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I am no longer a player of this game, but after recently reading many of the threads around here it seems that there are many players with a good knowledge of the mechanics that seem to be talking about the same core issue that I find with the combat in this game. I have put this issue into the following hypothesis:

 

If the player has a good understanding of the Pillars of Eternity system design and competently builds and equips a full or close to full party of characters, controls their party in combat effectively and makes little to no mistakes, combat in Pillars of Eternity becomes a repetitive exercise where the player performs the same sequence of rote actions throughout almost every combat encounter in the game.

 

This rote sequence entails a pre-encounter setup where the player uses Stealth to scout ahead and detect the location, makeup and line of sight of enemy compositions which allows the player to dictate the exact terms of engagement in the majority of encounters in the game. This is followed by optimally positioning party members for combat, usually in a very similar arrangement of designated tanking characters forward, melee strikers (if applicable) further back and then ranged and support characters in the rear, just inside their range limit. Once characters are in position, the player will initiate their ‘alpha strike’ where the player uses one or more active per-encounter abilities to inflict damage and debuffs on the enemy composition before combat begins.

 

After the pre-encounter setup and alpha strike phases are completed and units have engaged each other in melee combat, the field will stabilize. If the player correctly performs their stealth, initial positioning, alpha strike, opening set of abilities and controls the targeting of enemies, there is little to no chance that the player will lose that encounter, let alone suffer any casualties. The player will then spend the rest of the encounter keeping their advantage by using up the remaining per-encounter abilities of their characters, usually in a very similar order every encounter.

 

Encounters that do require players to break this rote sequence are usually against specific creatures or creature types that have powerful disables, can charm player units or have very high damage special attacks, and instances where the enemy AI targeting clauses for specific types of enemies prioritize weaker party members. Most of these challenges are optimally dealt with by a change in encounter strategy and/or opening actions. The player may alter their equipment (such as changing armor to lower or increase DR to alter enemy targeting priorities), use alternate initial positioning, leave particular characters out of the encounter until certain enemies are dealt with or use a specific character to soak up all initial enemy targeting.

 

Due to the nature of the system design, a player that successfully executes such an encounter strategy will almost never have to vary from this formula and will rarely have to pay much heed to the actions performed by enemies after the opening set of actions taken in combat.

 

The hypothesis does not mention the recent addition of affliction immunities, but they are largely a strategical consideration and may fall into the instances mentioned in the fourth paragraph where the player may have to alter their encounter strategy but still proceed with the rote sequence.

 

I have pondered on this issue for a long time now, and I'm thinking of producing a piece that will closely examine this problem, and other problems related to the game's combat and system design and present some feedback and possible solutions that might be of interest for the sequel IF there is any acknowledgement of this issue and intent to try and solve it - and by this I mean intent to design a combat system that is more reactive and requires more tactical diversity from the player.

 

Explanations as to why you agree or disagree and discussing the points I made in the hypothesis would be welcome, thankyou in advance.

 

 

 

-  I think most of your problems with "rote" combat could be fixed with better encounter design.

 

I found that often times in Od Nua,  I'd begin a fight;  it would shift a bit in place and then new monsters would join in, making things more dicey, and tactically enjoyable -  an alarm system that codified this would go a fair ways in making you adapt rather then "invis-alpha-mopup"  repeat and rinse.  Other things that would be cool is separating sneak mode and detect trap mode ala IE types, so you either gamble on alphas strike or look for traps ( save scummable, I know )

 

I've thought engagement a problem for a long time;  anybody who doesn't think it's a bad system,  I suggest you try playing the game with auto-stop on engagement off.   It's impossible to detect and stop engagement attacks from happening without the AI holding your hand.  So it's either on or off, and you have to micromanage when you want a character to bypass it.

 

I think movement affecting recharge time isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I'd like to see it used to promote movement.    One way to do this is to use the current target of an actor as a point of reference;  if he moves towards the target, the recharge accelerates.   When you click a character, you should see who's targeting him;  ( I also think this should be resolve dependent ) .   In chasing scenarios, If you've moved a certain distance you could get a speed surge to catch up to kiting enemies.

 

This would allow decisions such as... should I run from the three goblins to take out their mage, knowing they'll get faster attacks as they track me down?  In my mind, this is exactly the kind of thinking that opportunity attacks allow in turn based games.  You'd even have incentive to stun targeting mobs to enable the positives from your own movement,  just as you do for disengagement.  

 

Finally, in terms of per encounters...  they need to be meaningful enough powers that you have to think when to use them.  I usually found with my rogue, I would hold off on an alpha strike until I had debuffed the target enough to maximize my chance.    Of course,  if encounters are so easy that they're over in a few seconds in "rote" play, then yeah,  encounter powers are kind of dumb.    The worst ones, though,  are powers which do almost nothing but a bit of damage buff or something.   My ranger stag never used his "horns" encounter power because it was too painful to do a micro damage to surrounding creeps with an encounter button power; stuff like that should be passive.

Edited by tdphys
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I'm not sure why you're so obsessed with it

I actually didn't even think about it until I joined this forum and started talking about Project Eternity during and post-Kickstarter. The reason that I bring it up so often is because it has been acknowledged by the lead designer as being a problem that he dislikes about the Infinity Engine games, and believes that the majority of players used it to trivialize combat - the game design has been directly influenced by this view and these people. I hate this fact.

 

You new guys haven't been around to be privvy to this discussion, so I can see why it can be somewhat confusing.

 

Half the time my group does exactly what Fenixp described

Fenixp is actually talking about Baldur's Gate there hahah, not PE.

 

I just know that if one were to draw out the logical flow of your arguments... the end result would be something that closely resembles the shape of oatmeal.

If that's the case, then yours would be melting ice cream wink.png

 

-  I think most of your problems with "rote" combat could be fixed with better encounter design.

I don't think so. The problems are systemic and IMO it is best to tackle the problem at the root of the cause. With better system design then the game would have to lean less on inventive/scripted encounter design to try and alleviate the problem.

Edited by Sensuki
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-  I think most of your problems with "rote" combat could be fixed with better encounter design.

I don't think so. The problems are systemic and IMO it is best to tackle the problem at the root of the cause. With better system design then the game would have to lean less on inventive/scripted encounter design to try and alleviate the problem.

 

 

So you think that 

 

1. No Engagement.

2. No Per/Encounter Abilities.

3. No Movement speed debuff

 

would naturally lead to better encounter design?   

 

I like inventive/scripted encounter design; this should be promoted.    A lot of combat in Pillars was mopping up a ton of seemingly randomly placed encounters that were under-powered and had little meaning or potency - and contributes to your complaints of "rote combat".   Scripted and inventive encounters require design thought and generally tends to counter this haphazard style of design/play.   I don't see how 1-3 actively promote better encounter design.   I do agree with 1 and 3. making better tactical game play,  but I think my answers to 2 and 3 would lead to more interesting tactics and better encounter design ... when it's scripted and inventive.    

 

I realize that by saying "scripted"  you mean that the combat disallows the sneak-alpha-strike combo... but I think there's a lot of "inventive"  potential to make these first steps simply an opening salvo, rather then "the beginning and the end"  of combat.  ( see my previous post,  alarms,traps, etc)

Edited by tdphys
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One thing with the combat being repetitive is that it's probably more common on the PotD, because the enemies have so much more brute force and resistance, taking certain risks and experimenting with certain tactics and abilities and being lax with preparation and micromanagement is much more punishing.  This isn't really a situation unique to Pillars either, even playing better tactical games like XCOM or Jagged Alliance 2 v1.13, I've found my biggest tactical adjustment to cope with the overwhelming brute force on the highest difficulties, is usually to play in a more cautious, more structured and more repetitive style and while it's more effective tactically, I find it to be significantly less fun than playing on a next difficultly down and taking more risks and experimenting more, so while the tactics may be good from an effectiveness stand point, they aren't good for an enjoying the game standpoint.

Edited by MunoValente
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One thing with the combat being repetitive is that it's probably more common on the PotD, because the enemies have so much more brute force and resistance, taking certain risks and experimenting with certain tactics and abilities and being lax with preparation and micromanagement is much more punishing.  This isn't really a situation unique to Pillars either, even playing better tactical games like XCOM or Jagged Alliance 2 v1.13, I've found my biggest tactical adjustment to cope with the overwhelming brute force on the highest difficulties, is usually to play in a more cautious, more structured and more repetitive style and while it's more effective tactically, I find it to be significantly less fun than playing on a next difficultly down and taking more risks and experimenting more, so while the tactics may be good from an effectiveness stand point, they aren't good for an enjoying the game standpoint.

 

 

I just think this is representative of how difficult it is to *tune* games like this.   Varying things like the ratio of hitpoints / defenses between characters and opponents can change the effectiveness of different techniques due to the relative power/risk/reward of this or that power or solution, like making encounter powers worthless or rote...   I'm glad that Obsidian is going through the growing pains of figuring this out.   I'm pretty excited about a POE 2  designed based on feedback and experience from the first game.  Cautiously excited of course :)

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So you think that 

 

1. No Engagement.

2. No Per/Encounter Abilities.

3. No Movement speed debuff

 

would naturally lead to better encounter design?

No. The issues with encounter design IMO largely lie in the core system and ability design. The more homogeneity and restrictions, the less you have to work with / the less things will play differently.

 

I don't have an issue with per-encounter abilities, they just need to be far less abundant IMO.

 

One thing with the combat being repetitive is that it's probably more common on the PotD, because the enemies have so much more brute force and resistance, taking certain risks and experimenting with certain tactics and abilities and being lax with preparation and micromanagement is much more punishing.  This isn't really a situation unique to Pillars either, even playing better tactical games like XCOM or Jagged Alliance 2 v1.13, I've found my biggest tactical adjustment to cope with the overwhelming brute force on the highest difficulties, is usually to play in a more cautious, more structured and more repetitive style and while it's more effective tactically, I find it to be significantly less fun than playing on a next difficultly down and taking more risks and experimenting more, so while the tactics may be good from an effectiveness stand point, they aren't good for an enjoying the game standpoint.

I actually always played on Hard, not PotD because when you play on PotD you're not playing on 'Core Rules', and the game is not balanced at all for PotD. It's balanced for normal, but normal and hard aren't too different, hard just has more elite creatures and stuff in encounters.

Edited by Sensuki
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IMO the systems applied in PoE originate from misconception from BG2. For example, Josh has said that he didn't like it that in BG2 the player would enter an encounter, die, reload and apply buffs and try again to have a huge advantage he didn't have before. And that prayer vs. in PoE should have an opportunity cost.Yet that completely IMO disregards that in BG2 i could have a thief scouting the area and to a certain extent allow me to get a picture of the following battle. The stealth system in PoE is even better in that that you can even more get an informed picture of the enemy makeup. In BG2 the Bioware designers also have set encounters where you needn't fight right away if you think of Firkraag or the Shadow dragon for example. Even an encounter like vs Tolgerias upon finishing the dialogue you can close the door and move your party away. So, that proves that it's possible with stealth and encounter design avoid situation where the player is uninfoirmed and thus unprepared and more likely to fail and reload.

 

Furthermore, in BG2 for most set encounters applying one buff like spells vs mind control/charm would be sufficient since BG2 provided enough gear which would completely negate effects if you think of the ring of free action for example. On top of that, the 'prayer vs'. in PoE the player can cast upon initiatian of combat state and before the enemy reaches the full party (by simply initiating with 1 char and leaving the rest behind in a safe place which no system can prevent the player to do in an rtwp). Therefore, applying an entire system with casting outside of combat as it is in PoE is unnecessary IMO.

 

Then there's the melee system which was as well discussed ad nauseam already and where everybody knows is unnecessary as well if you have enemies with ranged attacks/abilities, moving faster or simply placing them so in a thus designed area that kiting is not easily possible (kiting in trash encounters is nonsense anyway) and has exclusively been introduced to please people here who wanted to have 'true' dedictaing tanking and thus going against everyone else who used tank with for example Korgan in BG2 and used terrain to block enemies or simply used spells and/or gear to disable opponents. PoE's combat is not as dymanic as combat in BG2 and i believe cannot achieve that level with the current systems. You would start BG2 with level 8-9, compare the dynamic of combat for set encounters to the set encounters with your level 9 party in PoE. Where's the use of movement as a tactic, the countering of effects during combat, the use of terrain which all are part of IE games rtwp.

 

Josh's implementation of immunities is IMO a great and actually very brave decision by Josh. Other eventual 'failures' of BG2 could be sorted out in regards to a sequel without implementation of entire mechanics.

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... And ruin PoE2 for those of us who really enjoyed the gameplay mechanics in the original over IE games :-P

 

Seriously tho, constructive criticism never goes amiss. It's then up to Obsidian whether this criticism fits with their vision of the game or not. The biggest mistake a lot of developers who actively develop their games even after release/in early access have made is that they have abandoned too much of the original vision for their game over what they perceive to be a popular opinion (which tends to just be a loud minority). Obsidian, thankfully, seems to have their own heads and won't abandon their ideas - instead, they try to identify actual underlying issues a lot of posters don't understand/aren't willing to understand and attempt to fix those.

 

Sensuki is trying to make a point out of engagement mechanics being irredeemably detrimental to any RTwP game. While I see issues with the game, I strongly disagree and am very glad Obsidian is sticking to their guns and hope they will do so in the second installment as well instead of just aping what Infinity Engine games did - we already have 5 Infinity Engine games and a 6th one in development, it's not like we need more of those. I do hope the second game will either perfect the mechanics present in this one or come up with its own, entirely new approaches. I also hope that they'll derive useful information from received criticism, but don't take it verbatim (I'm sorry Sensuki and 4ward, but guys at Obsidian are veterans of game design, regardless of genres they worked at previously. Unless you have the same experience as they do, I will accept and think about your criticism, but I'll ultimately trust them on making the right call.)

 

Of course they are not the same; that didn't need clarification. They are obviously different, but different in that way that shows you completely contradicted yourself. Different in that way that illustrates the fact that consistency and sensibility are "optional" during your forum crusades.

Oh come on now, nobody's consistent unless he's a robot, and an argument doesn't get defeated purely by pointing out its inconsistencies unless they defeat the argument themselves (in this case, they don't, all we proved there is that combat in Infinity Engine games is also broken, which nobody really argued against.) Edited by Fenixp
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They're bad at RTWP design. They should be making turn-based games as that is their personal preference and forte. But because $, here we are.
 

Josh's implementation of immunities is IMO a great and actually very brave decision by Josh. Other eventual 'failures' of BG2 could be sorted out in regards to a sequel without implementation of entire mechanics.


The affliction immunity system could be much better. Once again, bandaid implementation of a system as a shallow attempt to solve a problem.

 

As you were saying, "immunity" as a state was not limited to creatures in the Infinity Engine games (particularly BG2). Immunities could manifest in creatures having a natural immunity to a damage type or 'school' of spell, or something like that. Immunity could be achieved through equipping an item, such as Ring of Free Action, as you were saying. Immunity could be achieved through buffs, such as Death Ward - immune to Death spells. These states were achievable by both enemies and the player.

The spell-based immunities could also be removed (by enemies or the player) which helped make combat a reactive environment. It is the reactive element that is lacking here, where the actions that enemies take is largely irrelevant as long as you follow your pattern. The ability to counterspell and dispell would go a ways to achieving a reactive state. 

 

I like immunities but yeah, that's not a very good implementation of them that they have currently. Tunnel vision approach. It's a start, but it would be nice if they expanded upon it.

Edited by Sensuki
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because we care, we want PoE2 to be a truly great game. I for one marvel at the great talent of the artists who did the areas in this game for example, yet for me there's more to a game.

 

Where "care" and "great" are buzz words you're using to hide the fact that you only really care about your personal opinion, preference, and bias; all of which you clearly think are great.

 

 

 

Oh come on now, nobody's consistent unless he's a robot, and an argument doesn't get defeated purely by pointing out its inconsistencies unless they defeat the argument themselves

 

If by "robot" you mean "educated person" then sure. Maybe you find it hard to be consistent, but that's just not something that should be difficult. And yes, the moment an argument has a false premise, it is defeated. That's actually a scientific fact :geek:

 

In your case, Fenixp, you are just clearly so entertained by fueling unnecessary fires and beating dead horses to no end, that of course an argument can never be defeated! Of course no one can be consistent. Because... if we applied common sense standards to logical debate, who would Fenixp have left to respond to? lol

Edited by Zenbane
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They're bad at RTWP design. They should be making turn-based games as that is their personal preference and forte. But because $, here we are.

Yet most of the games they made are real-time with pause RPGs and their roots extend all the way back to Icewind Dale games. And they managed to create an RPG with a combat system which I actually greatly enjoy, something that vast majority of RPGs I have ever played fail to do. "They're bad at RTwP design" coming from someone who, to my knowledge, never released a popular RTwP RPG isn't really an argument which would hold a huge deal of sway given their history. Any day I'll take the opinion of experienced designers over a poster on discussion boards. Okay, I think I'll end this line of thought here, I'm struggling to write this in such a way that you don't feel like your ego is attacked, so just trust me that that's not what I'm trying to do - I'm just trying to point out reality of the situation.

 

If by "robot" you mean "educated person" then sure. Maybe you find it hard to be consistent, but that's just not something that should be difficult. And yes, the moment an argument has a false premise, it is defeated. That's actually a scientific fact geek.gif

Sure, problem is that this particular inconsistency does nothing to defeat Sensuki's arguments, all it does is that if you avoid things he's pointing out, you'll enjoy the combat in Pillars more.

 

And no human mind is ever entirely consistent, there are always conflicts. We're just not built to be entirely consistent. I absolutely recommend you read up on human psychology, it's quite fascinating. Feel free to start with something like "Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite" by Robert Kurzban, it's a bit of a popularization of these ideas, but it's a good read.

 

Edit: Scratch last bit, 'cause you won't find much of use now that I have taken a look at it. I could try to look into some of my wife's literature I keep stealing if you're interested.

 

Edit2: Edited to make the post clearer.

Edited by Fenixp
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Oh I have no doubt that someone can find a book about hypocrites and use that as an excuse to contradict yourself on something as simple as "combat tactics" in a video game. But at least it is becoming more and more clear as to why you incessantly feed Sensuke's need to be heard.

 

So right now when you said, "Any day I'll take the opinion of experienced designers over a poster on discussion boards," clearly you will eventually contradict yourself since everyone is an inconsistent hypocrite, right? When enough time passes, Fenixp will take the opinion of a poster over an experienced designer. Point taken!

 

I, on the other hand, can admit to being inconsistent and hypocritical in some things. But certainly not "all" things. Video games is one of those things that I do not find difficulties with when it comes to consistency and hypocrisy. Sorry to hear the opposite is true for you.

Edited by Zenbane
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Zenbane, out of all people who posted in this topic, you're the only one whose only consistency lies in attacking personality of posters you disagree with and twisting their statements to mean whatever fits your current argument. I don't think I need to elaborate on why is that bad behavior on discussion boards. If you don't want to partake in a discussion, it's easy enough - ignore it. I'm sorry for derailing Sensuki, I won't post on this further.

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Did you just call me consistent? I thought your books proved that to be an impossibility?!

 

And I am taking part in the discussion. I addressed how rest spam takes place out of combat, didn't I? Which, might I add, seems much more insightful than your fine retort of, "i trust developers over posters" lol

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Yet most of the games they made are real-time with pause RPGs and their roots extend all the way back to Icewind Dale games. And they managed to create an RPG with a combat system which I actually greatly enjoy, something that vast majority of RPGs I have ever played fail to do. "They're bad at RTwP design" coming from someone who, to my knowledge, never released a popular RTwP RPG isn't really an argument which would hold a huge deal of sway given their history.

Obsidian have made two RTwP games in the past.

 

KotoR2 - uses KotOR1 engine. They didn't make the RTWP engine for that, BioWare did ... nevertheless the combat in that game is pretty bad (and there's not much they could do about it), but it's easy and requires very low player input. This is my favourite Obsidian game, and the only Obsidian game that I've ever finished - it has a good story, great writing and some good characters. With the restoration mod it's a fine game.

 

Neverwinter Nights 2 - Own engine this time, but pretty disgusting (although easy) combat and horrible issues with attacks of opportunity. A far cry from the Infinity Engine games. More fun than NWN1 though IMO due to being party based.

 

Josh Sawyer has worked on Icewind Dale and Icewind Dale 2 - BioWare created the combat engine for these games. Black Isle made some modifications that improved it in some ways and made it worse in others. Icewind Dale 2 is my least favourite Infinity Engine game, the AD&D 2.5E implementation by BioWare is better than Black Isle's 3E implementation. IWD2 has the most boring combat overall IMO but it has the advantage of having some cool scripting in encounters such as Goblins riding Worgs, Battle Drum Re-inforcements and things like that.

 

I think IWD2 combat is more fun than Pillars of Eternity combat, and I don't like IWD2 that much.

 

All of their games have a history of having bad combat as well. Obisidian games are not games you play for the combat. Although heh, with Pillars since it addresses specific concerns of a small group of disgruntled people that played the IE games, there are some people that do here. You seem to fit exactly into that group original.gif

 

edit: and you can post off-topic all you want mate. This forum does not require posts to be on-topic. Moderators will let you know if there's a problem.

Edited by Sensuki
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I don't know about the other mods, but I tend to let things play out as long as folks aren't name calling, they put something in their posts about the topic somewhere, and don't completely derail a thread with multiple exchanges with clearly nothing to do with the original post.

 

I've been following this thread and, while it seems heated and personal at times, it doesn't appear to me to go beyond the pale. No one has reported any post from this thread. Even though it does sometimes seem to be more about the OP than the topic, people still address the topic. The point is, folks have the right to get along or not and I would rather err on the side of allowing these discussions to play out.

 

For my part, I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, but I've been resisting the temptation to post. If someone reports someone else or something like that, I might have to step in and I don't want to appear to take sides. ...But I am reading the posts.

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Your OP Sensuki is about what I experienced on Hard difficulty. Except I didn't open with spells but only with my rogue archer that would then run to back line (and suffer terrible combat pathfinding each time). I did open with spells vs some tougher bounty encounters.

 

If I didn't use that, I used "everyone has a firearm as a secondary weapon" and starts combat by one shotting enemy casters.

 

I had three fun encounters in the whole game, Adra Dragon, that mid size Dragon creature south of Defiance Bay (due to my characters being of probably lower level than expected) and the Lighthouse in Defiance bay (due to enemies spawning all around your party and there being so many of them).

 

The fight vs that Dragon-like creature is only one where I used all spells I had and some potions and scrolls.

Edited by archangel979
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Your OP Sensuki is about what I experienced on Hard difficulty. Except I didn't open with spells but only with my rogue archer that would then run to back line (and suffer terrible combat pathfinding each time). I did open with spells vs some tougher bounty encounters.

 

If I didn't use that, I used "everyone has a firearm as a secondary weapon" and starts combat by one shotting enemy casters.

 

I had three fun encounters in the whole game, Adra Dragon, that mid size Dragon creature south of Defiance Bay (due to my characters being of probably lower level than expected) and the Lighthouse in Defiance bay (due to enemies spawning all around your party and there being so many of them).

 

The fight vs that Dragon-like creature is only one where I used all spells I had and some potions and scrolls.

 

So how much is all of this a problem with the fact that for Pillars ->  hard is normal and Path of the Damned is the only way to play for something of a challenge?   Or,  in my favorite drum to beat,  the fact that the upper levels don't have enough xp between them, so you can get over-leveled way to easily.  

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So how much is all of this a problem with the fact that for Pillars ->  hard is normal and Path of the Damned is the only way to play for something of a challenge?   Or,  in my favorite drum to beat,  the fact that the upper levels don't have enough xp between them, so you can get over-leveled way to easily.  

 

 

Path of the Damned is more challenging, but in a way that is generally more tedious rather than tactically interesting.  For me the biggest issue is encounter designed.  White March is better here, particularly Lagufaeth and Mercenary Brawler encounters as those enemies are more dynamic than endless mobs that mostly just try to run up to your front liners and try to pound their face.   In the main game many of the best encounters also involve enemies try to get around from frontliners in some way or another, such as spirits; I've also run into a few encounters where xaurips come at you from a few angles at once that I've likely.  Encounters with enemy reinforcement mobs coming at you from a flank or behind I think would make battles more interesting. 

 

One thing I'm consistently underwhelmed with is enemy ranged attackers and spell casters, they just never seem powerful enough or smart enough as they need to be to be as scary as they are in a lot of games.

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One thing I'm consistently underwhelmed with is enemy ranged attackers and spell casters, they just never seem powerful enough or smart enough as they need to be to be as scary as they are in a lot of games.

That was done deliberately I think, but as a result ranged CC is now king I guess.

 

People on Something Awful and whatnot cried about archers and stuff in the IE games, and thus they were made not very strong.

Edited by Sensuki
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