Second, before I start, I expect to get some flak on at least some of the points, or possibly because of the entire thread, because I'm overly critical, and maybe some accusations of me hating the game. Nothing could be further from the truth; Pillars of Eternity is an amazing game in many regards.
Much of the art is second to none, the areas are absolutely beautiful, many of the apparent design goals are great, the open-ended approach to characters is amazing, the writing is largely superb, and many of the characters are some of the best I've experienced (I especially love Edér and Durance) and even those I did not expect to like at all are quite good (Kana Rua, Hiravias).
It feels unfair to many of the developers that we often end up focusing on the issues, but it is the fact of life that we rarely take time to discuss that which has no problems. If this was a speech, this is where I'd ask for a round of applause before I continue. It is an amazing effort and despite questionable decisions, whether along the road or more recently, it bears repeating; Pillars of Eternity is an amazing game in many regards, and even those of us that insist on finding issues, examining them, pick them apart, beating the system with a wrench and suggest solutions are - by and large - looking forward to where all of this will take us in the future, whether in expansions or sequels. It's all still a little bit up in the air.
Now, as for those issues, written mostly straight from memory, these are some of the clearest issues as I see them, and some thoughts related to them.
- The Attributes.
By now, I think that most people have acknowledged that the Attributes are.. lopsided, to say the least. When the current set of Attribute modifiers were introduced in BBv435, they were a considerable departure from the previous set of modifiers. What is notable here is that before BBv435, damage calculations were extremely off, with the result being that Accuracy was far more valuable than it is now, leading to Perception, which gave +2 Accuracy, was the undisputed king of everything.
BBv435 thus did a "double-whammy" in that when fixing that issue, Accuracy was (rightfully) devalued, but the Attribute modifiers were still changed considerably to deal with an issue that may not even have been as pronounced any more. Also, with BBv435, many beta testers pointed out some obvious issues, but were unable to truly test the setup, because BBv435 was also broken in that the Dexterity bonus, +3% Action Speed, worked in reverse (so lower Dexterity was better) and Interrupt calculations were broken (meaning you could put enemies into stunlocks by having high Perception.
Despite this, it was said that this setup was supposedly feeling like "the most balanced yet", a statement that in hindsight should be taken with a bowl of salt. Despite the issues being pointed out by sheer theorycrafting alone, the Attributes did not change with BBv480, which was released very shortly before release, and then finally, the Attributes were still not changed on release.
Really Old Modifiers (Removed after BBv392): MGT: +3% Damage & Healing, +2 Fortitude. CON: +2% Endurance & Health, +2 Fortitude. DEX: +3% Action Spd, +2 Reflex. PER: +2 Accuracy, +5% Range, +2 Reflex. INT: +6% AoE, +2 Deflection, +2 Will. RES: +3% Concentration, +5% Duration, +2 Will.
Current Modifiers (BBv435 to 1.03): MGT: ±3% Damage & Healing, ±2 Fortitude. CON: ±3 Endurance & Health, ±2 Fortitude. DEX: ±3% Action Speed, ±2 Reflex. PER: ±3 Interrupt, ±1 Deflection, ±2 Reflex. INT: ±6% Area of Effect, ±5% Duration, ±2 Will. RES: ±3 Concentration, ±1 Deflection, ±2 Will.This current setup favours heavy specialization, which I find somewhat infuriating. Min/maxing is greatly encouraged, not even by class like in the Infinity Engine games (which also had pronounced issues with this, but at least the min/maxing was different for each class) but by build itself - boiling it down to two, DPS and Tank.
Tanks want PER/RES, while DPS wants DEX/MGT. This ties into somewhat with the issues of the armour system, with Dexterity being virtually useless for anyone in armour, because the DPS/Tank dichotomy carries over into that, but that's another point. INT is useful for almost everyone, and is a completely consolidated caster attribute, increasing both Duration% and Area of Effect% at the same time.
CON is largely useless, because it adds much more for High-Endurance Classes than for Low-Endurance Classes. The Low-Endurance Classes are very unlikely to serve as tanks, and if they can be considered needing of an Endurance boost, they will actually receive very little, and certainly not to the point where it will make a real difference; if they get caught taking damage consistently, they will die consistently whether they have a relatively small +% boost or not.
The opposite is true for High-Endurance Classes; if they are serving as tanks, they will be good or bad tanks based on factors far beyond their Endurance pool, and while they get more Endurance than a Low-Endurance Class, they also need the boost far less. So CON doesn't help those that need it, and it's not necessary for those that it could help.
For ranged DPS, the situation is slightly worse, because they can even get away with dumping CON; not only are they likely to already have very low Endurance, meaning that they don't take as big of an impact as a High-Endurance class reducing their CON, but they are also out of harms way, meaning that they should never be consistently hit outside of fringe cases (Shadows, etc).
The goal of the Attribute System as a whole is truly admirable. The goal that each of the Attributes should affect everyone equally, and be reasonably viable to some degree, allowing different builds to be different yet competative - a high-Perception Wizard being comparable to a high-Dexterity wizard, just with relatively different play-styles.
But it falls woefully short of that mark.
Furthermore, the modifiers are largely unintuitive. For example, all of the best barbarian builds all use Intellect, which I definitely think should be doable, but it should not be the default, intuitive assumption. Likewise, any Paladin that isn't specifically a tank should never taken Resolve, despite Resolve being what you'd expect to be a primary Attribute for Paladins.
Gruff and violent fighters clad in heavy armour are not the first ones you think of when you think Perception and Resolve, yet it is exactly the thing you'd want. All casters will want Might as at least a secondary Attribute, and although it was conceptualized as a general Attribute signifying inner strength, it tends to revolve more around physical prowess in play, which is the opposite of every wizardly archetype ever.
What is more worrysome is that Obsidian has already acknowledge this as an issue. In 1.03, the CNPC Attributes were overhauled, likely in the response to overwhelming commentary regarding the truly gimp Attribute Spreads that CNPC:s had. For example, Aloth had major scores in Intellect and Perception, the latter which is completely dead weight for him.
The Attributes were moved around for most of the CNPC:s to give them objectively better Attributes. Instead of using the realization that the Attributes were bad for the CNPC:s to change the Attribute system, they instead acknowledged the issue and decided to change the CNPC:s to make them better, compromising the Attribute/Character Concept foundation that shaped those decisions to begin with.
Pallegina, the literally bird-eyed Avianlike lost Perception for Resolve. Hiravias, the wood-born tough-as-nails had-eye-gouged-out-and-ear-ripped-off Wild Orlan lost two points of Constiution and Dexterity in favour of Intellect. Durance, the crazy old firebrand of a soldier that is burned and battered to the bone and hates hesitation or needless discussion lost Constitution and gained Intellect. Edér, the contemplative and clever ex-soldier that questions whether his god even exists, lost all his Intellect and instead gained Perception and Resolve.
All of these changes were clearly specifically to make the CNPC:s better within the confines of an Attribute system that can only be described as broken, and it clearly acknowledges that Obsidian knows this, or the change wouldn't even have been considered necessary. Doubly so since it clearly compromises who these characters are supposed to be on a personal level.
Instead of doing that, the Attribute Modifiers need to be changed. And while doing so, the characters' Attribute-Concept consistencies restored. Now, I am by no means an expert, but as many know, this has been one of my biggest pet-peeves since BBv435, and I've tried to repeatedly suggest an alternate set. Whether it is perfect or not is extremely debatable - I certainly think it isn't, myself - but it is certainly better.
Suggested Modifiers: MGT: ±3% Damage & Healing, ±2 Interrupt, ±2 Fortitude. CON: ±1 Endurance, ±3% Endurance, ±2% Armour Recovery Penalty, ±2 Concentration, ±2 Fortitude. DEX: +3% Action Speed, +2 Deflection +2 Reflex. PER: +1 Accuracy, +4 Interrupt, +2 Reflex. INT: +6% Duration, +2 Deflection, +2 Will. RES: +6% AoE, +6 Concentration, +2 Will.This has several advantages to the current system. There would be a greater synergy between some of the Attributes, for focused builds, such as an interrupter (Interrupt) that hits hard (MGT) and precise (PER) with every blow, the intelligent (INT) and nimble (DEX) warrior playing on his defensive strengths (Deflection), or a focused (RES) and athletic (CON) man that pushes through no matter how hard he's hit (Concentration.
Intellect would no longer be a consolidated caster attribute and a one-stop-shop for spell/ability modifiers, and Intellect would be an option for the intelligent defensive warrior.
Resolve reaffirms it's position as the Attribute that represents a character's power (or wish) to influence the world and not be influenced by it, affecting a character's ability to direct his soul or the powers associated with it.
Constitution is no longer largely meaningless, and slightly less of a dump stat. A small but significant boost, but mostly conceptually. Assuming a Constitution of 20 ("fully maxed") the flat modifier to Health & Endurance is equal to over one extra level's worth for Wizards (10/level) but not nearly as much for Barbarians (16/level).
Furthermore, given that Endurance by itself is of questionable value, it also affects the effects of wearing armour, reducing the Armour Recovery Penalty by percentage. For example, let's say a base Plate Armour has a penalty of -50%, with a fully pumped, 20 Constitution (10*3%) it would be reduced by 20%, to -35%.
These changes makes Constitution more desirable to both low-Endurance characters with little armour and tanks that do not need the endurance but are woefully gimped by their superheavy armour. Do note that the examples given are extremes. It might not even be a bad idea to scrap the percentage modifier to Endurance completely, although I'm hesitant to suggest it myself.
Perception may appear overvalued again, but do note that the bonus to Interrupt have been cut in half. Accuracy is not nearly as valuable anymore, and even if you fully min/max to get Perception, it still only provides a maximum of +10 Accuracy. The fact that this is a blanket bonus makes Perception a good choice for casters, but would still be a choice made at the expense of not taking other Attributes that are now of equal or greater worth.
- The Lack of Individual Stealth & No Stealthing in Combat.
This is a big one to me. In the game, everyone Stealths or no-one Stealths, by going into "Scouting Mode". Once combat starts, Stealth is broken for everyone at the same time, regardless of individual Stealth skill, Class, Abilities, Attributes or Talents. Nothing matters; Combat is flagged, everyone is bumped out, no ifs, buts or maybes.
This completely neuters the idea of tactical deployment of troops. You can't sneak around the enemy and tie them up with your main group and then run in and surprise them with a string of backstabs. You can't Disengage, run away, and then come back from around a corner somewhere else, and surprise the enemy.
You can't keep your rogue in the shadows and then wait until they move past you, and then attack. And forget about lining up a backstab to initiate combat - if you do, you will be immediately Engaged, and because of the Engagement system and the targeting AI, utterly destroyed by the enemy before you can even think of getting your tank in there. The way you could backstab someone and then run away in the IE games simply isn't viable in PoE because of Engagement. You want to hold off and attack at an opportune time, but with the current Scouting Mode, you can't.
Interestingly, it seems that in some way - although I may be wrong how this works under the hood of the engine - this restriction doesn't apply to enemies. I've seen phantoms or shadows show up en masse only after an encounter have begun. This is likely done in-engine by means of some invisibility effect, rather than "real" Stealth, or maybe they are simply summoned, and didn't exist before the fact. Maybe it's a bug.
But never once have I seen this happen to me like it sometimes happened in the Infinity Engine games, with stealthed rogues showing up behind my lines - aside from the aforementioned phantoms/shadows that can teleport all over the place, which is not what I'm talking about.
Characters need to be able to stealth individually and engage individually, based on their own skills, so that they can be held back or deployed when prudent. I would be fine if it became progressively harder to Stealth as a battle goes on, to represent the enemy looking for you or being alert, and I think that characters definitely should have directional detection (something I do not think is in the game right now at all) and if everyone else is dead, turn around in the area for a while to try to find "the one that got away"; or things to that effect.
But the whole "all or nothing"-idea of Stealth needs to go. Combat shouldn't automatically break Stealth, and characters should be measured by their skill individually, and choosing when to do what should be a tactical or strategic decision.
- Experience is ubiquitous & inconsistent.
Experience is currently so broken it's not even funny. The game is capped at level 12, something I think is perfectly fine - I honestly would probably have preferred an even lower level cap, but done is done, and level 12 is fine.
What isn't fine, however, is that you basically skyrocket through the levels. There are many people that have reached the level cap of 12 before even reaching Twin Elms. Experience is awarded right, left and centre.
I get the feeling that Obsidian never really understood the fundamental argument in favour of Goal-Oriented Experience. The reason people wanted Goal-Oriented Experience was because it would give the developers the freedom to build encounters and situations that can be solved in a range of ways that rewarded the player independent of solution. Deus Ex is a great example of how this was done, and should be compulsory playing for any games developer.
Yet we still have Lockpicking Experience, which makes it more beneficial to actually lockpick doors than to find the key. We have Trap-Disarm Experience, which means that you'll never want to solve traps in any other way than to manually disarm all of them. The traps in the prologue temple? Yep, I went back there; it was a ton of experience, just sitting there on the floor, why would I possibly pass those by?
And we still.. actually.. have murder-experience. We call it Bestiary Experience, but it's practically the same thing, with the exception that it's capped, which doesn't actually mean anything, because as far as I know, no enemies respawn anyway, so you'd be limited in the amount of experience either way.
The question is why. It is as if Obsidian never saw the argument, only that a lot of people didn't want Murderhobo Experience "for some reason", and decided to implemented based on argumentum ad populum alone. And then they started to compromise, leaving the basis of the original argument altogether.
As a side note, bounties have insane experience doleouts. They're optional content, but in my opinion, if you want to reach the level cap, you should have to do almost all optional content. Even a single bounty can reward upwards 11k of experience, completely throwing off any general indication of experience values or measurements.
At this point, I honestly think that the reason for not having Murderhobo Experience in the game is completely gone, because the original argument simply isn't applicable to the actual state of the game anymore.
This is not to say that I support adding Murderhobo Experience back in. Quite the opposite. Getting experience from Lockpicking, Trap Disarming and killing enemies needs to be removed. Experience should be rewarded for finding secrets, solving problems, being inventive, doing the unexpected, and finishing quests.
And to reconnect to the original issue of experience being ubiquitous, the experience needed for each subsequent level needs to be increased, my proposal being by 3-5% per additional level, starting at level 1. This would mean that at lower levels, the difference will be very small, but rise exponentially at higher levels, hopefully resulting in more difficulty to actually cap out, as well as slowing level-up pacing as characters increase in level.
It should be really hard to reach the level cap in the base game. Right now you take a casual stroll down the peripheries of the main questline and you drown in experience, doled out at every turn and promoting contrived, degenerate, gameplay.
- Murderhoboing for fun and profit / Inventory & Stash Issues.
This very much ties into the previous issue. Because PoE has a lot of mechanics in how the inventory and game economy works, and it has some far-reaching implications. There is no Encumbrance, there is an Infinite Stash that can be accessed from anywhere, merchants have infinite gold, and every enemy drops something that is either gold by any other name, or of incalculable value due to enchanting.
By themselves, each of these mechanics are not necessarily bad. But taken together, the result is... less than stellar. First of all, it promotes the aforementioned Murderhoboing, whether it awards experience or not. In many other games, the Infinity Engine games included, the acquisition of resources are restricted - if not directly, then at least by means of "hassle".
Yes, I could loot all those individual soldiers in the Oasis in Throne of Bhaal, but why would I go through that hassle? Yes, I could throw every last piece of equipment into my Bag of Holding, but why would it be worth my time? These are hassles, but those hassles by themselves are enough to discourage the situation.
The situation being that I will never pass on loot. Never ever. Why would I? I have a Area-Loot Mechanic that saves me from the hassle of even having to individually click the corpses, and I have an infinite stash that can carry all of it, and I don't have to worry about how much I can carry, because there is no encumbrance, and I have merchants with an infinite amount of gold that will happily buy all of it at once.
And every last opponent contributes to this. If they don't contribute to my wealth directly, they give me Enchanting supplies. Even without experience rewards, why would I pass on enemies, ever, under those circumstances? I won't, obviously, why would I, that's just crazy-talk.
All of this taken together undermines the previous point of avoiding Murderhobo Experience and removes the choices as to what you will take with you, what is worth your time, and how you choose to approach the game.
Some can argue that they don't want the "hassle" of X, Y or Z, and that such things interfere with the "gameplay", but I would argue that such things add to the gameplay by being reasonable choices you would have to make, and incentivizes finding alternate solutions to approaches, because you don't *want* to be saddled with carting off someone's armour and pawn off their sword at the merchant.
This is not a cry for simulationism, but a real issue of choice and incentives. With the current setup, we might as well convert non-essential loot to gold on the spot and auto-pickup everything, with a little clink-clink wound and a floating "+5 gold" over the heads of killed opponents. It would mechanically serve the same purpose.
Exactly how restrictive vs. hassle-free things should be is entirely debatable, but I would personally not be opposed to restricting the Stash to merchants, Inns and the Stronghold, adding Encumbrance, and adding gold caps to the vendors. But I realize that some of that may be overboard - but something needs to be done and the situation reconsidered.
Because the current system incentivizes the exact form of gameplay that Murderhobo Experience does, and turns virtually all loot straight into gold coins, with no trade-offs whatsoever, and every non-humanoid is a loot-pinata of bodyparts for the mortar and pestle of enchanting.
- "Combat Only" needs to die in a fire.
This is related to the entire conversation on pre-buffing, but I actually consider the issue largely separate. "Combat Only" feels utterly contrived and out of place, like an artificial limiter that jerks me out of the gameplay, and it is entirely inconsistent.
For example, the Zealous Charge aura of the Paladin is "Combat Only". But Zealous Focus aura isn't. Why? There are plenty of examples of this throughout the game and the various classes.
One of the earlier explanations we have been given on this issue was that Sawyer focused on eliminating things that felt like really repetative actions that didn't necessarily make the game more fun. Reading that comment, it somewhat stands out as largely being.. non-applicable to the state of PoE.
The "opportunity cost" is already built into the game. Using any spell costs you a valuable and finite amount of time (the very short duration of the spell), effort (the fact that you are expending time to do this is in itself a limiter, you may simply not think it's worth your time, most of the time) and multiple limited resources (the limited number of spells themselves, as well as the camping supplies that will need to be expended to keep excessive spellcasting up).
That's the costs. Time, effort and resources. He also mentions tactical decisions and choices. However, any choice you make before the start of a battle could be just as strategically important as any made during the course of a battle. By expending your limited resources beforehand, you are unable to change it later, which to me is the very definition of a meaningful choice - the choice of how to approach a given scenario.
Combat in PoE is already largely free of reactivity, and depend on pre-encounter positioning and the general approach to combat. The "Combat Only" state leads to contrived situations where the player has to almost literally fight the system in order to do things anyone would consider reasonable. Not only does the presented argument fall rather flat in practice, but one also have to ask oneself if that even if it would have some very limited merit to it, would that small amount of merit warrant such a hard cap on doing what anyone would consider rather reasonable? Would it warrant the limitation of choice on part of the player, his choice on how to approach combat, because "Pre-Buffing is boring"?
It just makes me think of badwrongfun-logic. There are many ways I would consider boring ways to play the game, yet I would not restrict those ways to play the game based on my own idea of how to play it "right".
And add to that the point that largely, "arguments" in favour of the "Combat Only" restrictions are based on how specifically buffing worked in the Infinity Engine games, suggesting that there is a strong dichotomy between "Long-term no-brained buffs with no tradeoffs" and "No pre-buffing whatsoever achtung", whilst nothing could be further from the truth.
Buffs in PoE already have reasonable limiters on them, not just in regards to effort (which is minor) and resources, but primarily in time. The vast majority of buffs in PoE does not even last longer than 60 seconds, even if you min/max your caster into high Intellect. The idea of standing several minutes and have several casters juggle several buffs around is completely alien, even if we disregard the fact that it would be a reasonable decision on part of the player to make if this was not true.
And even if they would be able to buff themselves, these short durations would mean that the buffs would disappear before the battle is over, and that every second spent before initiating confrontation would essentially be "wasted" from a buffing perspective - in a game where positioning is so important, to boot.
I often spend more time working out positioning in PoE, and getting the initiation of an encounter right, than I ever spent on pre-buffing in the IE games, save large, important encounters, where, indeed, pre-buffing was a boring, tedious process - but that is again beside the point, because there are other, reasonable, clear limitations that possible to have in play before you go to such draconian lengths as to completely restrict the usage of abilities, spells and powers outside of combat.
The second, latter argument we have seen, was that the balance reasons are minor compared to the save issues. That the game has had troubles restoring saves because buffs were not retained properly. In the context of the finished game, this must be considered poppy****. This may have been true at some point, and I do not think that Brennecke is lying, and it may not even be that long ago that it could have been true, but there are many, many different forms of buffs in the game, and there have been no major trouble with saves and loads with them that I know of.
Food items are technically buffs. They have no issues in this regard. Resting bonuses are technically buffs, they have no issues in this regard. Paladin auras are technically buffs, yet Zealous Focus is not restricted, but Zealous Charge is; is that because Zealous Focus works fine with saves and loads, but Zealous Charge is somehow broken? I find that very, very hard to believe.
Instead of moving away from this restriction, we've seen them adding it to previously free abilities that, again, had no issue with saving or loading.
The only possible issue with it's removal would arguably be related to the Per-Encounter Spellcasting of high-level Casters, but that is a separate point, because that needs to be addressed too, if they intend to keep using this system and iterate on it.
There is a treasure trove of problems with the "Combat Only" restriction on abilities, and the entire mechanic needs to die in a fire; be punted off the cliffs of Mt. Doom and subjected to orbital bombardment. Not only would it's removal be largely beneficial to the game, and promote strategic and tactical gameplay, but the original issues for which it was implemented are not even present.
- The Armour System is missing the mark completely.
This is a hairy one. The fundamentals of the armour system is good. Really good. The idea has concrete merits and is fundamentally good, in my opinion. The fact that armour scales "naturally", has different values vs. different forms of damage, and applies equally to all characters independent of class and so on is really, really good.
But it completely misses the mark.
In fact, all it does is reinforce - although I would say truly cement - the Tank vs. DPS dichotomy that was mentioned earlier. This is a problem Attributes already contributes to, but it is the current Armour system that really cements it, aided in party by the Engagement system.
If you have any idea what you are doing in the game, there is no point in wearing anything between Cloth (No Armour) and Full Plate (Heavy Armour). Common criticism levied against the D&D system in the Infinity Engine games was that "you always wear the highest and that's it". Which was a fair point. But at least the highest armour you used depended on your class, in fact, you were restricted to do so.
But in Pillars of Eternity, everyone, no matter what class, will invariably be best off wearing either no armour, or heavy armour. It has largely replaced one "no-brainer" choice with two "no-brainer" choices, not based on class, but on the two different builds possible.
Why is that? Well, first of all, tanking is a very strong role in PoE, that you will likely commit to entirely or not at all, because of how the combat resolution system works (you want High Deflection, or it will not really matter if you have a little) and how divided the Attribute system is between the two roles. There is not really such a thing as a middle road.
And added to that is the Engagement system and the combat AI, which when all is taken together means that the Tank will soak up damage (or rather, avoid taking damage at all), while the others are unlikely to take any damage. In fact, if they know what they're doing, they'll take no damage at all, or at least not take damage consistently.
All armour comes with a penalty to Recovery Speed. This means that even wearing Robes (which do not count as Cloth, for some indecipherable reason) comes at a -15% Recovery Speed Penalty. This reduces the speed at which a non-Tank can do damage, and killing opponents is the most efficient way to not take damage; when an opponent has been killed, they will no longer deal any damage, obviously.
And since non-Tank characters will not be tanking or taking damage consistently, any reduction of killing speed is increasing the time it takes to end the encounter and make the nasty people stop hurting your tank (or the rest of your people, even if at a severely limited rate compared to the Tank).
But then, someone says, what about the various modifiers? The Damage Resistance of all armour is not equal! Fair point. The issue is that it doesn't matter. While for example Mail armour has higher Slash DT than Crush DT (Mail is DT 9, but has 14 DT vs. Slash and 5 DT vs. Crush) it is not nearly enough to matter.
No-one is going to change their armour when facing a certain enemy, as long as the difference is not enough to warrant it, nevermind the fact that most people are unlikely to even want to juggle their armours around. This ties into the issue of weapons simply not having a large enough of an impact, and although you will do less damage with a Sabre against an enemy dressed in Mail, you will still be doing "close enough" for it to not matter enough to actually have a Warhammer on hand.
There is no accounting for personal preference. You might want to wear Mail simply because you like how it looks. That's fine. But that's completely beside the point, and hardly an argument in favour of the armours being balanced. If the best arguments you can come up with are "I can still finish the game" or "I still use it because I like how it look", you're not only understanding the issue, but also have basically conceded that there's a problem, it's just that you chose not to care about it.
And that's alright. You can choose not to care. But then why get involved at all? You'd do that whether the armour system was rebalanced or not anyway, and the issue being solved would likely do nothing to dissuade you from playing that way anyway.
Either way, my suggestions are the following:
First of all, all the effects of armours should be "upped", so there'd be more meaningful and clear differentiation between them, instead of just No/Robe/Light/Medium/Heavy armour (as it is now, despite the obvious attempt to get away from it).
This could be done by drastically upping the effects of armours vs. different weapons. As an interesting side-effect, this would also mean that there'd be a meaningful differentiation between the various weapons used against humanoid opponents, and you'd probably want to switch weapons more often.
Second, I'd like to see Talents to support the use of various armours, with interesting effects, to discourage the constant swapping of armours between that the previous addition might encourage, and encourage specialization on a per-character basis.
This would mean that it wouldn't be a bust to use Medium Armours, if, for example, a medium armour filled that niche that was good against crushing weapons, and had a talent that made you move faster, and Plate Mail would be good against Slashing, with a Talent that turns a percentage of incoming Hits into Grazes.
The benefit of these two is that the game is already structured largely in this manner; the dial just need to be turned up to 11 to make it matter.
Thirdly, I maintain that the game has a rather simplistic system (albeit needlessly obtuse) and could stand to have more modifiers in terms of defences. I think it was a mistake to remove the percentage-based Damage Resistance system (for those that did not know, during much of the Backer Beta, Armour had both Damage Resistance (%) and Damage Threshold (Integer-based Soak; this is what we have now) modifiers), and should play up the penalties (or bonuses) of armours, whether it's reducing Reflex Defence or even adding Deflection with on heavier armour, or introducing a Dodge mechanic to complement Deflection.
I still find it odd as hell that a Monk Tank will be running around in Full Plate, focusing on Deflection and Damage Resistance, rather than being all about the Dodging. But either way, the most important is point 1 and 2; the third point may not even be necessary at that point, and would no doubt take a lot more to introduce, even if it would be preferable.
- The Stronghold / Resting.
The Stronghold is really cool. It is. But.. there's just.. something lacking. Yes, part of this will be about "muh immurshun". I cannot wrap my head around how the Stronghold is supposed to work. I can accept a great many things that aren't painted on my nose, chalk it up to things the party did while travelling, or laughing around the campfire, and such things.
But the Stronghold feels... empty. The Steward is an odd creature, and it is never settled how that's even supposed to work. Is she tuned into some form of adra-based internet and is running the longest con through a network of contacts and repeat identity thefts? I have no idea.
You keep building, but there are never any workers, days pass, and the place is empty, there was supposedly a drunk visiting, but he's nowhere to be seen, and Kana Rua was escorting him off the premises but.. it takes days, what the hell, can't I just throw him in the dungeon or lop his head off? Hell, throw him off the Eastern Barbican.
Speaking of which, is repaired instantly, and for free. Which was really the first clue I had that this would probably be pretty shallow.
Still, I love the idea of the Stronghold, and as you repair it, it starts to feel more and more like yours, and it's noticeable that a great deal of effort has gone into it. But at the end of the day, despite me liking it, it feels soulless and devoid of emotion, reactive like a sack of rocks. I built the Dungeon, a warden shows up out of nowhere that treats me with due respect. How did he even get hired? Have we met before? What?
Finally, resting at the Stronghold. My great Caed Nua, my sweet Brighthollow, why do you treat me so? A loading screen to get to Caed Nua, a loading screen to get into Brighthollow, a third one to get to the second floor, sleep, and then repeat the process in the other direction - more if you were just popping in before continuing down the Endless Paths.
This ties into both the issues of the Stronghold often not making sense and feeling devoid of life; why are there no people working in the kitchen for me? Why isn't there a caretaker at Brighthollow? Honestly, just skipping that one loading screen to get to the second floor would be a game changer, if I could talk to the caretaker and take a nap.
Someone else suggested simply having a "resting button" while you are in the courtyard of Caed Nua, in the Keep, or inside of Brighthollow. I think that's a great idea, even if it does nothing to alleviate the other issues, it would go a long way to make it worth to actually use Brighthollow to sleep, giving you a sense of "home".
- There's a lack of CNPC:s.
Oh yes. I'm covering this too.
First of all, let's get this straight: The CNPC:s in the game are amazing. At least most of them. Edér is magnificent. Durance is nothing short of amazing. Grieving Mother is crazy. Hiravias is hilarious and Kana Rua isn't nearly as annoying as I thought his melon-swigging face led me to believe he would be.
But it very much has the "gotta catch them all"-syndrome of post-IE Bioware games. An issue that actually started somewhat already in BG2, but at least BG2 didn't seem to operate under the assumption that you'd collect all of them and take them with you like a travelling adventurer troupe of which only 6 people go to town for.. reasons.
There's a valid argument in here somewhere about the quality vs. quantity of CNPC:s. Less CNPC:s but with more depth. This is a fair point. But quantity has a quality all of it's own. It is impossible to have anything even resembling themed parties in Pillars of Eternity. You can't be a group of marauders, or a troupe of clever opportunists, or a party of humans only, or a group of people centred around arcane studies.
This is just examples, of course, but something as simple as having more than one of the same class is practically out of the question, because the CNPC:s that are in the game right now do not even cover all of the classes that are available. This is not to say that I want some principal "checklist"; quite far from it, I want interesting characters rather than someone that is specifically a Monk, just to compensate for the fact that there's currently no monk.
But at the same time, I loved playing BG1 as a Bard, picking up Eldoth and Garrick, for the hilarity of it. Or play as an elf with Kivan, Xan, Viconia and Coran. Or BG2 as a noble-esque party of a Charname Paladin, Anomen, Keldorn, Edwin, Nalia and Imoen. Because lol poor people.
Pillars of Eternity has an abysmal 8 CNPC:s, for a party of 6. Accounting for the player, that's less than one full different party's worth of CNPC:s for subsequent playthroughs. Don't get me wrong, I think "muh replayability" is potentially as bad of an argument as the aforementioned "muh immurshun", but it bears mentioning to put it in perspective.
Meanwhile, BG2 has 17, more than twice as many, and I still wouldn't consider that nearly enough. But it would still be infinitely better. Even a single, well-integrated, seamlessly introduced CNPC would be a tremendous improvement, but nothing short of approaching 26-ish would come near satisfying the needs.
- Scaling CNPC:s / Availability.
Another CNPC issue. Why the hell does CNPC:s scale? I would be fine with CNPC:s being set to join at level 2, and I believe level 2 would be a good number for the CNPC:s to be properly "fleshed out". But they absolutely shouldn't scale.
Why? Because it makes me rush to get them. It makes me wish I could simply spawn them in the second I reach Gilded Vale, only so that they won't be "ruined" beforehand. The fact that I will go through missions that they may have commentary on is enough of a problem; don't make me also fight the game systems themselves.
I would really, really, really prefer it if they were stuck at level 2 and then allowed me to level them up once I get them. I'm even willing to accept them not having an equal amount of experience to myself, especially with the very liberal sprinkling of experience throughout the game.
Which brings me to another issue; availability. All of the CNPC:s can be had before Act 2 starts... except Pallegina. All of the CNPC:s can be had without going through a side-quest... except Pallegina. I also have the feeling that this ties into the fact that Pallegina is also the only CNPC that cannot be replicated in any way, being an Avianlike Paladin of an Order Paladins cannot even pick.
Why is Pallegina not following the format of the other CNPC:s? It almost feels like she's one of those cheesy CNPC:s added by a mod, out of place, and I'm surprised she doesn't have an inordinate amount of dialogue (or, going by how ME2 introduced DLC/Mod-like CNPC:s, any dialogue at all).
It feels contrived and inconsistent, from her placement to her introduction, compared to all other CNPC:s currently available.
- Weapon Focus Groups are.. eh..
Weapon Focus Groups was a good idea. A really good idea. I love the concept. You get a range of weapons that is thematically appropriate, instead of having to specialize in a single weapon that you may or may never get. Kudos.
At the same time, though... I think that the balancing went too far. Not only because it meant placing some weapons in groups where it doesn't feel like it belongs, but also because it means you'll really never pick more than one specific Weapon Focus Group, there'd simply be no merit to doing so; each group seems to have been consciously molded as to cover all weapon damage types, whether it makes sense or not.
My proposal would be to allow Weapon Focus Groups to break the mould. For example, one thing I feel strongly for would be to switch Stiletto from Ruffian to Noble, and Dagger from Noble to Ruffian. This would leave Noble without a Slashing Type and Ruffian without a Slashing Type. So what? Work with what you have, there are other options, or train further.
Perfect balance is a lie, and thinking that the Weapon Focus Groups being so strictly and rigidly broken into weapons of each type on principle will somehow balance the weapons themselves against eachother is a delusion. I say that it is better to aim for specialization, and have Talents that allow you to specialize, while also being more thematically fitting.
There is no doubt more examples, but that one is enough for the point.
Also, with the aforementioned in mind, I want to see more Weapon Focus Groups. Groups should not stack with eachother, obviously, but it would be nice to have a group that includes all of the firearms, if you want to make a character centred around the use of firearms, rather than having a wide spread of usable weapons.
Grenadier; Spear, Pike, Pistol, Blunderbuss, Arquebus.
Mystic; Dagger, Stiletto, Scepter, Rod, Wand.
Like I said, these shouldn't stack with other Weapon Focus Groups that already have the same type of weapons. So if you have Grenadier and Ruffian, you still only get +6 to Pistol.
An interesting choice is better than a "balanced" choice. If the priority is to have a balanced setup so you can change between the weapon types, there are still groups for that; it does not make the specialized or more thematically focused groups any less valid of an option.
- I miss the Sabre DoT.
I just do. I realize why it was changed, and the stacking mechanics can be hard to work out, and balancing it even harder, but changing the DoT effect into a flat +Damage was a really boring move. I liked the idea of cutting up large gashing wounds and stack DoT:s on my enemies with sabres.
As has been mentioned before the game also simply does not do enough to encourage the usage of different damage types, making the flat +Damage a "no-brainer" choice from a min/max perspective. The extra flat damage is enough to punch through most (or much) of the DT you'd avoid by using a more "appropriate" weapon anyway.
The DoT effect was at least interesting and unique. Now it feels like Sabres are just.. something something plus.
- Scouting Mode and Mechanics.
These two terms should have nothing to do with eachother. In Pillars of Eternity, though, Mechanics is used for both the detection of Secrets and for the Detection of Traps, as well as the disarming of Traps, and Lockpicking, and the setting of traps.
Mechanics as the basis for detecting secrets make no sense whatsoever.
And since we're on this topic, let's discuss the Scouting Mode as necessary for detecting secrets.
As has been pointed out many times on the board by now, this has lead to the situation where the norm to many is to simply enter Scout Mode everywhere and activate Fast Mode to alleviate the painfully slow movement. To detect secrets, you need to have high Mechanics, and Scout everywhere.
Some would argue that you don't need to find all secrets. Fair point, but it is akin to the argument that you don't need to do all quests, either, and you don't need to loot all boxes, and you don't need to talk to all named NPC:s, and you don't need to recruit all CNPC:s. But we know you will, anyway, because that's more or less the name of the game.
Skulking about in Fast Mode everywhere not only breaks immersion, but is almost textbook degenerate gameplay and about as nofun as possible, yet it seems like it's exactly what the game was built for, in some ways.
My suggestions are simple. Mechanics should not be used to detect Secrets, Stealth should be the governing Skill, aided to a small degree by the Perception Attribute, and all Secrets should be detectable outside of Scouting Mode.
Detecting Traps should still only be possible while in Scout Mode, and their detection should be possible with either Mechanics or Stealth (whichever is highest). The disarming of traps should still be Mechanics, obviously.
- The Per-Encounter Spell System of High-Level casters needs to be re-evaluated.
This ties into the aforementioned "Combat Only" issues, because the issues of the Per-Encounter Spell System that High-Level casters gain could arguably be exacerbated by the removal of the "Combat Only" flags. That is not the main issue, however.
The issue is that if this system is intended to scale towards higher levels as the game expands, let alone the franchise with sequels and so on, the current system of Per-Rest Spells being turned into Per-Encounter Spells once Spellcasters reach a high enough level will completely wreck any semblance of balance whatsoever.
Currently, the issue is rather benign, at least if we consider the future: At Level 9, a spellcaster can use his Rank 1 Spells 4 times Per Encounter, instead of Per Rest. At level 11, he can use his Rank 2 Spells 4 times Per Encounter, instead of Per Rest.
That's where it stops, because the game has a Level Cap of 12. This is still tremendously powerful. Also consider that if you have the "Bonus #th Level Spell" Talent, that also gets turned into a Per Encounter, for a maximum of 5 Per Encounter Spells Per Spell Rank.
That is utterly crazy. Consider all other classes that get "regular" abilities that are Per-Encounter Say, Paladins, who get 2 uses of Flames of Devotion or 1 use of Lay on Hands Per Encounter. Yes, he can get more Abilities as he rises in level, one here, one there, some Per Rest, some Per Encounter, some completely Passive.
A Wizard gets to pick 4 1st-rank spells at Level 9 that he gets a minimum of 4 uses of Per Encounter. At level 11, he gets another 4 2nd-rank spells that he can use a minimum of 4 times Per Encounter. Conceivably, conceptually, he should be getting 3rd-rank spells 4 times per encounter at level 13.
That is an unprecedented and incomparable jump in power and utility compared to anyone else that is not a caster, and utterly terrifying to even fathom from a balance perspective. And that's still just Wizards - the gimp of the spellcasters, who only can pick 4 spells at a time to enter into his Grimoire.
Priests? They get their full 1st-rank of spells to use, 4 times per Encounter, at level 9; it's the same progression. The same goes for Druids. Suck on that for a while. The entire Druid rank 1 spellbook, pick anything in it, 4 times Per Encounter.
I'm not sure how this should be balanced. I do think that high-level casters should be able to use a limited number of spells as Per-Encounter abilities at high levels, but the current implementation is completely untenable in the long run, nevermind the issues that could arise if you remove the "Combat Only" flag (since spells would no longer be a limited resource outside of combat; Per Encounter Abilities regenerate instantly if there is no combat going on). And you'd be equally crazy to not remove the Combat Only restrictions in the long run.
My basic suggestion would be to allow the Spellcasters to choose one spell at these brackets and that they get that one spell as a Per-Encounter Ability. At level 9, they get a slot that can be filled with a 1st-rank Spell, that can then be used as a Per-Encounter Ability. At level 11, they get another slot that can be filled with a 1st- or 2nd-rank spell, that will from then on be used as a Per-Encounter Ability. And so on.
But I'm not sure that's enough. But it desperately needs to be looked over; if not as a necessary precursor to getting rid of the "Combat Only" flags, then for the sanity of players and balance once we start climbing in level. There are two expansions planned, and anyone that thinks that each of them won't increase the level cap by at least 1-2 levels is delusional, which could make the cap anywhere from 14 to 16; potentially unlocking two whole new levels of unmitigated, overpowered and absolute crazy for spellcasters.
- The +AoE added from Attribute Bonuses (currently Intellect) needs to be fixed.
Currently, the +AoE added from Attribute Bonuses does not take the "friendly" area of Friendly-Fire AoE:s into account, which makes Intellect even crazier for spellcasters than it deserves to be, and even if the Attributes are reworked to something more sensible (such as +AoE on Resolve) it would just move the issue around.
It really needs to be fixed, so that +AoE actually increases the risk as well as the reward. If the AoE radius is bigger, it should be harder to aim it, simply because it's.. well.. bigger. Maxing +AoE currently gives you an inordinate amount of mobility when it comes to the placement of AoE:s with no tradeoff whatsoever.
I realize not everyone likes Friendly Fire, but I consider it an integral part of tactical gameplay, and I would have opposed the "Friendly" zone of AoE:s to begin with, had I been here for those discussions, but it is what it is. Either fix the +AoE issue with the friendly zone, or remove the friendly zone entirely.
Edited by Luckmann, 08 April 2015 - 07:22 AM.