Divinity: Original Sin is a game which outstays its welcome. As I made clear in my First Impressions post a few months ago, this was a game we enjoyed enormously at first. The game’s first section, Cyseal, is well-designed, full of interesting quests and with an overarching murder mystery that is quite fun to investigate. The game’s combat starts off strongly and that, at least, remains enjoyable throughout the game. But once you reach the end of the game’s lengthy first chapter, the quality of the experience goes downhill, and continues to do so for its 70-80 hour playtime. The developers had some good ideas but they seemed to pour all of them into the first section, and the remainder of the game is by comparison creatively barren, boring, aimless and frustrating.
D:OS comes to PS4 in the form of the Enhanced Edition, and it is a very long game. The problem is, the game’s story is nowhere near good enough to sustain 80 hours of playtime. The plot revolves around stopping a scheme to bring back the legendary Void Dragon which will destroy time and space and all existence. That’s just what it does. There are a couple of malevolent agents working to bring this about, but their motivations never get beyond quasi-teenage moaning about how pain and suffering would be obliterated if there was no life. It’s made significantly worse by the fact that your primary antagonist for most of the game was driven to embrace this worldview because she was jilted in a love triangle. It’s pathetic. The game tries to make the story sound more grandiose by endless infantile phrasemongering about forces “utterly beyond time and space”, but it’s sterile, cliched and uninteresting.
The turn-based combat system is the best thing about the experience and it’s a shame and a little odd that the further you get the more trivial combat becomes. The game’s hardest fights all seem to be loaded at the front of the game and the later ones, even the boss fights, get easier and easier. Instead, to provide a form of difficulty the game throws an endless succession of maddening puzzles at you designed to slow your progress. T. and I spent entire multi-hour sessions towards the end of our playthrough not doing any fights but backtracking endlessly to find bits and pieces needed for inane main-story quests. Completing this game was a massive chore and we felt nothing but relief by the time we finished it. The Playstation Network allows you to see the global achievement rate of your trophies in relation to other people who have started your game. Only 2% of people who started this game finished it. I compared this to other games and most of them seemed to be 20-40%; even Tales of Graces F had a 30% completion rate. Jesus, even Final Fantasy X-2, which is now an excruciating, dated experience, has a 10% completion rate on PS3, ie, five times greater than this. The circle-jerk around this game within the RPG community is just embarrassing.
The thing is, if this was a 40-hour game rather than being twice as long, I can see how those scores of 9/10 or even higher could be justified. I keep repeating it, but combat is great, especially in co-op where you plan your tactics together and make extensive use of the environment and status effects. Our party included two warriors (I like warriors!), an ice mage, and a rogue. We would have loved to try other classes as well, but having completed it hell will freeze over before we try another playthrough. I cannot abide a game which constantly throws invisible instant death puzzles at you, meaning a step in the wrong direction can result in a game over for your whole team; and where you have to look up online constantly–I mean constantly–how to proceed. Oh, and the resurrection spell is locked away at the top of one class’ skill tree, meaning we unlocked it about 70 hours in. You can buy consumable resurrection scrolls but they can be hard to find and in the early game the cost is prohibitive.
There’s one mandatory puzzle late in the game where you need to have near-maximum Perception to see some invisible footsteps in order to get through an area without being killed instantly. If you step off the footsteps, you die. Thing is, you don’t really need Peception for anything else in the game, except this, so of course we hadn’t levelled it sufficiently. The only way we could get through it was by watching a video on Youtube and going between the living room and the spare room to make sure I was going in the right direction. Sound like fun to you? This is like the worst negative stereotype of video games I have played in years.
The voice acting of the main characters is fine, but I should mention that the secondary and peripheral characters can be really, really annoying. It’s like they were trying to do “funny” voices on a lot of people, but the inherent difficulty in doing that well, combined with incessant looping of two or three lines, will have you reaching for the mute button with depressing regularity. The music is fairly good, compared to many aspects of the game, but it’s not deserving of the hyperbolic praise it has received from the game’s rabid fans; and, for me, a couple of the tracks strongly brought to mind themes from movies like the Godfather and Terminator.
I accept that some people really love this game and there is a niche market for this kind of experience. However, this should not be passed off as anything approaching a mainstream game. If you get off on the unfair “hardcore” mechanics of a game like this, great. I’m just glad to have finished it so I can get back to things like Fallout, Witcher, Fire Emblem, and Tales of Zestiria. As well as, you know, life, which tends to be frustrating and difficult enough anyway without having to endure games like this.