With only a few days left on Kickstarter, we check out this impressive indie RPG.
By Jamie Dalzell on April 23, 2013 at 1:58 pm
Divinity: Original Sin’s headline characters cut a fine figure. One a female archer, the other a bludgeoning warrior, marching hand in hand into the future and whatever challenges await them. A few quickly templated cover-stars of a prequel to 2002’s Divine Divinity, coming some eleven years after its release.
In truth, Divinity’s leading logo can be misleading. Generic class names are the habit of players, rather than its developers, having grown their custom characters freely in Original Sin’s classless world. Similarly, its campaign is as social or introvert as you feel on any given day, players dropping in as easily as they drop out. Instead that image is indicative of Divinity’s RPG core, built on complementing systems. Of co-op players. Of warring magical elements. Of choice and consequence.
And of a developer, its Kickstarter backers, and the challenges of niche development. Hand in hand, ‘til the end.
“Choice and consequence” is as common a catchphrase to an RPG as “Ooooh, guns!” is to an FPS, yet in Original Sin that core of decisions and repercussions spreads further than just its conversation system — which encourages a player to dig through for passing references to buried treasure or happenchance quests. Original Sin pronounces “Choice and Consequence” with as creative a flair as its developer’s accents, placing as much weight in ensuring the choices themselves are as varied as the repercussions that preoccupy other RPGs. If you can think of it, Larian wants to give you the chance to do it. And so far, they’re delivering.
Do you save the cows from slaughter by killing those who would send them there? Do you buy them yourself? Reassure them that yes, they are going to greener pastures, and have fun on the way!? The ability to chat with animals is just one side distraction, but even this early there are playful rewards for those looking to stop, smell the roses, and talk to/endanger the wildlife.
Those conversations take place in Divinity’s Rivellon, and thanks to Kickstarter, it’s an isometric world that’s constantly growing. Even with this short glimpse, it feels intricately expansive, in love with its detail as much as its breadth and the depth of its dungeons. This is a world at the will of Larian’s design philosophy: replace the handholding with the hand-placed, and Larian’s open-world is one of measurable risk because of it. There are no bandits that will chase you up the levelling ladder. No rats who will be as challenging now as they are later.
Rivellon is an open world that looks to lay out its locations, tempt you with them, and then invite you to best it with a combat system that feels like modern day XCOM meets Fire Emblem. Turn based, party combat that is fully aware of the environment around you, with free-form movement and a magic system reminiscent of Magicka. Bring down the rain, flood your opponents, and then electrify the ground they stand on.
“I saw a guy fighting a skeleton that was four levels higher than he was,” mentions David Walgrave – Divinity’s producer and my co-op partner for the night – as we picked through the umpteenth barrel scouring for loot. “It did take him half an hour to get the skeleton down, but if he wants to do that that’s his thing. He got lots of XP for it and ok, he did spend half an hour doing it, but he was never bored. ‘I’m kicking this skeleton’s ass’, he said.”
So if you want to throw yourself against a challenge, Rivellon only says “all the more power to you”. It’s a variety of roleplaying that’s been buried three feet deep under the modern RPG’s lovingly rendered snow, and Larian is the latest to attempt to excavate it among the Kickstarter craze.
As ever, this early look is a brief one, even more a game still in production and in constant Kickstarter flux. The conversation system, that encourages co-operation as much as it does disagreement? The stats system? The weapons themselves? Even the minutiae of lighting, contrast and the game’s colour palette are under the microscope. Larian have always been a studio with strong ties to its community, and like its Kickstarter, every backer, update and forum post in turn brings a change, tweak and addition.
“Iteration” may well have been the word used most during our 90 minute play session – alongside constant apologies for the overly-enthusiastic use of fireball spells and their deadly repercussions – and while an easy thing to dismiss, its impact on Original Sin is a tangible one. It’s as if all of those post-release wishlists usually doomed to long-locked forums are being granted early while they’re able.
While it makes definitive statements on the longevity and overall quality difficult, Kickstarter looks to be allowing the team at Larian a chance to re-paint their RPG and its systems with a finer detail brush. Their Kickstarter one of extension rather than whole cloth creation. And while its influence on the final product will come when this is all just dust in a long march to release, it’s impact – and that of Larian’s community – could be far reaching and well worth the wait: hand in hand, ‘til the end.
You can check out Divinity: Original Sin on Kickstarter by clicking here.