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my review after finishing PoE on normal (spoilers)


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A wall of text will come.

If you don´t like reading, there is a summary at the end.

 

I have finished the game on normal and here is what I think about it:

 

Setting: I really liked how the world feels. Its late middle ages and fortunately it is a little different than the usual generic fantasy world. It’s more dark, brutal and “realistic” than most games, without an excessive focus on gore and sex. Like “The Witcher” without having sex with every woman you meet. Well done. Better than BG 1+2, NWN1+2 and many others.

 

Main story: It is not the most impressive story I have ever seen, but it is not bad. To be honest, the main stories of BG1 and 2 were also not that impressive. I think PoE is better than Bg 1+2 in this point. If I want a great story, I wait for the new torment.

 

Side quests: Very good. Lots of quests and for every quest there are several ways to solve them. It really matters what you choose and mostly there is no simple good vs evil choice. I really had to think about what I am doing. In one case I refused to finish a quest because I did not like both options I was given. (Do I sacrifice a baby or do I poison the quest giver? I do not know if there is a solution without being a mad killer because I did not finish it.) This is fantastic. I want more of this.

 

Companions: Better than most games, but torment is still a bit better. My favorite chars are still Kreia and Dakkon. Maybe I just like philosophical discussions about good and evil, order and chaos and about using other people as tools to achieve your goals.

 

Dialogues and reputation system: Very good. This system is the best I have ever seen. With a good vs evil system you feel forced to follow one extreme. If you can gain influence on party members, you choose the option they like most. Divinity: Original Sin made a first step in the direction you did, but there your type of answer (like diplomatic or aggressive) affects your skills. In all these systems dialogues become a mini game to optimize something. Your system, where your actions and answers only change how other people react to you later, is one of the first RPGs where you can actually do roleplaying.

 

Stronghold: That’s the weakest part of the game. It is a money sink that gives you random items and random events. Most of these random events cost you even more money or you have to return to the stronghold to fight some monsters in order to avoid paying more money. Those bounty quests were also most unimpressive and gave much too much exp. If those bounty monsters would not drop some good items and you swim in money later in the game anyway, it would be best to skip the stronghold completely.

 

The dungeon in your stronghold: Not very impressive. Each level is rather small and all you do is killing monsters, finding traps and talking to some ghosts. The towers from the BG 1+2 expansions were much better.

 

Combat: It is good that you created something new and did not use the DnD system. If it is better or worse than DnD I cannot say, but it is definitely not bad. The most important difference is the absence of immunities. You cast a mass confusion spell and suddenly half of the monsters (including the boss) are charmed and start killing each other. This feels strange. It is good that all classes have at least one per encounter ability. All non casters could only auto attack in the IE games (unless they found an item with a spell like ability. The health/endurance system worked also as intended for me. I have to rest after some time (usually because of fatigue after travelling the world map.), but I did not feel the desire to rest after every battle. I am not sure if the absence of pre buffing is good or bad. In the DnD games, sometimes pre buffing was longer than the fight itself, but it was necessary to protect yourself from some enemy spells. I am also not sure if it is good that all attacks are based on accuracy and the base value is only dependant on class and level (not on stats or items except weapons and shields). The system is far from perfect, but it has room for improvement (though I am not sure what should be different.)

 

Difficulty: I played on normal and the game was very easy. It is much easier than BG1 or 2 (on easy). There were 3 kinds of battles: very easy, easy and adra dragon. I tried to kill the adra dragon twice but I failed. I guess I could have killed him with a few tries more, but I decided to finish the game instead. The only battle that was challenging (in a way I think it should be) was undead lord Readric, which I defeated at level 9. The problem is not that enemies are too weak. They are too stupid. Most of them attacked the first thing they saw. It happened that my tank was surrounded by enemies and another enemy was walking around the tank for some time, trying to find a place where the path to the tank is not blocked by other enemies. The tactic that 1 or 2 tanks block the path and all others use ranged attacks lets you win 90% of the battles. The only intelligent behavior is that ranged enemies attack the party member with the weakest defense. The only moment when enemy casters did something nasty was the bounty quest in heritage hill tower. If you fight a large group of mages, at least some of them do something useful sometimes. There are so many spells than can take out a whole group of enemies. But I never saw enemy mages use something like slicken or chill fog. Encounter design could also be better. What about you being attacked from several directions at once. Or you are swarmed by small enemies while some big bad casters stand in the back. (wait, there was the spider queen and the result was that she could not do anything because the path was blocked by small spiders.) The other dragons (except adra) were also very weak and could be charmed or petrified without problem. The final battle was so easy (and kind of anti climatic) that I thought: Ok now he stands up, laughs at me and transforms into a dragon, a demon lord or the avatar of his god (like Waidwen, with glowing eyes and such things.) But no, it was just a priest that dropped like a stone.

 

Crafting: Sorry, but the system tells me: You should wait until max level before you work on your equipment. There is also the fact that that for the best things you need scales of the adra dragon. So you can craft great stuff, but only after the point where you actually need it. You can also flood yourself with potions and scrolls. I must admit that I have never seen a crafting system that really impressed me.

 

Music: It was never disturbing, but it was not impressive either. I do not remember any of it though I have played over 60 hours. There were other games where I made a save somewhere just to hear the music. The mage tower in the swamp in Realms of Arcadia 3 was such a thing.

 

Summary:

  • Setting, atmosphere, writing and quests are excellent.
  • Main story and characters are better than most games, but not quite the level of PST.
  • The Combat system itself is not bad, but I think it can be improved. But it is good that you tried something new. I also think that it is more consistent than the DnD system which is not perfect as well.
  • Combat itself needs lots of improvement. There is much to be done regarding encounter design and AI.
  • You did a good job in creating the spiritual successor of the IE games. PoE is big as BG, has as much combat as IWD (though combat design in IWD and BG was better) and as much well done text as PST (though it is not as philosophical). I want to add that PoE has now (version 1.04) less bugs than NWN2 after all these years. And the IE games were full of bugs too. If this is the new NWN2 OC and the new MotB will follow, I am a very happy gamer.
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Well said... this is a very good game, that needs a lot of refinement in different areas, especially  when it comes to combat, to reach it's full potential. 

But the strong foundation for a great rpg series is there and I'm hoping that expansion will give more depth to stronghold and add more Act III Content concerning your faction choice...perhaps culminating in something like NWN2 OC siege, which was probably the best part of that game.

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  • 10 months later...

The thread necromancer does his work again.

I played the game again as version 3.02 with both expansions on hard difficulty.

A lot of things have changed, so I do an update of my review

 

setting: Still like it. See above for details.

 

main story: see above

 

side quests: What I wrote before is still true. There is just one minor problem. In the main story you have to find Thaos because you get insane from the whole watcher thing. But you can take your time to help everyone with their problems along the way. This game (like almost every other RPG) has the problem of false urgency. The game story tells you that you must do something, but it does not matter if you do a million other things before.

 

companions: see above. While Durance has a lot of things to say it is annoying that you have to go through all answers again and again to find the one option you have not selected yet. While I like his story, the way to progress his quest goes on my nerves. Still waiting for a new Kreia or Dakkon.

 

Dialogues and reputation system: I still like this system more than most others. But with the 2 expansions you have so many choices than you can max out all dispositions if you like. This reduces its value from my point of view.

 

stronghold: It is still not very impressive, but there were many improvements. The battle of yenwood quest, the visitors and the text descriptions for adventures make it much better then before. I like the strongholds from NWN2 and Divinity2 still more.

 

Combat: Congratulations for creating this system. There were many improvements in the meantime. The class balance is better then in most games and there are several viable builds for most classes. The system is easy to understand (compared to DnD or DSA) but hard to master. Adding immuneties was a good idea. There is still room for improvement, but the current system is a very good start.

 

difficulty: The game has also improved in this field. The AI is better then before. Using one tank ond 5 glass cannons will not work most of the time. Different enemies will attack different characters, enemies will change to the target that damages them most and they ignore a tank that is untoucheble but cant hit the broad side of a barn.

 

However, the game (on hard) is still much easier than the IE games on easy. Over 90% of the encounters could be done with a similar tactic. Use 2 or 3 tanky chars to block enemies and cast AoE CC to weaken them. Then just bash everything in your way. There were only 2 exceptions:

- enemies come in really big numbers (e.g. some ondrite groups in the abby and some of the later bounties)

- Encounters that involve dragons (not just drakes)

 

There are some other things:

- Most enemy groups stand around and wait for you. You can approach from any side and even surround them. There are very few encounters where enemies attack you from several sides or ambush you unexpected.

- There is a bug that enemy groups sometimes attack each other for no reason.

 

The good news is that the expansions show some improvement: The battle at the white forge, the spore in the mines, the second arch mage (Lengraph or something like this, the one in the swamp) and the first attack of the eyeless. Those are examples for encounters that are better designed than most others.

 

The eyeless look great, but they would be more impressive if you could not stunn them and then one hit them with the hammer or the redeemer. All later battles against them were pathetically easy.

 

The expansions: The 2 expansions are good. There are 2 problems:

- They are not connected to the rest of the game. You search for Thaos because you get insane from this watcher thing. But you have time to travel to another region, find the battery and fight the eyeless.

- They are an additional sidequest you can enter early in the game. Act 3 and 4 were already easy in the original game and if you do the expansions before, you can just rush through them as if you are a god. If you do Act3 first, then the expansions are very easy.

 

I think BG1 did it better. The areas of the expansion are very hard and you should do them before you go to the final battle.

 

one more thing:

You get too much exp. I did the expansions and I had max level before starting Act3.

 

Will I play it again?

Someday I will, but not that soon. I am somebody who considers the story as most important element of a game. I love PST, I liked BG but I stopped playing at my latest playthrough because I got bored (I have finished it several times). I have never finished IWD though I have started it some times. Not because it was too hard, but because I became bored of endless fighting.

PoE is like BG. I like the PoE story even more than BG, but playing the game with a different char does not change the story much. I admit that I was happy when I finished it, because I got bored from fighting countless groups of enemies with similar tactics.

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I think what you've said is pretty fair and matches my own impressions.  I'd add:

 

- The BG story works better, because it actually places less tension on you.  Being left alone in a scary world means that you have to explore it at the same time it's dangerous, and I like that.  I don't think it's a better story, it just has less dissonance.

 

- The two enemy groups attacking each other is probably not a bug; enemies belong to factions and not all factions like each other.  I'd like to see more of it in the game, because it'd create interesting forms of emergent gameplay (like Gothic).  This would work especially well if there were more roving enemies.

 

- I do agree with you about the static enemies.  It might be nice to have enemies moving across the map at a fixed rate and have to catch up with them.  Or have tough enemies hunting you.  This could work well with the faction system, by tricking them into some nasty mobs.

 

- PotD solves some of the tactics problems by making groups so large that tank and spank does not work for most of the game.  More enemy AI would be very nice.  I'd like to see enemy AI cast prayer against treachery after confusion or domination.  Or counter dominations.

 

- I would agree that White March should probably be restricted to later.  Or at least WM pt. 2.

 

- Difficulty increase solves the eyeless.  They have a beam attack that murderated my maxed armor monk, and I had to use Ryona's triggered immunity to initiate fights or start with a res prepared.  That was nice.

 

- There were some mobs that act differently, but I'd like to see there behavior improved.  Ice Trolls get back up again after being beaten up.  Flame Blights and Unstable Constructs explode after death.  On higher difficulties that can get devastating.  Some ghosts have that annoying pull attack.  Shades are just awful.  Banshees shriek.  Fampyr's charm.  I think that more variation could be done: making a species of troll that has really strong regen with not much health, or a troll boss with a lot of regen would be neat.  A fampyr cipher with some nasty mind control.  Wolves that circled the party and attacked the weakest member with knockdowns, etc.

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Some comments in response.

 

While I don't agree with everything you say, good post (the recent one regarding WM1/2), madscientist.  :thumbsup:

 

1. Regarding IWD, personally I loved the IWD games because I enjoy the heavy fighting.  And while story is important to me, I also tend to view it as the way to tie all the battles together.

 

2. Regarding the WM story line, I do tend to agree that it seems a bit out of place within the time line of the main plot.  It seems to me that the WM story line might have been a better fit if it occurred after the end of the main PoE plot, similar to ToB to BG2.  It also seems to me that this would have served to help with balance issues during the main story, because all the WM story line's XP would be earned after the main story ends.

 

3. I agree about the thing where enemies "stand around and wait for you".  In truth, they still did this even in the BG1/2 and IWD1/2 games.  That said, I think that IWD2, in particular, had a number of battle scenarios that were very interesting in their own way.  The PoE battles are just too cookie cutter in their general set up.  I would strongly suggest that the devs had looked back at IWD2's larger battles for inspiration in this matter.

 

4. The Eyeless.  I agree regarding the insta-kill weapons.  IMO, the insta-kill weapons are OP and unbalancing.   Assuming that your party has one person using Abydon's hammer and another using The Redeemer, you have two weapons that can insta-kill Eyeless, not to mention The Redeemer can insta-kill Woedica's Judges in the final battle vs Thaos as well.  Plus there's an anti-spirit Insta-kill morning star hidden away in the court of the penitents, though the spirits on those two maps prior to the final Thaos battle hardly require an insta-kill weapon to be taken down with relative ease.

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- The two enemy groups attacking each other is probably not a bug; enemies belong to factions and not all factions like each other.  I'd like to see more of it in the game, because it'd create interesting forms of emergent gameplay (like Gothic).  This would work especially well if there were more roving enemies.

 

 

- There were some mobs that act differently, but I'd like to see there behavior improved.  Ice Trolls get back up again after being beaten up.  Flame Blights and Unstable Constructs explode after death.  On higher difficulties that can get devastating.  Some ghosts have that annoying pull attack.  Shades are just awful.  Banshees shriek.  Fampyr's charm.  I think that more variation could be done: making a species of troll that has really strong regen with not much health, or a troll boss with a lot of regen would be neat.  A fampyr cipher with some nasty mind control.  Wolves that circled the party and attacked the weakest member with knockdowns, etc.

 

I agree with you about almost everything (well, I did not play it on PotD)

 

- The problem is not that some enemies fight each other. But there was a bug I encountered several times:

There is a group of enemies. You send one char there and then run back in order to lure enemies to you. Several times the enemies that did not come to me started to walk around the map and attack another group of enemies who were somewhere else on this map.

 

- I totally agree with the second part to make combat more interesting.

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