Does that remove my right to argue, critique or contribute to the sequel? You decide.
I've played until I arrived in Twin Elms, I cleared out the entire 15 level dungeon but after I arrived in Twin Elms I saved the game
and then didn't return to it, eventually I uninstalled PoE to clear space for another game on my small SSD drive.
So, I've been thinking about why I didn't finish PoE and what could be learned from my limited experience.
Why didn't pillars work for me? It wasn't immediately obvious to me. Longstanding members of this forum will know that I was quite active here during development of PoE, and felt very invested in its success. This may have influenced my reception somewhat, so perhaps there are some lessons for those of you who now feel the same way about Deadfire.
One of the reasons might have been the balance update that came out right after I saved, which changed stat allocation to different attributes. I actually believe my character might have been fine regardless. One reason is because I feel that stat bonuses were relatively insignificant. When I started the game I had high hopes that through gameplay I would improve my character in such a fashion that I could spec her out the way I wanted to. Make her feel distinct. Having achieved a relatively high level for the point in the game progression that I stopped playing (I think it was two below the cap) I didn't feel like my character had significantly been improved. What improvements I did have were all from items, which I hoarded on my own character at the expense of the party because screw them.
So the granularity of the progression might have been a factor.
I also learned, whilst levelling, that I was fairly limited in my options. Not only were abilities level gated (which meant I HAD to take another ability and commit before finishing my levelling, severely restricting the build.) but they were also obfuscated so you could not plan ahead. (But what about the wiki, you ask? at the time it was incomplete and I shouldn't have to rely on a third party resource to begin with)
I believe this resulted in feeling less ownership of my character.
The Stronghold. I focussed on upgrading my stronghold completely as fast as I could, and I did. What did it bring me?
A choice of rest bonuses, a place to store my companions so that I could click through the conversation story progression of each of those I didn't use whenever I was back there, and a prestige and security rating that I'm not quite sure affected much of anything.
Now from what I've seen the team has understood that the Stronghold failed in its execution and is trying to remedy this with your ship in Deadfire. It's looking to go the right way this time. Still, I'd like to list what I think made the stronghold so shallow an addition to PoE
1. It didn't seem to produce content based on your input. If I upgrade a section, it was upgraded, there was some loot, maybe, some lore, perhaps. This is failed potential. Say I upgraded the library, why didn't it unlock for me a bunch of quests to go hunting for books, lore, scrolls, a librarian? To actually BUILD the library, to have people come who specifically came looking for the books you brought back. To make choices.
Other than minimal loot, lore and a visual change, it was just a checkmark off the list of things to upgrade.
2. There was no customisation. This meant that I felt very little ownership of this place. After all, I could rebuild it, but I could not put my personal stamp on it. (with exception of perhaps two mutually exclusive upgrade choices that altered fortification/prestige.)
If instead there had been a spot that could be upgraded, but you had to choose what to put in, that choice would already have given you more ownership of the stronghold.
If you could combine customisation with produced content, you would have had diverging narrative, and I think that would have been great.
Now, I know, with the limited time and resources, trying to work all that in would have forced the stronghold to either be the centrepiece of the game or be cut entirely. I think either would have been OK. (and it pains me to say that)
Quest density, progression, and reactivity. When I left for Twin Elms, I had done everything that I had found I could do in Defiance Bay, None of the quests have been memorable enough for me to recall exactly what happened. I ticked them off my list so I could continue to grow stronger, I don't think I was very invested in any faction I encountered. I picked one (the knights) and then there was a binary conflict.
What I do remember? I remember the asylum being full of phoney scientists, and stealing treasure from a noble's house by going in through the side window.
Time and time again the game wanted me to follow its story, and denied me the opportunity to make my own.
That is a design choice, one that I now believe was communicated well enough by the developers here on the forums and elsewhere. I just blinded myself because I was looking forward to that other type of RPG. The one where you make the story and the worldbuilding elements tell the narrative.
This false expectation will most certainly have affected my enjoyment of the game.
So beware those of you who might not be; while Obsidian will love your feedback, never forget that they are making THEIR game, through their vision. If you want to make the argument that I was looking to play another game than PoE, you may be right. It's very easy to get blinded to this because you're overly invested.
I hated combat. Not because it was hard, or easy, or simple or complex, mostly because of the epic battle music. It started to grate on me really fast. Variation, not as bombastic when I'm fighting a less impressive group of opponents, that might make a difference.
I also didn't quite ever get that "click" moment where I felt that the toolkit of character abilities I got got used strategically or tactically.
Either they were unnecessary, or by the time I could use them the battlefield had changed. I played a rogue, I cleared the 15 level dungeon, I don't know if that's meaningful. Never did beat the dragon though.
This is probably because I suck at combat, and I'm stupid and I should feel stupid. so please tell me in the comments below. (and don't forget to like and subscribe)
Flow of combat just did not work out for me.
Yes, Josh repeatedly stated that this was a game for people who love reading.
Well, Josh, I ****ing love reading. I've read James Clavell, I read Rothfuss, I've read Tolkien, Douglass Adams. I read a whole bunch of fantasy and science fiction authors, travelogues, popular science, news articles, I spend altogether way to much time on forums reading. I read for fun. So please don't dismiss me when I say there was too much reading.
Any backer NPC I clicked was essentially nothing more than a wall of text. I'm actually kind of glad that I was too poor to pay for the tier I wanted because I would have been disappointed finding out that's all you meant by backer NPC. After a while it doesn't matter how well its written anymore. In a game, there needs to be some purpose, some interactivity. It doesn't have to be the case with every.single. NPC, but it would have been nice to see it with more.
I felt incentivised to click every one of them because I didn't want to miss anything. However, after a while, I got that this was flavour and flavour only. Games are a visual medium, I think there could have been a great deal more of show than tell, and there would still have been room for volumes of text that I would have been happy to pour through.
I noticed myself sometimes fast forwarding dialogue to my dialogue options. That's bad player behaviour. Something went wrong when that happens, especially if that someone is a self-professed lover of the written word.
What happened was that reading became a chore. ticking quests off the list was a chore, clearing out the dungeon was a chore, combat was a chore, upgrading the stronghold was a chore. They were things I did to myself, grinding things, waiting for the game to become fun.
I suspect that when I reached twin elms, having cleared my quest log, cleared the dungeon, finished my stronghold, I was unburdened from the to-do list, and when I reached and new quests got dumped on me, I instinctually had enough. I hadn't been having fun. I didn't feel engaged.
The activities in themselves have to be fun/engaging. If you want me to read, what makes reading engaging? If you want me to play the stronghold, what makes the stronghold fun? The activity in itself needs to be fun, my neurotic psychological tendency for optimal play by wanting to do everything I can wasn't. But that's a psychological tendency that many players will be vulnerable to.
So why am I being such a downer on Deadfire's forum? Well honestly, I hope it won't be seen as that. I hope my critique and perspectives will help Deadfire's development, whether that lies in expectation management, game focus or scope or anything else.
That I'm back here should tell you something.
Do I think PoE was bad? No. It was flawed, and it probably wasn't for me, but I already was invested.
Learning that Deadfire will allow savegame imports actually made me consider finishing Pillars, briefly. There were things I liked. I loved the visuals of that dungeon right after were Eder opens up. I liked the reputation system, I was one of the few who actually liked the item improvement mechanic. Though I see its limitations and I like what the devs are suggesting for Deadfire items.
I've learnt some things
1. I will refrain from being as invested in Deadfire as I was with PoE. If I want Obsidian to make my game, I should contract them. Let them make theirs instead. I hope this will prevent me from blindly acquiring unfair expectations.
2. I can't stay away. I love Obsidian and what they do.
3. I have very strong ideas, notions and beliefs for an RPG, but that would be -my- game. (It will never be made because I have no coding skills and no art skills.)
4. I shouldn't lie to myself, I try to play optimally and I will grind in order to do so.
For the future:
I think the team working on Deadfire has made some good changes. Having your ship be your stronghold means it plays a central role in your story, there will be customisation as well. Reducing the number of big cities to one will allow for more focus, it will be a larger quest hub. The differences in each section of the city seem rich in potential for interplay and aesthetic.
The limitation PoE had with animation budget led to the story book segments, it's a different choice than I would have made for PoE, but seeing it return in Deadfire with it being expanded upon I think is going to really make the game distinct. It's an interesting feature that I like to see reach its full potential. I also think it will help transitions really well.
The change in approach to items will likely make those more distinct and therefore memorable, it might also add to player build customisation.
And lastly, YES! (sub)tropics baby! Whoo!