Pillars of Eternity and “Classic” Mechanics

I booted up Pillars of Eternity this past weekend, and I can tell it’s a game I’m going to enjoy… eventually.

I was instantly frustrated by character creation. Choose from a bunch of stats, hope that the “recommended” stats are actually the ones you want, try to make sense out of spell descriptions without any context whatsoever, drop your character in the game world. Hope you made the right choices because going back is going to mean fiddling with the character creator again and sitting through all of the intro stuff, making sure you run around and hit all of the boxes and conversations and whatnot again.

There are some really interesting races and story stuff hinted at here, though, so that's a plus.

I have no idea what those stats do at this juncture. Significant? No? How can I tell?

Yes, this is a classic trope of a lot of western RPGs. No, I don’t think it’s good or worthy in any way. Contextless choice is already annoying, and making those choices important and largely unchangeable is doubly so. Expecting you to know the game before you start playing it is– I’ll just say it– bad design.

The first section of a game is a tutorial anyway: why not put that before character creation? Let me get a feel for the controls, how various spells and abilities function in the actual game, and then make better-informed choices based on that. Most of the time, it’s entirely justifiable within the game’s story, and if you can make a more exciting intro sequence, possibly not even using the character(s) you’ll actually create, you can justify whatever.

I also read the type of dwarf as "Bored Dwarves" several times. I'd play a bored dwarf.

How significant is that +15? Am I going to see those enemy types? I HAVE NO IDEA.

As tempting as it would be to play a Dwarf Wizard just to annoy Bel, I'm not going to.

The addition of hover-text to show me what various keywords mean is nice, but it’s still just giving me numbers that I have no context for.

When mimicking a classic style but making it more modern, I think it’s important to look at all of the pieces of what that style does and how/why they work (or don’t!). Just doing it because of genre conventions is a good way to wind up with a very same-y sort of game. That isn’t to say that you won’t necessarily retain some of the genre conventions, because a lot of those are developed over years of iteration and provably work, or provide familiar, comfortable anchor points for your players to hook into, but keeping them without reevaluating how necessary they are to your construct tends to make things awkward.

Also, the speed is "average". That's nice to know... I think?

More numbers, zero context. Is 20-30 damage a lot? How much HP do I have? What is the significance of the defense? Am I giving up much to get the “Hobbled” effect?

The vast improvement here is that I can tell that this spell helps me hit with this spell more. It lets me pick other spells based on the targeted defense. The fact that this is a big step forward is a little sad.

I love the hover-text! I can find out what Hobbled does and… oh, it… it tells me some more contextless numbers. Bear in mind that at this point in character creation I STILL haven’t allocated stat points, so I don’t know what stat ranges even are, so there’s literally zero context for these values.

I will say that Pillars of Eternity looks fantastic, and the controls are delightful thus far. Having picked up the remakes of Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2, Pillars feels more modern and more advanced right out of the gate. I really want to be able to play it co-op, the way I played the old BG games. The UI is slick, movement and actions are responsive and feel pretty good, and the visuals are detailed without being cluttered.

I’ll eventually sit down and get into it, once I have the patience to sort through characters and replay the intro five or six times to settle on a class I like. Despite my initial frustrations, it’s absolutely looking like it’ll be a game that I’ll put some serious time into.

Source: Digital Initiative
Pillars of Eternity and “Classic” Mechanics

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