Putting the 'role' back in role-playing games since 2002.
Donate to Codex
Good Old Games
  • Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.

Codex Review RPG Codex Review: Pillars of Eternity II - It's Pretty Alright

Infinitron

I post news
Staff Member
Joined
Jan 28, 2011
Messages
97,374
Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands 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: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

On the Codex, there tend to be two types of people with negative feelings towards the original Pillars of Eternity. There are those who thought it was crap and never looked at it again, and those who thought it was crap and became obsessed with it, played it seven times, and have never stopped talking about it. Darth Roxor definitely belongs to that first group of people, so it was hardly a given that he would agree to review its sequel, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. Yet that's what he's done, thanks to a key provided by a mysterious benefactor. His verdict? In short, Pillars of Eternity II is a game of fun exploration, inconsistent combat and horrible writing, which to a lovable murderhobo like Roxor averages out to "pretty alright". Here's a relevant excerpt from his review:

Anyway, once you learn to stop paying attention to all the ship-related nonsense and focus on clearing out the fog of war, Deadfire is definitely at its best. The archipelago is huge and has a lot of varied places to check, from native villages and jungles through pirate forts to spooky isles overrun by the undead, and more. As I noted before, the freedom in this game also means you can frequently run into places that are way above your paygrade, which you’ll need to return to later once you’re tougher – this is also why disabling difficulty indicators for all places is mandatory to get the best out of Deadfire, since it lets you get in the correct mood of an explorer stepping into the unknown.

Sometimes, “the unknown” will mean some kind of dungeon. Their sizes differ a lot, from just two or three rooms with angry yokels, to bigger ones that span multiple floors or maps. I wouldn’t say they are anything outstanding design-wise, but similarly to Obsidian’s Storm of Zehir from 10 years ago, they do their job well. They are varied enough to stay fun throughout the game, some of them have multiple points of entry and a bunch of “side” setpieces and points of interest, and a few even contain the odd very light puzzle or secret area, though these are easy to find or get through. One of the best in the game is probably the “undercity” of the Deadfire capital, Neketaka. It's accessible early, which means you’ll probably stumble upon a few hard fights there, it has some quests related to it and it is also rather big.

Every place you go to is also ripe with text adventures, which are another strong part of Deadfire. Whereas in the first game they all used to work like “1. Do things; 2. Use an item to do things; 3. Leave,” this one actually gives them proper depth, freedom of choice and variety of outcomes. Your party skills will be checked very often, with full or partial successes, sometimes you’ll also get checks based on class or background, other times only specific party members can do things, and even dudes who aren’t picked for something remain useful because the skill scores of all characters are tallied as assist bonuses (provided the assisting character is close to the acting one, although the game never really splits your party in a way that would prevent this). Also, I thought the skill/class-specific choices unlocked in the text adventures were very exhaustive, and I rarely felt like there was an option missing that would be obvious to have given my party composition.

Of course one problem here is that failed skill checks usually lead to a party member becoming injured, and the relevance of that is about the same as getting injured in combat. Although in the case of text adventures failing will sometimes result in both an injury and combat start, so I guess at least it matters for a brief span. The same is true for traps placed around some areas, since traps in Deadfire also only apply injuries. If the traps are “alone”, you can just step over them, rest and move on. They can get more interesting if set up within combat encounters, but instances of that are way too rare.

[...] To be honest, it’s pretty amazing just how non-existent the main quest is in Deadfire. You literally just follow Eothas from place to place, as he keeps stomping around stealing people’s souls, and there’s nothing else to it. It only gets dumber when you dive into the details too, because after visiting each Eothas-stomped place, you get Skype calls from the gods, where they bicker and banter like children, and somehow you are expected to care about all this nonsense and ignore the fact that Eothas is the real protagonist of the story, while you’re only there along for the ride. It wouldn’t even be so bad if you could ignore all this stuff by simply not participating in the main storyline (i.e. by sailing around and pillaging), but the game feels the need to rub “Eothas this, Eothas that” in your face terribly often given how short, stupid and non-interactive the thing is.

In fact, the entire “gods” shtick might be the most baffling part of the story when you take the Grand Reveal™ of PoE1 into consideration. PoE1 establishes that the gods are fake/artificial/whatever, meanwhile PoE2 establishes (through the Skype calls) that they are condescending idiots who don’t care about anything other than their own asses. Eothas’s agenda is roughly the same as in PoE1, namely to cut/reduce the influence of the gods on the physical world. And then at the end comes the Big Choice™ of what to do – and I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would choose not to side with Eothas. There is just no dilemma here, no downs that would accompany the ups.

The god-oriented main story is even more baffling within the context of the game’s themes and setting. For all intents and purposes, Deadfire is an age of sail colonial squabble, with greedy colonists, oppressed natives and scurvy pirates, but then on top of it there’s the tacked on dump of godly nonsense. What makes this even better is how many people in the game are so crazy about the gods, while you, the Watcher™ (whose chief superpower is still, uh, watching) who knows the truth about them can’t even try to capitalise on this knowledge. My favourite example of that is during an argument between two companions, where the pious Xoti tells you to stop the irreligious Pallegina from mocking her beliefs. Your responses include things like “Pallegina, you should learn to respect her opinions”. I can only laugh when looking at that through the context of the protagonist’s own knowledge. It’s like the writers of Deadfire don’t even know the basic state of their own deep lore.

Now if only that were their only problem. The far bigger one is that the writing in Deadfire is simply bad, bad, bad. Player character responses read like they’ve been written by a snarky high-schooler. Nearly every companion is a flaming homo who wants a piece of your butt. Dialogues are still pestered by completely skippable narration bits. Characters don’t talk like real people. The descriptive texts during “cutscenes” must have gone through multiple thesaurus “enhancements”. There are scenarios that don’t make even the tiniest bit of sense, like a native village that is starving because they only eat one specific kind of fruit, and their stocks of this specific fruit have run out, and they never had the bright idea to save the seeds because uh stop asking questions (and finally a dialogue option unlocked by [intelligence] impresses another native with your profound knowledge of… putting seeds into the earth to make them grow into trees). I could go on, perhaps with more specific examples, but the length of this article would explode.

The writing in Deadfire drops more balls than a juggler with Parkinson’s, and I’d say the only thing about it that is any kind of improvement over PoE1 is the fact that there’s less of it. Primarily because all the Deep Lore is now stored behind convenient wiki-links in dialogues, which means you never have to read them, and thank God for that. Also, a funny thing is that despite not reading them, I never felt like I was missing any sort of context at any time. Truly makes you think whether that crap has ever been necessary. Still, the wiki-links are a good enough “compromise”, so I welcome them.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Pillars of Eternity II - It's Pretty Alright
 

abnaxus

Arcane
Patron
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Messages
10,850
Location
Fiernes
P7KStMR.gif
 

Bohr

Arcane
Joined
Nov 20, 2012
Messages
1,878
Thanks for the review, never thought we'd see another Roxor review for a Pillars game. Must confess I haven't been able to face playing this yet, but was obviously surprised by its poor sales performance given the first game's reception and the loyal support the franchise enjoys from the global newsposter community.

Fortunately, the Codex threads were as informative as ever. One soon learned that this is actually a gem of a game, only let down by an inexplicably haphazard and amateurish marketing campaign. If only they'd been confident enough to put its undeniable strengths front and centre.

rfqWbAsi_o.png

Now to actually read the review and see how accurate that general impression was.
 

Ulfhednar

Savant
Joined
Apr 29, 2017
Messages
809
Location
Valhalla
It’s impressive how different the game is pre-level 10 and post-level 10. Play while exploration and combat are fun and challenging. Afterwards, stop when you lose interest, because it doesn’t get better.
 

Septaryeth

Augur
Joined
Jun 24, 2013
Messages
298
Oh fuck I think I spoiled it when I read the part about POE2's writing, but that line, “Pallegina, you should learn to respect her opinions” is worth it.
Please tell me this is a word-by-word quote from the game. :lol: Honestly who wrote this.
 

Invictus

Arcane
The Real Fanboy
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Messages
2,789
Location
Mexico
Divinity: Original Sin 2
I was about to write some “the edgeman cometh” snarky comments but lo and behold Roxor actually liked the game...that is pretty amazing by itself
Oh well the inevitable upcoming reviews might provide more butthurt and entertaining banter
Edit: Oh and Roxor makes the combat sound more like Dragon Age Origins rather than half baked IE, which is awright with me
 
Last edited:

Tigranes

Arcane
Joined
Jan 8, 2009
Messages
10,350
Deadfire is more than simply an improvement over PoE1 – it’s a pretty alright game in itself, though your appreciation of it may depend on what you like the most in an RPG. If it’s freedom of exploration you seek, I’d recommend giving it a spin, because it’s the one area in which Deadfire excels. If it’s combat, you might end up disappointed. If it’s story and related matters, stay the hell away.

I have various agreements & disagreements on specific points, but I'd say this is roughly on the mark. To me it's like if Obsidian turned Storm of Zehir into a full-sized game, made various improvements, but then got some untalented mediocre people to write way too much story for a game that really didn't need any. It's funny how we got here as a sequel to POE, but there we are.

Edit: I mean, I like having a Storm of Zehir+, I liked SoZ too. It's just not necessarily what we expected, or a natural step forward from POE1. It's ... its own thing, really.
 
Last edited:

Wizfall

Cipher
Joined
Oct 3, 2012
Messages
816
Great review.
My only critic, as someone who still does not have played the game, concerned the exploration and story part which seemed to go too much in details (i skip some in fear it would spoiled any possible surprise or tailored too much what to expect).
 

Darth Roxor

Royal Dongsmith
Staff Member
Joined
May 29, 2008
Messages
1,878,457
Location
Djibouti
Did you play before or after the nerf patch, or a little bit of both?

Most before, the nerf patch found me when I was at level 14 or something iirc.

It’s impressive how different the game is pre-level 10 and post-level 10. Play while exploration and combat are fun and challenging. Afterwards, stop when you lose interest, because it doesn’t get better.

I'd say there are still a few bumps in difficulty later on that are worth checking out, like the ffffffampyr islands.

Oh fuck I think I spoiled it when I read the part about POE2's writing, but that line, “Pallegina, you should learn to respect her opinions” is worth it.
Please tell me this is a word-by-word quote from the game. :lol: Honestly who wrote this.

This is iirc a word-by-word quote. I wish I had taken a screen, but it was so dumb it embedded itself in me head.

Length of the review is commendable.

still shorter than poe1
 

Tigranes

Arcane
Joined
Jan 8, 2009
Messages
10,350
I'd say Concelhaut is a good test for how well you understand the defences / spells / buffs / etc. (I guess you could cheese him instead, but that's a bit like cheesing Kangaxx.) And if you're soloing things like the imp fight can be pretty interestingly tough. But what we really needed is more of that stuff on that puts the ante up, real equivalents to the Twisted Rune or such.
 

Darth Roxor

Royal Dongsmith
Staff Member
Joined
May 29, 2008
Messages
1,878,457
Location
Djibouti
i accidentally disintegrated myself vs concelhaut

My only problem with that fight is that it's the only one of that kind in the entire game, which is very stupid. There's not a single other enemy iirc that sets up spell reflect and the like.
 

As an Amazon Associate, rpgcodex.net earns from qualifying purchases.
Back
Top Bottom