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review of White March (no spoilers)


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I actually finished WM1&2 months ago, but wanted to post this before I have completely forgotten what I wanted to say.

 

Summary: I feel WM improved some of the weaker parts of the original PoE, while maintaining an extremely high standard for the artwork and music.  The main drawback, IMHO, is that it's awkward to actually play WM if you have finished PoE.

 

My playthrough:

 

WM1 from a new game, with level scaling

difficulty = Path of the Damned

​PC = wizard, with story NPCs

 

I started the WM content as soon as I could, which may have been around L7 I think?

 

First, the good stuff:

 

Combat: I am happy to report that I enjoyed the WM combat much more than I did the PoE combat.  I loved PoE a lot, but felt combat was its weakest aspect - not because of the system or mechanics, which are fine, but because it was too easy outside of a few boss fights. 

 

In contrast, the first area I played in WM1 at L7 (I think it was) on PotD was really a whole lot of fun.  It made the combat system shine: I had to really scrape and use every resource at my disposal to survive the level.  It was some of the funnest combat I've had in the PoE system, and that fun was mostly maintained throughout both parts of the expansion.  Top marks here.  It's what I knew PoE could be!  I felt that I had to actually think about what I was doing, rather than go through fights on autopilot.  Positional tactics started to matter more, as did attacking your enemy's weaknesses.  Good stuff.  Nice improvement.

 

Artwork: welp, it's settled then.  I am officially in love with the artwork in WM and PoE.  I suppose art is in the eye of the beholder, but this is one of the most beautiful games I've ever encountered, and WM has continued that.  The new areas are wonderful to explore, and several of the new creatures put a smile on my face when I first saw them (one in particular, which I won't spoil).  The little details make the world come alive: ripples of foam off rocks in streams, bloody trails leading to injured animals, butterflies around shafts of sunlight in forests, streams of wheat coming off grindstones in mills.  I always play fully zoomed in, just to enjoy the environments.  I have this mental image of teams of artists chained up in a dark basement under Obsidian's studios, subsisting on only insects and what moisture they can lick from the damp walls...

 

Music: I feel the best of the new music tracks are a step up from the original game's music.  Won't give spoilers, but a few of the tracks are really nice, and they do a good job of fitting the mood of the different areas.

 

​Writing and story: I had some comments here, but I apologize, it's months since I finished playing and I forgot what I wanted to say :(

Now, things I think could be improved:

 

One thing I found a little annoying, and which may have hurt the commercial viability of the expansion, was the way it tied into the game.  After installing it I wasn't even sure what I was supposed to do to play it.  I ended up starting new characters and playing through until I could start WM1, but you have to be a dedicated PoE fan for this :).  Or, I guess you could find an old save if you have one, but you might not, and anyway it's hard to pick up an old save after not playing the game for the best part of a year.

 

Also: After finishing WM and really enjoying the expansion's combat difficulty, I was dumped back into the rest of PoE, and from there combat was a let-down.  Even on PoTD with level scaling, I felt really, really overpowered, and fights stopped being fun because I didn't have to try.  I never even had to dip into spells beyond the per-encounter ones, and I'm playing a wiz PC.  Something didn't quite mesh very well here.  (I realize it's very hard to make this work out for games with so much optional content).

 

My overall score for the expansion: 9/10.  I enjoyed it a lot, and it was a pleasure to explore more of this world.  Thanks a lot to everyone to worked on this.

 

Must.  Have.  More.  PoE....

Edited by demeisen
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I agree with this 100%.  As a standalone game, I think White March was excellent.  It improved combat (lagufeths! xaurip ambushes!), level design (Abbey of the Fallen Moon), skill challenges (burning house, mines), and most importantly content density (hey random fampyr! that's the thing I like to see).  It also fit really well into the Pillars universe.  It didn't quite fit well into PE itself though.

 

However, I think that's less the problem of White March, and more that PE in general feels extremely modular.  Gilded Vale is one massive region; Defiance Bay is probably smaller in world maps; the Endless Paths is a great little dungeon runner in its own right;  Dyrford is a small but distinct region; and finally Twin Elms.  The game could have used  some smaller throwaway maps with throwaway content just to make the world feel more real and connected.  As of now, the game feels more like Baldur's Gate II; the world map is mostly useless, disconnected adventures take place far apart from each other.

 

Even within the regions, there's some great artistic designs that don't feel connected to the rest of the world.  Outside of Defiance there's massive hot springs that just (ahem) spring up.  Raedrics keep had literally nothing to the East in the base game.  Caed Nua has no ruined outlying farms or overgrown settlements.  The game could have definitely used some of the visual cues that Baldur's Gate 1 used.  Environment would change before map transition.  The grasslands of Beregost got scrubbier as you moved south and east (North Nashkel Road) or towards Firewine bridge, and the enemy composition changed.

 

Whitemarch was slightly better about making the region thematically unified.  Your choices were snow, frozen lakes, or hot springs, and that's okay because that's what you find in that environment (and also Dwarf Fortresses).  However, one reason White March feels so disconnected is because there's no transition Evergreen forest that has snow in the Northern half, and there should have been for artistic and gameplay continuity.  If you're exploring the small patch of snow and you get wrecked by a small group of Ogres running from the matron, that foreshadows the WM setting visually, thematically, and through gameplay.

 

I really hope they'll fix that as the team grows more experienced in PE2.

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