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My one and only real criticism of this game


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There's only one thing that really rubs me the wrong way in Pillars. I've even seen some people argue about this in these forums. It gets under my skin and enough that it's surpassed my 'why bother' inclinations. I'm going to create shortcut arguments because I can't be arsed to write out more complex arguments when it seems to me that a rational person can reasonably extrapolate the larger argument by a charitable reading.

 

 

 

What I don't mind:

 

1. Anti gods

2. Anti religion

3. Attacking the whole idea of divinity within the game universe

4. Making these game attacks reflect (oh so subtly) attacks on the idea of divinity in the real world universe.

 

I'm a religious guy, but I don't resent people presenting alternate or opposing ideas. This is not a beef from a religious person against a perceived slight. It's a beef a gamer has with a scenario that is completely contrary to human nature.

 

SO, what I do mind:

 

1. A five minute dialogue exchange might convince someone, but not very damned many someones. People who have been steeped in religious belief do not hear one opposing view and simply throw in the towel. I just finished my second run, and essentially each NPC in my party completely caved on the idea immediately. There was no pushback at all.

2. There is a far far greater dearth of evidence of divinity in the real world and you still have chuckle heads like me who believe. I'm not arguing to you that God exists. This is an observation that the scenario in which the Engwithans couldn't find the gods and therefore all people would believe they never existed or had departed is not compelling. Even in a world with no soul magic, that argument has failed spectacularly.

3. The utterly simplistic way the argument unfolded. I understand it was the big reveal as folks are calling it. Cool. The only thing is, the idea isn't bad in and of itself. It just needed time to unfold. Making it a big reveal and then having every religious person in my party throw in the towel doesn't just defy credulity, it's laughable.

 

The upshot is that, as a religious person, I don't mind the fact that the game uses an extremely reductionist metric for religion or that the designer's prejudice is clearly against faith altogether. That's fine. I admire an ancient group of people who believed that man is the measure of all things and, while I think humanity is a pretty meager yardstick, I can respect the view for what it is. All I want is that the idea be presented in a way where, when all of my companions and I turn our backs on faiths we've had our whole lives, it doesn't seem like it came as the result of a five minute infomercial.

 

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bother?

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I'll bite.

 

In a world where *soul* can be extracted, modified, bottled and piped I would expect *religion* to be very different from what we are used to.

 

Despite the character creation process (priests and paladins) I see very little organised religious activity in the world, the most active *temple* we encounter is a scam perpetrated by an animancer with a grudge (Dyrford Ruins). Yes, there are a few *temples* but only one per settlement which seems odd in a polytheist society (compare ancient Greece and Rome).

 

It's a very mechanistic world, there is no need to BELIEVE in the gods because tangible evidence for their existence (if not their divinity) is readily available. Blind faith is not required, priests are seen as technicians, not theologians. As a parallel example see Sam Vimes of the Discworld.

 

 

That being said I have experienced knowledgeable technocrats maintaining untenable beliefs in their own speciality long (weeks!) after they were shown incontrovertible proof of the fallacy of their views :(

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But the proof offered doesn't do much but to assert that someone else had failed to prove something. Forget faith in the supernatural. What hard core technocrat would jump ship after a similar five minute conversation? Oddities in belief, as you rightly assert, aren't confined to religion, but this scenario doesn't even get that far. It could, with a little more development.

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I agree that, like many areas of the PoE lore more time could have been spent on it (EDIT, strike this*) and the *reveal* should have been more like the Dance of the Seven Veils than a discount entertainment at the Salty Mast ;)

* To ensure I had the end game fresh in my mind I completed an old save-game and no longer think this is a valid criticism.

 

I'll offer some contrasting examples:

  • Smoking damages your health. True but vested interests meant that this was contested for several (profitable) decades.
  • Global warming (man made) is real. Almost certainly true, the consensus political view seems to have reversed relatively quickly on this.
  • Nuclear bombs end wars. All practical evidence (Japan, WW2) says yes but I would not be so sure.
  • This luxury car is more comfortable than that old banger. Self evident, many other similar example possible.
  • My football team (any code) is better than yours. For most supporters statistics are irrelevant, this is a matter of FAITH, no change is possible.

If religion in Eora IS mechanistic (a big if) choosing a god might be see in a similar way to choosing a favourite band, restaurant or even movie and some people might be able to change their mind very quickly.

 

 

I suggest that the problem is not that in our world such a rapid conversion would be *most unlikely* but that the story did not pave the way by examining how people CHOOSE to worship a god in the Dyrwood. Blowing one up seems completely acceptable why not dumping one like an unwanted spouse?

Edited by HawkSoft
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I get you, but not everyone will immediately change their minds at the exact same time. I mean, in other matters, the people of Eora act more or less 'rationally' in the same way as people in our world. They went from absolute belief to "oh, it's all fake? Okay" in five minutes. You can explain that, but not very compellingly.

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Each of the party members had experienced extreme trauma partially linked to the gods and was undergoing a crisis of faith.

 

- Pallegina's whole life has been ****ty because she's a godlike, and then Hylea gives her a bull**** answer.  Really she's at a place in her life where she is questioning all authority (like her superiors).  This matches the Renaissance theme.

- Eder accidentally helped kill his God.  Oops.

- Aloth realized he had been lied too, just like your character, and that he was complicit in the murder of thousands of children.

- Kana is an empiricist and doesn't seem too religious or pro-authority to begin with.

- Ditto Sagani in her own way.

- Durance was cut loose from his Goddess and was already trying to be better than her by connecting with her primal nature.

- Hirviras already ditched his God, and his new god would be supportive of such a big revelation.

- Grieving Mother never seemed to care either way about the Gods.

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Hmmmm... I basically agree with you. Its almost impossible to change the beliefs of someone who has been raised with said beliefs.

 

I think the problem is, at the end of the game, there's very little time to sit down with your party members and explore their feelings. The developers probably wanted to keep the fast pace near the end, so they push you onward to the final boss, instead of pausing for reflection. Likewise, I think your party members are just carried on by inertia. They've come this far with you, so they'll go a little further while they get digest their shock. Do some of them go into denial later? Probably. 

Edited by Heijoushin
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The thing is, it's an interesting idea. For me personally, I don't have any stake at all in people not believing in a pantheon in this setting. I do, however, believe there would be quite a broad spectrum of beliefs. There are souls. They provide magic. Those two demonstrable realities of the game universe cry out for broad and deep exploration. The upshot is that I don't mind the premise. I just want it developed more. It's like Obs' name said about the NPCs. I'd still doubt that every single one of them would turn their back on their faith so quickly, especially since my experience is that some folks who end up screwed over issues of faith cling to it with increased fervor. That would be functionalism talking again, but I'd like to keep the discussion to what the game does with faith rather than faith itself. Still, if we take Obs' name's position, which I'm actually happy to do, then those ideas should be expressed. Nonetheless, I agree with you, Heijoushin, it probably was simply a matter of time and not wanting to face players with a wall of text. So I suppose we, as players, should be willing to fill in some of the gaps if need be.

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bother?

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Hmmmm... I basically agree with you. Its almost impossible to change the beliefs of someone who has been raised with said beliefs.

I knew someone at university who had been born and raised as a member of the Church of Scotland (fairly austere protestant) and was an active worshiper who converted to being a fervent Roman Catholic in a few months. I know this is not the same thing as happens at the end of PoE but their (former) co-religionists thought it was huge.

 

I go along with the idea that OBS:

  • Were running out of funds and needed to get the story wrapped up,
  • Didn't think they would get away with more walls of text at the climax of the story,
  • Had no intention of making the major plot twist obvious*.

*They do give clues but I didn't spot them on my first play-through.

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Hmmmm... I basically agree with you. Its almost impossible to change the beliefs of someone who has been raised with said beliefs.

I knew someone at university who had been born and raised as a member of the Church of Scotland (fairly austere protestant) and was an active worshiper who converted to being a fervent Roman Catholic in a few months. I know this is not the same thing as happens at the end of PoE but their (former) co-religionists thought it was huge.

 

Haha, well. fair enough. There are of course lots of cases of people suddenly converting to a new religion. But I think those are mostly people who had doubts about their faith all along. I suppose I should say its almost impossible to change the beliefs of a fanatic. And in the olden days (or in a fantasy setting where you can speak to the Gods directly), there should be a lot more fanatics running around;)

Edited by Heijoushin
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Anyhow, the real point is the alacrity with which it unfolded. It's not a deal breaker for me. I greatly enjoyed the game and I look foreward to the PotD run I intend to start after the WM part 2 ships. It's just jarring, is all.

 

As an aside: protestantism v. Catholicism is not the same as either one v. atheism.

 

I edited out a personal story. Not because relating it really bothered me, but there is such a thing as too much sharing. Don't want to make folks uncomfortable. <.<

Edited by why

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As an aside: protestantism v. Catholicism is not the same as either one v. atheism.

I agree, there have been many terrible conflicts fought between Catholics and Protestants but none that I can remember between Christians and atheists :(

 

The reason I add this is because difference in the details of faith often seem to have more importance than gross ones, perhaps that's part of the explanation in PoE?

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Give it time, and perhaps a Stalin or two. original.gif You just need to have someone who thinks that the only way to save humanity is to make sure everyone else believes or disbelievers as he sees best. The game could just as easily have centered on an NPC who tried to promote disbelief in the Engwithan gods and started killing kith for their own good. That wouldn'the have changed my initial point about the fact that deeply held beliefs don't typically change on a dime.

 

The fact is, the problem with soul burning faith is that it leads to a myopic view that justifies its every means by the product of its ends, and that soul burning faith can be in God or Allah. It can also be the faith in a State made God. It can even be the faith in the Self made God. Communists have persecuted Christians, and that puts the idea that religion is the source of all conflict in a brighter light. The idea that the gods created conflict (or more appropriately the belief in gods) was a flawed idea in the game and it's a flawed idea in reality. The devs provided an excellent counterpoint when the NPCs said in response to the whole dilemma was that people would find cause to make war with or without the gods.

 

To be clear about this, once again, even if they'd actually said that all divinity is truly evil not only in its byproduct and belief, but the very intent driving divine actions, I would be okay. They'd just need to make it rise above the level of the five minute infomercial.

 

Sorry, Hawk, I actually edited quite a bit into this post, which is unfair I think but I didn't want to double post, especially in my own thread. That's too pathetically narcissistic even for me! original.gif

Edited by why

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For what it's worth, everyone's reaction is different, but I don't personally read this game as anti-religion.

 

For one thing, it's just stated that

the Engwithans created the Gods after not being able to find evidence of previously existing God(s).

. That's not a statement about the existence of Gods; it's a statement about the abilities of the Engwithans. Despite claims otherwise, the Engwithans didn't have infinite knowledge -- it's at least arguable from their reliance on Bronze that they didn't even understand modern metallurgy and steel! 

 

For another,

Thaos actually has a pretty solid argument. Like I've seen people say they played the whole game and at the end they agreed with Thaos and thought he was right.

 

I'm not particularly religious but overall I thought the game was at least roughly fair to all religious viewpoints, at least philosophically and given of course the fantasy setting. In some ways I think it's more of a comment on fantasy genre conventions for fantasy deities than it is a commentary on real-world religious belief.

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I have no comment on the (de)conversion or the alacrity thereof; it didn't bother me when I played the game.

 

However... I was struck by the way religious characters were portrayed in the game: sympathetically, believably, and in a nuanced way. This is a big improvement over traditional fantasy cRPG fare, where they're either muhahaha cult fanatics or "For Justice!" type Awful Good paladins, i.e. one-dimensional caricatures.

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I have a project. It's a tabletop RPG. It's free. It's a work in progress. Find it here: www.brikoleur.com

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Good points, good doctor. Having hashed out my thoughts over several posts, it's time for me to let what I've said stand (or fall) on its own. However, I want to reiterate one. last. time. I don't really care if the game is anti-, pro-, or religion neutral. I actually agree with you, Dr., that the idea is interesting. I just think it could have been explored better.

 

It's funny that some folks agreed with Thaos, though. It reminds me of Dostoevsky who was deeply religious and always worried his anti-religion arguments were sometimes more powerful than his defense of his beliefs. I think he kind of though the Catholic church (Roman Catholic) was actually kind of tainted by secular and even atheist elements. As a Catholic, I've been called anything from a Satanist, to the Whore of Babylon, to, ironically, an atheist. That's my crazy protestant friends for you. Hawk has a point about that, although my atheist friends have sometimes been quite sternly vocal to me also.

 

Anyhow, that's just an aside. I plan on starting my next run right after I get the White March 2, and I'll still love the game regardless of what I see as a missed opportunity.

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I just beaten the game with my (beta 3 nerfed) cipher. with the memory fresh my comments are:

  • ​Iovara is probably the most cardboard character of the main plot, she comes across as trite and her views one dimensional. She is a zealot as much as Theos just not as violent (and she lost).
  • I had Eder, Sagani, Pallegina, Aloth and Zahua as companions and I was sponsored by Berath. Possibly primed by this discussion, I felt everyone's reactions were in character and not jarring given their situations.
  • I think there should be more middle ground options available in the scripted actions of Act 4, I felt I was being corralled towards the extremes.
  • The end bios for the companions were good and made sense given how they behaved at the big reveal, I particularly liked Eder's.

 

 

EDIT: Just like to add:

  • It was refreshing to find that Theos was not the *ultimate evil*, just very misguided.
  • I thought the way the winning scene played out was very good, much more satisfying that a video cutscene, however cutting edge the graphics.
Edited by HawkSoft
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Well, I would much rather they do it the way they did it than not leave the door open for a non-believer interpretation. For me, answered questions are not as valuable as unanswered ones, but going forth unquestioningly is all but worthless.

 

I think I've overargued my case because I wanted there to be an unbelief option in the game from the time I heard about it and soul magic. Even before I created this account and started posting here, I had in mind these very questions and I'm actually ecstatic that they included them. Yeah, I have a slightly different spin, but I can't loose sight of the fact that this is much closer to my tastes than what I would consider the vast majority of computer games. Not as splendid as New Vegas, but they're entirely different settings with entirely different underpinnings.

 

I also think that the wonderful music really went a long way in establishing the sort of melancholy of your association with Iovarra and Thaos. It's like a reverse love triangle where everyone gets screwed, but without the sex.

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Yeah. I played a priest of Eothas. I didn't mind using my imagination to fill in the gap, but it did cause some incingruities. I think the idea of how souls relate to divinity is fertile ground for RPG scenarios, especially the competing views regarding the Engwithan and their divine cinstructs.

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