
Voice-acting: Partially voiced
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Expected at 2014-04-25
· Publisher: Larian Studios