It all began when arrived in the small town of Cyseal, passing its notable harbor by the necessity of proximity. As a notification popped up in my quest log, voices simultaneously shouted about a fire in the harbor, a ship set alight by the orc incursion I’d stalled on the beach mere moments before.
Feeling heroic, I thought to quell the blaze with a nearby water barrel. Unfortunately, when I tossed it on the ship, the contents of the barrel vaporized ineffectually above the flames.
Heroic hopes dashed, I felt I’d take things in the other direction and experiment, chucking an oil barrel on the burning vessel in the name of science. Could this plot-fire set off an explosion?
I never found out. One of the men at the harbor took umbrage to my manhandling of his property—the barrel, not the ship—and, after a few warnings that I ignored, went on the offensive along with everyone else gathered on the dock.
This lead to a few discoveries:
The townspeople were appropriately weak, their blows posing little threat.
An attempt to teleport-drop the oil barrel on top of them, in hopes of it exploding, instead resulted in a dock slick with oil.
Oil can totally be lit on fire.
Fire burns townspeople to a nice crisp.
The turn-based combat system, while terrific in small encounters, drags on in larger battles.
Interestingly, the town’s legionnaires seemed wholly unaffected by my violent rampage, with no one so much as wagging their finger at my Source hunters.
This incident serves as a solid illustration of my overall experience with Divinity: Original Sin thus far. Its morality is fluid, its combat engaging in small doses, and there’s an undercurrent of quirkiness that seems to run counter to the seriousness of the adventure.
You’re in town to solve a murder, after all. And combat an undead plague. Perhaps fight off an orc invasion? Despite this cavalcade of responsibility, dialogue is rarely dry and serious, and each named character you address is flooding with personality. This is a game where characters can be smarmy, delusional, self-absorbed, grandiose, skittish, boorish, or illiterate, and rarely do they feel one-dimensional.
Even your Source hunters have personality to spare, and you get to decide what that entails. “Co-op conversations”, discussions between the two leads on their goings on, build character and have a measurable, statistical effect on their personalities. They can even argue and disagree, attempting to override one another on points of contention. This presumably has a pronounced effect on online play, though that has yet to be implemented in the game’s current alpha state.
Yes, this is an alpha, and yes, that means there are bugs and odd quirks that have yet be ironed out. Perhaps mass murder will eventually have serious consequences. The game’s already come a long way from earlier releases, opening up both visual and statistical customization options for the two leads, as well as a selection of classes. Skills and traits now have tool-tip text that allows for more informed decisions at character creation and when leveling. The load times are still absurdly long, though.
The game’s most striking attribute doesn’t come from a gimmick, though, or even its attractive visuals. It’s the impression of openness, the ways in which it encourages experimentation and lateral thinking. I’m curious to see how Larian Studios will add to that in the coming months.