Sunday, August 24, 2014

Divinity: Original Sin

I have somewhere around 50 hours in on Divinity: Original Sin, and I'm finding it challenging and rewarding. The turn-based combat requires planning, preparation, and tactics, and is finely balanced so that you're constantly on the edge between failure and success. The co-op is well-implemented, allowing you to coordinate strategy and character builds with a friend. The story is pretty bland fantasy-RPG fare; the best I can say about it is that it gets out of the way quickly so that you can get back to the game.

The one down side is that it can be unforgiving. The fights don't scale to your character level, and if you try to confront certain areas of the map in the wrong order, you'll walk into fights you can't possibly win. During early phases of the game, when it's not entirely clear where you should be going and when, this can result in a series of unavoidable deaths while you figure out where the high-level and low-level enemies are hiding out. Also, it's critical to have a variety of skills and spells across the characters in your party in order to handle a variety of situations.

A few tips for anyone just venturing into this game:

  • Save often. After every fight, at least. Very few fights are cake walks, and it's disheartening to lose a half-hour or an hour of progress due to losing your party in an unexpected ambush.
  • Pick up your two free NPC companions as soon as you reach the main city. You'll need to explore a bit to find them, but you'll need a full party of four to get through the game.
  • Elemental spells (fire, earth, air, water) are critical. Spread these skills across your characters as best you can. You'll need them to counteract enemy elemental spells, and if you use them correctly, you can combine their effects for extra benefits. Combining water and air spells allows you to create electrically-charged fields of water; combining poison and fire can set a significant part of the battlefield ablaze.
  • Get at least one healing spell as soon as you can. Healing potions are expensive early in the game, and you'll need a source of healing that works in-combat and that doesn't use up your precious gold.
  • Learn summon spells as soon as they're available. Just putting extra allies on the field to serve as targets for the enemy can be enormously helpful.
  • Save money for healing potions and resurrect scrolls. Sometimes you're in a position where everyone's healing spell is still on cooldown and you need another hundred or so hit points right now. Also, even though you can reload and try a fight over again if a character dies, sometimes it's easier and quicker just to spend the money for a resurrect, call the character back from the afterlife and keep going.
The game can be frustrating, since it seems to like to teach you to play by killing you repeatedly. But the hard-won victories are all the sweeter, and when your cleverly-planned strategies bring down the big bosses, you'll feel like a proper champion.