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Deadfire is a game I was really looking forward to, and it didn't disappoint. Compared to PoE, it has a lot of QOL changes and combat is a lot more fluid and fun, the soundtrack is great, the story is great, and the graphics are fantastic.
You'd think that that's it. Great gameplay, great graphics, great story, great soundtrack. Hell, sounds like a GOTY candidate. But sadly, that isn't the case. The game has its shortcomings. The Deadfire feels empty, it feels too large. There isn't much emotion outside the 4-5 plot turning points that happen maybe 10-15 hours apart from each other. The companions aren't as good as those from PoE. Bugs are many and varied.
This is a game I was looking for, and I love it. I'll gladly play through it again after the DLCs are released, and again after a while, but I can't just recommend it. Think the pros and cons through before playing.
One thing that I really like about POE 1 was how they made a premise that drew the audience in. "What if there was an epidemic of babies that were born without souls?" Unfortunately, POE 2 does not have that same strong narrative structure, but instead tries to throw a number of smaller conflicts all at the same time. The result is that the series doesn't burn itself out in the final act like the previous game, but the game never really stands out to begin with.
The story is incredibly disjointed. The central plot garners some attention in the first hour with a hard hitting player punch, a physical god (temporarily) killing you, stealing part of your soul, and causing the powers of Eora to tremble beneath his footsteps. However, the game then loses itself in various factions vying for control for a group of islands in the Deadfire. Sure, there is some fun to be had playing all sides of the faction war, reaping your rewards from privateering and upgrading your personal ship. But when my quest log was empty and I went to continue the main quest, I ran across a number threadbare hooks that lead to a sudden choice about pantheology vs ietsism. I scratched my head and realized that none of the quests I had done had prepared for me this choice and I had barely an hour worth of game to make my final decision. Its like I played two different games, the beginning and ending of one and the large section of the middle of another.
Gameplay is fun, but lacks flavor. Combat is more streamlined in Pillars of Eternity 2 which fixes some of the original's pacing problems, as just remembering the amount of return trips I made to Caed Nua in the first game still makes my stomach queasy. However, in between the terrifying undead in the depths of the Gullet and an amusing false god bonus boss, there are dozens of fights where you just fight pirates or other faction aligned enemies that are just damage sponges. Enemies lack variety and encounters become increasingly more repetitive as the game progresses.
For all of Josh Sawyer's bashing of Mass Effect, Deadfire's companion system is one of the most backwards I've ever seen. Instead of winning your friends affection through actions and words, Deadfire companions love or hate you based on the words of random NP Cs or the words of other companions. For example, Aloth has a bad case of Tall Poppy Syndrome and once got pissed at me because a fruit vendor said she had "everything you need". The reverse was even more absurd. When Xoti went on and on about how much she loved Gaun, this pleased Tekuhu enough to proposition me to a romance. Maybe I've been out of the dating game too long, but I thought people have relations with others they share ideals with, not the wingman nodding along, waiting for them to shut up.
POE 1 was an adventure wrapped in elements of horror and mystery. POE 2's pacing makes it easier to get into and its ending much more unique, but its direction is aimless and its story is bland.
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