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

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  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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I thought it was fine.  It starts out really grim but Defiance Bay seems like a reasonable medieval city, Twin Elms is fine, nothing is really too over the top or unbelievable.  It is pretty much just Raedric's Hold that is totally in grimdark land and that is because of Raedric himself.

 

Also....aluminiumtrioxid.... the music in that trailer was some god awful crap.  It was "ok" up until that point.

Edited by Karkarov
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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:

 

 

As Amentep said, glorious! :D

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

"Space is big, really big." - Douglas Adams

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Also....aluminiumtrioxid.... the music in that trailer was some god awful crap.  It was "ok" up until that point.

 

It's certainly a factor in the glorious gestalt that has me rolling on the floor whenever I watch it, but I wouldn't give it undue weight.

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

 

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Also....aluminiumtrioxid.... the music in that trailer was some god awful crap.  It was "ok" up until that point.

 

It's certainly a factor in the glorious gestalt that has me rolling on the floor whenever I watch it, but I wouldn't give it undue weight.

 

I usually use DA: O as an example of what I mean by teen-dark, but I have started to wonder if maybe I have not been giving Bioware enough credit, that maybe they intended it to be hilarious....

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

"Space is big, really big." - Douglas Adams

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Also....aluminiumtrioxid.... the music in that trailer was some god awful crap.  It was "ok" up until that point.

 

It's certainly a factor in the glorious gestalt that has me rolling on the floor whenever I watch it, but I wouldn't give it undue weight.

 

I usually use DA: O as an example of what I mean by teen-dark, but I have started to wonder if maybe I have not been giving Bioware enough credit, that maybe they intended it to be hilarious....

 

Bioware may have a sense of humour but somehow I doubt that EA does.

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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.

 

While Kojima has been making MGS more and more ridiculous because people continue to take it seriously.

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I usually use DA: O as an example of what I mean by teen-dark, but I have started to wonder if maybe I have not been giving Bioware enough credit, that maybe they intended it to be hilarious....

Are we talking about the marketing for DA:O that tried to make it look all hard core? Because that was rather hilariously bad. The game itself was as grimdark as KOTOR was.

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There is room in the world for both light and dark stories. Given the people writing PoE I wouldn't expect a particularly lightweight story, and I would rather have people write well in a style they are comfortable with than right less well in some other style. It's particularly easy for a light-hearted story to descend into farce if the writing isn't good enough.

 

Having said that, I don't think PoE is all that dark, certainly compared to GoT.

Edited by Fardragon

Everyone knows Science Fiction is really cool. You know what PoE really needs? Spaceships! There isn't any game that wouldn't be improved by a space combat minigame. Adding one to PoE would send sales skyrocketing, and ensure the game was remembered for all time!!!!!

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da:o were odd.  the developers specific said they were going for more dark and mature than their previous titles... used battlestar galactica and game o' thrones books (this were before tv show) as known quantities to let folks know what the biowarians were aiming for.  unfortunately, people were confused and disappointed.  not only were the fans uncertain as to what bioware actual meant by "dark and mature," but a sizeable % o' respondents to the various threads made it clear that they played bioware titles specific 'cause they wanted the Fantasy.  reality is a frequent unforgiving place where good folks find themselves with choices between lesser o' evils.  all to often our choices is knowingly doomed from the start and the best we can do is to mitigate damage.  the bioware fans (not all, but many) explained that they did not want hard choices and no-wins... they didn't want dark and mature save where "mature" referenced companion sex encounters and "dark" were a meaningful day/night cycle.  

 

Gromnir 'bout burst a blood vessel when Gaider assured the fans that da:o would be "dark, but not too dark."

 

...

 

what the heck is "dark, but not too dark"?   we still don't know.

 

HA! Good Fun!

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"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)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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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!

 

 

3rd edition of WH40K and 6th of WHFB started erasure of tongue-in-cheek things from GW's settings. Especially Black Library's books started to change from hero adventures to more gritty stuff.

 

WH40K's latest Codexs seem to have bit more tongue-in-cheek mentality than what previous generation had, although I haven't read all of them. WHFB in other hand seems to have gone full dark with it newest additions. But GW has always tried to follow trends with its stuff.

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PoE doesn't feel too dark for me and I am usually an enemy of cynical fantasy worlds. To be honest I think PoE is almost perfect for me - one thing which I think PoE universe needs more is HUMOUR AND HILARIOUS CRAZYNESS! Hiravias, Aloth and Eder were nice comedic elements but the game mostly felt a bit too 'serious', not too 'dark'.

 

PoE would need more hilarious items, quests, characters - hey, real life world has tons of humour despite all its darkness. There are not many real-life historical events, event dark ones, when something hilarious, random or crazy didn't happen. Auschwitz death camp is one of such '****ing serious' points of history...

 

The oldest known British joke, from 1000 years ago:

"What hangs at a man's thigh and wants to poke the hole that it's often poked before? Answer: A key."

 

One of things I love at Witcher's universe is how a game with very brutal and rather dark plot manages to have so much of so brilliant sense of humour (mainly in dialogues). Not 'brilliant' but still making a gamer's smile, there is a quest in W2 in which you drink heavily with your buddies in a city, to wake up without equipment and clothes in the middle of a forest, and then you need to figure out what the hell happened.

--------------------------------------------------

As for the 'darkness', I think PoE does a pretty good job. It doesn't attempt miserable 'HEY LOOK I AM EDGY AND SERIOUS' of cartoonish violence (yes I look at you, dragon age, with your characters swimming in blood), tons of vulgarity and so on. It shows a beatiful, fascinating, deep, conflicted world with its upsides and downsides, moral dilemmas and a great philosophical/psychological intrigue at it's core, which is pretty dark indeed.

But hey, doesn't our world have mentally ill people (sanitarium)? Ethnic conflicts? Spiritual issues? Damn, personally I am an atheist-agnostic so PoE is already lighter than my vision of the real world in which when you die you rot, not move in the Cycle of Souls :p PoE isn't dark, more like grey and ambiguous - nothing is obvious in its' universe.

 

 

Now let my review few other RPGs regarding this issue:

 

Witcher saga - I complimented its sense of humour and generally I think it does wonderful lore building, but in the same time I think it goes a bit too much to the 'cynical' side: every idealist fails, main character looks permanently tired of 'all this crap', background war and following devastation is completely pointless, there is rape, slavery, racism, betrayal, hanging, assasinations, shady politics, corruption and... Well, THIS is a game OP wouldn't like :p

 

Drakensang - completely opposite: this game and universe is so ****ing shallow in its unimaginative heroic stereotypic crap it's amazing for me how it could be created without giving nausea to its creators. You get a quest to find magical stuff and save the world and guess what, you go and do that, no twists. Heroic heroes, divine divinity, bad badguys, betrayers from cartoon network and the only 'big moral dilemma' turns to be scam because one of its two conflicted sides quickly jumps out as evil. Seriously: medieval era European-like fantasy world where elves and dwarves are good while orcs and goblins are evil and main hero kills bad dragon to save the world?

 

Planescape: Torment - this is a special class of such games: it is extremely dark but that's intentional and making perfect sense in it's plot context and general themes (mortality, meaning of life, pain, faith, suicide, regret, nature of a man).

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"Dark and Gritty" settings are the creations of gaming's version of hipsters.  These hipsters think their style is the best and everybody else on the planet points and laughs at them.    I prefer BG2's style, I don't want this pretentious "no good or evil" -BS- in my gaming.     It's okay on rare occasions, but to constantly have it shoved in your face is tiring,  like being forced to listen to hipsters and wanting to dig your ears out with a hot fork.

 

Oh and Game of Thrones is fecal.  It's a Lord of the Rings wannabe mess that lures the masses with gore and porn.

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Yes, that is it exactly.  Crucis nailed it.  I don't even know what "grimdark" is.  What I do know, is that there is literally almost nothing in the entire setting or storyline of POE which is anything except grey or "heavy". 

 

First location.  You arrive, find a tree with dozens/hundreds of people hanging from it.  You are threatened to be put on it. There are lots of people threatening to kill each other and betraying each other in that first location.  There is a quest where someone is looking for hope, and you deliver false hope- that is the best case scenario. 

 

2nd location.  You might not FEEL it (because of bad writing and scripting), but entire city is on verge of chaos.  You CAN'T actually prevent this, no matter what you do.  You face a situation where you are forced to kill a bunch of mentally or physically handicapped individuals (without going into details). 

 

3rd location (where you find Grieving Mother).  People assassinating and torturing dozens to hundreds of people.  People mind-controlling people and forcing them to commit vile acts.  Rape, incest. 

 

4th location (near to end).  People all fighting amongst each other, trying to even get you to kill children. A location where people go to willingly get tortured and killed.  A population planning for war.  No one is friendly (that I remember), everyone either distrusts or hates you, or wants to use you. 

 

Final location.  Can't say much, other than to say, it was nothing but negative.  There was no "point of light" in any of it.  Depending on your decisions, yes, that could, "make things better".  But, you don't actually get to see any of that happen.  You just get some cut-screen which refers to it, and that is all. 

 

In Baldur's Gate, KOTOR, Arcanum, the entire setting wasn't dark.  There were episodes of darkness, and there were some "dark" events, but they weren't uniformly dark.  In BG, once you cleared out the evil, people thanked you.  There were ceremonies, sometimes they erected statues to you.  Some areas literally became "lighter".  There were more people in the streets, or you could do things you couldn't do before.  There were times when you could "redeem" people, so they came to appreciate bad things that had happened, and ended up at peace.  You could free people from slavers.  You could cure people of diseases.  In KOTOR, it is set in a time of war, or just after.  Sure, there are some unhappy areas, but you can also find beautiful ones that are largely at peace.  When you do enough "light side" stuff, you can see certain things improve.  Certain rulers live, others die.  People are acknowledged to be happier or not.  In Arcanum, almost everyone is oblivious of the impending threat.  Life is "business as usual" almost everywhere.  There really aren't too many dark things- some necromancy.  Mistreating "inferior races".  Tension in between certain nations and races.  It isn't even remotely a dark setting. 

 

In POE, what "positive NPCs" are there?  Eder and Kana?  They are probably the only ones that I can think of, and quite frankly, I don't think either is really "positive".  To me, they are just "normal", with occasionally optimistic or "light" contributions to make in conversation.  Palegina (or, however it is spelled)?  Not particularly negative, not particularly positive.  A "realist", "pragmatist", a bit standoffish and business-like and cold.  The ranger?  Pretty neutral.  The druid?  A crude, violent pervert.  Durance?  A crazy psychotic.  Grieving Mother?  Depressing, spacey, morose.  Aloth?  Kinda jokey, more or less nuetral, sort of "goodish". 

"1 is 1"

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In POE, what "positive NPCs" are there?  Eder and Kana?  They are probably the only ones that I can think of, and quite frankly, I don't think either is really "positive".  To me, they are just "normal", with occasionally optimistic or "light" contributions to make in conversation.  Palegina (or, however it is spelled)?  Not particularly negative, not particularly positive.  A "realist", "pragmatist", a bit standoffish and business-like and cold.  The ranger?  Pretty neutral.  The druid?  A crude, violent pervert.  Durance?  A crazy psychotic.  Grieving Mother?  Depressing, spacey, morose.  Aloth?  Kinda jokey, more or less nuetral, sort of "goodish". 

Pallegina is a character for whom "realpolitik" means "Let's not be **** and try to take advantage of an allied country stuck in its worse crisis!". Kana's whole reason for travelling is to find something that he believes could swing the political balance in his home country from "Let's isolate ourselves and prepare for conflict!" to "Let's continue exploring the world and exchanging with other cultures!". Edér is staying optimistic in front of very, very bad odds. I don't know how all of this is dark and pessimistic.

 

At least two of your examples are not about the setting being "dark and gritty" but about the country you're in going through a major crisis, having already lost an entire generation worth of its population to a phenomenon that they don't understand and have no idea how to stop.

 

Compare that to Dragon Age, in which discrimination against Elves is systematic, magic users are living in an opressive system which mostly keeps them around because they're useful and an entire species of monstrous abominations periodically tries to destroy all living things.

 

Or Game of Thrones, in which the low borns are at the mercy of vicious men who kill with impunity, rape (especially against women) is extremely common place, slaves are the foundation of an entire culture, the only magic there is is bloody and destructive and rarely beneficial to anyone, etc.

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what the heck is "dark, but not too dark"?   we still don't know.

 

HA! Good Fun!

Dark but not too dark would clearly be Twilight Gromnir.  And thus we know why some of the bioware characters are so freaking bad.

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Pillars is definitely not too dark, there's been games with more and with less grimness.

The thing with pillars that may offend sensitive people, however, is that all the dark is part of the main story.

 

The OP mentioned Arcanum as being light-hearted - well, that's only the main story.

Arcanum and Eternal Darkness had the best stories in all the RPGs that I've played, I like them more than planescape, BGs, NWNs, etc.

 

But, here's the thing.  Arcanum was very dark as well - what the gnomes did to the mayor's wife, how the city dealt with the orc strike, the racial and societal oppressiveness, etc. were all pretty bleak.

All those elements, though, were not part of the main storyline.

So, if you were a sensitive person who gets easily offended, you could skip most of the good story, and just complete the game, which didn't directly involve you in all the politics and societal mores around you.

 

Eternal Darkness, on the other hand - all that cthulu goodness was right there in the main story, in fact there was no side story, it was right in your face.
This, surely would offend some people with delicate sensibilities, in much the same way POE does.

In POE, all the dark elements are part of the main story - you could skip taking durance, mother, or eder, who are the ones with the bleaker storylines, but most people would consider the companions an integral part of the story and take them, do their quests, etc.

Could POE have been written a little more like arcanum where the main story was cleaner, and the darker elements were sidelines?  Sure, but I'm glad they didn't.

This may offend a very small number of people, as the poll shows, but on the whole it's just the way they chose of doing it, and most people aren't bothered by it.

 

There can be good games with both styles - putting everything in the main story, and putting most of the story in side-plots and background while keeping the main story simple and clean.

POE does a decent job of the first type, not the best, but decent - and I enjoyed it.

 

 

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  • 4 months later...

I believe the setting was just right. Forgotten Realms never felt very believable to me, it seems like a setting from fairy tale - good and evil is strictly defined (especially in the first game), player gets to go on a heroic journey to explore epic dungeons, find unbelievable locales and uncover antient, powerful artifacts.

 

Dyrwood feels a lot more down to earth and believable, but it's not nearly Game of Thrones level of grimdark. See, the way I see it, it wasn't grimdark for the sake of it, like Dragon Age tends to be - people act like people who happen to have a lot of lore to dump for the most part, for better or worse, and moral decisions are given a lot more meaning given the context. Additionally, you as a player get to explore locations which feel more mundane and believable than stuff we kept finding in Forgotten Realms - which is actually a big plus as far as I'm concerned, when something stands out, it actually stands out as opposed to being lost among all the other crazy and epic locations.

 

All in all, I don't think Pillars was going for grimdark feeling - there's not enough murder, racism and betrayal in its storyline for that. It's more of a down to earth story with people pushed to their limits by extraordinary circumstances.

Edited by Fenixp
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I find Pillars to be quite lively actually. It's no darker than the modern world, as far as I can tell. Hell, the modern world has been known to be much, much darker.

 

To me, "dark" means that the game ventures in to aspects that, by societal standards, are utterly deprived to the core. This game doesn't introduce anything remote close to that lol

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I never, ever, said the word "grimdark".  In fact, I hate that term, because it isn't even a real word.  I said, literally, "dark and gritty"

I'm sorry for misquoting you, and I know exactly what you mean - I always considered "dark and gritty" and "grimdark" synonymous, so I didn't even think about it.

 

Anyway, I would never argue that Pillars of Eternity isn't a dark setting - it absolutely is. But there are degrees to it. Let me elaborate a bit - look at world of The Witcher, Dragon Age or Game of Thrones. To an extent, they're gritty for the sake of being gritty. Just about everybody hates you in both Dragon Age and Witcher, presentation of these games is extremely gory and bloody, they make sure to constantly remind you how is everyone miserable and everything horrible. Most people gave up hope and are just trying to scrape by, aside from essential NPCs. Violence, racism, hate is the primary topic of these games.

 

Pillars of Eternity, on the other hand, depicts a world which feels a lot more down to earth. The grittiness doesn't seem to exist for the sake of grittiness - it actually feels like a previously stable society reacts to crisis. People are mostly nice and hopeful in spite of being afraid and tense. You can see quite clearly how does this change trough the various regions of the game as Vorad already pointed out, from oppressed Gilded Vale which is very much concerned with birth rates trough metropolitan Defiance Bay being largely unconcerned about legacy and dealing with 'big city' issues to Twin Elms, untouched by legacy, driven by tradition. Quests, dialogue and themes change according to these basic premises and reaction of people reflect these realities. Their behavior makes sense, it's never negative for the sake of negativity, it's negative for the circumstances, and negativity largely drops when you explore Twin Elms. I'm not calling any of this 'realistic' - it's a videogame written by a team of writers, of course it isn't. But it feels like a better approximation of reality than vast majority of other dark and gritty settings, which is the very reason as to why you get so many 'just right' answers.

 

As for people thanking you for what you did for them, they actually kind of do and your reputation dynamically changes based on your actions - I suspect not much changes graphically because of budget constraints. Kind of like in original Baldur's Gate.

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Didn't look any more dark or light than any other vanilla-esque D&D world.

 

I will admit that story thus far is leaving me very uninterested.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

3rd edition of WH40K and 6th of WHFB started erasure of tongue-in-cheek things from GW's settings. Especially Black Library's books started to change from hero adventures to more gritty stuff.

 

WH40K's latest Codexs seem to have bit more tongue-in-cheek mentality than what previous generation had, although I haven't read all of them. WHFB in other hand seems to have gone full dark with it newest additions. But GW has always tried to follow trends with its stuff.

 

More like full retar... something.

 

I know this comment is very old, but it's funny with the AOS release.

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I would say that tone that PoE has is somewhat complex.

 

It is high fantasy setting, as it has lots of magic, heroes, gods that interfere people's business, it has multitude of races, there are lots of fantastic creatures in the world, magic is part of society.

 

Setting has darker tones, as it sets in land that still recovers from taxing war and it faces several crises, from which Waidwen's legacy is worst because its hits children from every social class and it cause is unknown which causes people seeking answers and blame everywhere around them. Because war was fought against entity that people believe to be one of their gods and that entity was destroyed in final battle of the war and god that entity said he is has been silent after said war, which has caused crisis of faith, which lead to cleansing of faith by people hunting and killing followers of said god. War and these cleansings have lead partial power vacuum that is filled by several new comers that want to have political power in Dyrwood, which of course has lead to some fighting between these new power groups. And of course recovering from war has caused economical crisis which is not helped by aforementioned crises. Economical crisis has caused increased of poverty, shortage of foods, decreased security of the roads, increase of criminal activity.

 

These crises have different impact on different communities, like for example Gilded Vale is in worst condition of the all the communities that player can visit, it suffered greatly because of the war and it had major temple for Eothas (earlier mentioned god that is believed to be god and whose followers were hunted and killed) and with large number of followers for said god. It is also been hit very hard by Waidwen's legacy and increased banditry has made its ability to recover very poor. This desperate times have lead current lord of the area become very harsh with his punishments to criminals and other people that he don't like.  Defiance Bay in other hand has much less of that feeling of desperation that Gilded Vale has, there war and it legacies don't cast so deep shadows and it has started to recover and build up. But there is rising tensions between those above mention new players in political field and of course there are outside powers in play that want take advantage from their weak position. And of course Waidwen's legacy causes some desperation even though situation isn't as bad as it is in Gilded Vale. And then there are Dyrford and Twin Elms that are communities that don't suffer as much from previously mentioned crises, but they have some of their own and of course those main crises have been felt even though their effects aren't as direct and blooming.

 

And of course there is murder, greed, scheming, kith sacrifices, horrid science experiments, mad men etc. that give setting darker edge.

 

But on lighter side there is quite lot humor (which tone I would say drying than what you for example find from Bioware's games), there is heroism, self sacrificing, moments of selfness, constant hope for better future, rescuing innocents, killing villains, co-existing with non-kith races, etc.

 

And then everything is made grey by making some dark actions to lead lighter and more hopeful events and some light actions to lead more desperation and destruction. 

 

And end results is melancholic (like Infinitron said), bit hopeful and somewhat satisfying but also somewhat wanting more and able to make things even better (or worse). I also would say that it isn't any darker than for example Baldur's Gate or Baldur's Gate II, but how bad things are told to player is bit more hard hitting and because of the dry tone of the humor that darkness goes much more rarely fully in background than what it does in BGs.

 

In my opinion setting isn't too dark or too light to story that it tries to tell and it works for my tastes so from poll options I would choose just right. I would say that humor isn't necessary absolutely what i would like best, but mostly it works for me. In end I would like have bit more ability to impact world and how it will advance and some cases I would had liked to have bit different result options as now they were in some cases just bad, bad and badder in my opinion. But overall story and the setting was quite satisfying.

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