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My collected criticism on Pillars of Eternity (very minor spoilers)

Discussion in 'Obsidian Entertainment' started by felipepepe, Apr 5, 2015.

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Pillars of Eternity is

  1. Better than Baldur's Gate 2

    11.9%
  2. Better than Baldur's Gate 1

    45.3%
  3. Worst than Baldur's Gate 1

    21.0%
  4. Worst than your mum (kingcomrade)

    21.8%
  1. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    I posted in many threads talking about my gripes with PoE, do I decided to put them together in a more elaborate way in this thread. I did a completionist run on Normal that took about 45 hours, and about 8 hours of a quick second run on PotD. This isn't a proper review, just a few collected thoughts on the system. So, here we go:

    Engine & Presentation

    First, I think it's valid to praise the game a bit.

    The presentation superb. The soundtrack, the sounds, backgrounds, the artstyle, the character models... love all of them. Things like the 2x speed button or having your secondary weapons appear in your back/waist showcase a lot of attention to details, there was a lot of passion poured into this. The soundtrack gets a bit too much Badur's Gate-ish sometimes - especially this one - but I actually enjoy that.

    Engine-wise, my only complain here are the loading times. They are too long (even without the traps bloat bug), and loading a huge town area or a small hut seem to take the same time. This makes some areas, especially the keep, a pain to visit.

    Want to go to your keep for weapons & some rest? Go to the keep (Loading Screen) enter the weapon shop (Loading Screen) buy stuff & exit the shop (Loading Screen), enter your house (Loading Screen) Climb the stairs (Loading Screen) and sleep on the bed. Good night and don't forget the three loading screens on you'll face in the morning to exit the keep.

    Other than that though, Pillars of Eternity looks and sounds fantastic, and the engine has everything to be the new Infinity Engine - just fix those load times.

    Now, let's get on the the criticism.

    C&C and Replayability


    From the encounter design to the itemization, from the character creation to the dialog reputations, from the faction choices to the spell design, Pillars of Eternity is entirely designed with a similar philosophy: nothing you do can save nor condemn you.

    A silly example: the Dozen and the Knights of the Crucible are factions that hate each other. You can only ally yourself with one or another. But all that really changes is one side-quest you'll get. the story will progress exactly the same way and you'll be able to access both their stores & services no matter what. As result, playing a second playthrough and allying with the other faction will be a almost insignificant change.

    Same thing with the dispositions. Games like KOTOR and Mass Effect have the binary good & evil alignment, which usually warrants two playthroughs, as they are quite different. In PoE you have impressive 10 personality nuances, such as Stoic, Cruel, benevolent, Honest, etc... it sounds very elaborate, but what it really means is that you'll end the game like this:

    [​IMG]

    You'll be a bit of everything, get a few different dialog choices, and that's it. Your next playthrough will be a different mess of reputations, that will result in a few other dialog choices, but nothing game-changing. And so, instead of two widely different playthroughs, you'll have various very similar ones, that change half a dozen dialog prompts during the entire game.

    Races and classes are also horribly underused. I played first as Death Godlike, which according to the manual are signs of misfortune that are usually killed at birth. However, during my 45 hours crossing a heavily religious world plague by misfortune and soulless children, no one gave a fuck about me. I must have got at most 5-6 reactions to my race, and not a single one was negative. Remember when ghouls would call you "smooth-skin" in Fallout, or how everyone was quite racist in Arcanum? Forget it, here even hateful savages will call you Mr. Godlike, Sir. I expect at least a "freak" or "abomination", all I got was a boy asking how I could see.

    Perhaps sadder than that is the fact that PoE really only has one branching point: choosing one of three factions in Act 2. And any C&C from that begins and end in Act 2. Apart from that, you only get choices in side-quests, such Roedric's Fort in Act 1, or flavor-choices, that alter story details and ending slides, but keep the gameplay exactly the same.

    In short, the game's replayability is very, very short. You'll get various small flavor changes, but it will mostly just play the same.

    Enchantment & Itemization

    Oddly, the systems logic isn't bad per se; you can enchant weapons and armor with a few bonuses, while unique named items usually come with unique, more powerful enchantments. What's unexplainable is how the designers used the system.

    For example, about 1 hour in you can recruit Éder as a companion, and he comes with a magical Saint's War Armor that once per battle will "revive" the wearer mid-combat if his endurance drops to 0. Fucking amazing, you can't add that to regular armors, so it's a very special and useful item you'll probably keep until end-game, with a few enchantments of your own on top.

    But that's an exception. Éder's armor is one of the best & most unique items in the entire game, more often than not you'll just find uninspired magical items, very similar to the ones you can craft. There's no sense of progression here, at end-game I was finding unique items that were just like the ones I had purchased & enchanted myself, just with an extra ability like "Ignores 3 DR". Yes, it's a nice ability, but one would expect a bit more after 40 hours of play, especially in a game where you can sit down and craft a Spirit-Slaying Blade of Fire +3 at any moment.

    The worst offender is by far the Blade of Endless Paths. You must find its fragments spread out through the huge 15-level dungeon to reforge it, just like in Baldur's Gate 2. But while in BG2 you would get legendary weapons such as the Flail of Ages, The Equalizer, Crom Faeyr, the Vorpal Blade, the Wave or the Short Bow of Gesen - all unique weapons with distinct powers - PoE gives you a boring Estoc that's 20% faster, gives +10 accuracy to one ally attacking the same target, and cannot be enchanted any further. WOW! Not only other unique weapons have these abilities, but you can buy any Estoc in a shop and enchant it into a more powerful blade if you have the proper ingredients. See for yourself:

    [​IMG]

    Even the game consider my enchanted Estoc more valuable than the Blade of the Endless Paths. :roll:

    On this subject, each item can be enchanted up to 12 "slots". Each enchantment use from 1 to 6 slots, so there's a limit to the enchantments you can add. But it makes little sense. The aforementioned ability to revive characters mid-combat occupies only one slot, while the inane "+10 accuracy for ally" takes two slots! Moreover, the whole system seems designed solely to stop players from adding the "Superb" enchantment to already powerful weapons, since it takes whopping 6 slots. And that's about all that the system does really, you'll rarely run into the cap otherwise. This could be such a rich system, if there were secret and powerful recites to uncover so you could add exotic enchantments, or if it made you weight the "size" of each enchantment carefully, but it's horribly underused.

    Apart from that, there's a serious lack of some types of magical items in the game. PoE overflows with magical cloaks and necklaces (both which use the same slot), but has very, very few magical belts, rings, helmets and hats. Two of my characters finished the game with regular, non-magical (but stylish) feathered hats, simply because there was nothing better for them to wear after 50 hours exploring.

    You see, since there are no hard-counters, items can't give you "Free Action", "Protection from Charm" or anything like that. So they mostly give bonuses like +1 to Might, +3 to Deflection, etc. But these do not stack - you cannot have a +1 Might ring and a +2 Might helmet. As result, my PC finished the game wearing the prestigious CRPG ring, as all the other rings available had similar bonuses to the ones she already had and wouldn't have any effect.

    The (lack of) Encounter Design

    Here's were things get really ugly. For all the talk Sensuki did against the engagement system, it didn't bother me much. The real problem here is the encounter design. It's extremely poor.

    People complain that most battles you just send a tank to engage their melee fighters and have the rest of the party attack them. That's true, but mostly because you rarely face anything that requires a different tactic. There's no zerg-rush of weak enemies overwheling your tank, no ogre doing a pincer attack inside a corridor, no archers in hard-to-reach places, poison-resistant enemies inside swamps, battles inside infernal traps, NOTHING! The only ambush you'll face the entire game is in the tutorial! What happened?

    For comparison, remember that Baldur's Gate 2 had situations such as this:

    [​IMG]

    You walk into a room and get ambushed by 6 orc arches firing from the sides, unreachable unless you fin the secret doors. Wow, a clever use of environment and secrets! PoE even has the supposed advantage that any party composition can detected traps and unlock doors, so why not explore this? No, instead you can't detect nor disarm traps mid-combat.

    It's all so limited that the role of environments in PoE is binary: either you are in open areas where you must protect your squishy characters, or in tight areas where you can have your tank block the enemies while the rest of the party goes pew-pew.

    Considering Obsidian's staff are arguably the most experiences RPG developers in the market, I find this point a huge let down. Even the average cookie-cutter MMO out there know how to throw some curve balls. Hell, just look at what Daedalic did with Blackguards, their first RPG ever! That game had a smaller bestiary and fewer classes & skills, yet had dozens of really memorable battles. Where are those in PoE?

    Another odd design choice is that you'll face many ghosts at the beginning of the game, which can teleport, bypass your tank and go directly to your squishy casters. Together with some beetles, these are the only enemies you face that have such mobility. One has to ask not only why no more enemies do this, but also why have so many of these right at the start of the game, when players have few resources and are still learning the system, while having nothing that expands upon that later on.

    As result, battles in PoE are more memorable due to their context (a lone powerful bear early in game, a big dragon, another big dragon, assaulting a fortress head on) than for being actual interesting fights. The hardest enemy in the game, the boss of the Endless Paths, is such a dumb, cheesy encounter you wonder if the devs were trying to make something cool or just going "heh, doubt you'll beat this, grognards!".

    Overall, the only fights you'll have to put more effort into and occasionally stop to rethink your tactics owe this to a single effect: Charm.

    Spells aren't interesting

    There's a reason why Charm outstands: it's one of the only spells effects that will force you to change your tactics. While IE games used powerful spells and hard-counter - i.e., Web ties you to the ground, unless you have a Free Action spell;/item -, PoE opts for weaker spells with only soft-counters. So now Web now only partially reduces movement, and there's no way to dispel it or safe-guard against it. Since there's nothing you can do and your warrior can walk anyway, you just ignore the spell.

    And that's, sadly how most of them go. Thus, fighting enemy wizards makes little difference - their spells don't alter the tactics of any battle, you just soldier on through their effects. The big exception, of course, is Charm (or Confusion), which take control over one character away from you, forcing a change of tactics on the fly.

    Another good example that displays the shallowness of the spell system is the Petrify spell. In the IE game they would instantly kill a character, but you could be 100% protected by some spells & items and, if worse came to pass, you could always buy a scroll of Stone to Flesh and save your character. In other RPGs petrify is a double edged blade, that stuns a character but also raise its defense. In WoW, for example, there are potions that allow you to briefly petrify yourself, to raise your defense and endure a powerful blast.

    How does PoE handles Petrify? Worst of both worlds: there are no hard counters against it, it fully stuns the target AND it makes it take 4x the damage directly to his health. And it's an AoE spell, that lasts 20 seconds. Basically, a "I WIN" spell, with no nuance or downside. You can one-shot even boss battles with it.

    There are also spells that could be cool in a very elaborate and complex system, but are simply useless here. Minor Grimoire Imprint is a Lv 4 spell that allows you to steal a random Lv 1-3 spell from an enemy wizard and cast it for free. Why waste a 4th level spell to randomly cast a lower level spell?

    As with many other things in PoE, I look at this spell and see that there was a spark of creativity, but it was never fully developed.

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    IMHO, there are two ways to judge Pillars of Eternity.

    If you're a casual RPG fan, that heard about the Infinity Engine games, or maybe played them years ago and want something that reminds you of those games but with modern design sensibilities, Pillars of Eternity is everything what you wanted. You'll play through it once, have 40-50 hours of fun, with some interesting moments and not a single "Deep Roads-esque" boring slog.

    It's a very entertaining game, and in this sense the Kickstarter was a success. Pillars currently holds a 91 Metacritic score, had raving reviews and hopefully sales to match. Obsidian scored a slam dunk. Bravo.

    However, for hardcore fans that replayed the IE games multiple times, that enjoy the depth, replayability and freedom of those games, Pillars is lacking. Severely so. You'll notice it the more you play - the completely wasted Keep, the lack of race-specific interactions, the linear storyline, the lack of C&C, boring itemization, battles playing all very similarly, the lack of crazy character builds, etc...

    But, to me, the most worrisome aspect is the contrast between these two perceptions of the game, because they appear to be almost impossible to reconcile. Reviewers considered PoE a title with "countless strategies" (PC Gamer), full of "interesting puzzles and traps, and surprising encounters" (GameInformer), and even "intensely difficult and tactical" (IGN), but here I am, complaining it's too shallow.

    This is an intricate matter, and Obsidian solution to add more enemies to each encounter on harder difficulties is a noble effort, but doesn't really address that - it's still the same fight, just bigger. What the game needs are ambushes, clever uses of space and intricate battles - but those might frustrate players who already think PoE is challenging. It needs those hundreds of tiny C&C details that most players will never see. It needs those secrets people will take years to uncover. It needs those optional paths like "Imma kill Gilbert Bates!" that only retards like me will try.

    So the real question now is if Obsidian will revel in this new-found glory and take a conservative route for the expansion and sequels, or if they will try to expand Pillars the same way Baldur's Gate 2 expanded from Baldur's Gate 1. If so, we might then have a true long-lasting classic. In the meantime, Pillars of Eternity is a great game, but still not a long-lasting classic that warrants countless replays.
     
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  2. TalesfromtheCrypt Arcane

    TalesfromtheCrypt
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    Wasted keep (BG II), lack of race-specific interactions, linear storyline, lack of C&C, boring character system for many classes - you just described every IE game except maybe PS:T in the story/C&C areas (the game was quite linear in the end too though).
    I understand your criticism of PoE and don't want to talk it down. I don't want to defend PoE by saying that the old IE games were as lackluster in many respects, because yes, a game that is released 15 years later should improve on those aspects.

    However, I'm getting really tired of revisionist IE fans constantly praising those games like they were the pinnacle of RPG design, on the Codex of all places. All IE games had enormous problems, and the only absolutely great things to be found in the whole IE series was encounter design and magic battles in BG2 (no not BG1, definitely not PS:T, and IWD only to some limited extend - it shared many of PoEs problems when it comes to encounter design, which ironically doesn't seem to bother people like Darth Roxxor much) and story/lore/setting/writing in PS:T. That's it. Two good things in 2 out of 5 games.

    In the good ol' days of the Codex you IE fags would have been called out for being popamole, so I would be very careful with claims that everybody who likes PoE is not a hardcore player.
    Just wanted to set this straight. Carry on now.
     
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  3. Jaedar Arcane Patron

    Jaedar
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    Project: Eternity Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    To be fair, I have in fact not played most of the IE games, and definately not several times, and I still found PoE to be shallow and lacking.
     
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  4. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    which only begs the question what would be the reaction to a bad cargo cult clone of BG1 back then in that case
     
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  5. TalesfromtheCrypt Arcane

    TalesfromtheCrypt
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    You're not Excidium
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
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  6. Maculo Arcane

    Maculo
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    PoE certainly has its flaws, but it is still a solid game in my opinion.

    The C&C could be better, but I think the reputation system was a strong element. Characters reacted to whether you were benign or honest throughout various quests. I think the issue for a lot of players is that there was no clear reward for playing good or evil characters, but I do not think that is necessarily a problem. It was not about unique rewards, but rather building the character you wanted to play.

    I think my biggest let down was:
    Show Spoiler
    There are at least two points in the story where you can use your Watcher powers to change a soul. The first is Maerwald and the second was the priestess from the past life. I was hoping it would feature more strongly in the overall game and setting. The other think about the priestess was the chance to destroy her souls. That seemed to come out of nowhere.
     
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  7. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    My point was that hardcore IE fans would be disappointed, not hardcore players in general. PoE never stood a chance with those that hate IE games and RTwP.

    Also, I never praised Baldur's Gate 2 as the pinnacle of RPG design. But it's a 17-year old game that's still vastly superior to its spiritual successor. BG2 is unrivaled in encounter design, magic battles and itemization. All these are missing from PoE. Furthermore, BG2 was way more replayable. Not the pinnacle of replayable games, but miles ahead of PoE. The stronghold system in BG2, for example, is indeed limited, but that game had the De'Arnise Keep, the Planar Sphere, the Druid Grove, Umar Hills, the Thieves Guild', the Cleric's temple, the Radiant Heart HQ AND the theater company. EIGHT fucking different locations you could own, some very simple but others complex. It's definitely much more interesting than PoE's keep, that plays exactly the same every single time.
     
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  8. pakoito Arcane Patron

    pakoito
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    [​IMG]
     
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  9. Kirkpatrick Arbiter

    Kirkpatrick
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    Agreed with pretty much everything. Nicely said, felipepepe.
     
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  10. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    I agree with most of your points but I think that PoE is far superior to BG and is good or better than BG2.

    Sneak peak from the review:

    "And paid homage they did, creating the finest BG-clone 4 million dollars can buy, loaded with nostalgia, cute little BG things like the cursor and ‘you must gather the party before venturing forth’, handcrafted 2D background with rare attention to details, and all the bells-n-whistles we’ve come to expect from Obsidian .

    Imagine, if you will, a Baldur’s Gate-like game with the state of the art RTwP combat powered up by Josh Sawyer’s version of DnD 4.0 - reimagined for balance-inclined audience, set in a world that wants to be original but is afraid to let go off the familiar, filled with quests with multiple solutions and double-crossing opportunities.

    It’s a better Baldur’s Gate with a twist of Icewind Dale, with more depth and role-playing that goes beyond playing dress up. Still, it’s Baldur’s Gate, not Torment, Fallout, or even Mask of the Betrayer. Don’t say we didn’t warn you."
     
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  11. pakoito Arcane Patron

    pakoito
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    I did read it, haven't finished Act 1 so I can't agree yet but I don't feel compelled to continue playing because the mechanics lack and I'm no storyfaggot.
     
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  12. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    RPG Wokedex Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Hell yeah, another butthurt-causing Codex review. :incline:

    Re: C&C

    I once had an argument with Roguey in which I claimed that Wasteland 2 would have more C&C than PoE, if only because unlike PoE, it was the game's main focus. Looks like I might have been right.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
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  13. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    I understand and might even agree with it being on par with Baldur's Gate 1, especially considering the presentation. It's a bit cheating though, as Obsidian had a clear blue-print and 17 years of advances in technology, user-experience and ruleset to take upon, while BG was made by people that had never made a video game before.

    But being better than Baldur's Gate 2? To that I disagree 100%. Besides being more user-friendly, there's nothing in the game I would consider superior. Encounter design, itemization, story, spells, NPC's arc, the villain, the character system, the cities, the boss battles, etc... BG2 clearly is a notch above PoE. At most Durante is a better NPC than any in BG2, and the premise (but not the execution) of the story is better, but that's about it. Pretty dissapointing for all the resources and opportunities Obsidian had in hands.
     
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  14. Sensuki Arcane Cuck

    Sensuki
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    Codex 2014 Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong A Beautifully Desolate Campaign
    :what:

    Did I seriously just read that

    Exactly. It would only be superior to someone who didn't really care for the Infinity Engine games that much, or someone who didn't like the IE combat.
     
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  15. Kz3r0 Arcane Sad Loser

    Kz3r0
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    This was the objective.

    Make a wild guess.
     
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  16. Athelas Arcane

    Athelas
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    :slamdunk:
     
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  17. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    lots of great bg nostalgia, straight from the man who always talked about how much he hated baldur's gate
     
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  18. ZagorTeNej Arcane

    ZagorTeNej
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    Why that's shocking. I hope Mondblut is available for TToN review when it comes out eventually, the best man for the job.
     
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  19. Sensuki Arcane Cuck

    Sensuki
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    Codex 2014 Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong A Beautifully Desolate Campaign
    I can't believe he used the phrase state of the art RTwP combat :lol:

    I enjoy RT slightly more than TB and I think it's average at best. It has certain advantages over the NWN and Dragon Age titles, mostly because of camera perspective and controls but I don't think it's that fun tbh. I'm struggling to even finish the game (and not because of difficulty, I'm mowing through everything).
     
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  20. potatojohn Arcane

    potatojohn
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    BG2 certainly wasn't less linear and it certainly didn't have more C&C.

    It did have more powerful unique items which was cool but on the other hand it meant that once you knew what and where they were you would always be using the same thing.

    It had some more mechanics but they were mostly broken anyway (who ever used stealing and didn't always reload when it failed? etc)

    It had more companions but half of them were insufferable.
     
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  21. Vault Dweller Commissar, Red Star Studio Developer

    Vault Dweller
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    I see PoE as BG with better role-playing. So while BG2 had more cool shit (items, mage duels, etc), when it comes to role-playing PoE beats it easily. The end.

    Meaning I like it way more than the IE combat. Including the engagement system.

    BG fucking sucked. Still does.
     
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  22. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    i'm happy this game is giving you nostalgia for that game that fucking sucked then
     
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  23. dieu Learned

    dieu
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    Troika died 10 years ago. For all my complaints with PoE - and there are many - I'm glad not to be playing Dragon Age Origins again.
     
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  24. Shadenuat Arcane

    Shadenuat
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    but it had sexy visuals
     
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  25. Sensuki Arcane Cuck

    Sensuki
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    Codex 2014 Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong A Beautifully Desolate Campaign
    Pillars of Eternity. The RTwP game for people that hate RTwP.

    That said, the role-playing might be better, but RP content is second to moment-to-moment gameplay for me, and tbh at the moment I'm at the point where I just don't care about the content in between the dialogue/interactions (I'm in Act 3).
     
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