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Pillars of Eternity has lots of abilities, but will we truly need to use them?

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It's obvious that, compared to the Infinity Engine games, characters of all classes in Pillars of Eternity will receive many active abilities to use.

 

The question is, will they truly need to use them?

 

There's one thing I really dislike about certain modern games; in particular, "powers-based shooters" in the vein of Bioshock, Dishonored, etc.

 

They give you a ton of cool abilities to use, and the reviews laud them for "offering the player so many choices!". But...those abilities tend to be very optional. The player has a "choice" of using them if he wants to mess around, or play some wacky character concept, but they're not a "choice" in the sense that the player needs to choose one of them to overcome challenges.

 

Basically, these games tend to be easy enough that the most straightforward way of progressing through them is to use the most standard options you're given. So, in Dishonored, that means lots of blinking and choking. In Bioshock, you can ignore the plasmids entirely and just stick to guns. Etc.

 

I think it's bad design when a game overwhelms you with "choice!!" like that without making that choice meaningful in terms of the challenges that the player faces. I'm a bit concerned that Pillars, with all of its talents and active abilities, might be going in that direction too. I don't want to have a hotbar full of abilities that I never use because "eh, you don't really need to use these, just auto-attack for another round, I don't even know what these things are".

 

I know that J.E. Sawyer sees the essence of RPGs in "allowing players to roleplay characters as they see fit", but I hope he realizes that some players need a bit of "push" from the game itself when choosing how to roleplay their characters.

 

Some of us don't have a distinct character concept in mind prepared ahead of time - as in, "I will play the guy who shoots fireballs at everything!"

 

Instead we choose how to develop and play our characters according to the types of challenges we're facing in the game as we play it, and if we see that the game never really requires us to throw a fireball, we simply won't do that, ever. And that's a shame.

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In anything but super-casual ****wit mode, yes you will.


"Take your child murderin' god and shove his him up his own ass."-Volorun

 

"...the vote of a black redhead disabled homosexual transsexual Jew should probably be worth the same as at least a hundred white heterosexual Christians."-Rostere

 

"i can think of many women i would gladly sleep with, but not a single one that i would want as a girlfriend/wife... neither real nor fictional."-teknoman2

 

"I'm all for killing dogs in film." - algroth

 

"Iselmyr is the one who did GOMAD... Aloth is lactose intolerant" -ShadySands

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I'm guessing on hardest difficulty you are looking at all your characters abilities at all times in combat whats available to turn the fight in your favor. Normal difficulty have you looking maybe 1-3 and leave the rest to auto attacks.

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I wonder if Normal difficulty for this game will have legitimate challenge or if it will be like most other games: almost no challenge at all.

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Comparing a party-based Infinity Engine-style title to Dishonored* seems a bit weird, but I get the point about difficulty. It will largely depend on how they tune the encounters, how fast the combat is (IIRC the ballpark is BG2/mid-level IWD), and whether they'll provide or not a robust and easily customizable AI scripts system. That said, I'd be really surprised if for mid-high level encounters I won't need to micromanage my party and use abilities across the range of my entire party to get through.

 

* I didn't really have any problem with how Dishonored handled ability, it was wonderfully creative with those, but then again, I'm the type that appreciates immensely the level design of Thief but doesn't necessarily care much about its difficulty.

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IIRC, they have mentioned that certain classes (classes that didn't have many actives in the IE games) will have the choice between active and passive talents, depending on the level of micromanagement that the player wants to devote to that character. So assuming the game is properly balanced, if you chose active abilities you would be forced to actually use them during difficult encounters or else the lack of passive abilities (the opportunity cost of the actives you chose) will mean that your party can't win, or will take too much HP damage in the process to be viable.

 

In short, unless they fail at their stated intention of having real choices (no strictly better options), than the abilities you do choose will be needed in order to succeed.

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I'm wondering if this thread would be yet another simplification casual vs old skool hardcore thread.

How many spells did D&D IE games have?  How many of them were accessible to any character build/any situation?  Outside of per encounter abilities and no spell disruption (interruption is there), I don't see many changes in the limitation to the abilities.  Furthermore, like in IE games, the players don't need to use abilities if they can deal with given situations (and force-march their parties)-except that this is same to Dishonored, if you actually played it.  Additionally, if you don't like concumptive ability-focused game, you can build a traditional style party with low maintenance character-builds except magic users.

Some might think this is just a presentation of fanboysm but, personally, I don't feel the game is designed for casuals judging from the given info so far.  In fact, I was surprised when Sawyer told that he wouldn't like to turn off FF even in easy mode, which I'm not planning to play (and I wouldn't mind, to be honest, which means I'm still seeing things from the viewpoint of a player).  He sounds to feel responsibility in offering intended gameplay to various types of players and I value such conscious DM attitude.  I feel similar thoughtfulness from various implementations which try to ease the learning curve without sacrificing the gameplay.

That said, of course, some players won't be convinced till they see the actual gameplay, which is a valid attitude to some extent and I won't even try to convince them but point out that the given info doesn't seem to indicate that Sawyer and his team are going to making the game for casual gamers, to my eyes.

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While I like to have a multitude of spells and abilities in games. There were a lot of spells in the IE games that were totally useless. Infravision comes to mind. I can't think of a single use for it. Carrion Summons was also terrible when other summons at that level were far better.

 

That's the impression I got from Infinitron's post. There was useless stuff in the IE games and you didn't need it. Because it was either not needed (Infravision) or there was better stuff (eg. spells, abilities) that steered you away from that useless stuff. Given the choice of level 6 spells for your Mage - Invisible Stalker, Summon Nishruu, Conjure Air/Earth/Fire Elementals, Wyvern Call and Carrion Summons, you would never memorise and cast Carrion Summons.

Edited by Hiro Protagonist II

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Yeah, it would have been more logical if he started the thread like:  IE games had tons of spells but how many were actually useful as meaningful choices?
Which confused me first but when I came across the words such as Bioshock/Dishonored, I began to think it would make more sense if the thread was based on a different motivation.  Wonder if I'm right but that's what I thought.

Edited by Wombat

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I'm not talking about useless spells, or about spells at all. I think players can accept that a mage will often have a wide repertoire of spells, some of which he doesn't really need. That's okay (or at least, not as bad) because he doesn't need to memorize them all.

 

Abilities are a different story, because they're always there, always accessible, on your hotbar. If you don't really need to use them, then they're just clutter masquerading as "choice".

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While I like to have a multitude of spells and abilities in games. There were a lot of spells in the IE games that were totally useless. Infravision comes to mind. I can't think of a single use for it. Carrion Summons was also terrible when other summons at that level were far better.

 

That's the impression I got from Infinitron's post. There was useless stuff in the IE games and you didn't need it. Because it was either not needed (Infravision) or there was better stuff (eg. spells, abilities) that steered you away from that useless stuff. Given the choice of level 6 spells for your Mage - Invisible Stalker, Summon Nishruu, Conjure Air/Earth/Fire Elementals, Wyvern Call and Carrion Summons, you would never memorise and cast Carrion Summons.

The closest comparison would be to the abilities such as "smite evil" and "rage" found in NWN2. You certainly don't need to activate those abilities in NWN2, but they do come in handy when you need them in. You probably could scrape through an easy or casual playthrough in PE without actively using these abilities, but should find yourself utilizing them regularly if encounters are well designed and the abilities are relatively plentiful.


"Take your child murderin' god and shove his him up his own ass."-Volorun

 

"...the vote of a black redhead disabled homosexual transsexual Jew should probably be worth the same as at least a hundred white heterosexual Christians."-Rostere

 

"i can think of many women i would gladly sleep with, but not a single one that i would want as a girlfriend/wife... neither real nor fictional."-teknoman2

 

"I'm all for killing dogs in film." - algroth

 

"Iselmyr is the one who did GOMAD... Aloth is lactose intolerant" -ShadySands

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Abilities are a different story, because they're always there, always accessible, on your hotbar. If you don't really need to use them, then they're just clutter masquerading as "choice".

?  I think, currently, active abilities are divided into per rest and per encounter ones.  Maybe you are talking of modal ones but they have their own pros and cons.

Edited by Wombat

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Honestly, no.  If I you were discussing smoothly with other posters in this thread, it would be my part of problem, though.

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I don't think every ability needs to have an intended encounter purpose. Tools may have a primary function, but the breadth of their use is ultimately up to the wielder. Many (functioning) varied abilities are a positive, as they enable different strategies, play-styles, character concepts, oh yeah--that thing call "fun". I almost forgot about that one.

 

Players don't necessarily need to be pushed into any given playstyle. Players shouldn't be pushed into concieving fully articulated character concepts and personalities. Players shouldn't be forced to roleplay. Players shouldn't be forced to resolve scenarios in a specific way when another more amenable to their playstyle/tactics/character/whim will solve it. I'm still not 100% sure what you're trying to express here, but it is certainly peculiar. While certain toys (see: Games) are generally created in such a way that an intended use to provoke (here's the word again) "fun", it is ultimately a toy. Like a tool, the user cares can and may derive utility from it in whatever manner they please.

 

Verbosity aside, please design varied and unique abilities to your hearts are content Obsidian. Dare to dream!

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Yeah, that would be much cleaner although I'm still not sure if it was what the OP meant.  I'd like the devs to give various tools for the players to fit the gameplays to their preferences, while keeping the game challenging enough to encourage them to make full use of their resources, too, especially at higher difficulties.  However, I think it's already their plan, based on what I read so far.  About the actual execution, though...well, I don't think I need to repeat myself.

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Possibly not.

 

On the one hand if you're playing DOTA, you can play the same character with just 4 abilities and spend many many hours playing the same one.

 

On the other hand, this isn't DOTA. And since your customizing your character build, so choice there seems paramount. Maybe, since we don't level up a lot apparently, there will be a lot of choices when leveling up, but maybe not so many abilities that each character might have access too at any one time.

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On one playthrough you might want to build a certain character (Fighter) and only auto-attack with it, in a way that most or if not all abilities becomes useless or not needed for your completion of the game (casual difficulty perhaps~ or a super tanky talents and a modal and active ability to adhere to that build on a harder difficulty, a taunt wall with lots of health and little damage/ability capabilities).

On another playthrough you might want to build a super heavy hitter (Fighter) that deals lots of damage and has a big arsenal of abilities to use in many different situations, tactically or not.

Maybe you are just roleplaying a character and just for the heck of it put weird wonky stats and weird concepts and simply make it work. Even if it is sup-optimal.

A big set of abilities allow for many different styles of play. At least for a first or second playthrough (as the first player base) before the game goes Wiki/Walkthrough-meta.

I think there's a lot of replayability in a good list of abilities, and even in Dishonored (which I played through twice, High Chaos and Low Chaos) I managed to try out different styles. One was a gung-ho melee and close ranged shooter who engaged like a barbarian, and I built the abilities to fit to that sort of playstyle, not OPTIMAL but it was fun. On my second playthrough I blinked, slowed down time, choked and neutralized everyone in a more stealthy sneaky ninja kind of way.

Again, what is "optimal" is all entirely up to you. I think that playing a High Chaos Barbarian type of style was optimal for that sort of playthrough, and the Low Chaos "Ninja"-like playthrough was optimal for that sort of playthrough~ am I making any sense?

Edited by Osvir

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I kinda agree with orginal poster regarding giving tons of abilities and 90% are just glitter or useless crap. As it seems new era games tend to give or do this.

 

OT

Actually i wouldnt mind see just shameless adoption from Blood Bowl style rules in other games, where you make dice roll and you get what you get. But those results would actually make some difference. 

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I think this is a question that can't really be answered until we play it.  JE Sawyer's responses lead me to believe that there will be a strong sort of class differentiation.  Stuff like mages being bad tanks even though they can wear plate.  I suspect that with all the noise they make about difficulty mechanics (and considering how many difficulty mods JE has put out), that class differentiation will be more strongly represented in harder difficulty modes.

 

A related question might be, how many abilities are too much?  Do you really want six people popping of special abilities every five seconds? 

 

On a separate note, I wish they hadn't / hope they aren't back-tracking with rangers though.  I know a lot of people like Drizzt, but dual-wielding seems wholly inappropriate for a class that lives in the woods and hunts for a living.

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Instead we choose how to develop and play our characters according to the types of challenges we're facing in the game as we play it, and if we see that the game never really requires us to throw a fireball, we simply won't do that, ever. And that's a shame.

 

All the IE games are beatable without throwing a fireball. That doesn't mean 'we' didn't and also doesn't mean those people didn't have fun or found them useful while throwing them.  There are plenty of useless spells in the IE games and I think JS said somewhere that they are focusing on not having so many filler spells. Meanwhile, fighters were auto-attack/item spam bots until HLA, where they get no-brainer buttons where there was no real reason not to use them in just about any dangerous situation. Booooooooring.

 

Although, using Bioshock and Dishonered in this argument is quite weird but I really doubt everyone played those games the exact same way you did. 

 

I'd also argue that if a game like PE required me to throw a fireball it would be dumb and horrible design. Then you would be pigeon-holed into rolling a class that can cast fireball (boring), taking the Wizard NPC (boring or he could be possibly dead because ironman) or you would be **** out of luck.  

 

More options > less options. And if given the choice of useless glitter vs easy, no thought-process required character build decisions then give me glitter every time. At least you would have the option to build your party non-conventionally.  

 

But really, I don't think this will be much of a problem in PE's case as it seems stat investment will be a big factor in how some of those active abilities will perform. 

Edited by PIP-Clownboy

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I can't say what will happen, but it seems that the intended design thus far is that you'll actually have to use your abilities, regardless of whichever ones you choose, if that's what you're asking.

 

As Josh put it, when he had Class A in the party and played, he missed Class B's abilities, because they were actually very useful in ways he could no longer replicate. And, likewise, when he swapped in Class B for Class A, he then missed Class A's abilities. Since there's variation amongst class builds (however much there is), I believe the intent carries forth into that variable zone, as well.

 

So, I'm not sure if you're asking if they'll be like plasmids in Bioshock, in that you'll have like 10 different abilities to use with a character in a given battle and you won't really need them for anything, or if you're asking if they'll sheerly be ammo we won't really need to expend. But, either way, I believe that the answer is the same: stuff will be necessary, in its own way.

 

You could probably pick any one ability from your available list at any given time in the game, and go the whole encounter without it. In some, you might not miss it much at all, and in others, you might miss it a bit, but could probably still do without it. However, I suspect that if you started picking 2, 3, 4, etc. and going without THOSE in a battle, your need for the abilities you aren't using would increase exponentially.

 

Just what I believe, based on what we know thus far.

Edited by Lephys

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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So, I'm not sure if you're asking if they'll be like plasmids in Bioshock, in that you'll have like 10 different abilities to use with a character in a given battle and you won't really need them for anything, or if you're asking if they'll sheerly be ammo we won't really need to expend.

 

Uh, aren't those two things the same? But yeah, that's what I mean.

 

What I'm kind of worried about here is that Josh is designing a game with all of these active abilities for non-spellcasting classes, and when the game gets to beta-testing there'll be lots of complaints about all the "ability spam" in the game and how it's un-Infinity Engine-like (which is true!). Following that, those abilities will be made optional, basically existing in the game only for people who want to click an awesome button and see their characters do a cool animation once in a while.

 

Yeah, that's an extreme scenario, but I just don't know what Josh's intentions are here. On the one hand, he says that he's designing Fighters for "mostly passive use" but on the other hand, he IS giving them all these abilities, so, are they really necessary or are they just for show? I just don't know.

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