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Pillars of Eternity: My Experience $50 Later

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#1
StorytellerbyNight

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Let me begin this by saying I really wanted to like this game. I desperately wanted to. I tried in as many different ways as I could to convince myself that I just wasn't seeing Pillars from the right angle, that if I tried one more time I could get into it, but in the end I had to admit the truth to myself. Pillars of Eternity is garbage. This game falls flat on its face when it comes to important elements that make a great role-playing game.

The first is the terrible cast of characters. In a game that revolves around a party of companions, they design an extremely limited (what, six, maybe seven total?) and bland cast of joinable NPCs that would never, ever travel together if you were looking at this from a story perspective. That might be forgivable if they were interesting with their own romances and side quests and intricate backstories, but they're not. The game designers seem to attempt an apology for this by shoehorning in some mechanic to design your own party of characters from the tavern, but for me that's just as half-ass as apologizing for the terrible magic weapons they designed by letting you enchant your own gear.

The second is clearly the combat. From the basic system to the character classes to the way enemies behaved and battles generally went, it's a big gigantic mess that is not intuitive or fun to play. The basic concept of Pillars combat mechanics are confusing and annoying. Items you find are woefully inferior to the bland generic items you can enchant, and the way stats interact with your class is unbalanced and at times extremely confusing (physical strength dictates the damage wizards do with their spells -- WHAT?). Many enemies are given stunlock abilities or endlessly heal each other (such as the Paladins in Raedrics Keep), and all are automatically designed to rush your weakest characters. There's no real way to stop this, short of sending your fragile characters away from the fight at maximum range, but as soon as they move in to do anything to help, they will get rushed and die. The worst part is that after you finish that tough-as-nails epic fight, you realize you're not a damn step closer to the next level for it because of a pretentious XP system that only rewards quest completion and not body count of defeated foes.

Third is the lack of immersion or replayability. The game makes a big deal about character race, background, culture and all that, but ultimately those choices have no impact on the actual events of the story. The 'reputation' system they tried to implement is confusing and poorly designed, so that by the time you finish the game, you will have a car crash of many different reputation types. This is made even worse when certain classes (Priest and Paladin) have class abilities whose strength depend on this broken reputation system. Quest lines allow the illusion of choice at some points, but the result is the same regardless of what you do.

Fourth, and finally, is the story. It's not interesting. The main character can talk to dead people, and some Big Bad Evil Guy in a mask is stealing souls for some unknown, shallow and ultimately pointless purpose. The hook for even placing you where the events of the game take place is immediately revoked a couple hours in after Raedric decides to yank his offer, leaving you as some wandering nobody with no purpose other than to chase down why you have funny voices in your head. Being a Watcher is supposed to be this super-rare unique Kewl D00d power, but the most reaction I ever got out of anyone amounted to: 'You're a Watcher? Huh. That's funny.' As plot devices go it's really weak and I found myself struggling to give a single damn about magic rocks coming out of the ground, hooded people performing nefarious rituals, or my character's involvement in the whole mess at all.

The fact that this game has gorgeous aesthetic and production value makes all of this worse. With such crucial design flaws, this is literally the RPG equivalent of a hot girl that won't put out. She'll tease you, but in the end you'll walk away with nothing but blue balls, resorting to your only option of finding some relief by drunk dialing your ex.

That's it. Pillars of Eternity is a hot girl that doesn't put out.


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#2
ManifestedISO

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Treat her with compliments, kindness, and respect, see what happens.


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#3
Fenixp

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a pretentious XP system that only rewards quest completion and not body count of defeated foes

Wait, what? Umm... My thoughts went along these lines: "Let me look it up in dictionary, there's surely a meaning of it I don't know."
http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Aand nope, I'm none the wiser. At any rate, it certainly would be the first XP system which would show the unpleasant quality of XP systems which want to be regarded as more impressive, successful, or important than they really are. Barring that, there's a laundry list of good, practical reasons for using that particular XP system while there's very little to support traditional "get XP for killing stuff" system. Yeah, I loved this system in just about any game I encountered it in.

 

Anyway, to topic at hand: Pillars of Eternity have become one of my favorite RPGs of all time pretty much instantly, and I didn't actually back it because I was certain that it won't deliver. What do you know. Generally, opinions on the game seem to be rather torn - apparently you either love or hate it. I'm kind of sad you belong to the latter camp. Oh well, what can you do.


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#4
aluminiumtrioxid

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Generally, opinions on the game seem to be rather torn - apparently you either love or hate it. I'm kind of sad you belong to the latter camp. Oh well, what can you do.

 

I seem to be really special then because while I have enjoyed our time together immensely, I think in the end it's not that outstanding even by Kickstarter standards.


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#5
anameforobsidian

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Your opinion is your opinion.  

 

So your complaints are as follows:

  • NPCs uninteresting, lack sidequests, romances, and back stories.  There are eleven NPCs, and they are written unevenly.  Just like BG1, most of them are drifters and kind of aimless.  They all have sidequests, back stories, and passive interaction, but I can see someone not liking that.  Personal taste.  
  • I'm glad there are no romances.  They are better done in different games.
  • The tavern wasn't half-ass apologizing, it was included in the design from the beginning.  It's basically a min-maxer's delight.
  • Bland weapons.  Soul bound weapons in the expansions have more flavor, but several unique weapons like Borresaine, Holdwall, and Tidefall have fairly unique effects.
  • Problems with AI.  There are three solutions: armor up, any class can put on any armor, so if your guys are dying give them some heavier armor; put more off tanks in your party, this isn't a tank and spank game anymore; use terrain to block off enemies, this is pretty boring, but effective in many fights.
  • Stunlocking enemies and paladins.  Try different tactics.  Paladins only get two heals apiece, but they can't heal when they're stunned, prone, charmed, confused, frightened, or paralyzed.  Most of these status effects are available to one class or another by the second spell level.  The relatively rare stun-locking enemies can't do that when they're incapacitated or dead.  Just focus them down. 
  • Stat system.  This is a big controversy.  Some like it, some don't, but the stats themselves are pretty straight forward.  Other than some monkeying with defenses, they aren't hard to understand. Might is damage, con is health, dex is speed, per is to hit, Int is aoe size and spell duration, Resolve is armor.
  • XP system.   Every epic fight is tied to a quest, and all unique creatures have bestiary entries you get experience from.  In effect it works very similar to any other rpg; you're just not penalized for not hunting down every last goblin in a goblin village.
  • Replayability.  Mechanically, the game is probably the most replayable to ever come out in terms of build variety.  Your choices affect ending outcomes pretty significantly.  And characters have a ton of different ending paths.  But sadly it isn't Dragon Age: Origins, and no game before or since has matched their options.
  • Plot.  It's a matter of choice, but I can agree that there's not a strong unifying thread to the plot.  The three acts feel like three different games.
  • Your metaphor is dumb and you should feel bad.

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#6
the_dog_days

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I vehemently disagree about the player made companions being a throw away feature. Due to attributes governing the same stats for all characters regardless of class, and the skills system which you level over the course of the game, you can spec almost any class to perform any combat role in the game (though some of them take a little more work than others).
The option to create new companions is very well thought out (and useful on the higher difficulty levels) and the only complaint I have is the lack of generic personalities to add to the character for role-playing purposes.

#7
rheingold

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"That's it. Pillars of Eternity is a hot girl that doesn't put out."

What? Seriously? Is this for real? I don't suppose you have any conception as to how offensive that comment is. Sadly, it puts the rest of your post into perspective.
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#8
Prince of Lies

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If the experience system is pretentious, I'd hate to see what your post is. Also, misogyny. Not cool. The only thing I'd have to agree with is the story could've been stronger. More NPC interactions would have been nice, but it certainly didn't ruin the game. I'd hate to see you play Baldur's Gate.
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#9
Multihog

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I agree about the companions, as they for sure are the least interesting bunch I've ever come across in an RPG. I tried SO hard to get into the companions, but it all just felt so shallow and pointless. They could not capture my interest, not a single one of them. The interactions — and especially the little comments they made in the conversations — were all so superficial and felt so tacked on that it was borderline immersion breaking. 

 

The way they presented the story to the player was poor as well: dumping tons upon tons of lore on the player right after they have started playing is NOT the way to go. This is simply overwhelming and too much, too quickly. I think that a lot of the stuff felt uninteresting and unimportant. They would constantly reference these gods which kind of got old fast. Apparently everyone is a theist in this universe too, btw. Also, some of the descriptive grey text did not match with the visuals. For example, the text said something along the lines of "the sky dragon descended from the sky" but in the actual visual I just saw the dragon casually walk up to me. I was like really, are you ****ing kidding me?

I think the whole concept of the Animancy, the Waidwen's Legacy/hollowborn problem, being reborn into a new body, awakened souls, etc was really cool, but they waste these concepts on some half assed story of chasing a generic "har har I'm a bad guy who is part of some generic, boring ass cult"? Wow, what a waste! I didn't find the Leaden Key interesting at all. In fact, it was the opposite of interesting. I've seen this "It's an evil cult behind it all and the cult leader!" plot WAY too many times. The main quest was truly pathetic for 90% of the time. It's a shame because the hollowborn situation could have been utilized so much better in a better plot. 

 

The ending, too, was a bit unfulfilling. At the end the whole thing kind of made sense, but somehow it felt very anticlimactic to me. It was already too late because it is the JOURNEY that matters, not the destination. They failed hard at making 90% of the story interesting. They tried so hard to be all philosophical about it, maybe too much so. Even during the ending slides, I didn't care about the companions' fates at all, either. 

 

What did I like about the game? The combat; I absolutely loved the combat. A nice selection of spells of all kinds: single target, AoE damage, buffs/debuffs, etc. Some cool melee abilities too. I also really liked the way they made the deflection/fortitude/reflex/will thing. Combat was really good, imo. I also didn't mind the item system. Sure, you can enchant any item, but the uniques will always have better base bonuses. Anything below Path of the Damned is a bore, though. 

I think the way you could read the souls was also a bit inconsistent. Like sometimes you were in first person looking from the soul's eyes, and sometimes you were in third person viewing from the side somewhere. The game randomly seemed to keep switching between perspectives, which was very confusing. At least that was the impression that I got. 


Edited by Multihog, 28 August 2016 - 05:02 AM.

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#10
house2fly

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Actually nobody in this setting is a theist, because the gods literally exist. You can't believe in a fact.

#11
Sharp_one

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Pillars seem to be a game that is not designed for the people it was intended for. People who were brought by the lie that Mr. Avellone and Mr. Cain will design the game.

It was supposed to be "homage to the great Infinity Engine games of years past: Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment". And it fall flat on all those points. 

The only high point of this game is the White March expansion which brings a little feeling of IWD. But again you cannot play it unless you go half through the boring core game so that's a bust.

The only people who seem to enjoy this game are hardcore Obsidian fans who will defend anything that is published by them. How else can you explain the same people glorifying certain aspects of the game and then glorifying Obsidian for changing and/or removing them?

The main story is uninteresting, companions are plain bad and their quest unsatisfying (in some cases it's like the writer just throw his paper in the air shouting "f... it, and then they found nothing. End of quest"), some features just seem out of place (the keep... JFC the keep).
The combat was rewritten so many times I even don't know what is the latest iteration of innowashun the lead designers cat ate and throw up at the moment.

Most fans claim it's a success. I think it only eats the credit they got from kickstarter campaign. PoE 2 will verify. 

 


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#12
PangaeaACDC

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^^ Think that is pretty harsh. For example, I'm no Obsidian fanboi, the only game of theirs I've played before is Neverwinter Nights 2, and I gave up on that before the end because I got bored. I think Pillars of Eternity is a good game, but not a great one. There is *something* missing, or aspects missing the target, which is kind of hard to put my finger on. The story is a little bit off perhaps, and the end of the game felt a little rushed. I would have preferred more NPCs. The game world and lore was interesting, but also confusing or hard to wrap my head around. Then there was that huge info dump at the end of the game, with a somewhat odd story, so all in all it didn't quite hit the mark for me. That said, I still enjoyed the game and am glad I bought it. It's a solid RPG that is made for PCs, instead of all this consolitis scourge we see everywhere, so that alone makes it stand out quite a bit. Hopefully they improve on some of the faults/weaknesses for PoE2, but keep the focus on PCs and don't dumb down features or gameplay to cater to the inferior console technologies and user interface.

 

The difficult thing with games is that sometimes we don't know what we want, until we have played something and know whether it had that "right" feeling or not. To capture that "magic" experience from Baldur's Gate is extremely difficult, and one can't just clone the gameplay in a new game world either. Ultimately I think they did a lot of right things with Pillars of Eternity -- but not everything.


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#13
Multihog

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I think Pillars of Eternity is a good game, but not a great one. 

This pretty much sums it up. It's not perfect by any means and has plenty of shortcomings. It's still a pretty good game, imo. 

I'm having a hard time getting into BG2 after playing PoE. I always considered the Infinity Engine a bit clunky feeling, but now after playing PoE, I really miss a lot of the improvements from it. 


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#14
FlintlockJazz

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I like Pillars, I like it a lot.  In fact, I am going to give it my "Jazz Seal of Approval"!

 

*Pours boiling wax over OP and while the OP screams in agony stamps him with a giant one of those seal stamper things*


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#15
sibakruom

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I think Pillars of Eternity is a good game, but not a great one. There is *something* missing, or aspects missing the target, which is kind of hard to put my finger on.

 

 

I feel the reason for that lies directly in its Kickstarter pitch: trying to be a spiritual successor to all the IE games. The problem that in insight should have been obvious was that the IE games were a widely varied bunch. People don't remember Planescape Torment for its combat, nor do they remember Icewind Dale for its companions or choices and consequences opportunities. Let's be realistic, a game with "the central hero, memorable companions and the epic exploration of Baldur’s Gate, [...] the fun, intense combat and dungeon diving of Icewind Dale, and [...] the emotional writing and mature thematic exploration of Planescape: Torment", with each element at the same level of quality as they were in their respective inspiration, was never going to happen. As a result of trying to chase too many different games Pillars of Eternity ended up somewhere in the middle of all of them, with no single aspect able to really fill the "this is what the game is going to be remembered for" role.

The best way I could sum up how I feel PoE compares to the IE games would be that it's stronger than any of them in their respective weak points but weaker than any of them in their respective strong points.


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#16
ArnoldRimmer

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I found the characters ok... but when replaying I prefer to roll my own. Also it is annoying that most are only available mid to end of game when I have already invested time and money into my party. It would be better to have all the NPCs at the first village so you could pick and choose who you want (maybe after playing through the game once).

 

Compared to BG2 it is a bit boring but is re-playable. I dislike that things have wierd names like fampyre and blights... just call them what they are: vampires and elementals, it would also make me associate what they are. I played the game 3 times before I realised they were vampires - up until then they were just the monsters a bit tougher than darguls who in turn are tougher than guls. I didn't even realise they were undead for ages... I though spirits were just undead and anything else was just some kind of monster.

Also somethings just were not clear, like the leaden key. You get to defiance bay and find their meeting place... and then after that the story seemed to have forgotten all about them.

 

Magic was wierd at first... I almost gave up on wizards and druids until I turned on AI and then saw how the computer used the same party and their spells. It teaches you a lot about how and when to use spells,  and spells with crap descriptions sound bad but in practice are useful.


Edited by ArnoldRimmer, 31 August 2016 - 06:10 AM.


#17
Ontarah

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^^ Think that is pretty harsh. For example, I'm no Obsidian fanboi, the only game of theirs I've played before is Neverwinter Nights 2, and I gave up on that before the end because I got bored. I think Pillars of Eternity is a good game, but not a great one. There is *something* missing, or aspects missing the target, which is kind of hard to put my finger on. The story is a little bit off perhaps, and the end of the game felt a little rushed. I would have preferred more NPCs. The game world and lore was interesting, but also confusing or hard to wrap my head around. Then there was that huge info dump at the end of the game, with a somewhat odd story, so all in all it didn't quite hit the mark for me. That said, I still enjoyed the game and am glad I bought it. It's a solid RPG that is made for PCs, instead of all this consolitis scourge we see everywhere, so that alone makes it stand out quite a bit. Hopefully they improve on some of the faults/weaknesses for PoE2, but keep the focus on PCs and don't dumb down features or gameplay to cater to the inferior console technologies and user interface.

 

The difficult thing with games is that sometimes we don't know what we want, until we have played something and know whether it had that "right" feeling or not. To capture that "magic" experience from Baldur's Gate is extremely difficult, and one can't just clone the gameplay in a new game world either. Ultimately I think they did a lot of right things with Pillars of Eternity -- but not everything.

 

The underlying problem to me is that the game is simultaneously trying to tug nostalgia strings and be avant-garde and it clashed.  Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale are *fun* but not particularly philosophically deep.  A lot of RPG devs seems to principally want to be philosophically deep rather than fun anymore.  They want to *say* something instead of wanting to let players *do* things. 

 

Basically, I think the writers are more frequently thinking in terms of what is fun to write than they are in terms of what is fun to *play.* 

 

This is why Skyrim is so dang fun.  Granted it's thematically emptier than even I would like, but it's whole design premise is around "is this enjoyable" and not "is this challenging/thought-provoking/meaningful, etc." and it shows. 


Edited by Ontarah, 21 September 2016 - 05:13 PM.


#18
Sonntam

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^^ Think that is pretty harsh. For example, I'm no Obsidian fanboi, the only game of theirs I've played before is Neverwinter Nights 2, and I gave up on that before the end because I got bored. I think Pillars of Eternity is a good game, but not a great one. There is *something* missing, or aspects missing the target, which is kind of hard to put my finger on. The story is a little bit off perhaps, and the end of the game felt a little rushed. I would have preferred more NPCs. The game world and lore was interesting, but also confusing or hard to wrap my head around. Then there was that huge info dump at the end of the game, with a somewhat odd story, so all in all it didn't quite hit the mark for me. That said, I still enjoyed the game and am glad I bought it. It's a solid RPG that is made for PCs, instead of all this consolitis scourge we see everywhere, so that alone makes it stand out quite a bit. Hopefully they improve on some of the faults/weaknesses for PoE2, but keep the focus on PCs and don't dumb down features or gameplay to cater to the inferior console technologies and user interface.

 

The difficult thing with games is that sometimes we don't know what we want, until we have played something and know whether it had that "right" feeling or not. To capture that "magic" experience from Baldur's Gate is extremely difficult, and one can't just clone the gameplay in a new game world either. Ultimately I think they did a lot of right things with Pillars of Eternity -- but not everything.

 

The underlying problem to me is that the game is simultaneously trying to tug nostalgia strings and be avant-garde and it clashed.  Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale are *fun* but not particularly philosophically deep.  A lot of RPG devs seems to principally want to be philosophically deep rather than fun anymore.  They want to *say* something instead of wanting to let players *do* things. 

 

Basically, I think the writers are more frequently thinking in terms of what is fun to write than they are in terms of what is fun to *play.* 

 

This is why Skyrim is so dang fun.  Granted it's thematically emptier than even I would like, but it's whole design premise is around "is this enjoyable" and not "is this challenging/thought-provoking/meaningful, etc." and it shows. 

 

I think Pillars of Eternity shows well what kind of writers Obsidian has attracted: people who like philosophy, like monsters, like new ideas and talking about religion.

 

After Kotor 2, MotB, F:NV (especially the DLCs), it's no big surprise either that Obsidian writers became a pretty homogenous lot who love all the same stuff.

 

It has the advantage of players knowing what to expect. For example, I would be sorely disappointed if the next Obsidian game would not provide thought-provoking content. That's what I find interesting and fun. 

 

Obsidian is also one of the few companies who consistently provides that. It would suck if they went into a different direction at this point.


Edited by Sonntam, 29 September 2016 - 12:08 AM.

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