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Divinity: Original Sin

Divine.
There’s a lot to be said for those media paradoxes. You know them when you see them; those movies that are so bad they’re good, those songs that are written to get children to nag their parents to give them more iTunes credit, and yet you can’t help but sing along to them. Divinity: Original Sin kinda feels like it should belong in this category. It’s an old school RPG in the Baldurs Gate mould, with stats to choose and tweak, dialogue choices that actually change your character stats and how others react to them, one epic quest with millions of little ones to pick up and complete, you know the drill by now.

What this game does differently is, well, almost everything. It’s borrowed a lot from pen and paper RPGs, so you will soon discover that blood will conduct electricity, or that you can kill a particularly annoying NPC if you really want to, and the game will have another way of completing your quest up its sleeve. And as this game was made recently, it uses modern fancy graphics so that everything looks nice and proper.

As for how it plays, the key word there is ‘play’. You can totally fuck about in this game, and it’ll warp and bend to your will. Nothing stopping you from trying to kill some of the town guards, if you really want to. Just don’t let any of them escape, cos they’ll pull most of the town in to join the fray. You can even trade with some of the bad guys, just before you kill them, and maybe you’ll get your loot back.

It’s like the devs have tried to think of every sneaky bastard thing a player could possibly want to do, and then written it into the game. Nearly every problem in the game has several possible solutions, and it’s up to you to find one.

The story is ridiculously charming. It starts off with your characters being Source Hunters, people who hunt down users of magic known as Source, which is bad and makes people bad for some reason. It doesn’t take long before this becomes an epic journey to save the universe (a whole dimension! It’s crazy!) and, because saving a universe just isn’t enough pressure, you also have to save the concept of time, too.

What has really got under my skin is the feeling that the game is letting you play in an insanely intricate sandbox. In the starting area, quests overlap and mix together in ways that don’t usually happen in games. Same with the combat; sure, you get the usual melee and magic stuff, but on top of that is a series of elements that can be abused to help or hinder. Blood, when sliced out of an enemy and pooling on the floor, can be electrified to stun anyone standing on it, for example. Finding out things like this makes you feel awfully clever, and turns the combat into a puzzle of using the physical properties of environmental effects to your advantage.

I’m about 40 hours into the game, and it has started to slow a bit. The intricacies of the starting area have given way to the usual trek along ice worlds and deserts, although the waypoint system makes backtracking quick and easy. It’s never a grind, though; there’s always something new to see, or a surprising character to meet. It’s a consistently entertaining game, with a wry sense of humour and a neat line in quirky characters that happily drag you through the story.

So yeah, ultimately, it’s one of those things that, on paper, really shouldn’t work. An old school RPG made for current hardware, in a time when GoG.com sells every old school RPG for pennies a download? Why would anyone want to buy that? I’ll tell you why. It’s just about the best example of the form you’ll ever play.

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