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Warning: light spoilers. (Good news: no heavy spoilers.)

So after numerous obsessive-compulsive rerolls trying to get my characters' builds as perfect as possible, I beat the game on Hard today. I've really enjoyed the massive amount of time I've poured into this game in the past month, and I'd like to talk about my general impressions.

The funny thing about feedback posts is that they tend to be overwhelmingly negative, filled with "fix this" and "change that." I'm going to have some of that as well, but first I'd like to talk about some things Divinity: Original Sin does extraordinarily well.

Beautiful and immersive landscapes. I bought D:OS off of a recommendation of a friend, and wasn't exactly part of the Kickstarter or beta hype. What hooked me first were the environments. They have a fantastic art style all their own, and it feels almost surreal that they're not part of cutscenes but actually playable.

In other words, the level design in this game is great. It's consistently excellent, all of the way through, which is the really amazing part. From Cyseal's outskirts all the way to a foreboding hut in the swamp, a huge amount of effort was put into making each area visually impressive, distinctive, and real.

The really interesting part of this is that, if you would have asked me about level design prior to D:OS, I wouldn't really have associated it with the CRPG genre; I might go on a rant about Super Metroid or something. Similarly, when it comes to CRPG design, I'd normally focus on things like "mechanics" first and foremost. However, this is something massively relevant to the experience and makes you realize the importance of far more fundamental game mechanics, stuff we normally gloss over so we can crunch numbers instead. This game shows the power of level design in CRPGs, and should be seen as an example of how to perform that particular task correctly within the genre.

Great soundtrack. I'm not really a music buff so it's hard for me to describe in detail, but the soundtrack to this game is amazing, and it has a real effect on first impressions and overall enjoyment of time spent playing the game. There's a lot to be said for the combination of an excellent soundtrack and excellent level design; it adds so much to immersiveness and really pulls you in from the start.

Classlessness and open-ended itemization. I know there's a small group of players out there who want this changed, but I was a huge fan of getting Intelligence on my plate armour. This was, in part, due to making a build for one of my characters combining Weather the Storm and Explode, but the point is that, if I wanted to make that kind of "non-pure" combination, the random affix system would eventually help me out. I also think the spread of vendors is fairly well done, so that by the time you hit endgame and you want to feel like your itemization is "done," you can normally find some truly amazing items for sale, for any build I managed to think up. (I suspect those complaining about these kinds of things don't know how to efficiently check the appropriate vendors at level-up.)

Now on to some things which are done well, perhaps even very well, but aren't quite exemplary.

The numerical and character creation mechanics, in general. Hey, it's another D&D 3.0 rehash instead of attributes, skills, and feats, you have attributes, abilities, and talents!

In all honesty though, this was exactly the right move to make. A lot of the game's previously mentioned strengths focus on immersion rather than The Art of the Number Crunching. The nature of character construction in D:OS is retro and familiar and not really all that surprising... which was actually the correct decision to make. Let the less immersive games (like ARPGs) tackle the high-concept mechanical systems, while CRPGs like this one focus on the quality of the world being delivered.

All I'm saying by ranking it here is that it's not something you're going to walk away from D:OS thinking "wow, I've never experienced that before." Which definitely puts it in a different category than the landscapes and the soundtrack.

Source Hunter half of story dichotomy. The beginning part of the journey with tracking down Jake's murderer is something which feels very natural. In a way it's similar to the numerical mechanics system mentioned above; it's a little stereotypical, but it gets the job done with a familiarity which gives a nice warm fuzzy retro feeling. Going through the lore on the contemporary world of Rivellon is good times, and I found myself reading many of the books.

Finally, the mandatory list of things which just didn't seem as well-done as they could have been.

Difficulty scaling. It's very clear that the first part of the game has been much more heavily playtested than later parts. During the first major battle, as the orcs land on the beach, difficulty is clearly very well-tuned, making for an challenge appropriate to each of the game's three difficulty levels. It's unfortunate that things start off so strong and then unravel over time. In Luculla, there are multiple opportunities to battle isolated enemies rather than engage the entire group at once, leading to extremely one-sided, and thus boring, engagements, even on Hard; the only interesting battles are the big, messy ones. By the time you get to the Phantom Forest your party is such a well-oiled machine that the enemies don't pose an interesting challenge even in groups. It seems that whoever was supposed to balance the encounters for appropriate difficulty essentially neglected the last half of the game; getting them to finish their work and make appropriate tweaks to the later encounters would be a welcome improvement.

The Tenebrium ability. It's been written about a lot on these forums and I don't feel like repeating it here. But it's a rage quit/reroll moment, and those aren't a good thing to have.

The Guardian part of story dichotomy. This stuff was mostly just cheesy. I understand that it's a very tough sell, but that just means that you shouldn't risk this type of story unless you think you can sell it. It would definitely be nice to see the characters - especially Icara and Zandalor - a little more grounded in the contemporary world of Rivellon (where the main characters are Source Hunters) than the fluffy stuff which Zixzax preaches. (You still need someone preaching the fluffy stuff.) Since this amps up near the end of the game, I found myself considerably less interested in story once I got past Luculla Mines (although Cassandra was nicely done).

Traits. I don't have a problem with the concept itself, just the way it was handled. This was my #1 cause of savescumming, especially prevalent early in the game. In many cases it's very difficult to determine which traits are going to be affected, and picking the wrong one can cause you to lose your trait bonus and reload in frustration. I can't fathom any reason why the dialogue choice can't simply state which trait it is which the choice aligns with, at least for high-Perception characters. Knowing this in advance would take away almost all of the "better quicksave, it's a dialogue choice" fear.

Invisibility is overpowered, especially early game. There's absolutely nothing enemies can do to protect their valuables or to guard passages against invisible players. Considering this is a high-magic world where invisibility exists, it would only make sense that there would be some way of detecting it. The game needs more "Sees invisible" enemies, including all of those Sentinels (going invisible and just walking past them makes them a joke).

Glass Cannon is too good. I didn't really want to believe this, because my normal prejudice is that particular abilities like this, with obvious built-in drawbacks, are a mixed bag, and thus I really wanted to argue against the folks saying GC is OP. But it truly is absurdly powerful, even on Hard, and although it might not quite be "OP-must-fix" on Hard, I can only imagine its unbridled power on Normal or Easy, where it would utterly break games. As it stands, it trivializes difficulty, which grants an initial feeling of power followed by a sense of boredom. This is one talent which needs to be reworked, because I truly believe there isn't any way to give a "double recovery AP" benefit on a talent which can't be broken by players.

Overall verdict: Divinity: Original Sin has perhaps the best level design in any CRPG to date. This, combined with an early several hours of genuinely well-balanced content, easily justifies the purchase price, especially for students of computer game design who want to see how well a particular aspect of gamecraft can be done. However, some stumbling blocks past the initial portion of the game stop it from being a satisfying play experience through to the end, and those who buy the game expecting to play it through to completion are likely to end up frustrated or bored at some point.

Last edited by ScrotieMcB; 29/07/14 11:36 AM.
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some good feedback smile

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Agreed, very good feedback and well thought out post. I found myself nodding and agreeing with pretty much every point. I was absolutely enthralled with the game at first, everything really is so finely tuned in the beginning - difficulty so nicely balanced and a good challenge, but party strength and power in this game snowballs so fast and it just becomes way too easy smirk at around lvl 15 I just can't being myself to continue and finish a playthrough, its more of a chore now. But I love this game and there's hope still with the frequency of patches and also the possibility of mods smile

and a big +1 to such a simple suggestion of actually stating what trait score a certain choice will actually affect!

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Bravo. Very well said and level headed.
9/10 Review.

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A very good review. I think that only the Cyseal map has been heavily playtested, because the story has more flaws in the following maps and the combat is more unbalanced.

A few suggestions:

Glass Cannon: Maximum AP +4, Start AP +4, Recovery AP +2 and Vitality -25%
Leech: The character heals (damage X 0.25) points with every physical melee or ranged attack
Resistances: Should have a maximum of 75%
Magical skills (Air, ...): Every 3 points of intelligence should reduce the cooldown and not every 2 points
Physical skills (Scoundrel, ...): Should have a cooldown reduction, too, that is based on dexterity or strength
Ranged weapons: Bow 3 AP and not 4, Crossbow 5 AP and not 6
Tenebrium skill: Should be removed and replaced by a talent

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Originally Posted by Daegon
I was absolutely enthralled with the game at first, everything really is so finely tuned in the beginning - difficulty so nicely balanced and a good challenge, but party strength and power in this game snowballs so fast and it just becomes way too easy smirk at around lvl 15 I just can't being myself to continue and finish a playthrough, its more of a chore now.
There is definitely a "boredom wall" right around that point in the game; you're not alone. The latter half of Luculla has this effect where the challenge of battles has been consistently decreasing and you begin to dread combat as an unwelcome chore. (The one place with somewhat difficult battles is the northern sandstorm area, which is manages to be annoying for the same reason it is difficult: reduced speed, impeding the exploration/travel element of the gameplay.) By the time I found Hunter's Edge I had almost totally lost the urge to fight things.

I can only imagine how many player D:OS loses right around that point, diverted to other more interesting things, leaving the game unfinished.

The beauty of the world is one thing which kept me going... sort of. I found myself actively avoiding combats just because they weren't fun anymore, enjoying the challenge of a stealth game more... although it was the moments when the stealth tension was gone and I could just take in the sights which I was playing for. I explored pretty much the entirety of the Phantom Forest zone as soon as I got the ability to safely pass the bridge, and then only after performing this task did I go on to fight battles -- the minimum required to get to the temple door, as determined by prior reconnaissance. The point is that exploring the world and picking up tidbits of hidden lore (contemporary Rivellon and/or Sourcerer era lore, not the Guardian stuff) could still engage me, much more than the battles could at that point.

This game truly is a wonderful one for just getting out of town and wandering about, taking in all of the wild-yet-tranquil environments the game offers you.

The core design of the latter parts of the game is still very sound, and I imagine that redoing portions of the story at this point isn't very feasible. It's just the combat which is off. I'm not sure exactly how to fix it, because the monsters steamrolling us is exactly as bad as us steamrolling them, and in a turn-based game there's a tendency towards temporary one-sidedness which may get out of hand if the enemies are buffed too much. But the core issue is combat not being engaging.

Last edited by ScrotieMcB; 29/07/14 10:14 AM.
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Originally Posted by Wizard1200
A few suggestions:

Glass Cannon: Maximum AP +4, Start AP +4, Recovery AP +2 and Vitality -25%
Leech: The character heals (damage X 0.25) points with every physical melee or ranged attack
Resistances: Should have a maximum of 75%
Magical skills (Air, ...): Every 3 points of intelligence should reduce the cooldown and not every 2 points
Physical skills (Scoundrel, ...): Should have a cooldown reduction, too, that is based on dexterity or strength
Ranged weapons: Bow 3 AP and not 4, Crossbow 5 AP and not 6
Tenebrium skill: Should be removed and replaced by a talent
I really don't want to make this thread about the numerical mechanics systems; I touched very briefly on GC, but I really didn't want to say any more than that it trivializes content creating boredom, and that a multiplicative bonus probably isn't feasible. Such discussions would inevitably lead to derailing arguments. Instead, I'd like this thread to focus on less numerical aspects of the game, aspects which are frankly more important.

I'd love to hash this stuff out in a different thread, though.

The one thing in that list which isn't very numerical is the Tenbrium ability being replaced by a talent, which definitely seems like the best solution at the moment.

Last edited by ScrotieMcB; 29/07/14 10:48 AM.
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Good review. Nuanced and fair. Thumbs up!

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Originally Posted by ScrotieMcB


In other words, the level design in this game is great. It's consistently excellent, all of the way through, which is the really amazing part. From Cyseal's outskirts all the way to a foreboding hut in the swamp, a huge amount of effort was put into making each area visually impressive, distinctive, and real.


I agree aesthetically it's quite nice, but gameplay wise the pacing was off and there was an excessive amount of unnecessary and dull walking to return to places you'd already been. Even little things like the portals in Cyseal being poorly placed a distance away from the most frequently used places such as Aureus/Arhu and the marketplace. I also took some issue with the excessive placement of barrels of oil/poison/water which felt very gamey and marred the immersion for me.


Quote
Great soundtrack.


Agree.

Quote

Classlessness and open-ended itemization. I know there's a small group of players out there who want this changed, but I was a huge fan of getting Intelligence on my plate armour.


The numerical and character creation mechanics, in general. Hey, it's another D&D 3.0 rehash instead of attributes, skills, and feats, you have attributes, abilities, and talents!


The problem isn't the style they went with, but the clunky implementation.

Talents are probably the single most imbalanced aspect, with some clear winners and losers and some that are arguably "broken" to the extremes of either direction. They're also pretty limited and on certain builds I end up taking the really basic boring stuff because there's nothing else worthwhile. I shouldn't really have 5 points in man-at-arms on my pure mages but picture of health and weather the storm were such no brainer talent picks it was clearly worth wasting ability points even though I hardly use more than 3 man-at-arms skills.

Abilities have some clear winners and losers too, although part of that is due to items making some obsolete. Their itemization took a lot away from character building by making it too easy to put on different gear to cover many abilities/attributes. Equip requirements were also poorly handled, discouraging players from placing many attributes into speed/con/per.

I'd also add that weapon procs were an entirely useless waste of itemization "points".

Overall their character building and handling of gear is just mediocre, typical CRPG stuff and feels a bit lazy and uninspired.

Quote

Difficulty scaling.

Agree. Part of this is due to a bad/imbalanced character building and itemization though, I'd add.
Quote

The Tenebrium ability. It's been written about a lot on these forums and I don't feel like repeating it here. But it's a rage quit/reroll moment, and those aren't a good thing to have.


Yeah... there's really no good excuse for this.

Quote

Traits. I don't have a problem with the concept itself, just the way it was handled. This was my #1 cause of savescumming, especially prevalent early in the game. In many cases it's very difficult to determine which traits are going to be affected, and picking the wrong one can cause you to lose your trait bonus and reload in frustration. I can't fathom any reason why the dialogue choice can't simply state which trait it is which the choice aligns with, at least for high-Perception characters. Knowing this in advance would take away almost all of the "better quicksave, it's a dialogue choice" fear.


My second biggest peeve with the game after the limited skill bars. I'd much rather than choose my traits at character creation, and not have to worry about my dialogue choices ruining my character build.
Quote

Invisibility is overpowered, especially early game. There's absolutely nothing enemies can do to protect their valuables or to guard passages against invisible players. Considering this is a high-magic world where invisibility exists, it would only make sense that there would be some way of detecting it. The game needs more "Sees invisible" enemies, including all of those Sentinels (going invisible and just walking past them makes them a joke).


Agree, and would add that AI is just bad at dealing with many player tactics based around stealth/invis.

Quote

Glass Cannon is too good. I didn't really want to believe this, because my normal prejudice is that particular abilities like this, with obvious built-in drawbacks, are a mixed bag, and thus I really wanted to argue against the folks saying GC is OP. But it truly is absurdly powerful, even on Hard, and although it might not quite be "OP-must-fix" on Hard, I can only imagine its unbridled power on Normal or Easy, where it would utterly break games. As it stands, it trivializes difficulty, which grants an initial feeling of power followed by a sense of boredom. This is one talent which needs to be reworked, because I truly believe there isn't any way to give a "double recovery AP" benefit on a talent which can't be broken by players.


My suggestion(from this thread ):


Glass Cannon:

+ X% damage dealt
+ Y% damage taken

X and Y could tuned to whatever seems reasonable. Point is removing AP from the equation. Almost any large AP boost is always going to be a no brainer talent unless it has ridiculous downsides.

Since extra AP is much more than just offensive power, it never made sense for the talent. It allows a player to use extra AP to do more both offensively and defensively.

Last edited by Fellgnome; 29/07/14 11:36 AM.
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Added a final verdict section, because a friend was asking me whether it was worth buying, and I linked him this thread.

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Originally Posted by Fellgnome
Originally Posted by ScrotieMcB
In other words, the level design in this game is great. It's consistently excellent, all of the way through, which is the really amazing part. From Cyseal's outskirts all the way to a foreboding hut in the swamp, a huge amount of effort was put into making each area visually impressive, distinctive, and real.
I agree aesthetically it's quite nice, but gameplay wise the pacing was off and there was an excessive amount of unnecessary and dull walking to return to places you'd already been. Even little things like the portals in Cyseal being poorly placed a distance away from the most frequently used places such as Aureus/Arhu and the marketplace. I also took some issue with the excessive placement of barrels of oil/poison/water which felt very gamey and marred the immersion for me.
I disagree. The only portion of the game where you get an "isn't that convenient?" feel for barrels during battles if one of the very first sections of the game, on the way to the lighthouse. I view that section as a "semi-tutorial section" so their inclusion is justified as a way to help new players get used to using the environment in their favor. The latter parts of Cyseal don't use barrels in this way nearly as much or as often.

In terms of Aureus/Arhu, I disagree there as well. It's a little unrealistic to expect the inhabitants of the things you want to visit for your convenience rather than their own. The waypoint is still rather close to the inn, another frequently visited destination, without being so close to the inn as to distract from the general ambiance of the town (waypoint portals aren't exactly part of the usual aesthetic). Apparently the devs just thought you'd make more frequent visits to the inn than you'd make frequent visits to Aureus/Arhu, and since they're about tied, I don't think it's an invalid choice.

Last edited by ScrotieMcB; 29/07/14 11:47 AM.
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I appreciate the review. In honor of all I have read thus far I have chosen a single lone wolf 3-head party for my first party, and to omit many of what was discussed above.

I am still only 7 but the game is amazing and challenging so far. I am playing hardmode; no GC, no leech, no stealth abilities, no save-scum for loot, no checking vendors every level (I will if I happen to be in the same room but I'm not like traversing the map looking for loot, reminds me of save-scum), and now that I have read this review I will make an attempt to never pull only half an enemy crowd. I like my difficulty at a level where I need to reload at least a few times, maybe approach the fight from another location, actually necessitate a scroll here and there. Even be so screwed that I am on the run shooting poisoncloud arrows and fireflies behind me. So far, so good!!

Here's to hoping things stay challenging - Thanks for the game feedback!

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I think Larian could have easily ramped up the difficulty in a "bioware" fashion, i.e. add top-tier enemies that are immune to everything (all elements and obviously debilitating status effects), and instead of wasting time on the summons beeline for your GC mage and one-shot him, or better yet teleport behind his back.. or better still - teleport *him* to the enemy and his mobs. Also, make important battles scripted, so that your party is teleported into an exposed area and is surrounded by ranged troops. But they probably didn't want to sacrifice the systemic approach, which does have a downside of making the game feel easy once you've mastered the systems.

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One of the last battles features an enemy who actually knows Teleportation and I'm just thinking to myself "wow, that's the first time an enemy used the skill I've had available to me since character creation."

Adding Teleport to the Immaculate spellcasting repertoire would definite make for some more interesting combats in Luculla, and later in the game as well. Now that I think about it, it's a little astounding how few enemies cast spells which the players have access to.

Last edited by ScrotieMcB; 29/07/14 01:33 PM.
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...come to think of it though, in DOS such teleporting enemy would not even be a complete cheese (with your only option to buff the frontliners to the brim and hope they have enough healing potions). you could, for instance, lure him away from his mobs, accept the loss of your GC, then telekinesis-lock him with an unbreakable chest that you were prudent enough to carry with you, and slowly kill with arrows through a thin opening that's just enough to give you a LoS.

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Originally Posted by ScrotieMcB
One of the last battles features an enemy who actually knows Teleportation and I'm just thinking to myself "wow, that's the first time an enemy used the skill I've had available to me since character creation."


haha, could be an tough encounter if there's a lava pit around smile My favourite fight so far is still the one where I lured baron of bones to the other side of the villa and teleported him into a lava pit, after doing the same to his wife (at level 4).

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Not sure if this is the thread to post in, but me and my friend had a wonderfully difficult time fighting monsters at much higher levels on the first map, and then initially on the second map as well (spiders)...

...but now we're on a snow map and it suddenly got a bit easy, so we figured we should switch to "hard" for a while and see...

Wow... miss, miss, miss, miss, failed, failed, failed, failed, miss, miss miss miss...

Not quite what I expected. Harder, sure... more fun, though? No. And bigger challenge? No, just more tedious. frown

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On hard, you need to make use of spells like Bless, or Melee Precision Stance, or Lower Resistance.

If you aren't using those spells, you're going to miss a lot.
If you ARE using those spells, you're going to hit a lot.

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Traits are actually perfect as they are now. It is one of the undeniably Larian-esque additions to the overall great game.

Their point is to be humorous at times, (i mean, compassionate gives you + critical chance, right :P ?) a bit surprising or, not as you would expect. Even sarcastic or ironic at times. Point being they are not meant to be a serious morality system of some kind. More appropriate for some other games or studios.

This system is a specific Original Sin one.
It fits the whole of the style and setting perfectly. In a way that adds another small layer of complexity to richness of the game world - and plays with charisma and general dialogue RPS options - which all can allow a more less combat focused playthrough.

Actually.

A part of it is arguing with your co-op partner, - not knowing beforehand how it will all turn out,
or having that bit of randomness enabled for SP, and then just playing and arguing and doing RPS battles as a part of the story, immersed in the game and the situation in which you are in - instead of knowing "whats the score" and playing with a disassociated mind to maximize this or that number.


Its an amazing mechanic that can be used to deepen any specific encounter or a moment of the game, especially if its seen as a tool for modding.


My only complaint could be that there isnt more of it.





-

But i suppose that could add some kind of a toggle option for people that really want to ruin the game for themselves...


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Or, like I said in the OP, perhaps make it something you need to be Perceptive in order to know in advance. I'd recommend varying Perceptiveness requirements, starting at maybe 7 or 8 for some of the earlier Trait choices in Cyseal, moving up to 11 or 12 required for some of the very last Trait choices near the end of the game. I think a stat-based, roleplaying "toggle" would be a lot more interesting than a toggle in some options menu.

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