Divinity: Original Sin tested - huge, old-fashioned, fantastic
So there they stand, our four brave heroes against a horde of undead archers and a skeleton with a huge bomb on its back. What to do? We could perhaps do a rain dance first to extinguish the fuse on the explosive skeleton. The soaked enemies would then be more susceptible to a few well-placed freeze spells. Or even better: We let loose lightning on the rainwater puddles under your feet and paralyze everyone in one go. But the last kick is still missing somewhere. So maybe no rain magic after all.
Wait, didn't we see a couple of oil drums nearby? We let them fall into the middle of our enemies via teleport magic and then throw a magic spark into the puddle of oil. The burning floor would be devastating enough, but especially the guy with the bomb doesn't get it at all. Bye archers, bye skeleton! There would have been dozens of other strategies and magic combinations, because Divinity: Original Sin is an RPG of freedom.
And not only in turn-based battles: Many tasks can also be solved by persuasion or stealth, and there are countless buried treasures and secret dungeons in the huge world. Above all, however, the game gives us the freedom to discover all of this without taking us by the hand - and of course the freedom to fall spectacularly on our faces.
Custom made co-op heroes
We already have a lot of leeway when creating characters, especially since we create two main characters. In the course of the game we add up to two companions to our group. We control this group of four either alone or we invite a friend and leave half of it to him - Original Sin can be played through completely in co-op. In any case, we develop our heroes without any typical class restrictions. Even if we start out as swordsmen, we can still learn magic and breed a battle mage later. To do this, we increase classic attributes such as strength and intelligence and distribute skill points across different disciplines such as one-handed weapons or the various schools of magic.
We learn spells and other special attacks from books that any hero with the necessary score in the relevant discipline can read. In addition, we should also consider skills such as pickpocketing, charisma or handicraft with a few points - although they do not help us in a fight, they make our way through the world a lot easier. Finally, there are special talents with sometimes serious effects. »Animal lover«, for example, lets us talk to the fauna and »Glass Cannon« gives us twice as many actions per turn in combat, but halves our life points. In short, in Original Sin everyone can work out their dream hero and turn dozens of screws - wonderful!
We are the chosen ones - again
When the hero duo is there, we go to the city of Cyseal. As so-called source hunters, a kind of inquisition for forbidden source magic, we are here to investigate a magical murder case. On top of that, the usual suspects of orcs, undead and dark cultists have spread in the area. In reality there is much more to it than that, it is - logically - about the threatening end of the world and only we - logically - the chosen ones can still avert it. It takes a long time for the story to break out of the fantasy cliché cage anyway, and it never really sweeps us away.
This is also because we hardly ever develop a real relationship with any character. There are dozens of possible companions to choose from for our group of heroes, but only two of them have their own dialogues or personality traits - no comparison to the colorful cast of Baldur's Gate 2 or Planescape Torment. And these two also remain very one-sided most of the time.
The ex-spring hunter Madora, for example, sees nasty spring devilry in every shadow (and every cuddly kitty) and gives almost the entire game little more than one absurd suspicion after the other - initially quite funny, her chatter soon only brings us to the fore Yawning. Later we learn in an extra quest why she trudges through the world so paranoid, but that doesn't make her a really interesting figure either.
World of wonders
While we are groping our way through Cyseal in search of the first evidence of a murder case, we discover the real strength of Original Sin: the incredibly rich game world. It is not a world in which we follow the main story as quickly as possible, but a world that comes to life primarily through its countless side stories. A melancholy clam wants to be thrown back into the sea, a beast of burden begs us to stab its cruel master or a heart-sick troll longs for female company.
As usual from the Divinity series, Original Sin is by no means deadly serious, but indulges in his wacky humor. But just as often as we laugh, we have to make really difficult decisions. For example, we come across a spirit who sank his beloved's ship out of jealousy and now regrets it forever - do we convince the spirit of his beloved to forgive him, or does he deserve his punishment?
In such cases, each of our two main characters can give their own opinion and then have a better chance of asserting themselves with a higher charisma value. These group discussions shine especially in co-op, where every player can have their own mind. But it's also fun to play your two heroes with very different personalities on your own - but if you don't feel like doing it, you can give one of the characters an AI personality. In any case, the decision-making dialogues are consistently written first-class, instead of simple good and bad, both sides usually have plausible arguments.
The conversations would be even better without the occasional translation mistake; if you can, you should play in English. Especially since the soundtrack remains completely in English in the German version - but only background noises like barkers are set to music anyway, so most conversations come as silent text windows. Original Sin can't really shine when it comes to staging, but it more than makes up for it with his clever ideas.
Eldorado for explorers
Aside from the quests, there is much more to discover in the huge game world: Characters with a high perception value may come across hidden treasures, and only those who scan the entire map will find all the secret dungeons. Original Sin never guides us, however, it demands our own urge to discover - if we miss something cool because we don't look closely, it's our own fault. The feeling of elation is all the more triumphant when we uncover a cleverly hidden secret.
In addition, the world invites you to be creative: almost every object can be moved (maybe there is a trap door hidden under this chest?), Almost everything can be stolen and sold if we are clever enough. Or use it for crafting. A makeshift club is made from nails and a branch, and anyone who mines steel in the mines can use it to make a high-quality ax in the forge.
In the same way, different but always comprehensible solutions can be found for most tasks. In the above-mentioned murder case, for example, do we tickle new information from the suspects with our charm or do we steal their keys from their pockets and search their rooms for evidence? Only the clumsy operation dampens the joy of discovery: Our heroes trudge slowly through the world, the confusing inventory quickly overflows with crafting ingredients and other odds and ends, and the camera doesn't always want to be like us, especially when there are great differences in height.
The right strategy wins
The turn-based battles are easy and intuitive to control, just like in the hunt for secrets, nothing is given to us here either. The system is actually deceptively simple: each figure gets a certain amount of action points per turn. They are our only resource and are used for moving, attacking and casting spells. Original Sin unfolds unbelievable depth through the endless possibilities of creatively combining our various abilities and elemental magic. Enemy flank attacks, attacks of opportunity and stabs in the back also force us to pay close attention to our positions. A sophisticated strategy can handle even superior enemies - and the enemies are almost always superior to us.
Each type of enemy has its own peculiarities: Ice elementals, for example, are not only immune to cold spells, they are even healed by it. A particularly fat boss opponent happily jumps back and forth between different elementary types and forces us to rethink every time. And then there are death knights who are completely invulnerable until, with some effort, we put together the only spell that helps.
Divinity: Original Sin makes us work for our victories, which makes them all the sweeter. The difficulty curve could be a bit more balanced: We hardly had a harder fight for the entire game than against the zombie boars in the forest of Cyseal, which we faced as complete beginners without much equipment. Later, after we had conscientiously accumulated experience through dozens of side quests and found our way around the game better, not even the most powerful demon made us sweat as much as the undead cloven-hoofed.
The game world is downright sweet: Original Sin contrasts the usual grim dark realism with a wonderful fairy tale world. Whether it is a busy city, secluded forest or a dilapidated sanctuary, every area is bursting with love for detail and is accompanied by an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. Only the character models look a bit clunky up close, but they shine with an imaginative, wacky design.
We not only fight against terrifying demons and classic undead, but also against jumping snowmen, skeleton court jesters with colorful bagpipes and robot chickens. It may take a bit of getting used to, but Divinity: Original Sin is a game in many areas that you have to get involved with. It is worth it ..