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Author Topic: Pillars of Eternity: Rant or Rave?  (Read 390 times)
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« on: March 23, 2017, 08:24:10 PM »

Hello CBG, this is Leetz' quarterly annual appearance. Because I'm busy and cheap, I've finally gotten around to giving Pillars of Eternity a shot and oh boy I really have no idea what to think. I've read it's been really well received, but, try as I may, I just... I just can't. Now, I love love love BGII and BGI ain't a beauty but hey she's alright. Thinking about BGII brings back so many feels that sometimes I wish I could suffer a severe cranial injury just to experience BGII for the first time again. And Planescape: Torment - oh yes. Yes please. Icewind Dale I and II? They're the perfect games when you're drinking beer in your sweatpants and don't want to deal with dialogue and just crush it.

But Pillars... I want to love it, but I can barely bring myself to like it.

First, combat is an over-complicated mess where attributes mean nothing and everything at the same time. Barbarians and Wizards seem to have the same optimal stat lines. Combat is incredibly convoluted and over in a heartbeat even if you play in Slow Mode. Characters drop like flies before you even know they're dead or the party's combat AI wipes the floor for you in a hot second. For whatever reason, I could understand THACO, wand saves, and rounds as a 13 year-old, but for the life of me, I can't understand the combat system at this game and I'm 30.

Second, the setting. Ugh, the setting. I love it, then I cringe at it. They seem as if they really want to make a different kind of fantasy setting, but at the same time are inexplicably able to let go of the Gygax-Tolkien cliches. The God-like are cool (but I don't get why people aren't freaking the eff out around them), the aumana are neat, as are the orlan. Even with that being said, the 'amauna are Hawaiian' and 'hey look we have Inuit dwarves' feels like picking remarkably low-hanging fruit. Furthermore, elves and dwarves actually feel the like the odd races out for once and  are totally unnecessary in an otherwise weird and interesting world.

Third, the impossibly long-winded dialogue options, which are usually adequately written, but holy hell do they drag on sometimes. I'm sure some gamers like to wander through dialogue trees but this guys got things to do OK? And with XP being gifted more heavily on interactions and quests than on killing monsters (which is a good idea in theory!), I find myself blindly clicking to finish a tree in hopes of XP. Now, I would be totally down this if the dialogue was like Planescape: Torment - philosophical, to-the-point, interesting, bizarre, engaging. But the dialogue here is so pedestrian. "Why did you leave your homeland?" oh, let me tell you... but only after I've been with you for so long because I'm coy and a proper gentleman.

All in all, I feel like this game was a massive opportunity missed, yet I still have a little hope for the Numenera spin-off of Torment only because it looks so weird (relatively). Pillars is like they tried to muddle together middling fantasy novel writing, a stats-boner combat system, and a vein of world building that considers itself progressive by using Hawaiian, Welsh, and Inuit naming schemes while still adhering to the stereotypes that exist about each of these respective cultures and the cliches that exist in mainstream fantasy.

*Exhale*

I guess this game really bothered me a lot.
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2017, 09:03:51 PM »

O Senhor Leetz

Hello CBG, this is Leetz' quarterly annual appearance. Because I'm busy and cheap, I've finally gotten around to giving Pillars of Eternity a shot and oh boy I really have no idea what to think. I've read it's been really well received, but, try as I may, I just... I just can't. Now, I love love love BGII and BGI ain't a beauty but hey she's alright. Thinking about BGII brings back so many feels that sometimes I wish I could suffer a severe cranial injury just to experience BGII for the first time again. And Planescape: Torment - oh yes. Yes please. Icewind Dale I and II? They're the perfect games when you're drinking beer in your sweatpants and don't want to deal with dialogue and just crush it.

But Pillars... I want to love it, but I can barely bring myself to like it.

First, combat is an over-complicated mess where attributes mean nothing and everything at the same time. Barbarians and Wizards seem to have the same optimal stat lines. Combat is incredibly convoluted and over in a heartbeat even if you play in Slow Mode. Characters drop like flies before you even know they're dead or the party's combat AI wipes the floor for you in a hot second. For whatever reason, I could understand THACO, wand saves, and rounds as a 13 year-old, but for the life of me, I can't understand the combat system at this game and I'm 30.

Second, the setting. Ugh, the setting. I love it, then I cringe at it. They seem as if they really want to make a different kind of fantasy setting, but at the same time are inexplicably able to let go of the Gygax-Tolkien cliches. The God-like are cool (but I don't get why people aren't freaking the eff out around them), the aumana are neat, as are the orlan. Even with that being said, the 'amauna are Hawaiian' and 'hey look we have Inuit dwarves' feels like picking remarkably low-hanging fruit. Furthermore, elves and dwarves actually feel the like the odd races out for once and  are totally unnecessary in an otherwise weird and interesting world.

Third, the impossibly long-winded dialogue options, which are usually adequately written, but holy hell do they drag on sometimes. I'm sure some gamers like to wander through dialogue trees but this guys got things to do OK? And with XP being gifted more heavily on interactions and quests than on killing monsters (which is a good idea in theory!), I find myself blindly clicking to finish a tree in hopes of XP. Now, I would be totally down this if the dialogue was like Planescape: Torment - philosophical, to-the-point, interesting, bizarre, engaging. But the dialogue here is so pedestrian. "Why did you leave your homeland?" oh, let me tell you... but only after I've been with you for so long because I'm coy and a proper gentleman.

All in all, I feel like this game was a massive opportunity missed, yet I still have a little hope for the Numenera spin-off of Torment only because it looks so weird (relatively). Pillars is like they tried to muddle together middling fantasy novel writing, a stats-boner combat system, and a vein of world building that considers itself progressive by using Hawaiian, Welsh, and Inuit naming schemes while still adhering to the stereotypes that exist about each of these respective cultures and the cliches that exist in mainstream fantasy.

*Exhale*

I guess this game really bothered me a lot.

I'm intrigued by your review as someone who has never played it, but has had it recommended multiple times due to my history with Baldur's Gate. Oddly enough, it sounds like your combat experiences mirror most of mine with the BG series - while if you challenged yourself with unique parties things could get interesting, a well-balanced party (e.g. two martials, two casters, two hybrids) either seemed to clear out a room before I had time to even cast half of my big buff/disable spells, or it got stuck in the "reload until you don't get Finger of Death'd by an enemy caster who got the free Sequencer and/or Time Stop effects at the start of the round" thing. As awful as that might sound to some readers, it wasn't actually that bad dealing with it at the time, but the inconsistency is a bit maddening now in another game - perhaps like Pillars of Eternity - where the nostalgia doesn't play enough of a role.

This trend of forcing the generic fantasy setting tropes into the game is unfortunate, but not really surprising. I wonder if it's just that game companies feel like they need to do that to appeal to a larger RPG-playing audience, or if it's someone on the staff who just really loves elves and dwarves no matter how appropriate they are?

It sounds like you had quite a rough go with it. Have you played Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition? It's on the same engine as BG2EE, and while not as grand and complex as the latter, it'd still seem fairly new if you haven't played the original.
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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2017, 09:25:43 PM »

Hoers

This trend of forcing the generic fantasy setting tropes into the game is unfortunate, but not really surprising. I wonder if it's just that game companies feel like they need to do that to appeal to a larger RPG-playing audience, or if it's someone on the staff who just really loves elves and dwarves no matter how appropriate they are?

But I really feel like we should have progressed past this point by now. To use Planescape: Torment as an example; that is a game that came out 18 (WHAT?) years ago and for party members you could have a sassy floating skull, a half-demon lady (which by now has its own NSFW thread on Reddit), an animated suit of armor, a full-demon lady (which by now also has its own NSFW thread on Reddit), a weird psychic warrior-monk, a mage engulfed in fire, AND A MECHANICAL CUBE CREATURE.

I mean, BGII's companions weren't amazingly original by any means, but they were memorable. If you're going to be an awesome-unique world-saver, then your companions should also be awesome-unique right?
« Last Edit: March 23, 2017, 09:40:14 PM by O Senhor Leetz » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2017, 10:40:57 PM »

O Senhor Leetz

Hoers

This trend of forcing the generic fantasy setting tropes into the game is unfortunate, but not really surprising. I wonder if it's just that game companies feel like they need to do that to appeal to a larger RPG-playing audience, or if it's someone on the staff who just really loves elves and dwarves no matter how appropriate they are?

But I really feel like we should have progressed past this point by now. To use Planescape: Torment as an example; that is a game that came out 18 (WHAT?) years ago and for party members you could have a sassy floating skull, a half-demon lady (which by now has its own NSFW thread on Reddit), an animated suit of armor, a full-demon lady (which by now also has its own NSFW thread on Reddit), a weird psychic warrior-monk, a mage engulfed in fire, AND A MECHANICAL CUBE CREATURE.
I was 7 when PS:T came out... Holy crud....

This is a principle that has guided my world building philosophy. If I'm making a fantasy verse, then I immediately ask myself "What can I possibly do to break fantasy conventions?" Which Is why so far, my only completed fantasy setting that's basically play ready is a grittier version of Redwall.

O Senhor Leetz


I mean, BGII's companions weren't amazingly original by any means, but they were memorable. If you're going to be an awesome-unique world-saver, then your companions should also be awesome-unique right?

Maybe they were thinking that if they gave you uninteresting sidekicks, it would make you seem more awesome? Yeah, I got nothing.
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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2017, 02:16:52 PM »

I bought it too, and I may give it a second chance, but your reaction feels pretty consistent with my own feeling. I have higher hopes for Numenera, but I don't really want to spend that kind of money so I haven't bought it yet.
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« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2017, 07:37:20 PM »

I was enjoying it when I played, but I fell out of it and haven't gone back. I really like the mechanics they added or changed from the standard D&D stuff. I liked that all ability scores were theoretically useful to everyone. The adventure book style skill challenges were cool too.
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« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2017, 09:34:02 AM »

I kind of enjoyed Pillars of Eternity. I say kind of because I really wanted more out of it. But that could be my problem, not the game's.
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