Greetings Obsidian Build Forum! I've been a lurker on this board off and on since PoE1 released, but finally felt the need to register in order to ask for some much-needed advice.
I'm currently wrapping up my (long-running) PoE1 playthrough - technically my second but it will be my first to actually complete, on normal. My player character is a Dual Wield Cipher (double Bittercut) and I'm having an absolute blast with him. I realize that my DW Cipher could be made more efficient by using Blunderbuss or Arquebus, but I enjoy the playstyle of a melee, dual wield spellcaster (and since it's not PotD suboptimal builds still work to some degree).
Once I finish with PoE1 I want to start PoE2 and play a class that has the same "feel" to it. I was pretty stoked when I read about subclasses and saw that Ciphers were getting Soulblade, so my initial thought was do roll something like a Rogue or Rogue Subclass multiclassed with a Soulblade. However much of my research has indicated that while Soulblades were good right after Deadfire's release, they've been nerfed a lot since then and aren't really worth using (alarmingly, I've read similar things about ciphers in general, not just Soulblades). So I'm currently considering other options. I've also heard that spellcasting in melee is much harder in PoE2, so that's another reason I have concerns.
Unfortunately most of the builds, guides, or comments I'm seeing seem to be rather dated, and with the sweeping changes that have been made since release I don't have high confidence that I can make an informed decision. Which is why I'm here - I'm looking for a melee build that combines weapon attacks with spellcasting and provide the same kind of punchy, face-melting gameplay that my DW Cipher did in PoE1.
If you read this much, thanks! If not, below is what I'm looking for:
Role: Melee damage dealing, with spellcasting component.
Weapons: Strong preference for Dual Wield. I am willing to consider 2H weapons or single One-handed if people think that it will be more fun or work better.
Class: Prefer Cipher, specifically Soulblade or Ascendant (I prefer my player characters to be damage dealers so Beguiler doesn't hold much interest for me). Not picky about what I multiclass with (if at all) though it's a feature I'd like to try out. I'm willing to consider non-cipher options if they reproduce the same feel (Battlemage or Wizard/Paladin would be fine, for example, though I would prefer more rogue-like multiclasses)
Difficulty: Probably Hard. I felt like I got a pretty good understanding of basic mechanics and re-learned some of the micro-management from my old Baldur's Gate days in PoE1, so I'm ready for a bit more of a challenge in PoE2. I realize that you can kind of make any build work on anything lower than PotD, but I want something that's going to feel powerful and fun.
Race/Background/etc: Strong preference for builds that do NOT require a specific race or background. I prefer to leave these choices open for RP purposes. Again, since I'm not on PotD I feel like this isn't too difficult to work around.
Party: Since I haven't played PoE2 yet I can't say which companions I'll have, but I'll choose the ones that work with my player character's build, or for RP purposes. I don't plan on soloing or anything crazy.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: I'm not really looking for the most optimized build in the world, but something that feels fun and powerful, and (ideally) falls within the constraints above.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
P.S. Apologies if this isn't the right place for "give me a build" requests. Mods feel free to remove it if it's in the wrong place.