I’m going to nerd out about Divinity: Original Sin for a moment. Feel free to skip this post.
Even though I’ve never really been into Bioware’s Infinity Engine games, I have played more than a few fantasy RPGs over the years; that prior experience makes the combat in Divinity feel a little generic. There are a few common strategies that apply to most party-based combat engines, and sure enough, they apply to D:OS as well.
This makes all kinds of sense. Generally, the point of most encounters is to kill the enemies before they can kill you, and the fun is in finding the best way to do that. You can try to mitigate damage to your party or stack healing, either method meant to outlast your opponents even though you don’t hit them very hard. Or, you can overwhelm them with massive damage, hoping to end the fight as fast as possible before your guys get creamed. The former often requires foreknowledge of what enemies you’ll be facing, and constant swapping in and out of specialized equipment, while the latter sometimes requires crafting, lucky looting, and minmaxing. I find both those things a little dull. Or maybe I’m just not good at them.
I tend to prefer a control/sabotage strategy. That is, you waltz on to the battlefield, nail your enemies to the floor, and then pound them (lightly, because you haven’t focused on damage in your build). The key here is initiative: it really helps if you get to move first. The point is that you lock them down before they can hurt you, and then you keep doing that until you win.
This tactic has been working pretty well for me in D:OS — though I’m not too far in the game yet. We’ll see how it goes. On the one hand, I’d like this to continue, because it’s the only way I have of getting through the fights; on the other hand though, I kind of want to be forced to explore different strategies, because this is the one I’ve always used and it almost always works too well…
Another thing: I don’t really feel connected to my character all that much, because I don’t feel like I’m guiding their growth. D:OS is really stingy with the levels (which is very old school), but my fighter feels very generic since they have almost no class-unique skills. Add to that the fact that the point system for leveling up rather encourages you to not spend your points when you get them if you want to specialize at all, and you end up with a character decked out in the same best equipment that everyone else has, and can do mostly the same stuff.
It’s still mechanically fun, and battles are like puzzles, so I’ll keep playing until I get to something too frustrating to deal with. I get the impression the makers of D:OS were trying to create something that so perfectly embodies the top-down turn-based RPG of ages past; I think they’ve succeeded. I’m just trying to figure out if it’s my cup of tea or not.