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Alright, so, here goes.  I'm going to preface this review with some background information.  I ONLY play RPGs, and cRPGs at that.  You can feel free to skip the part between the lines right below this, unless you want more context.

 

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I got into RPGs with Baldur's Gate, and still consider  the BG series to be the overall best RPG series there is.  There are lots of reasons for that.  Short version: TONS of party configuration options, HUGE number of spells to chose from, EPIC journey, interesting villains, Forgotten Realms.  I grew up reading fantasy, and l loved Conan, the Forgotten Realms and a variety of other fantasy settings as well.  Getting to play a game where you literally go from fighting goblins and kobolds to fighting demi-gods... was just so satisfying.  I remember when I first played BG2 and got sent to that subterranean place... and just thought, "Man, this is awesome!  I read I don't know how many books about the drow, and now here I am."  Not only that, but just imagining how the characters in my party would feel.  My first playthrough was as a paladin, and I knew that everyone would have to be borderline petrified with terror, because it was such a dangerous place to be.  The stakes were HIGH. 

 

The companions.  They weren't great in BG 1, but they really stepped up in BG 2.  I honestly CARED about them.  Minsc as the guy who isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but is really nice, generous guy who needs to have a restraining force so he doesn't go off and do something dumb and reckless that will get himself killed and possibly make the situation worse.  Viconia, who I took in various times because while I didn't trust her, I felt sympathy for the fact that she was stuck in a world that was naturally (and for good reason) inclined to hate her, while being unable to return to where she came from, where she also didn't fit in. I always ended up making her a true neutral.  Aerie, who I worked hard to help her find her confidence and to overcome her fears and doubts and traumas.  Anomen.  Well, I actually didn't care much for him.  But, I saw him as being essentially a good person, and I tried to just get him to lose his arrogance and think a bit more broadly.  Imoen.  I tried to be the brother she needed.  I won't go into more detail with that, but Imoen was that wounded dove which I tried to nurse back to health.  The party banter could be hilarious at times, and I had to play mediator a lot, with Viconia there.  In the end, I was very happy to have chosen to adventure with those individuals.

 

BG had some serious themes, but it also made you feel like a hero, if that is how you decided to play- disclaimer, that is the only way I play (besides occassionally trying for a true neutral or neutral evil style, where I am basically avoiding taking sides, or largely pursuing my own self interest, provided it doesn't cause too much harm to others). 

 

So, loved BG.  I love Arcanum for it's steampunk world, and the interesting issues it deals with in the game.  I love how many options it has to replay it, where you can play an idiot brawler, a genius engineer that builds killer robots, a mage who can disintegrate people and teleport across continents, or Doc Holliday, gambling your way into wealth and dueling people with pistols.  There STILL isn't any other RPG that gives you that much range of options.  It's the only RPG I am aware of to actually have a BEAUTY stat, where if you were really ugly, people would initially react in a negative manner to you, and if you were really pretty, people would react favorably.  Go ahead and play an ugly half-ogre and see what the difference is between that and a pretty half-elf. 

 

I loved the KOTOR games for further fleshing out the Star Wars universe and exploring the Jedi and Sith philosophies.  I loved that I could actually MAKE Jedi- that was epic.  Kreia was brilliant.  Revan was incredibly interesting.  Going to the famous planets in the Star Wars universe was awesome. 

 

I loved Fallout: New Vegas.  So many options for how to play, for how to build your character.  The factions.  VATS.  But... none of the companions were that memorable, and only being able to have 1... boo.  Also, by nature, kind of a depressing world- understandably. 

 

NWN 2... great use of all the D&D rules and options.  A little too linear, didn't really care for the companions.  But, a really fun game.  Loved the twist.  Interesting concept. 

 

 

 

So, let's get to POE.  I backed that game as soon as I heard about it. Loved Black Isle games, loved what I had seen of Obsidian at that point, wanted POE badly.

 

Except... I didn't really like POE 1.  It was too dark and depressing for me.  It seemed no matter what you did, the DEVs/writers wanted to then answer that with, "Well, while you tried to do what was the right thing, some unintended and unexpected bad things happened because you did that- sometimes WORSE than what you thought you were fixing."  I am all about  games that don't play like Disney fairy tales, but I don't want Requiem for a Dream, the game.  That isn't how things are in real life, either.  Sometimes that might happen, but by and large, if you do good things in the world, good things come of that. 

 

I didn't really like any of the companions.  In real life, I probably would have killed Durance because he was crazy, vulgar, mean, and possibly a pscyhopath.  Pallegina was ok... but not a pleasant person to have around.  Aloth?  Whiny.  Also, split personalities (not going into spoiler stuff).  Kana?  Ok, kinda annoying, too loud, just didn't care for him.  Don't even remember who else I typically had with me.  Unlike in BG, I really DIDN'T care if any of those companions died. I also didn't feel like I had much of an impact on their characters.  Durance didn't become a reasonable human being.  I did help Aloth, but I still found him to be a chore to have around.  Pallegina was still not pleasant.  Kana... just sort of ignored. 

 

Gameplay?  Much less dynamic than D&D.  I get it- they made an entirely new system from scratch.  They needed their own IP.  But... I found it extremely confusing for a long time.  Didn't understand where to allocate my attribute points.  Didn't really understand the dynamics of how all the abilities functioned.  Just found it to be somewhat frustrating. 

 

Story/villain.  It was ok.  I feel like the whole Watcher thing could have been better developed.  Theos... ehhhh.  I feel like there should have been an option that didn't involve fighting him. 

 

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So... now to POE 2!

 

I really liked it.  I enjoyed it MUCH more than POE 1.  It wasn't grimdark.  It was an adventure.  I hadn't been particularly invested in the whole pirate and ship thing, but once I actually found out HOW to play that minigame... I came to enjoy it (though it still needs refinement- being unable to go to the other side of a ship which is dead in the water is just silly).  I LIKED exploring the whole map and finding new islands and dungeons and groups of potential enemies.  I LOVED how many scripted events there were, and how you could use your companions to pass those events in some times ways which are not possible without those companions.  I felt like the combat was more intuitive and interesting.  I love the different options you can get from multiclassing- I played multiclassed characters for both playthroughs (a cipher/ranger and a druid/monk). 

 

What didn't I like?  Well, kinda goes back to the companions.  Still wasn't invested in any of them.  Saw them more as tools than as "friends".  Didn't have anyone I HATED, so that is a plus... but also didn't have anyone who I truly cared about.  Romance... yeah.  So, I'm all about romance options in RPGs... when it's done well.  In BG 2, I worked HARD to romance Aerie and Viconia (different playthroughs).  I felt that their romances were RIGHT.  It took time, and it was about building trust and rapport, and helping them with their problems and helping them recognize their strengths... which is what real romance is based off of.  This?  No.  Just silly that every one of my companions was trying to see if I wanted to have sex with them... and I actually didn't want any of them.  I wanted Pallegina.  She was who I respected and liked, and had adventured with previously, and was no longer so damn negative.  But... Pallegina had no interest.  Then I have Maia, who starts talking about me getting with her bird... and I was like, "No."  I played 2 characters with an affinity to and connection with nature.  I ALSO was a ranger.  I wasn't going to tell her she had to get with my wolf... I don't know what the hell that was, it was just dumb. I mean, the inter-party banter was generally good, I give Obsidian credit for that.  But it really seems that "romance options" translated to, "We promised this, and are running out of time, let's toss it in quick."  Boo.

 

The factions.  Everyone seemed fine with me working for everyone else up until that specific point.  That is fine, given the context of the scenario, that seems reasonable.  But... after you get to that point, I found it to be very unsatisfying.  There was only 1 option given to you for each faction.  There was no alternate way to get the support of that faction.  And pretty much all of them required you do heinous things to the other factions.  There was no way to get several factions to work together, no matter what you did for those factions prior to that.  That just seems unlikely.  I felt I should have been able to say, "Hey, but I did this and this for you, and this and this for you.  Why don't you 2 work together towards x, y, or z?"  Nope, got to do something bad to the other faction, no ifs ands or buts.  I even tried to take a path that seemed like maybe I could use to FORCE 2 factions to work together... and it wouldn't let me.  One playthrough, I went with the only faction which DIDN'T require I do bad things to the others, because I had no desire to do that.  The 2nd time, I DID chose a faction because I ultimately thought they would be "better" in the long term.  I feel that could have been done better, to give more options at that point. 

 

So, short version?  I vastly preferred POE 2 to POE 1 (much like I vastly prefer BG2 to BG1 or KOTOR 2 to KOTOR or NWN 2 to NWN).  So, good job, Obsidian.  I will DEFINITELY buy or back a future POE game if it is put out there.  Please give us more companions and better romance progressions.  I understand that reactivity and scripting can be SUPER complicated.  But please don't give us tons of options, only to reduce us to no options at the most crucial part of the game.  I think that is pretty much it.  Look forward to seeing what some of the expansions look like.

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"1 is 1"

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Yeah, I wasn't a fan of the faction endings. Why can't I get them to work together after doing so much and having like 4-5 Rep with both of em? Hell, I was disappointed with faction quests overall. Like it works once from a story perspective how they send u to the same place (Vallian and Deadfire) bc they are competing, but multiple times just didn't feel right to me, especially from a gameplay perspective, and how I only got like 2 choices at the end, do this to help one or this to help the other. 

 

Why couldn't I find a way to help both then? Or, even better, why can't I **** over both? For a game about choices, it felt like there weren't enough at all...

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Yeah, that is really where I felt they dropped the ball.  I mean, I get that they had to factor in TONS of variables up until that point, and tons for the end-credits slides.  But... I really wanted to get the two related by race groups to just... work amicably together.  And, I don't see why that shouldn't have been possible.  What I had done for each, didn't really endanger the interests of either.  But, no. 

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The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of character depth and reactivity. In PoE1, you could have a significant impact on characters' paths, perspectives, and even beliefs. I fully expected that I would be able to affect a certain character's perspective re: her faction - and the game seems to hint at this given her personal quest - but by the end of the game she was basically the exact same person she was at the beginning. You're able to convince a god to take various world-altering actions, but you can't convince your friends to meaningfully question their loyalties/views. 

 

The character interactions, while nice, were also fewer than I expected. They also seem heavily frontloaded - at the beginning of the game, interjections were common enough that I had high hopes that PoE2's character work would be a step up from the original in the same way that BG2 was from BG1 (remember that early conversation Eder has with you about Xoti?). By around level 15, however, they had pretty much run out of things to say. Sometimes the dialogue icon would even appear over a character's portrait only to reveal no new content once clicked on (maybe this is a bug and there will be more dialogue post-patch?). I will say that the non-interactive audio banters between characters while exploring/walking around Neketaka were great and very plentiful - I never heard one repeated and consistently heard new banter even into the very late stages of the game.

I really liked Deadfire and think it's a significant improvement over the original, but I wish the NPC interactions had been developed much further than they were.

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...

I really liked Deadfire and think it's a significant improvement over the original, but I wish the NPC interactions had been developed much further than they were.

 

 That sentence is a good summary of what I think too. I really like the game but would like to hear more from the companions - they seemed to run out of things to say very early. 

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I really liked Deadfire and think it's a significant improvement over the original, but I wish the NPC interactions had been developed much further than they were.

 

Would sum it up like that as well in terms of companions. The banter between each other was cool, but like, nothing for the watcher him/herself? You're adventuring with me seeing all kinds of cool **** and you have nothing to add about it whatsoever? Aside from BG, I think Obsidian should take a look at how DA:O does companions, bc as you progress through the game, they change, evolve and there is actual character progression, and they have much more to add about what is happening. 

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The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of character depth and reactivity. In PoE1, you could have a significant impact on characters' paths, perspectives, and even beliefs. I fully expected that I would be able to affect a certain character's perspective re: her faction - and the game seems to hint at this given her personal quest - but by the end of the game she was basically the exact same person she was at the beginning. You're able to convince a god to take various world-altering actions, but you can't convince your friends to meaningfully question their loyalties/views. 

 

The character interactions, while nice, were also fewer than I expected. They also seem heavily frontloaded - at the beginning of the game, interjections were common enough that I had high hopes that PoE2's character work would be a step up from the original in the same way that BG2 was from BG1 (remember that early conversation Eder has with you about Xoti?). By around level 15, however, they had pretty much run out of things to say. Sometimes the dialogue icon would even appear over a character's portrait only to reveal no new content once clicked on (maybe this is a bug and there will be more dialogue post-patch?). I will say that the non-interactive audio banters between characters while exploring/walking around Neketaka were great and very plentiful - I never heard one repeated and consistently heard new banter even into the very late stages of the game.

 

I really liked Deadfire and think it's a significant improvement over the original, but I wish the NPC interactions had been developed much further than they were.

 

This is true.  I don't think that the interparty banter was perfect, but it was very much an improvement over the 1st and made me think of BG2 or KOTOR 2... though it DID lack the same depth and complexity. 

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PoE2 is really a great step up from PoE1, much of the pacing and tone is fantastic! A great achievement, but yeah the companions aren't meaty enough, and it's a bit hard to care for them. I do agree that the PoE1 companions were annoying for the most part. They had nothing on the MotB companions, for instance.

I haven't finished the game yet (at 60+ h in my competionist playthrough), and they interrupt me about as often as in Dungeon Siege 2, and that game was rather light on the companion roleplaying. Oddly enough, Fassina in my party is not much less shallow than my companions (She had two quests linked to her, and a little NPC reactivity here and there). I also reckon that the game would benefit from a little more random encounters and scripted encounters when travelling (even between city districts).

Well, the difficulty of the game is also off, obviously, but that will soon be rectified.

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*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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See, the only thing which kinda makes me sad is that it's going to be YEARS before another separate game.  I get that there will be expansions, but at this point, I played through it twice, and used different companions each time.  So... I do have my third playthrough character sitting on the beach, waiting for the expansions... but, unless they introduce new NPCs, that does reduce my incentive to replay it.  I don't know if that was one of the things promised for the expansions, but feel like it wasn't.

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Except... I didn't really like POE 1.  It was too dark and depressing for me.  It seemed no matter what you did, the DEVs/writers wanted to then answer that with, "Well, while you tried to do what was the right thing, some unintended and unexpected bad things happened because you did that- sometimes WORSE than what you thought you were fixing."  I am all about  games that don't play like Disney fairy tales, but I don't want Requiem for a Dream, the game.  That isn't how things are in real life, either.  Sometimes that might happen, but by and large, if you do good things in the world, good things come of that.

But...you liked KOTOR 2?

 

I'm so confused here.

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Except... I didn't really like POE 1.  It was too dark and depressing for me.  It seemed no matter what you did, the DEVs/writers wanted to then answer that with, "Well, while you tried to do what was the right thing, some unintended and unexpected bad things happened because you did that- sometimes WORSE than what you thought you were fixing."  I am all about  games that don't play like Disney fairy tales, but I don't want Requiem for a Dream, the game.  That isn't how things are in real life, either.  Sometimes that might happen, but by and large, if you do good things in the world, good things come of that.

But...you liked KOTOR 2?

 

I'm so confused here.

 

 

While this appears to be a blatant attempt at trolling.. and isn't particularly on topic... I will assume that isn't the case.  There were no grimdark scenarios in KOTOR 2.  Kreia might have made an attempt to have you imagine scenarios where "doing the right thing" could actually end up having negative repercussions, but they certainly weren't foregone conclusions.  Kreia's purpose in doing that was to make you understand that sometimes what appeared to be the "right" path, might not have the consequences you expected, therefore you needed to CAREFULLY contemplate your choices and try to act in a way which was not based on a simple conception of "right vs wrong", "kind vs cruel".

 

I personally DO believe that people should help themselves, and that no one should be OBLIGATED to help others... but I also believe that people SHOULD help others.  Kreia might believe that to never be true, that you should ultimately only look out for your own self interest and the strong will benefit from that and everyone will be made stronger, but Kreia was also a bitter old woman.  There is a way to balance and harmonize altruism with individualism, and to encourage people to become stronger and more self-sufficient without sacrificing the weak on the altar of survival of the fittest.

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