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Default Pillars of Eternity - GameBanshee review

May 14th, 2015, 13:26
Steven Carter of GameBanshee has reviewed Pillars of Eternity. A snippet:

For me, the best part of the campaign is the world where it takes place, including the factions of the people, the places where they live, and the gods who govern them. A lot of work went into breathing life into these areas. You don't just learn names of regions and dates of wars. You come to understand the motivations and personalities of the people of involved. And so, for example, the War of the Black Trees isn't just a meaningless war in the history of the region. It's an example of why the Glanfathans don't get along with their neighbors, and why sometimes they shoot first and ask questions later. I liked the design of the world a lot, and I think that it has enough potential that it could easily support more campaigns if Obsidian wants to stick with it.

Unfortunately, I'm not as enthusiastic about the campaign itself. The story behind it is well written, and it has nuances and layers, but it's also a little highbrow, and it could have used some more visceral appeal. For example, your main character learns that there are bad things going on, but nothing really links you to them or motivates you to correct them. You don't encounter anybody who can give a face to the "hollowborn" problem. The closest you come is when you meet a local lord who has a pregnant wife -- and who has started executing any healer or magician who can't find a cure. But for this case you're only motivated to deal with the lord, not the underlying problem.
You can check out their excellent walktrough as well.

More information.
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May 14th, 2015, 13:28
So the Codex, the Watch and GameBanshee are somewhat critical to PoE.

I think if they stick with the engine, enhance the encounter design, and put in more choices with consequences (maybe a faction choice, quests that rule others out) the next game (add-on) can be very good.
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May 14th, 2015, 13:40
Yeah, and Stronghold could do with some fleshing up too!

Edit - I don't quite agree with this though: "Unfortunately, I'm not as enthusiastic about the campaign itself. The story behind it is well written, and it has nuances and layers, but it's also a little highbrow, and it could have used some more visceral appeal. For example, your main character learns that there are bad things going on, but nothing really links you to them or motivates you to correct them. You don't encounter anybody who can give a face to the "hollowborn" problem." How about Grieving Mother?
Last edited by zahratustra; May 14th, 2015 at 13:51.
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May 14th, 2015, 14:08
I was also a bit confused by his take on combat, which he says is overall good and has enough variety to keep you interested, but also says he killed over 1200 enemies. The PoE creatures list is only about 34 creatures:

http://pillarsofeternity.gamepedia.com/Creature

And I've read no end of individuals saying how dull the encounters are with repetition being the main method of approach rather than any need for tactical variation. There might be lots of different ways to kill things, but I didn't get the impression from the review that it mattered whether you varied your methods to the extent that playing with different characters would produce vastly different styles of play? I didn't get any sense of detail about the combat from the review, basically.

All he says really is:

Overall, the combat system works well enough. It does what it needs to do, and there are enough enemies, spells, and combat abilities that it never gets dull.
But he's not drooling over any particular encounters nor waxing about the kind of variety that prompted this statement. He says:

So if you have three melee characters and three ranged characters, then you should be able to keep your back row safe, but if you're like me and you try playing with two melee characters and a ranger's animal companion, then you're frequently going to have enemies where you don't want them.
Which sounds to me like a fairly strict and non-diverse approach to combat?
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May 14th, 2015, 14:21
Originally Posted by lackblogger View Post
Which sounds to me like a fairly strict and non-diverse approach to combat?
Yes, as it was pointed out in couple of reviews already, PoE's combat is not very diverse. I didn't even have any enemies "where you don't want them" with 2 melee characters. The only exception were teleporting mobs like phantoms and spectres.
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May 14th, 2015, 14:23
My experience with combat was a mixed bag. I played on the hard difficulty setting and in the first chapter it was really challenging and interesting. I had to use every new skill I learned to survive.
But later I was getting simply to overpowered and using standard fighting tactics was enough to beat 98% of the enemies, no need for all the fancy new learned skills most of the time. The engagement mechanic and teleporting mechanic don't add to the fun.
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May 14th, 2015, 14:36
Engagement mechanics make it worse because
a- making any positional adjustments while engaged risks getting hit with extra damage
b- enemy AI will not break engagement to get to your casters/ranged for the reason "a"…
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May 14th, 2015, 14:49
I'm glad I held off on doing a serious playthrough so far. It sounds like PoE still has significant issues that need to be worked out.

Judging by the size of the most recent patch, and the fact that they've already announced yet another patch, there's still a lot of tweaking being done.
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May 14th, 2015, 15:09
There is also the infamous, and aptly named by Darth Roxor, "facetanking". Eder (with sword & shield + Saint's War medium armor) is so frigging slow that 80% of the time he is tanking just by the sheer willforce Pallegina is faster but not by much…
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May 14th, 2015, 16:13
I'm 25 hours into this game and still loving it. Gamebanshee tends to be very critical in their reviews and I can't remember many where they were very positive. I always take their reviews with a grain of salt for that reason. I would still say the reviewer liked the game and that tends to be quite a rare thing on Gamebanshee. Also I saw this recently:

http://steamspy.com/app/291650

It seems Pillars of Eternity has already almost sold as many copies on Steam as the 9 month old Wasteland 2.

One thing I would agree with the reviewer though: Now that Obsidian has this cool world and interesting mechanics in place and now that the game appears to be a success, I do think their is some room for more experimentation with content (in a positive sense) for the expansion and possible sequel.
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May 14th, 2015, 16:31
Well critics will criticize. The hollowborn is supposed to be a mystery to solve, not a cultural phenomenon where "nothing really links you to them or motivates you to correct them". It's a role-playing game, not a serial drama--you get to choose your own path. Likewise, "the primary villain is more of a concept than a character". Well yeah, exactly as Sarevok was in BG. What you get to see is his impact and his minions.
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May 14th, 2015, 16:42
your main character learns that there are bad things going on, but nothing really links you to them or motivates you to correct them.


I do agree with this portion of the statement about the story. As I play though, I keep wanting to investigate what is causing the hollow-born and I'm interested in the plot developments that unfold in that direction, but then in dialog with other characters I'm reminded that the game wants my motivation to be that my character is ill in someway and getting worse and I need to seek out the guy from my vision to cure me. There is a definite disconnect between my motivation and my character's.
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May 14th, 2015, 16:58
That's not true Alaric. In most of the dialogues you can choose your motivation. Sure, at the beginning you seek Thaos to cure your awakening but later you also can say that you seek him to make sense of memories from your previous life or to undo wrongs that he has committed.
Still, those dialogue options don't really lead anywhere and your search progresses in the same way no matter what's your choosen motivation.
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May 14th, 2015, 18:05
I am just starting Act II. Have one major complaint. Would love RPGwatch community input/feedback if I'm being overly critical or doing something wrong or can expect better later in the game. Basically I loved the beginning / Act I. Really LOVED IT. I'm playing hard difficulty on expert mode to make combat challenging. Spent hours and hours fighting my way down the dungeon under the stronghold. Had to use tactics, potions/buffs, try different spells. Was awesome. Got to a level that was basically impossible and headed off to continue main quest. But once I picked up other NPCs and got to full 6-member party, I found I could basically kill everything without much strategy. So basically I feel combat is now way too easy. I could drop down to fewer party members of course, but that isn't as fun as playing a full party (you aren't getting to enjoy the full content). When I level up now I barely care about the talents and I don't care about gear because everything seems pretty easy (i.e. haven't crafted anything). When I was in the dungeon with 3 NPCs battling fampyrs I couldn't put the game down. Now I'm kind of forcing myself to play. I think the story is great by the way. I just crave that challenging tactical combat and meaningful leveling/gear. And I'm not getting it. The only harder setting is that one where it deletes your game if you die which doesn't interest me. But maybe that's the only option to ramp up the challenge. Or else just play with fewer party members. Maybe I over-leveled my party in the stronghold dungeon and that messed up gameplay in Defiance Bay? So…anyone one else have this issue? Does it get harder in Act III? The beginning of this game was so awesome for me…maybe it set expectations too high for the rest.
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May 14th, 2015, 18:11
@bizorker

You can get some high end boss fights if you build up your stronghold to the end.
You'll get some bounty hunter missions.
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May 14th, 2015, 18:20
@HiddenX

My apologies I didn't read your comment above carefully enough. Seems you had the exact same experience. Thanks for the post.
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May 14th, 2015, 18:20
Was hoping for "just wait until Act III…it gets crazy!"
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May 14th, 2015, 18:22
Originally Posted by bizorker View Post
Was hoping for "just wait until Act III…it gets crazy!"
Unfortunately not, with the right tactic even the final battle is kind of easy.
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May 14th, 2015, 21:47
Does it get harder in Act III? The beginning of this game was so awesome for me…maybe it set expectations too high for the rest.[/QUOTE]

I just entered Twin Elms. I think it does get a little more difficult, but overall my opinion is that everything needs more tweaking. I love the game. I kicked in $200 for the signed CE. I think it looks great and love all the story telling, but at the moment it's missing something. Obsidian has a great base to work with though. I'm sure it's only going to get better.

I feel the maps need to be bigger, especially the wilderness locations to allow for a greater sense of exploration. You can cross a map in seconds. I don't get the same feeling I did from Baldur's Gate. I feel the basic map should be at least four times the current size. The problem is that it seems like map building was a big issue for them. On many occasions it was said that making maps is difficult and takes a lot of work. That's why they cut out swaying grass, trees, bushes, ect. Josh called it "dynamism" and dynamism was cut from the maps because it was taking them too much time(money) to complete.

Even though Pillars is a big game I still feel like it's linear. Again, I don't get the same feeling of being lost in the world like I did with both of the Baldur's Gate games.

What the next Pillars game needs is a AAA game budget and production.
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May 14th, 2015, 22:20
Hmm, that review missed some salient points. I wouldn't base any decisions on it.

However, I agree the combat does become repetitive trash, and too easy (minus a few interesting boss battles and mindcontrolling enemies). This coming from a normal difficulty player. But many games suffer from this. It's not a gamebreaker, just makes one scratch one's head. Do people really like all this repetition?
Last edited by Thrasher; May 15th, 2015 at 00:16.
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