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POE: too dark, too light, or just right?  

114 members have voted

  1. 1. Is the setting for POE too dark (like Game of Thrones), too light (like a Disney movie), or just right?

    • Too dark
      7
    • Too light
      24
    • Just right
      83


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So, I am copying an pasting what I wrote from another thread, because I feel it is a subject worth exploring.  To sum it up, I think that one of the biggest "problems" for POE is that it is too "dark and gritty".  Some people obviously enjoy/appreciate that, but I've written below why I don't. Surprisingly, no review I have read has touched upon this aspect of POE, which is one I really dislike, among many.

 

I know that Game of Thrones is all the rage, but I don't want a setting where everyone is suffering, and everything sucks for everyone.  Where everyone is tense, and every area has foreboding.  That was the beauty of the BGs.  In BG 1, there was an imminent threat growing, and there were bandits, and some increasing chaos, but it wasn't DEPRESSING.  Everyone's children weren't dying, mad kings weren't hanging half of their population from trees in the center of town, there weren't riots in the streets with people getting assassinated right and left.  It didn't FEEL oppressive.  Hell, even in Spellhold, while there was danger, you could help the prisoners rise up against their oppressor, manipulator and torturer.  The Underdark was rightfully scary, but even there, there could be found some redeeming moments. There were plenty of locations you could go which were very "normal" and there were beautiful things to see and experience.  This was true in Arcanum, in KOTOR, and in Morrowind, as well (just to name some other RPGs).

 

I don't need a game that is trying to depress me by being "gritty" and "real".  What I want is to have certain areas feel tense, dangerous, or scary, and others to feel "normal".  For there to be places where people are HAPPY, not where everyone is worried about war, or politics, or being killed by zombies, or starving to death, or whatever.  The world isn't universally anything, not even regions during war.  I guarantee that if you went to Ukraine, or even Syria or Iraq, you could find plenty of places where people are happy, and there is peace, even though there is fighting a couple of hours away.  There should be a diversity of locations and what you can experience in game.

 

For a game that doesn't want to have "good and evil", it seems surprisingly dedicated to having only tension and violence and bizarrity.  Basically, it just takes itself WAY too seriously, like if it featured any location which wasn't "dark and grey", that would literally shake the foundation of the game universe, so everything is "super serious".   

 

Since completing my first and likely only playthrough of POE, what have I done?  Replayed BG and BG2.  Replayed Arcanum.  Re-installed and started to replay ME 1-3.  Why?  Because, to me, those are all more pleasant game play experiences, for a variety of reasons.  This was not a spiritual successor to the IE games, in my opinion.  It was just a "fantasy adventure" with a full party, with isometric 2d.  It doesn't have the spirit of those games, and it definitely doesn't have the companions of those games. 

 

Do I want someone endlessly speaking in riddles about depressing crap? (Durance, Grieving Mother)  Do I want someone almost endlessly complaining about how hard it is to be "god-touched"? (Palegina)  Hell, Viconia was a Drow forced to live on the surface.  The things she said, even when complaining, were frequently interesting.  Just disappointed.

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"1 is 1"

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I'm really going to be interested to see how many people say, "too light", since that is utterly incomprehensible to me.  I can literally not think of any particular moment in the game, where I felt like, "Wow!  I'm totally a hero!", or, "Man, that sure is beautiful and nice."  I mean, there were heroic acts (saving people from zombies, removing a certain despotic ruler), but I just never felt like they were really recognized in game in any concrete way, and there was little to make them any more than just a brief moment in the game play.  Meaning, they didn't FEEL rewarding.


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In PoE there is less comic relief and the setting is less magical. Both games have been about equally dark, it is just that BG mixed dark themes with humour.

If I remember correctly, there was a quest the following way: you find a thug pissing his pants from a little child which you identify as ghost. she was murdered by that man.

You get slapped by the dark side of the human soul, yet this situation could as well be animated slapstick.

 

This recurring subliminal parody creates distance between you and the world.

A magical circus where everyone is masked and gets torn apart by shadows? Funny, 'cause that ain't reality.

Remember Jan Jensen? The talkative gnome who tells you he smuggled apes? The parody is, he is not a lonely, lonely sad man who just wants to get attention. He actually has friends.

A beautiful elf tells a story about getting putrid infection and amputation. This story is sooo sad. Unfortuntely attention-whoring activates emotional defence. Normally you should feel now bored or angry, if anything.

 

I for now do not want BG back. PoE does well story-wise.

 

Edit: As for BG1: A lot of enemies were of unknown moral. I did not get through all but most of what I saw was depersonalized environment. Or Bandit-likes incognitos.

Edited by transfett
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It's strange you bring up Arcanum as a counter-example because that was one of the most grimdark (grimdarkest?) RPGs in my mind before grimdark became all the rage. Sure, it has some quirky moments, but the overall atmosphere is very melancholy and depressing, enhanced in particular by the soundtrack.

 

There's very few RPGs that pull that off in a way that has me glued to the screen start to finish (pretty much Arcanum, PST, and most recently Witcher 3).

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I voted "just right" because to me PoE deals with the human element.   It is the dark side of human nature that rules in PoE.  Your PC is not god born, not the essence of some god or some "Dragonborn" creature.  You aren't out to save the world but to save yourself and maybe help others along the way if you wish.  The antagonist Theos is humanoid actually doing what he feels is right.    

 

The story leaves me with many more questions than it answers which is fine with me.

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 I have but one enemy: myself  - Drow saying


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I don't know.  PoE's environment seemed OK to me.  Honestly though, it's hard to discuss this problem in a General, no spoilers sub-forum, since it seems to me that to properly discuss it requires talking about the spoilery details that cause the setting to be what it is.

 

But the thing is with the setting's problem is that it was region wide.  It wasn't localized to any one city or town.  You couldn't escape it by traveling a couple of hours to another town.

 

Frankly, I had no sense that this game took itself "too seriously".  I honestly never liked Jan Jansen from BG2.  I like a games, movies, and TV shows that take the subject matter seriously.  For example, I like that the Lord of the Rings movies took the subject matter seriously, unlike other more campy fantasy movies that always seemed to have to have some sort of a fool character along just so we didn't take the movie "too seriously".

 

Being serious about the subject matter doesn't have to mean being serious to the point of being positively morose. That's not to say that there isn't a little room for levity.  But I don't need some "fool character" hanging around just so things aren't taken "too seriously".

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I think the poll needs a "meh whatever" option.

 

I enjoyed Pillars. I would also enjoy something lighter in tone (for a change, if nothing else; market seems to be pretty saturated with grimdark at the moment). I can see myself enjoying something even darker as well (give me a decent Dark Heresy CRPG with the option of executing small children for HERESY and/or the crime of breathing while mutant, and I'll have your name be praised forever).

 

Quality is independent of tone.

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid
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"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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Honestly,  he world isn't that much darker than Forgotten Realms in my opinion.  However, I think the game just needs a few more light hearted and funny characters to help lighten up the mood.   PoE2 could use a few characters who don't take everything too seriously.

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I have to agree with Nakia.

 

I generally find that darker settings lend themselves more to stories and themes which explore the human condition with more depth than a lighter setting would. I think PoE did this exceptionally well. There wasn't some dark external force looming around to make people nervous. No zombie apocalypse, darkspawn, reapers, mysteriously united army of orcs at the border, et cetera. Instead you had something unseen that has been slowly rotting a country from the inside for the last fifteen years. People are trying to fight it but they have no idea where to start, so you have an entire population losing hope, turning desperate, and mad with grief. Having all that be a footnote in a setting where little farming villages are still perfectly happy and business as usual would be pretty jarring.

 

Also, darker worlds tend to allow for more meaningful morality choices in game, instead of the saint/jerk dichotomy that tries to be a moral system.

 

I was actually a bit miffed when I played Dragon Age Origins, since it was billed as 'dark fantasy' (forget where, might have been the back of the box), but it turned into a fairly standard "dark evil army that only you can defeat with some corrupt noble **** making it harder for you" adventure where if you did everything right, you could still pretty much save everyone. I'm glad PoE managed to avoid that.

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Kana, Eder and Hiravias are fairly light hearted at times and I think the game gives you chance to role play your main character a bit lighter if you want.   I think the towns, especially taverns are probably a little light on easier going characters though, but a lot of that I think is the lack of non essential characters throughout the world, due to time and budget constraints.

Edited by MunoValente

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dark and gritty means... whatever.  everybody got a personal definition.

 

we like the warhammer 40k setting, but we find it to be borderline camp with how over-the-top grimdark it aspires to be.  fallout, on the other hand, is intentional camp.  fallout is funny.  fallout is clear intended to be tongue-in-cheek. which is better?

 

get photos o' omaha beach on d-day, or some other bloody battle.  remind us that this is what victory looks like

 

http://ww2today.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Omaha-beach-casualties.jpg

 

ok, but do for +300 pages in a book or +40 hours in a game where we is constant reminded o' how hopeless everything is and it kinda loses impact. 

 

we like games where the good guys fail and the best resolution o' a quest might still remind us o' those omaha beach photos. is that dark and gritty?  

 

HA! Good Fun!

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"Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."--Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

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we like the warhammer 40k setting, but we find it to be borderline camp with how over-the-top grimdark it aspires to be.  fallout, on the other hand, is intentional camp.  fallout is funny.  fallout is clear intended to be tongue-in-cheek. which is better?

 

 

...W40K is also supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, despite Games Workshop's attempts lately at pretending it's totally not.


"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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we like the warhammer 40k setting, but we find it to be borderline camp with how over-the-top grimdark it aspires to be.  fallout, on the other hand, is intentional camp.  fallout is funny.  fallout is clear intended to be tongue-in-cheek. which is better?

 

 

...W40K is also supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, despite Games Workshop's attempts lately at pretending it's totally not.

 

"lately" has been going on for more than 5 years now... heck, probable since before  the 4th edition.  

 

HA! Good Fun!


"Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."--Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

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"lately" has been going on for more than 5 years now... heck, probable since before  the 4th edition.  

 

 

It absolutely has. Personally, I blame Abnett's influence.

 

...But this is pretty OT.


"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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I really think you need to replay BG 1 and especially BG 2 if that's how you remember them. I don't this game deviates as much from the atmosphere in those games. Just going through BG 2 chronologically in my head I can remember A LOT of fairly disturbing quests. For example Imoen being tortured upto the point it completly breaks her doesn't do it for you? Anyways, I took the third option. I didn't play the Baldur's Gate series or PoE to go and save Unicorns from eating too many candy apples. Talk about dark, have you played planescape torment?

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we like the warhammer 40k setting, but we find it to be borderline camp with how over-the-top grimdark it aspires to be.  fallout, on the other hand, is intentional camp.  fallout is funny.  fallout is clear intended to be tongue-in-cheek. which is better?

 

 

...W40K is also supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, despite Games Workshop's attempts lately at pretending it's totally not.

 

Please tell me they didn't try to make the Orks serious.

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Please tell me they didn't try to make the Orks serious.

 

Nope. But lately there's been a tendency to see Space Marines as knights in shining armor (a far cry from Watson's surgically mutilated, insane zealots), and a shift in narrative towards grim-faced heroes unironically saving the Imperium through the power of fascism. It's all very uncomfortable, if you ask me.

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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Characterising PoE as "grimdark" is quite overblown, I think. Yes, it starts out with a tree of hanging people, but it doesn't keep that level up in any way. It does have a lot of darker stuff in it, but nowhere near the level of GoT or other books where everyone gets killed and then raped twice just because the author had a bad day. PoE has its Wichts (which is actually really disturbing, as is the whole Hollowborn business -

just take that animancer with the chest in the Sanitarium

) and its Purges, but they're there because story.

 

That is, IMHO, the main difference: The dark aspects of PoE are mostly part of the story. They're a temporary low point for you to overcome, and in the end, you do. You restore order to the world. The dark elements aren't there for background reasons to illustrate how the world works, they're there to give the heroes some level of involvement. And after they did their hero stuff, everything gets back to normal. Many of the ending slides have a (more or less) upbeat message. Not all of them, and it doesn't get to LOTR levels, but in tendency.

 

And the game promises you that. You suspect, and the longer you play, know, that your journey has something to do with the Hollowborn thing. It's not grimdark in general, it's dark at the moment, and one of the game's themes is to end this situation.

 

They usually try to paint a more grey-in-grey picture, and have more subdues tones than outright triumph in the end, that's true. But it's nowhere near as sh*tty in this world as the Hanging Tree promises.


Therefore I have sailed the seas and come

To the holy city of Byzantium. -W.B. Yeats

 

Χριστός ἀνέστη!

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I really think you need to replay BG 1 and especially BG 2 if that's how you remember them. I don't this game deviates as much from the atmosphere in those games. Just going through BG 2 chronologically in my head I can remember A LOT of fairly disturbing quests. For example Imoen being tortured upto the point it completly breaks her doesn't do it for you? Anyways, I took the third option. I didn't play the Baldur's Gate series or PoE to go and save Unicorns from eating too many candy apples. Talk about dark, have you played planescape torment?

 

The thing is that Imoen being tortured is an individual event (and there are some other similar individual events, of course), whereas in PoE, it's the entire setting that has this tone.  Everywhere you go, it's all about the Hollowborn problem, how it's affecting people, what other people are trying to do to fix it, why people think it's happening, and so on and so on and so on. 

 

There's a vast gulf of difference between the two.  In BG2, it's not like Irenicus is going all around Amn torturing people everywhere.  He's only picking on a very tiny select group of people.  But in PoE, the darkness of the tone, i.e. the Hollowborn problem, is affecting everyone and every thing to some degree or other and in some way or other.  In BG2, it's like a few random rooms in a random building here and there in a city loses power and goes dark.  In PoE, the entire city has gone dark.  In BG2 it's highly localized.  In PoE it's totally pervasive.

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What we call "light" or "upbeat" isn't necessarily happy or pleasant or enjoyable. 

 

Pop songs are undoubtedly more upbeat than prog rock, but people who think the latter is just 'depressing' have a depressingly narrow emotional range - it is possible to enjoy or be happy through sad music or dark narratives. 

 

In any case, I don't even think POE was particularly dark and gritty...

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What we call "light" or "upbeat" isn't necessarily happy or pleasant or enjoyable. 

 

Pop songs are undoubtedly more upbeat than prog rock, but people who think the latter is just 'depressing' have a depressingly narrow emotional range - it is possible to enjoy or be happy through sad music or dark narratives. 

 

In any case, I don't even think POE was particularly dark and gritty...

 

Overall, I agree with you, with perhaps the single glaring exception being Gilded Vale.  That place was rather dark, with the hanging tree, and the lack of any foliage, and so forth.

 

For all Defiance Bay's supposed unrest, other than perhaps about a dozen people listening to a Dozen's rabble-rouser in Copperlane and 2-3 protesters at the front door of the Ducal Palace, it was hard to actually SEE or feel that Defiance Bay was on edge as much as was claimed ... well, at least until the end of Act 2, if ya know what I mean (this is the No Spoilers section after all).

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Pillars wasn't dark and gritty.  And the part that were dark and gritty were done in an adult and mature fashion, not like a teenager's concept of dark and gritty that is the usual version we get in games.

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"That rabbit's dynamite!" - King Arthur, Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail

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a teenager's concept of dark and gritty that is the usual version we get in games.

 

On the other hand, that tends result in (unintentional) hilarity, which is also good.

 

Exhibit A:

 

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid
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"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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