Larian Studios
Posted By: galneon Retiring at level 15. Thoughts... - 29/11/15 08:14 PM
*Minor spoilers*

First, I pre-emptively thank you for warning me not to let the door hit me on the ass on the way out. I'm not stomping out of the room--I'm a big fan of Larian, and Divine Divinity is one of my favorite games--one I would love to play again today if only I couldn't remember nearly every detail of my playthrough 13 years ago as though I only finished it last week.

I've decided to retire before finishing my playthrough. My party is level 15 and I'm playing on Tactician. I have an aero/hydro/witchcraft mage, a crafting two-hander, Wolgraff whom I've kept a pure rogue, and Bairdotr whom I've kept a pure ranger. I'll try to keep this concise (by my standards) as I admit this is partially to serve as closure for me--it's very hard for me not to finish a game I start and this will be the first in a very long time that I give up on. I have a lot of smaller criticisms, mostly regarding a general lack of polish and balance, but I'd rather focus on what I see as the main problem:

Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition is replete with combat filler to artificially extend the length of the game to "modern" standards.

In my opinion, there are at least twice as many battles as there should be. Being generous, only half serve a purpose beyond extending the length of the game and slowing the pace of exploration. Later in the game, closer to one in three battles feels meaningful.

This wasn't so bad early on. Upon arriving at Cyseal, I've read that a lot of people were overwhelmed with all the city exploration and talking. Lots of quests, very little combat aside from the (level 8) graves and the tunnels. I tried to mix up exploring the surrounding area and exploring town alternately to mitigate this, which I think is how the developers intended the game to be played. It also wasn't as bad in the Cyseal region because combat was generally more interesting and challenging. Fewer skills were at my disposal and more improvisation was required. Several battles required retries or breaking up into two formations of two in order to flank or divide enemies.

I started to get bored in Luculla/Hiberheim where the story to battle ratio worsens considerably. I realized I probably wasn't going to make it once I got through the endless goblin fights en route to the mines. This took me two days as I was only motivated to play in 30 minute sessions. I'm currently inside the mines and have determined I am definitively done. Combat at this point isn't exactly easy by typical game standards, but I'm never dying and the last interesting battle was against Boreas. The same sort of tactics always work. I employ some deliberately inferior tactics against bosses to mix things up and increase challenge, but this is not desirable during filler battles which I just want to end as quickly as possible so I can find the next morsel of meaningful content.

I'm not using an overpowered party. I have stupid role-playing skills that aren't useful (which I do not regret taking), my rogue would be better if he didn't dual wield daggers (which suffer doubly from the enemy's armor absorption), my mage uses staves which are inferior in every way to wands, and Bairdotr would be better as a second mage or a second two-hander. I really like my party as-is and I imagine it's probably a relatively "fun" party to play.

I'm extraordinarily bored at this point and I can't push on without becoming bitter, or annoyed at myself for wasting gaming time. It's almost as bad as playing an MMORPG. I don't think I have a short attention span. My favorite PC game of the decade is Dominions 4, a game which absolutely consumes the whole of one's focus, in my case often intefering with sleep. I don't think I'm lacking in patience either.

The most common complaints about Original Sin were that there wasn't enough story and that the game became tedious after Cyseal. Enhanced Edition was supposed to assuage that, and Tactician was supposed to make redundant combat more interesting by spicing up all the encounters. If this is the more interesting mid/endgame, then I am very happy indeed that I waited for the Enhanced Edition because I doubt I would have made it past level 10 of the original version.

I can't get past the notion that there's just too much combat in this game, and that the only reason there are so many encounters is to raise up what should have been a 30-40 hour game to a 60-80 hour game so that modern gamers feel they are getting their money's worth. This just doesn't work for me. I see so many glowing reviews that admit, yes, the game becomes boring, tedious, easy after a while. The reviewers then give the game an 80-95% rating anyway. I won't write a review, but if I did I would certainly weight the abundance of filler content much more severely against the game. In my eyes, it drags down into the realm of mediocrity what should have been a solid game I could recommend to any CRPG fan.

I would have loved to let Larian take my money and give me less.
Posted By: xxswatelitexx Re: Retiring at level 15. Thoughts... - 30/11/15 12:16 AM
This is pretty accurate assumption.
Act 1 was the only thing really in beta and a lot of work went into it.

The other acts are mainly filled with combat and little else on the side.
I think the game could have benefited a lot by non combat missions on the side in later quests.
Posted By: Baardvark Re: Retiring at level 15. Thoughts... - 30/11/15 01:39 AM
Pretty true overall. It would help a lot if combat animations weren't slow, too. I don't think they have to remove 50% of the combat, but make many more fights optional for those who want as much combat as they can get. Of course, that would only really exasperate the over-leveling, main content vs. optional content problem. A dash of level-scaling would assuage that, but I won't get into that can of worms.

Also, the AI just isn't sophisticated enough to continually provide an interesting challenge. Even assuming the low-hanging fruit is dealt with, like enemies obsessing over charmed brethren, it's extremely hard for an AI to deal with something as simple as not grouping up in a chokepoint, or to gang up on a single target without ignoring everything else, nevermind deliberately coordinating a unique strategy. Scripted tricks and neat skills are the best we can do with AI, it seems, and that will ultimately make a turn-based game grow trivial as you learn the AI's weaknesses and general tendencies. Reducing the amount of filler combat would make a weak AI less obvious as at least the fights would be entertaining and relevant to the story, and you'd have less time to observe the weak AI as you progress.

It's probably beyond the scope of my mod to try and reduce or optionalize the number of filler fights in the game, but I might look into it with the editor. The goblin area is an especially big offender.
Posted By: galneon Re: Retiring at level 15. Thoughts... - 30/11/15 02:39 AM
Interesting that only Act 1 received extensive testing. That is quite apparent in retrospect.

I sympathize with Larian regarding AI issues. AI in games isn't close to where people expected it to be two decades ago, and with the variety of status and terrain effects in Original Sin, the combat AI has to be significantly more complex than that of most tactical RPGs just to function at all. Making a complex AI actually good at the game? That's even harder. The AI is most clever in the very first turns of a battle where the scripted opening salvo plays out. You're right that lacking AI would be less apparent with fewer battles to figure it out. I'm just not sure if an improved AI would have made that much difference to my experience, though the added difficulty certainly wouldn't have hurt.

I'm probably more extreme than most in my response to late-game tedium considering I didn't just tough it out and soldier on until the end like many (most? Impossible to measure). I can't help but wonder, though, if the Enhanced Edition couldn't have offered a Consolidated Combat option featuring fewer encounters. It offers an easy mode for people who want to breeze through combat to focus on exploration and the story. What about people who want to be challenged without having to spend 85% of their time in often redundant combat? I truly don't think it would have been too time-consuming to implement:

1. Cut out many redundant, lesser encounters that are irrelevant to the story.
2. Scale up kill experience in proportion to the amount of experience deducted via the excised encounters.
3. Scale up enemy loot drops to make up for fewer encounters.
4. Move notes or diaries or keys from excised encounters to significant encounters, corpses, chests, etc.

Larian was aware of the widespread belief that the game dragged and they sought to fix that in the EE. I understand that cutting dozens of hours out of your game via an upgrade is a serious sin that fans would have gone nuts over, but in a vacuum, might relative brevity have resulted in a more uniformly enjoyable experience? I'd rather lament a game wasn't longer than be relieved I finally beat it. I suppose any consolidation is up to modders like you at this point.
Posted By: Daelus1 Re: Retiring at level 15. Thoughts... - 30/11/15 11:46 AM
No question the march to the mines is tedious; they try to mix it up a few times, like the one where they are standing in a pool of oil with the barrels next to them for a good boom; but that march was painfully boring and I can't imagine playing it in 30 minute increments....yikes, would make me hesitant to return.

That said, I don't feel there are too many encounters; yes, there is too little exploration, but this game was obviously made on a pc budget and the footprint is very small by today's standards...it's the whole reason there is no running in this game as you would clear each map in seconds; even with the slow walking pace, if there were not an encounter on every 3rd screen the game would blur by.

Other than the march to the mines, there is no other stretch in the game that has that concentration...the mine itself has no mandatory fights and only 3 optional ones. Level 15 through 20-22, there a relatively few mandatory fights...still no exploration worth the name.

For me it is the crafting/ gear selection that takes the hours...the game could be speedrun in less than 8 hours or so and probably much quicker. IMO your set-up dictates long battles, replace the rogue with another caster, either pyro or hydro and, at lever 15 with meteor/ hail, encounters turn from a 10/15 minute event to being over in 2 rounds.
Posted By: Chrest Re: Retiring at level 15. Thoughts... - 01/12/15 01:32 AM
I disagree.

There are next to no mandatory fight in the game. If you dislike fights, then avoid them. It will, by the way, make the following fights more significant and more difficult.

If you do all the fights, it becomes tedious because you become overlevelled and level scaling is probably too effective.
The most tedious fights I can think of are the ones you are hinted to avoid (frozen immaculates in hiberheim, goblin passage to the mines, with the invisibility potion, spider eggs in luculla desert).

As for story, the little zones story is rich up until the Dark Forest (Hunter Egde is awesome).

I think the tedium resides, as Daelus put it, in the inventory management, and waiting for some very slow animations in combat. Even when I am out of combat, casting spell is insanely slow (the cast command takes a while to launch, the animation is slow, the post animation is very slow, I can start running centuries after casting). Register how much time we've seen each animation and reduce its time progressively. It makes me think of Final Fantasy Games with unskippable summonings
Posted By: Stabbey Re: Retiring at level 15. Thoughts... - 01/12/15 04:43 AM
The march to the mines doesn't have to be a combat slog. In vanilla, I used invisibility to get a sneaky character past all the goblins to the end and then used a teleporter stone to bring the rest of the party.
Posted By: mbpopolano24 Re: Retiring at level 15. Thoughts... - 02/12/15 12:28 PM
I disagree with the OP as well, and agree with others who pointed out that most combats are optional. I play D:OS / EE mostly for the combat. I love the combat. I played the game from start to finish 4 times now, different parties / difficulty levels, and combats are always different and challenging, even when you know what to expect. If anything, I would advocate for MORE (optional) combat in D:OS 2.

I also love the animation speed, it feels just right for me. I enjoy to see all those effects and have time to plan for my moves. Actually, I have already made a post about slowing down some animations like meteor shower and hail attack, since right now they are way too fast and mostly happen in a blur.

My party is level 15 now (EE / Honour mode), and I am not not playing to retire anytime soon. Unless the game will kick my butt and delete my only save in a very possible imminent defeat....
Posted By: Volsungh Re: Retiring at level 15. Thoughts... - 02/12/15 02:15 PM
I disagree.

You think there is too many encounters ? Well, to me there isn't enough encounters, especially in the Phantom Forest. Battles are what thrill me the most. Reading endless dialogs and roundtrips to complete tasks is not what I enjoy the most in a tactic-RPG game.

I agree though that the game gets too easy after Cyseal. Once you get Master skills there is no more challenge. There is a serious trouble with balance, as I always overleveled the content past Hiberheim. Fighting some 16 orcs when you are 18 is not fun in any way.

The game would benefit some level buffs for foes.
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