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Review, impressions and observations V257 - bb bb

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Hi all and Hi Oblivion.



At first I thought I would read everyone's comments before posting so as not to be redundant.  I now realize that is a bad idea.  For one, there is simply way too much to read and its not organized sufficiently.  For two, reading other's comments was both confusing me and influencing my opinions.  So I have cleared my mind of all that, because I want what I put down here to be virginal, to be influenced only by the experience, so as to give the Devs as close to an unvarnished opinion on things as possible.  I also realize that redundancy of flawed issues and bugs is actually good for the developer process, although it may get tiresome for us reviewers.


Like most of you all, I am a huge fan of all IE and the like experiences.  I still find them very enjoyable.  I have been at this since Alkalabeth on the Apple IIc.


So the first part of this review will begin with my impressions of various aspects of PoE as I experienced them. It will follow a chronological pattern of how I experienced ths issues.  It will mention good and bad; bugs and discuss potential design issues.  The second part of the review will attempt to address Obsidians stated questions from Update 84.   Again, much of this may be redundant to previous posts but I think thats ok, as many people reporting an issue makes it more important than one person experiencing an issue.


I spent over 3 days in the experience according to the Character stats screen... but that does not count forgetting to save and then replaying large areas do to dying or game crash.  I am not sure if that is real time or game time or it they are the same.  I think the actual time was closer to 20-30 hours so I believe there is a difference.  I think I experienced all there is, although I am stuck at the underground temple unable to get the whole soul urn thing to work.


This review will go into the details -  some of which can be totally boring to some reviewers but hopefully not the Devs.


Review Impressions:

This is a true beta.  We are still early in the process.  We are not at a polish stage. 


Load Screen Impressions:

Music = pretty, professional, evokes a sweetness yet mild sense of melancholy.   Is this intended? 

Discussion:  The music is a critical factor for both immersion and establishing emotional impact. 

Opinion:  I think BG1&2, IWD1&2, PST, NWN and others got it right. All very good.  I did not like it for Diablo1 and I actively disliked the music for Arcanum, which was super super depressing music to me.  I think PoE is somewhere in the middle.  I would say that if BG1 etc are at 100 and Arcanum is at 0, then PoE is around 70.  My opinion on the music did not change as I went thru the experience as it did not change with the exception that Its very quiet once you get into the experience.  Thats ok if you dont like it as much, not so good if you like it.

Screen Graphics = pretty, but also somewhat limited, leaves me wondering what PoE is all about.  Is this intended?

Discussion:  The initial load screen should evoke the essence of the experience.  I do not know if it has done so or not as the load screen seems to be the inside of a deserted temple or tomb and thats it.  I also get the same sense of melancholy with it as I do the music.  Is/should this be intended?



Options Screen Impressions:  Pretty, reminiscent of BG

Issues:  It is unclear whether options chosen hold, as sometimes when clicking back thru tabs where options were checked they become unchecked.  Difficulty level slider sometimes changes.  No save options button.  Must exit then given save option.  This is NOT intuitive.  When starting new game after saving options it asks about game difficulty level again.  Seems a bit redundant.

Autopause tab:  Choose auto pause on char dam, combat start,  stop move, and hidden object

Issues:  Auto pause on enemy sighted not selectable

Game tab:  Choose hard mode, clicked all except trial, expert, death and developer

Issues:  Names on all tabs disappear

Graphics tab:  Choose 1920 x 1080, no other options chosen

Issues:  Names on all tabs disappear; what the heck are big heads and gibs??

Sound tab:  Default settings (all max)

Issues:  Names on all tabs disappear

Controls tab:  Default settings

Issues:  Seems like the data is not centered right... too low maybe and the bottom line is faded out...


Load Screen Impressions:   Its black and takes longer than anticipated... may be beta issue, i.e not optimised yet.  Note that loading issues continued throughout the experience but were not uniform in duration.  Sometimes very minimal, sometimes medium and sometimes long.  And sometimes result in freezes requiring a ctrl-esc and forced shutdown or even crashes.


Character Creation Impressions:  Note that I probably spent 3-4 hours here reading everything and pondering the implications of the choices.  Cute characters, UI seems intuitive... now for the test...

Gender:  Choose Male

Issues:  Large size difference between genders...  is this intended?  why?  Unclear affect on gameplay of this choice.

Recommendations:  Would prefer more variability in size and females not automatically smaller.

Race:  Choose Godlike (Nature)

Issues:  Unclear affect on gameplay of this choice, some implied impacts but are they real or am I imagining them?  Did not anticipate the option of racial subchoices or body type here (not intuitive).   Stat impacts for each race are unknown at this point.

Recommendations:  Would change body type to body size and move it under gender or make it a separate category.  Would make the subraces as a drop down menu from races rather than a separate subsequent screen.  Need a pop up over each racial stat to show its impact.

Class:  Choose Ranger (Stag)

Issues:  None, good explanation of each class.

Attributes:  Choose 12,12,15,12,12,15

Issues:  Not enough useful feedback or guidance on this choice.  What is theoretical max possible in each category?  what is max actually possible (based on in-game things like stat tomes, armour, weapons or leveling to these stats)?  Going back to this option after choosing culture and adjusting options causes you to lose stat points.

Culture:  Choose Living Lands (Explorer)

Issues:  Again, no real idea of the impact of these choices

Appearance:  Left defaults

Issues:  Not sure why some options not adjustable.  Bug?  or not available based upon previous choices?

Portraits:  Hmmm

Issues:  Way too few.  Not enough for all the choices possible.  As Male Nature Godlike I had only one choice.  

Recommendations:  Need to provide several portraits per gender/race/class combo.

Voices:  Hmmm

Issues:  Only one choice.  May be beta limitation. 

Recommendations:  Need multiple voice choices.


The World Impressions:  Very pretty, definite IE feel.  Love all the trees, grasses, boulders, butterflies, deer, birds, etc.  But its a little hard to distinguish people and animals from the background, especially when zoomed out. (The IE series had this challenge as well)  Map size is shockingly small for 20 years post-BG, smaller than it was then even... could be beta special maps?  Fog of war reappears on entering or loading the map again.

Recommendations:  Make people, animals, the party, etc stand out from the background better.  How to do this will be the challenge.  Maybe make the zoom range larger?  (I would like to be able to zoom in much closer to things to see them in close up detail)  Or use a different color palette for them?  Or make the circles at their feet much brighter?  As for the maps, they should be 2-4 times larger than BG maps - making them smaller is simply not a good choice.


UI Impressions and Recommendations:  UI elements and placement do not make a lot of sense.  Text box in lower right is rarely looked at.  Seems too far away and in the wrong place.  Should be lower left.  Portraits should be top left or bottom center.  The tool that contains your UI choices (now in bottom center) should be bottom right or top right or maybe top center.  I hope this is either a beta temp or can be adjusted.

Or... make all UI elements adjustable in location and size by everyone.  UI elements sometimes resize themselves for no apparent reason... hmm. 


Animal:  My animal!  Why doesnt he appear like and with the party chars??  He should and I should be able to level him and see his stats and he sure as heck should be able to carry inventory... lots and lots of inventory.  In short, animal companions should be treated just like regular party members - with larger inventory.  Maybe he should be the "stash".


Formations Option:  Took quite awhile to figure out how this was supposed to work and quite frankly it never worked very well or consistently.  I had great trouble getting the correct formation and then the group just did their own thing anyways.


Inventory Screen:  Overall I like the look and feel of this screen with some exceptions.  I really like individual char inventories but eight slots is too few.  Space allows for 16. Increase to 16.  Maybe increase higher.  Crafting should be a separate option, not part of inventory.  Appearance colors should be adjustable on this screen and/or character screen.  I do not like the abbreviations or lack of explanatory popups for the stats under the portrait.  I do like separate quest and stash buttons and would add one for all crafting materials.  I do NOT like one giant shared inventory so am very glad that is not here.  Closing enchanting should not take you fully out of inventory.


Items:  They are a real mess now - early beta.  Lots of missing icons, missing strings, disappearing items from inventory, inventory slots that seem to eat things like black holes, etc.  Item stats change when moving from inventory to being equipped!  How do you actually use things like the rope and grappling hook???  Too much to say here in detail.  Needs lots of work.  I like the item description popup but its needs a close x button and some descriptions dont word wrap correctly.


Character Screen:  Overall I like the look and feel of this screen with the exception of the buttons under the portrait again.  They need to be spelled out and have a popup.  Need to add explanations for Stealth, Athletics, Lore, Mechanics, Survival.  Stat records go missing or become corrupted - unknown cause.


Quest/Journal Screen:  I like it except that some quests disappear from it!  And then can reappear later!  No idea whats going on there.


Party Control Impressions:  Hey the old BG pathfinding issues are still here!  Hard to get party in correct formation.  Very hard to select individual party members.  What determines who talks to an NPC??  Should be either who I select or char with the best stats for the situation.  Dont like the current default of whoever is closest.  And dont like current speaking default of party leader.  Want to use the char with the best speaking stats to engage an NPC in conversation.   My Stag is very slow, esp in sneak - that makes no sense. (Four legged should be faster than two legged)  Also I lost my Stag after completing Ogre/Spider cave - he is gone - permanently I think.


Combat Impressions:  Very BG-like but not quite as good.  Moves way too fast, very hard to see whats going on even with all the autopauses. pathfinding issues continue here.  Not sure when I can or shoudl schedule my spells.  All just very confusing.  Some combat situations impossibly hard.  Went into Spider/Ogre cave multiple times and got slaughtered repeatedly by all the spiders swarming.  Then snuck thru the cave to the exit to the little ledge with the corpse, came back in, and was able to mop up the spiders no problem!?!?  Why no ability to disengage from combat??  Thats silly.  I should be able to run away.  I also should be able to have select chars near death be able to run away to a safer area, even outside the cave, just like we could do in BG.  No combat exp???  Why??  While I concur it should not be the center of exp gain there should be something.  Or if not exp, then stat gains to weapons or skill bonuses ala Skyrim - something - anything.  Screen center of focus jumps around the map in combat - very annoying.  Combat animations continue long after combat over if no other movement directed.


Quest Impressions:  Interesting.  This is not BG.  Oh its BG-like it the dialogue options and the overall feel.  But BG had clear good, evil and neutral choices which I liked because I could determine outcome.  Here... wow... so I agree to help everyone in town like a good guy.  But once into the quests, I have now let an ogre go, slaughtered Tyrgil and his buddy,  made an arrangement with a vile animancer to let the girl slaughter her abuser,  extorted money from the abuser, betrayed one set of thieves for another group, and gotten stuck underground trying to get the darn soul urn quest to work.  Needless to say thats all very different than BG - not sure if better or worse yet.  I predict lots of conflict later in the story if all these people I have betrayed get mad!


Miscellaneous Impressions:

Save game list is not chronological and loses data in its description.  Also it scrolls way past where it should.

I have no idea how to get the dragon egg down. I can climb up but cant sue the rope to lower it and carrying it results in fall.

Soul urn quest is either broken or I am not understanding it.  I am on the dais with urn and that adra spear in my inventory and I have one of my peeps on each of the two blocks they should stand on but nothing happens. Oh well.


Overall Impressions Wrap-up:  Lots of potential.  Lots of issues. Biggest strengths are pretty maps, interesting quests (if potential future implications are acted upon).  Biggest challenges are maps too small, pathfinding, inventory and items, combat, exp gain and difficulty seeing things on the maps, plus lots of little issues.  Looking forward to seeing these and other suggestions acted upon.


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