I stumbled across this article in which I read Obsidian wants POE2 to break from the tradition, and shrink the party to 5 instead of 6 characters total.
Now, I'm not saying it is bad, I'm not judging, because the simple fact is that one can not judge before trying it out first.
I would however, like for us to discuss this planned reduction in party size.
How do we feel about it ?
How is it going to impact our play style ?
Do we think it will be detrimental, particularly at higher difficulty settings ?
What's positive about this change ?
How are other RPGs doing it ?
For the purposes of this discussion and with regards to my point of view on this matter, I'll be talking about Hard difficulty.
I for one, am worried with regards to available skills and abilities.
On Hard difficulty (and excluding cheesy stuff like TCS / FCS runs), my party typically consists of :
1/ 1x main tank, usually a warrior or monk
This character's role is to control the flow of battle with opponents, engage them, block doorways, pin down melee characters.
He's not here to deal damage, he exists to soak it, so that my backline remains safe.
2/ 1x offtank, usually a chanter, paladin, monk or barbarian
This character's role is to intercept and control any enemy that may have slipped past the main tank.
He also handles additional monsters which have escape or teleport abilities and directly threaten the backline.
The advantage of using a chanter or a paladin is that it also doubles up as :
3/ 1x buffer, usually a chanter, paladin, priest
This character is here to provide the party with combat bonii, as well as some utility.
Obviously a priest is a much stronger buffer than a chanter or paladin, but he gets limited use per rest.
4/ a melee DPS, usually a monk, barbarian, rogue or cipher
This character is here to dispatch enemies in melee once they've been properly engaged by MT and OT.
The reason I take a melee DPS over a ranged DPS is that, in my experience, they dish out more damage.
Obviously the risk is higher for going in melee (AOE spells on the MT/OT can hit you, enemies can turn around and rush you), so it follows that the reward should be greater as well.
If at all possible, I like this character to have some crowd control or debuff ability as well, so he can stand his own 1v1.
5/ a crowd control / debuff specialist, usually a wizard or cipher
This character exists to debilitate enemies, lower their defenses and generally make the fight easier for my party.
Blind, knockdown or paralyze effects, charms and dominations all work very well.
In addition to lowering the enemy threat, this character also sets up any present rogue for sneak attacks.
The question of wizard vs cipher actually depends on your play style.
A wizard is a burst caster which can empty all his repertoire in the one fight, but find himself bereft of abilities for the next fight.
A cipher is a more paced caster which actually builds up as the fight goes on.
6/ an AOE damage specialist, usually a wizard or druid, or even a barbarian or cipher
This last character's role is to weaken the enemy as a group.
The rationale behind this character is that the quicker I can dispatch enemies, the less time they have to deal damage.
Less damage taken translates into a lower burden on my (limited !!) healing capabilities.
It also allows me to kill 2 (or more) birds with one stone.
When faced with 3 Nearly Dead enemies, a quick Fan of Flames can finish the lot off, instead of my picking them one by one with single target damage dealers.
This character either uses direct damage abilities (fireball, fan of flames...) or powerful damage over time effects (hello druid ?).
How do I feel about this party reduction ?
Obviously I'm gonna have to let a character go.
The question is, which one ?
Whatever choice I make, I'll be unhappy about.
Leave my rogue out ? But I did like these 120+ damage crits.
Leave my offtank out ? This is going to make frontlining a super chore for my main tank.
Leave my MT out ? Well, that means my OT because my MT, and again I'm short an offtank.
Leave my buffer out ? He kinda was there for a reason in the first place, like, you know, buffing maybe... ?
Leave my cc/debilitator out ? Again he's here for a reason, he's making enemies more susceptible to my ah... sermons.
Leave my damage specialist out ? As for my melee specialist, I did like these big numbers...
This is going to change my playstyle, I do not like it.
How is it going to impact my playstyle ?
I can only speculate here, because obviously the game is going to be tuned towards a 5 man party.
Obviously however, I'm gonna have to eschew some utility or damage, and make use of less specialized characters.
I may have to transform my wizard or cipher into a hybrid cc/damage dealer, or I may have to let go of my melee DPS entirely.
Either way encounters will be changed.
As is the default human behaviour with regards to changing an established and working item, I do not like the idea.
Is it going to be detrimental ?
I would think so, yes.
Using less specialized characters means them having less power, less impact in their particular field of expertise.
If I spec a wizard as a crowd controller, you can be assured he's gonna be sitting at low Might, but high Perception and Intelligence.
If I have to drop my damage dealing caster and merge that with my debilitator, obviously I won't be able to dump Might too low.
While this is hardly an issue on the lower difficulties, the impact starts showing in Hard, and POTD.
Such a change will also mean more items are merely cash money.
Remember all these items that you found, and you were like "fck me, if only I had a cipher" (or a barbarian, or a rogue, or whatever) ?
With one less party member, expect to see even more of those.
There is, in my opinion, not very many things more frustrating than selling an absolutely awesome item just because you can't use it.
I therefore, do not like it.
What positive effects can be expected ?
In my opinion, this change would ease party management.
You'd have fewer members to keep alive, which means more opportunity to focus on giving correct orders to your other party members.
You'd also be able to min-max equipment more.
Less people to equip means you can keep them all decked with best in slot items as you find them.
Comparison with other games ?
Know one of the common points between Shadowrun, DA:O, D:oS and Tyranny ?
Yup you've got it, limited party roster of 4 members.
However, and this is very very very key here.
All of these games also have another trait in common : cooldown-based spells.
Shadowrun and D:oS use turn-based cooldowns.
DA:O and Tyranny use timer-based cooldowns.
End of the day ?
Your characters can use their abilities over and over again, provided they are still alive to do so.
Cooldown-based systems encourage the player to be mindful of their decision to use this or that ability, without being exceedingly punishing.
Usage-based systems however, actually discourage one from using abilities : I won't have it for the next fight !
I mean, even immersion-wise, how does this one sound ?
NO MAN WAIT NO WAY, I CAN'T THROW SAND IN PEOPLE'S EYES ANYMORE.
SAY WHAT, WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE'RE ON A BEACH ? YEAH BUT I'VE ALREADY DONE IT TODAY, NO CAN DO MAN !
A higher party member count makes the game more forgiving to the player, because you get more abilities to use per rest cycle.
A lower party threshold however, seems to me to accentuate your blunders even more.
Not only do you not have this or that ability available anymore, but do you remember ? You're also expected to fill this or that role now.
Ultimately this comes down to each of us' appreciation of the change.
I for one am curious about it.
On the one hand I trust Obsidian to deliver a balanced and fun game.
On the other hand, we're talking about changing the way I play here.
I play that way because I enjoy it.
I dislike the idea that one would change something I actually like in the first place.
How about you ?
Are you excited, or fearful of that party downsizing ?
How is it going to affect your game ?
Share your feelings on the proposed change, and let us see what benefits it would bring.
I'd like to thank you for reading thus far.
I know it's a long post, but there was a lot to cover.