Copmpare this with BG, for example. The game keeps you on your toes from day one to ToB (not me, but I've played BG since '98).
u can win every fight in that series by pre-buffing and auto-attacking everything to death. in BG1 u just give everyone bows. in BG2, u get keldorn to cast dispel magic occasionally.
like, i cant dispute there are builds that can solo the game with minimal input. there are peeps here that spend all their time trying to develop such, but i think its fair to say most of these strats arent immediately obvious to us normal saps.
Im unsure why u highlight the examples u do. The ciphers in sss can be dealt with using normal anti-caster strats + aegis of loyalty + intellect resistance. Theyre too squishy to be that hard a fight, nowhere near as annoying as splintered reef imo - those fampyrs take more of a beating. (Praise kyros for chill fog) u can interrupt anyone casting disintegration, and if one lands u can use barring deaths door/withdraw if ur regens not up to scratch. as for the soul mirror match, u alpha strike the back line, leave ur tank til last, debuff their defences and whittle them down. ai dont use the aggressive cheese strats available to a player or else something like bridge ablaze would be like pulling own fingernails out.
Like i also find it odd that u could prep enough to stat check everyone to death yet not figure out u could blast every ship to smithereens with double bronzers. like if u crush the ship fights u can proper clean up early game and take advantage of some powerful gear.
i dunno man, too much of what ur saying just dont jibe with my experience of game. I didnt feel ready to touch potd until id cleared the game veteran-upscaled and knew the craic.
like if ud said 'game too easy, herald kill everything with zero input on highest difficulty' that would have at least backed up what people have been saying elsewhere on this forum but eh...
Ah, should have made myself clear. BG1/2 are both easy once you get to know them... but don't tell me you never got
a) one-shot critted by gibberling/hobgoblin/random encounter bandit archers spawn in BG1
b) instakilled by Rayic Gethras' Finger of Death in BG2
c) imprisonmented by Kangaxx
d) level-drained to death
e) petrified by Beholders
f) had brain eaten by Mindflayers
g) died in Cloakwood spider webs
h) blasted to chunks by Thaxy dragon's level drain breath
j) paralyzed by Ghasts
k) ghasted by Aec'Laetec
This never, ever happens in Deadfire. Not even remotely close. It's easy even if you don't know squat about it other than stacking Deflection is apperantly equal to God mode, which kind of sums up my knowledge of the game.
I didn't have much trouble with Reef, maybe because I went there rather late (only 1 white skull). I don't know any anti caster strats for ciphers, or anything else for that matter (super-bosses aside, and w/o these forum I doubt I'd ever do Spider battle).
I only used brute force on everything - which proves my point - the game is so easy that there's just no need to. The whole "strategy" if you wanna call it that was that my PC with Casita Legacy + ugly green shield gets in combat first. From there on, its just counting frames and seeing icy arrows turning enemies into mush...
You must wear a seriously thick nostalgia gogles. I don't remember BG or BG2 to be anywhere near as hard as PoE or PoE2 in some places, on hardest difficulty setting both. A very, very exagerated judgement on your part. I have a passable knowledge of the mechanics by now and the game is challenging for me (but take note that I don't min-max and use only story companions, not the kind constructed for ease of play).
BG on hardest difficulty settings means you take double damage if you take any. Since virtually all damage can be negated in BG2, provided you know the game, difficulty can be irrelevant.
I don't want to go into "which game is better" here (both BG1 and BG2 suffer from being extremely cheesable, serious class disbalance, silly OP equipment etc. but that's not the point. Given that I've modded BG2 I'm well aware of it's quirks.)
Saying Deadfire is harder than either BG1 or BG2 (provided you never played either BG or Deadfire) is not something I can agree on, quite the opposite.
PoEI I didn't like much for some reason, can't comment on difficulty.
I don't play BG w/o mods such as SCS, and I only play No-Reloads.
Honestly, if it weren't for mods, BG2 would be long dead by now. It's a great game, but it's life wasn't prolonged by it's quality; but by modders' ingenuity.
On topic of dragons-
BG2 - meet Thaxy first time - whole party dead in less than 20 seconds, dragon uninjured. Difficulty level - normal (easier than "core")
Deadfire - meet the Watershaper dragon - 60% of party dead, 40% half health, dragon dead in cca 30 secons. Difficulty - PotD. Non-upscaled.
You do make some compelling points, there was a sense of discovery and forcing you to think outside the box in some unique encounters from BG series, which I've only found in Divinity OS2 since then.