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Matt's Video Game Reviews (2)

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Divinity: Original Sin 5/5
Firewatch 3.5/5


Divinity: Original Sin   PC (Steam) 

"Just Right"    5/5 stars

While planning my review for Divinity: Original Sin (DOS), I couldn’t help thinking about the well-known fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Yeah, I know it’s odd to be reminded of a bunch of bears and some blond child, considering the game is all about preventing the return of the Chaos Dragon, much more serious matters. However, it was particularly the bit of the fairy-tale where Goldilocks tries out Little Bear’s porridge and bed, and then proclaims them to be “just right.” Everything in DOS is just like that; it is “just right,” not too big, not too small, not too long, not too short, not too easy, not too hard. It is a “just right” game, and such a delight to play.

Just when Western RPGs seemed to have fallen off a cliff in Skyrim, a new light shined in the darkness, kickstarted by fans yearning for the glory days of Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. Not that I have too much experience with these classic Western RPGs. Most of my enjoyment of the genre has come from the Japanese flavor, starting off with Dragon Warrior for the NES. However, after thoroughly enjoying DOS, developed by Larian Studios, I am whole heartedly looking forward to part II and to eventually play other titles in this Western RPG renaissance, like the Pillars of Eternity series. Honestly, it is not too bold to claim that games like DOS have resurrected the once glorious—so I am told—Western RPG.


Larian did it right when it comes to presentation. The colorful well-designed backdrop presents a varied topography centered around the elements of water, fire, air, and earth. Two towns are at the heart of the world, Cyseal and Hunter’s Edge, with various villages and realms connected to these main areas. The world is just the right size, not too small, not too large. I have often found that open world games, impressive as they might be, become too big and unwieldy. When first entering such worlds, much time is spent running from one village to the next. DOS does it right. The area surrounding the two main towns, Cyseal and Hunter’s Edge, is large enough to explore and provide sufficient level gains, however it is not so large that you get lost in the monotony of travel, and the surplus of side quests. Likewise, the dungeons in DOS are a balanced blend of puzzles and combat, varying in size. I appreciated it. They were novel and engaging. My one complaint about the presentation of DOS was the annoying voice responses by party members due changes in weather. Yes, the responses indicate that you are experiencing a status change, such as being chilled, slowed, wet, or warm, however the commentary quickly becomes redundant.


The story of DOS begins with the two main characters dropped off on a beach outside of the first main town, Cyseal. They are commissioned with the task of solving the murder of the town’s councilor. Throughout the process of the game, it comes to light that this quest has cosmic implications beyond the investigation. The protagonists are “Source Hunters,” sworn enemies of the magic called “Source.” However, not all things are as they seem (“just right” stories often aren’t). The history of these two characters is much more complex than initially revealed, and one of the primary parts of the plot is the restoration of a tapestry in the celestial realm that reveals their past. The story of DOS is well-developed and well-paced, and the player can easily review past progress. Helpful as this was, I didn’t find the quest system very insightful at suggesting what to do next, often a problem for me and my gaming habits. I would have liked to see better suggestions of what to do next.

The best RPGs always have compelling stories to accompany excellent gameplay and a beautiful setting. DOS follows this trend; however, it isn’t as nuanced or as compelling as the icons from the fourth gen consoles were. I know that I might be comparing apples to oranges is some ways, since Western RPGs follow the D&D paradigm more closely, whereas their Japanese brethren don’t. But, I do enjoy the complex and layered stories from Japan.

All this being said, DOS has a very well-rounded story that compliments the rest of the game. I was impressed with the amount of user choice in the game. I could easily pick a fight with anyone. Wipe out a village of goblins, if I felt like it. Choice goes so far as to even determine certain character traits which correspond to stat boosts. For example, if the player responds in ways the game deems “Romantic,” his or her luck is increased.


One of my favorite parts of DOS is the gameplay. The turn-based combat system is nearly flawless. The player can control up to four characters in a party, and the action isn’t too far removed from what one would expect in a table-top D&D session. I found that combat was intuitive, encouraged player creativity, and allowed for a variety of playing styles. In my party I used an archer, two mages, and a soldier as the beater. One of my mages focused upon water and air magic, the other on earth and fire. I had the option of including a rogue and another archer in my party, however I ended up seldomly using these characters. But, the wonderful thing about DOS, and games like it, is that if you enjoy playing rogues, go for it. Sneak, steal, and backstab to your hearts content. I will say that the archer with all the magical arrows is a bit over powered—those arrows do come in very handy throughout the game and can be used in some clever combos (e.g. using an arrow with water to cover the floor, and then an ice arrow to create a skating rink). The camera could easily be moved or zoomed, and a top-down mode was helpful at time in battles. It got out of the way instead of the opposite.


DOS is just right. It is the perfect blend of story and gameplay, presented in an appealing way. On the one hand, the future does seem bright for RPGs, especially considering indie developers can use creative funding models. On the other hand, I am sure this renaissance won’t last long. The industry will mess it up somehow. Doom and gloom aside, I will be playing DOS II this year, and the Pillars series is on the horizon. For those searching for a RPG a ’la classic tabletop roleplaying, look no further. DOS is your game.

Presentation: 5/5
Story: 4.5/5
Gameplay: 5/5
Overall (not an average): 5/5



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