Some thoughts on Divinity: Original Sin

Two years after the initial Windows release, I finally got to play Divinity: Original Sin on Linux, as was promised during the kickstarter. Two years ago, this post got lost in my drafts folder. Today, I present to you my initial feedback.

Having watched some of it on Twitch, I wasn’t exactly expecting much of it. Unfortunately, it dropped below my expectations before I left the character creation screen.

Initial positives: character creation includes gender for both your starting characters. You have a wide selection of skin colors. But, well, how do I say this…

dos_blackface

This isn’t a depiction of a black woman. It’s a white woman in blackface. Don’t do that. There’s a long history of racist depictions of people of color, and one of the traditions there surrounds white people wearing dark face paint. This isn’t just a dead tradition from the 1850s; it’s thriving today.

The character designer gives you a selection of faces for your character, but all that amounts to is choosing face paint. You can’t choose features that match actual people of color.

I’d understand if the character designer allowed you to modify those characteristics independently. It’s easier that way and gives players more choice. But as is, it’s not letting people of color play as characters that look like them.

Similarly, the character icons you can choose are the same base portrait with different skin tones and hair styles. It would be more understandable if they had portraits for different races but didn’t have in-game models; you usually just see a very tiny version of your character’s 3D avatar in-game, but the 2d portraits are much more prominent, and kickstarter budgets are unkind to developers.

Next thing I saw was the armor. Oh, the armor.

Men in this game get ridiculous armor. They get armor that says they’re slightly cartoonish people who smash face and smash more face. Women, on the other hand, get skimpy outfits that say they’re there for your pleasure. Outfits that are suited to bedroom roleplay for their intended class. For instance, the ranger:

dos_ranger

She must go through a pound of spirit gum per week to keep that in place. And with no pants, her outfit is unsuited to deserts, forests, jungles, tundras, or, well, anything besides tropical cities. I thought rangers were supposed to range. Explore, spend times in the wilds, that sort of thing. If she spent time in the wilds, she’d get her legs, upper arms, and shoulders shredded in short order.

Similarly, the knight:

dos_knight

Knights fight from horseback. Their legs are in optimal striking range for any sidearm or low-aimed polearm. And hers are bare. You can choose to play as a man, or you can choose to play as a fighting fucktoy.

This follows through to the class descriptions, which come in the form of short stories. While the writers took some pains to avoid specifying gender, they only partially succeeded, and they chose to use masculine pronouns in most instances. There are exceptions, but not many.

And remember how you can change your face paint? You’ve got about four generic tribal options, a couple headpieces, and kabuki facepaint as your options. If you had an option of playing as, say, a Maori person, some of the “tribal” stuff would make sense, but since you only get Caucasian-style features, not so much.

But, you may object, this is a fantasy game. Can’t you justify taking some things from existing Earth cultures out of context? Yes, generally you’ll find things taken out of context and mixed up compared to the real world. But when things hearken back to the real world, if they come from historically or currently oppressed cultures, it’s all too

In short, if you’re going to try for representation, don’t half-ass it. Spend a little extra time to get it right.

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