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My thoughts/review on PoE


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Hey,

 

This review/essay is intended for the any Obsidian employee interested in making a better game in the future, or anyone that wants to read a wall of text. You have been warned.
(Please note that I did not read any other opinions or posts on this forum just so I could give my opinion unaltered by anyone else.)

 

First about me.

I played all the major CRPGs names related to D&D and not only. I played the best... BG 2: SoA or P:T all the way to the worst... ToEE.

Now about you.

While my thoughts will praise most areas of the game, my critique is also negative. If, dear reader, you are a fanboy or any person unable to take negative criticism, or otherwise unable to understand people have their own opinion, you can feel free to be on your merry way.

That being said, let's begin:

1. Graphics

 

Straight up, I started with the topic that is the least interesting to me. Graphics are the least interesting part of a game, especially nowadays when games seem to have less substance to them.

That being said, the graphics look great. They are, I dare say, almost too good.

 

a) The GOOD:
- The pets are nice. You can even have a mini dragon following you around, or a robot animat following you for those that love robots. That put a smile on my face. What would be even awesome----rrrrrr would be for Eder to have a dog. Obsidian if you give Eder a dog as a DLC costing $100, I will purchase it. You got us by the balls with that one. :D
- The day/night cycle looks amazing, especially in places with elevation where sun rays/moon rays might be obstructed by landscape or buildings.

- Water was amazing. It is almost a pleasure to get that Engwithian scepter assembled.

- Dragons look and feel amazing.

- Cypher spell graphics stood out to me as very very well done.

- Scripted interaction drawings are amazing. Want more.
- Pallegina in Vaillian clothing. (I had to kill a puppy after I wrote this sentence, to feel like a man again)

b) The BAD:
- I found it nice that secondary weapons were placed on our character's back, or hanging by a scabbard at the hip... however if our secondary weapon slot is a sword and shield type, the shield does not appear. Hilarious.

2. Character Creation

Character creation is perhaps the most important portion of the game. This part shines through as the most well done in the game, with numerous good parts to it, and very little negative. Much respect to you Obsidian for this part.
 

a) The GOOD:

- It's extensive. A lot of choices. Does a good job to indirectly introduce us to the world.
- It's exact. You understand what your purpose in the game will be when chosing your class.
- It's detailed, but without encumbering the player with useless information.
- It's clear. At the end you can go back though every step of the process, and as such have a perfect idea of the strenghts and weaknesses of your character.

b) The BAD:

- When you chose where you came from it would've been nice for a map of Eora to pop up, showing us visually where said location is.

3. Game Mechanics

 

The game mechanics are something that have been polished with each update, so it's really hard to pinpoint a problem. And even if I do, it'll probably be solved by the time I hit enter here.
What is however transparent, is that Obsidian does care, and is fixing things that do not make sense/ do not work.

That being said I will discuss: "At it's core, do the mechanics in PoE make sense?"

The answer is "Yes."

Things that usually gamers take for granted, such as ingame time, or combat turns, work (as far as I've seen) flawlessly. This shows a desire not only to match Baldur's Gate (and the comparison to BG is reasonable since this title proclaims it is its spiritual successor) but also to reach perfection.

Whoever you are that made these game mechanics flow so well, I salute you: Perfect job.

4. Game Structure

 

Here it's where it starts getting complicated, and here is where I start with the bad first.

You know... if you walk up to a person that played BG (and liked it) and you just simply say "Heya, it's me, Imoen!" they will instantly melt. Why? Well... great character. Voice acting. And so on. Also the FIRST character that comes along for the ride.
Fast forward. BG 2. There's a reason most people that played BG 2 laugh when you mention turnips. It's Jan Jansen. (double the effect if you have Minsc in your party).

What do Imoen and Jan Jansen have in common?

Well crap... I can't think of anything... except maybe that they're both ROGUES?!?

 

And here in lies the first major problem of PoE. In order to fully not gimp your character by leveling up mechanics, tanking a huge amount of traps, wondering what's in that chest... you HAVE to make your own rogue. It's 100% necessary.

Why? 
Why OBSIDIAN? WHY?!?

We're gamers. We don't like traps we can't disarm, and locks we can't unlock. And you made a game where exploration is rewarded, but the means are lacking. Illogical.

Yeah I can make my own, but it's such a missed opportunity.

Otherwise...

 

Character progression. Fantastic.
Map design. Brilliant.
Ambience relative to story. Superb.
Items, and item progression. Great.
Action and reaction with environment. Mediocre, but I'm not demanding here, so...

Lastly there is another problem that I will further detail in my next point, but I wanted to introduce here because it partially belongs here, and that is: Reaction of PCs towards protagonist.

 

It's almost non-existant. The choices that you make don't make much difference when it comes to protagonist to PC relations. There are a few exceptions, which I will detail, but overall, they're actually really weak. I had expected that Obsidian realized that between BG 2 and PoE there was a Mass Effect 2, which I know that is not an isometric RPG, but still one of the best RPGs made since BG 2.

That being said let's tackle the most important and maybe the most flawed part of the game:

5. Characters and sound
 

Before I start working on every character and then voice acting, sounds and overall ambience... I feel the need to explain why I place sound in this last category.
Well videogames have reached the rank of art. It's a strong belief I have, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. In my mind I compare it to film, and much like film sound can add up to about 50% of the game experience, much like the characters and script.
 

a) ALOTH
Aloth tries to be a sort of Yoshimo, and a character with a dual duality. His first duality Aloth/Iselmyr is set-up and has a pay-off. It works great, and we kind of connect with the character because we help him deal with his problem. However his second duality of a Leaden Key agent falls extremly flat because there is literally no consequence to us that he is in our party or not. He never gets ambushed, he never gets questioned, he never averts a crisis because of his status. Even at the end nothing of consequence happens due to the fact that he once was a part of the Leaden Key, except a bit of dialogue.
He is meant to be the first thing we attach to, and we should feel surprised at all the reveals, but in fact I found him more and more annoying, and predictable. Maybe that was his whole point. If that was the point, then it worked. He is a prime candidate for a sacrifice to Skaen every playthrough.

b) EDER
Eder is the second best character in the game. He comes across as a nice, optimistic guy. His first appearance is a huge contrast: a blonde, radiant man sitting next to a tree full of hanged corpses. That image sets him up very well.
He has a problem: he wants to search and see what happened to his sibling. Something most of us can relate to.
He's not annoying. He first tries to solve the problem going to a different Watcher, and only after that doesn't work out he comes to the protagionist for help.

We find out on the way that he loves animals, and always wants to pet them. It is never said that he ever gets bitten for always going for it, to which we automatically conclude (in the back of our minds) that he's always successful. And that colours him as a very likeable character.
But what really nails down things such as Waidwen, Woden, purges and their relationship to Eder is the final scene in Cliaban Rilag. And it's not the item searching, soul searching or any of that crap. It's the fact that while he was searching for clues about his brother he was attacked.
A likeable member of my party got attacked for a reason I can relate to. That's all I need.  :devil: 
Another contrast follows: the fight is short, even underlined by Eder himself, which further enounciates his superior position as a character compared to those that attacked him.

Also a long the way, Eder is one of the few companions that reacts to your unique issues, and even develops some potential inside jokes. Buckets of water are mentioned. Fun.

Great character. Great story.

c) DURANCE
Durance is annoying. He's supposed to be. His story I will not spoil, 1 because it needs en-durance ;) and 2 because it was crystal clear to me just after seeing his name and a few lines of dialogue that he comes from Chris Avellone, and generally any Chris Avellone character needs to be explored and enjoyed.
All I can say is that even though I respect what the character is supposed to do, and be, I could not relate to him. There are some people out there that will relate to him and his story (imo the more religious sort), but it's not me.

d) SAGANI
Sagani is... well... bland. We join her on the latter part of her story, and in my mind I compare her a lot with Minsc. I know it's not fair. No character should ever want to be compared to Minsc, but the story is largely similar to me. Go out there and get tested by the world.

 

However unlike Minsc, who was a protector (and all guys are vulnerable to the damsel in distress scenario) Sagani is a hunter in a ritualistic scenario that we cannot relate to.

Minsc fails along the way, which makes him even more human and relatable, he finds a second witch, and in the end when he goes back to Rashemen everyone already heard of him, another thing we can relate to: being appreciated for a job well done, respected for an accomplishment. Sagani... just follows a trail... and laments.
I compared the stories alone. No animal companion comparisons. No comic relief. Nothing else.
I did not expect Sagani to be the next Minsc, nor am I saying that any ranger is a missed oportunity to be a Minsc, all I am saying is that she is NOT relatable in any way.

e) PALLEGINA
Pallegina's character and story is a very huge curve ball pitch.
Her introduction is ham fisted. Her story and all the decisions involving it are borderline stupid, BUT... and this but is huge: if you take the time to talk to her and find out about her background, and then you chose to have her while talking to her parent Hylea, in just 2 lines of dialogue she becomes relatable and even likable.
The above sentiments, and the fact that she is one of the few characters that reacts to, again, the unique problems the protagonist faces make her likeable. A solid character. In fact the way she is portayed, I would vote her a candidate to expand in any PoE 2.

f) HIRAVIAS

Hiravias tries to be comic relief, and fails. His problems are much like Sagani's, the only difference I smiled at the delemgan comment, and laughed when he wondered if Pallegina has a cloaca or not.
There is a good part about him however: I found that if you chose to set him to believe more in Galawain, his ending is much more relatable and fulfilling, which is nice, I guess.
What I would like to discuss here, which irked me beyond belief, is that the voice actor was amazing except for one scene, which I assume was ruined due to poor direction: in the Grotto of Echoes he find the other dude that can do the same shapeshifting as him, and all that twin souls shenanigans... well in that dialogue scene Hiravias begins by introducing himself, and the voice actor does an amazing job of it, but the dialogue ends with Hiravias going

"Too formal?"

at which point the voice actor voices the that piece of dialogue just like the rest of the spiel.
Wasted opportunity and bad direction. Instead of directing the voice actor to maybe whisper that last line, so that you could maybe take out a sense of shared privacy and connection - because Hiravias voices that line to the protagonist - by him chosing to yell it out... everything is thrown out the window.
Sad.

g) Grieving Mother
The Grieving Mother is well... my favourite character in this game.  :biggrin: 
Not only we're there with her at the beginning of her journey, due to her being a cypher. Not only that the consequences of her choices are not spelled out to us like morons. Not only the relationship we have with her is something only we can experience. She is also likeable, she offers insights, she cares about things that we care too, and that is... babies, and their future.
Yes, I'll go punch something to grow a **** back, but it works, okay? I care about babies.
She cares and respects my decisions, and top of it all she is one of the few characters, just like Eder and Pallegina that have lines of dialogue refering to my unique problem.

She's f**king amazing!

Chris Avellone character. No surprise there.  :biggrin:

 

h) Kana

He's annoying. Endless Paths character. Likeable just like his Ila chant. 20% likeable. 20% desirability to have him in the party.

THE SCRIPT

It's very safe. I could best describe it as... I can't find anything negative about it. It's not brilliant, but I'm willing to give it a pass since this is the first game like this in like 10 years or more. hahaha

And at the very last is sound.

 

The sound is overall great:
- the voice acting is always amazing (except those little 2 words I mentioned when I discussed Hiravias)

- combat sounds are great

- tavern sounds are amazing (especially in the DLC where we get a bard to sing = amazing!)

- ambient sounds are mediocre, but they're decent enough

 

- the bad is the dragon fighting music. It's... *sigh* (I kind of hate myself for saying this, but...) not epic enough. I didn't feel as cool for trying to take down a DRAGON. And in case Obsidian needs to hear once again real dragon fighting music I will post 2 links below this:

1. BG 2: 



2. 2 Steps from Hell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-2IT8rcdj0

Thanks for reading this, if you did. Try not to judge the grammar and spelling too harsh. English is not my first language.

Peace! ^__^
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Interesting take. I agree about Eder, but I disagree about Durance. Durance is religious, to be sure, but his brand of religiosity is going to be off-putting to a lot of religious folks. I don't think his character is meant to be sympathetic at all for most of the game. His character is meant to be brutal, ugly, and unfeeling. He's too intense, and in too nasty a way, for most folks to relate to him. There is a couple of particular plot points where I do think he can evoke sympathy, at least I sympathized with him, but those revolved around his circumstances rather than his personality. Durance is probably the best written NPC in the game, although I'd still pick Eder out of the two of them because he's a bro and he's good for a laugh over a beer or two. Also, unlike you, I liked Aloth considerably more, especially the Eder/Aloth dynamic. Too funny.

 

At any rate, Welcome to the forum. Thanks for taking the time to pen a few thoughts. Stick around and continue to be active on the boards!

Fionavar's Holliday Wishes to all members of our online community:  Happy Holidays

 

Join the revelry at the Obsidian Plays channel:
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Remembering tarna, Phosphor, Metadigital, and Visceris.  Drink mead heartily in the halls of Valhalla, my friends!

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Oh please - do NOT apologize for your English.  I talk to, and read posts by, Americans every day who could not possibly do as well as you did - since most of them a:  can't spell; b:  can't string two thoughts together and make sense; and c:  never bothered to pay any attention in English classes throughout 20+ years of schooling.

 

Very interesting post.  I agree about the dragon music for sure!   I agree with most of your other points - leaving the companions out of it.  I've never been happy with "premades" in any game starting with BG.  I started playing the SSI Gold Box games (first computer in 1984, first Gold Box game in 1985) and if you remember those, you made your own entire party, so they WERE "you" in a way.  (Prior to CRPGs, I spent a lot of time with D&D/AD&D tabletop games - I GM'd so "playing" was rather foreign to me except from the perspective of deus ex machina for however many NPCs were necessary.)

 

BG was a disappointment to me because I seemed, to begin with, to have to deal with premade NPCs.  Hate to tell you, but Imoen was not then nor is she now nor will she EVER be a shining light of "favorite" in my book.  After a bit of digging around, I discovered that I could use the "server" option, and make my own party, like I did with the Gold Box games.  So BG 1 was a fun game after all, and I roleplayed all 6 girls in my mind the way I wanted them to be - which did not include the "child of a god" storyline.

 

Right now in this game, I'm making my own party members (and thanks to the devs for providing that option) which is working out well for me.  The major issue I have with all games these days is that I need to roleplay in my own mind the entire time I'm in a game - and how I play things out almost never has any relationship to the "story" the devs find it necessary to insist on.  And that's a thing that leaves me thinking that the open world MMOs actually are a better fit in some ways - though there are issues with them as well.

 

The game is fun.  More fun that BG 2, or NWN (not the AoL one, obviously).  I'm looking forward to the White March.

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Durance is religious, to be sure, but his brand of religiosity is going to be off-putting to a lot of religious folks. I don't think his character is meant to be sympathetic at all for most of the game. His character is meant to be brutal, ugly, and unfeeling. He's too intense, and in too nasty a way, for most folks to relate to him.

 

Careful, you're talking about my favorite character. By a long chalk. I like him to be dirty and I like him to be brutal. And I like him to be a zealot. In my book the best written character - but I'm not in any way religious.

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Your English actually gives me hope for humanity. Too many Americans who grew up speaking English can't write as well as you!

Always interesting to hear someone else's take on the game, too. Thanks for sharing!

 

Few notes:

  • If you feel gimped by being forced into playing Rogue and/or dumping points into Mechanics, you might want to consider passing off trap-disabling duty to one of your other party members. My Chanter PC was a Mechanics whiz, and she still had plenty of points for all the other skills I cared to buy for her. No, you're not going to be able to disable every single trap--sometimes you're going to have to find a way around, or in extreme cases, make your tank deliberately set it off and soak it up while the rest of your party hides around the corner. :p
  • I would REALLY dig a map of Eora at character-creation when you're picking your background. First playthrough, I was so confused on the backgrounds of races when they kept talking about Dyrwood, Readceras, and the Vailian Republics when those weren't background options and you had no way of reading anything about them, even something as simple as "you're not supposed to know what these are, you are a foreigner to these regions".
  • I never found Aloth annoying in the least, though you're right about the Leaden Key arc not having satisfying consequences or payoff. You at least get -something- if you decide to bring him to the final dungeon, though.
  • I felt Sagani's backstory was very interesting, and helped flesh out the world, especially the culture she comes from. Then again, I am ACTUALLY A GEOGRAPHER IN REAL LIFE, so of course I'm going to be eating up worldbuilding. Aside from that angle, though, her quest was really just kind of depressing. I looked up her various endings after I beat the game for the first time, and it really says something when I like the ending she gets from NOT completing her quest better than some of the endings you get for her when you actually put in the effort! If the ending from not giving a flying f**k is one I like better than the depressing stuff she ended up with in my playthrough, well, that just feels like I wasted my time and effort.
  • Pallegina needs more writing about *her*. I've noticed most of her companion banter is her commenting on other peoples' issues.
  • I really enjoyed Hiravias, though it should be noted that my standards of humor are bizarre and often immature. :p

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I stream every Friday at 9pm EST: http://www.twitch.tv/ladaarehn  Currently streaming: KOTOR 2.

 

Pillars of Eternity homebrew tabletop thread: https://forums.obsidian.net/topic/84662-pillars-of-eternity-homebrew-wip/

 

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