Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Yay, just finished. Or :( rather. Loved it again. Almost everything was actually improved upon (and not just claimed in the ads). The list would be long. I especially liked how enchantment works now. I hated how the enchantment in Pillars I made everything feel bland and generic. It didn’t matter what item the player found, the same stuff could be slapped on everything. Terrible! Now, only unique items can be enchanted, nothing else and even those come with actual unique enchantments! ENCHANTMENT!

So weapons finally retain their individuality and it matters again which weapon someone has equipped. It’s also fun again to find something.
Being able to retarget spells during casting is another one of these sorely missed improvements. Finally a game is improved in an aspect that players actually want! Crazy!

Another new favorite of mine is definitely sneaking. I never switched to scout mode in Pillars I, I saw no reason to walk slower (honestly this is primarily what it did…), since even hidden objects can be spotted without it. Pillars II on the other hand made it so useful, that I sneak in every dungeon. All characters/monsters now have a vision cone and quests can change depending on how stealthy they were handled. It’s quite extreme how this morphed for me from never on in the original, to always on in the sequel.

The character models are also much prettier now, not that it matters all that much in comparison to these other high level changes (which enable a better gameplay). You see these characters only from way above… What does help the graphics tremendously though, are all these light/shadow effects and birds and moving trees. This is extremely effective in making the world feel more alive. It’s surprising almost, how much this helps against the game looking dead and sterile (which Pillars I does now in comparison). The mere quality of the maps was always very high, so it’s not surprising that it was almost impossible to raise the bar here since Pillars I. This isn’t to say the ones in Pillars II aren’t great, rather that the quality of such a 2D background can only be this high.

Rain and day/night cycle weren’t as great as I hoped they would be though. In Witcher 1, way back in 2007, people would run in houses/avoid getting wet when it started raining, they did nothing fun like that here.

What didn’t change again, is the characters/companions/party members. I never thought they were actually bad, like too many jerks claim, but there weren’t any “stars” among them, is what I’m saying. This hasn’t changed. In Pillars II, there are (again) no characters like Morte or… let’s say Varric. They play it very safe (probably too safe – at least for my taste), which results in characters that are almost bland. They are serviceable/okay, but that’s it.

What they did with their relationship system has a lot of potential though. Characters can now have a relationship which each other and not just the PC. Which makes it almost more interesting to me than the tired “wanna bang” BioWare routine. Companions can also start hating each other. Pallegina and Xoti were clashing every now and then, because one of them loves and the other one hates religion. So naturally I would always put them together. This doesn’t lead to either of them leaving however, this much still only happens if the relation to the PC is bad. I genuinely hope they won’t drop this and only refine it for future games.
It definitely could need some polish here and there. Aloth never had any opinion on my PC, his value firmly stayed at 0 for the entire game. His likes and dislikes are so few/exotic, that nothing I ever did pushed him in any direction.
What I liked very much, was how I was allowed to choose the class (out of 3 choices which made sense for the respective character) of every character joining me. I didn’t get too exotic with it, I thought Eder really should be a fighter, but it was great to have the option. There is always another playthrough.

I never had the sidekicks in my party. Not even once, outside of leveling them up. There were just too many characters. Especially with slots for only 4 of them. I do understand the rationale behind having/needing them. It’s possible to piss off all the main ones and they could leave. Or they could be permanently killed. And then the PC could end up all alone. :D Okay there is the adventure hall, but not everyone likes to make their own characters. Icewind Dale never fully gripped me for this very reason. There are also no stronghold adventures this time, so there’s no need for extra characters just for those.
This is really neither a good nor a bad thing, but not having party members frequently in the active party has them further behind as before. Suddenly they have 20.000 XP less and Pallegina was level 18 all of a sudden while everyone else was already at 20. It’s not a big deal, because I reached 20 (=max level) a while before the end (if one does everything), it’s just that Pillars I always had party members one level behind max. This might only matter to people who play at highest difficulty. I didn’t.

Which brings me to the ship combat. I honestly expected to dislike it after seeing it in some videos, but boy was it fun to me. I did all the ship-bounty quests for all factions and attacked every single slaver ship. At the end it’s possible to enter a sea battle personally or just sail on (for the people who hate it) and that was just ideal, I would have been so disappointed if there wouldn’t have been another opportunity to have a ship battle. Naturally I got myself the best ship with all the upgrades and my crew was just awesome. Maybe I should just go ahead and get myself Nantucket (which was kind of an inspiration for this AFAIK). :)

My ending came without a big bang or anything, it was just okay (actually the central question I had wasn’t even answered, which is kind of a letdown). It wasn’t great nor bad, just like most of the characters. But it’s hard to ask for more, if there already are thousands of ending slides, for all the possible combinations.

I wonder how they are going to throw the DLC into this game. I don’t think it’s known yet, if it’s going to be thrown into the game again like Pillars I did it, or if it’s going to be AFTER the main events. It’s probably going to be the former.

Before I fall asleep completely, I guess I could also mention the eternal Steam/GOG struggle a little bit. What weirds me out the most here isn’t any more, how Steam is always the better supported platform, it’s that the devs act like they want it this way. From my perspective, it should be more desirable for a company, if they have the option to sell their games in more than just one single store. It seems so short-sighted, to care only about the one store, when this can lead longterm to nothing but a higher and higher margin for that store. They obviously won’t take a lower cut, once their competition is gone.
So yeah, GOG generally gets the patches later (I can’t tell whose fault that is), all the promo stuff like this scavenger hunt they did for Pillars II on Steam is… only on Steam. :P And was the backer beta (I didn’t have access) again Steam only this time? I heard a rumor the items from the scavenger hunt would materialize on GOG too at some point, but that hasn’t happened yet. None of this stuff might be too important, but it still feels weird to buy the same game and yet get less for no good reason. It’s not like Steam costs more after all. If anything, they earn less on Steam because their fee is higher (I’m making this up, I have no idea how much Steam takes for each game sold).

The game had only very few glitches during my playthrough. All quests worked, it never crashed – which is obviously the most important part. Several times icons were missing and only displayed a placeholder. No biggie, with hundreds of different items in the game, this can happen. They should probably fix the scrolling in the game. It happens all the time, that the “continue” option is out of the visible area and scrolling is necessary to see it. When ENCHANTING items it also always usually happens, that stuff jumps around in the left pane. Everything works though, it’s just a visual glitch. The only real bug I encountered, was after loading a save, almost all my gold was gone because the game thought for some reason dozens of days had passed, so it was spend for wages (for the ship crew). Luckily all I had to do, was to load the same save again and the bug didn’t surface anew.

It took me around 80 hours to finish this (I played all quests I could find, went to every island and did a lot of ship battles), which is about the same time completing Pillars I took – but I only remembered the time including White March and obviously the Pillars II DLC isn’t out yet. So once they have their complete edition out, it will definitely be longer than the first game.

JS mentioned a few times (he didn’t promise) that it could be a thing to port the fist game into the more advanced engine and I genuinely hope this is going to happen at some point.

What should be mentioned, is how horrible the loading times were in Pillars I and how they got longer, the longer the game ran. Pillars II was supposed to have this new/better streaming system to cut down loading times, but honestly, it hasn’t changed much. There is definitely an improvement, the loading times haven’t gotten longer despite better graphics (and so on) AND they seem to have fixed some of the mem leaks (or whatever the cause for the ever-increasing loading times was) and yet the loading screens still are way too time consuming. There still are these quests too, which make this impossible to overlook. The Huana Queen is on the third floor of her palace, which means that every stage of a quest that involves her, sends the player over 3 loading screens in and 3 out… I dreaded every visit.

Naturally I imported my save from the prequel instead of just clicking a legend together. I can’t tell what’s the effective difference. I only noticed that one of the conditions for Maneha were missing in the questionnaire. It’s possible to make her forget, or learn to live with her memories. The latter option is missing and can thus only be obtained by importing a save with this decision. It’s not a big deal, again, because it’s only used for one scene in the game (as far as I know), I’m just curious why they left it out. Or could they simply have forgotten about it?
Other than that, the effect of the imported save is minimal. At least for my character, there weren’t any groundbreaking effects. I ran into Wirtan at some point and quite frankly, I had to think hard for a moment who that even was. He’s a character who only very briefly appears during a minor quest in Gilded Vale.
The most noticeable effect of the import must be the 3 returning characters Edér/Aloth/Pallegina. That was easily enough to appease me.
My favorite effect of the import must be the letter from Aufra though. Her fate was one of the reasons why I picked the Hylea ending in the first game. So I couldn’t have been happier to learn that it worked out the way I only hoped it would. Often it’s really the little things.

Which reminds me of Whispers of Yenwood. I really liked this sword, it being “the official weapon” of the ruler of Caed Nua and all. I didn’t even expect to see it again, so it was supercool to get it back along the blade of the endless paths. Of course I ENCHANTED the sword to legendary status as soon as possible. :) This sword seemingly always shows up (even if no save is imported), the blade of the endless paths however, doesn’t (even if this sword was set to forged in the questionnaire). :)

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