Larian Studios
Hello Larian! Big fan of your first game, such a big fan of your second I actually created an account here to come share my feedback. Hands down the best early access I’ve enjoyed on Steam. Keep in mind these thoughts are my FIRST play through. I’m not criticizing or praising things that would take someone several times to realize.

Overall impression (aka bottom line up front) – combat feels fantastic; the atmosphere of the game is a huge improvement; the combat armors are close to right, but ultimately work to pigeon hole your gameplay; attributes feel like pit traps from a by-gone era of RPGs, look to your own talent system for how it should be done – civil too; overall I skipped work for a damn alpha, that should tell you how much I love your game! Well done to Larian!

The good:
I personally love the grittier, greyer world you’ve created. Less villains twirling mustaches, less heroes sharing their butt chins, and just more people of all shades trying to get by. I loved DOS:EE and I recommend it to anyone that will listen, but I tell them all “don’t play it for the story, but the combat ranks up there with XCOM.” For DOS2, I would tell them “And the story is superb!”

The combat! I thought “how could they bump this up when they already set the bar for environmental interaction?” and then you brought in elevation and positioning as well! It felt rewarding without feeling broken or overpowered. I thought the AI played to the best of their ability (frustratingly so at times). I really have nothing more to say here, you nailed the overall feel of it.

You're not afraid to kill NPCs. It sounds dumb, but even just giving names to many of the NPC Magistrates made them more "real" in the sense that I didn't just want to kill everyone in my way. It also made me more invested when one I liked died.

The bad:
The issue seems to be with the dual armor systems. Originally this was in my “good” column because I thought “oh neat, another element to add to the equation!” but, well, here’s how it came to me. About halfway into act 1, deep into the swamp, I was getting frustrated. My mage was about useless. I realized she was my only real source of magic damage and she had to start fresh on any given target, so all the CC goodness was never going to be realized. So I went back, flipped her to full support, and stripped all minor magic damage from the other 3 and fully committed to physical damage. Voila! Suddenly I was in stomp town again, very happy.

I thought I must be misunderstanding the way this works, but a couple hours reading online, I realized two things. People will argue endlessly which is more powerful, magic or physical, and people will agree that you pick one or pick the other, not both. My impression was that I was penalized for trying to “balance” my team. As a strategist or “power gamer,” I’m kind of ok with it … but as a RPGer, it’s like … man all those sweet swords/armor, all those awesome staffs/robes … no matter what I commit to, I’ll miss out on half of it. It just doesn’t feel rewarding to adapt to the system, and it feels punishing to conform to it.

And here’s maybe the worst part (or possibly the part you intended, I realize as I write this) – it reduces interesting strategies. With physical/magical, you can analyze your best approach and take that strategy! You feel rewarded, like a genius general who just overcame all odds. But as you cheat towards full magic/full physical, you start finding yourself using the same 1-2 strategies over and over, regardless of the engagement designed. You are practiced at forcing it into your win condition, and you just repeat that win condition until the game is over. This is criminal for a combat system designed so well in the early stages.

-- How to fix? From what I've read, you're already well aware of the issue, and others have given lots of good (and terrible) ideas to improve this. I only wanted to share my feedback that it was my most negative part of the playthrough. So much so that I'm not putting anything else in this section.

The please improve:
Speaking of rewarding, let’s talk attributes! Games keep doing this and I can’t understand why. Static increases to damage are not interesting or meaningful. Because they always win, and you’re locked in for life. Talents are awesome because they change how you’ll play the game – 25% bonus to sneak damage? That’s becoming part of my strategy. Resistance to fire? Human fireball incoming – I’ll bathe the battlefield around that person! Heal from poison? Got it, I will make that part of how the fight works, that’s interesting and meaningful. You get the idea. They change or compliment how that character plays.

5% bonus to damage? I mean …. Yayyyy … I guess? Here’s the thing, if I needed that 5% more damage bake it into the class. Don’t make me take it. Or worse, leave me the pit-trap of not taking it and being punished for it. See? You either balance for people min/maxing, in which case you punish casual hybrid spreads, or you balance for someone going a bit wider/shallower, in which you trivialize for power gamers. It’s why static bonuses just never work out.
They’re not interesting/meaningful to the player, and they’re not easy to balance around. If someone need X% more damage, tweak the numbers so they have it.

Otherwise you leave yourself open for more OP/UP builds. OP builds are great for epeen, but terrible for game balance and fun. UP just feel so frustrating and punishing. All because the people who are the most intimate with what is “balanced” for a given level (the developers and play-testers) left the decision to you to increase the right stat, which you won’t know until well after the fact.

- How to fix? I feel like memory and wits are examples of "right" here. Putting a point into memory feels like a decision that reflects how you're playing. Need more slots? Choose memory. Need this person to go earlier more consistently? Choose wits. Those are interesting decisions. But with static bonus damage stats, instead of feeling interesting, they feel like stat taxes - I have to curb my intended power curve because I need more memory/wits.

Somewhat similar to the civil abilities. The FIRST decision is huge – is this person going to be sneaky? My loremaster? Possibly my face, with a high persuasion? Cool! This is interesting. After that? I put that same point into the same stat until the end of the game. No longer interesting. More, possibly punishing. You stick 5 points into Thievery wondering “is that enough? Can I branch out yet?” You maaaayyyyybe try one into sneaky – well guess what, now you can’t pick locks at your level anymore. Now I feel regret for trying to make it more interesting. Or, I can still totally pick locks. How overkill is my thievery? Now I feel regret for not branching out sooner! It’s a no-win scenario there.

You clearly grasp the idea – Talents are perfect examples of “this is powerful, if you play this way. If not, choose another.” It’s an INTERESTING and MEANINGFUL decision.

I just created an account in the hopes of sharing my thoughts as well, so lets just start here.

I do like the story so far, it seems more grey instead of black and white, and on that note, i also like the "journal" UI. The Previous game had a messy one where things were just...listed. This just seems more organized.

For me, the armor system needs huge balancing IMO. Early game you have nothing, meanwhile your enemies have all these armors on, and a single auto from them basically strips you off any armor you were able to scavenge. I do think that armor shouldnt block everything, it should just do smaller amounts of dmg until it is completely stripped off. That goes in the same issue I have where it seems like I do dmg to my own armor then enemies do much later into the act. Melee characters be damned, bc if I have any "air" weapons on ranger or staff, I'll just end up stunning my warrior or rogue or any melee character bc of how blood works. I do think blood shouldn't be electrified or make blood pools much much smaller. Same goes for "contamination" poisons everything. Higher chance of you being poisoned and dying then the enemy, so I stopped using it, like removed it from memorized spells. I do think this game forces you to stick to one thing, physical or magical focus which IMO is a huge negative for a RPG and wanting to try multiple things.

Now on to memory, I also think it needs a bit of balancing. Like after a certain point, like say after you put it in 2 or 3 points, the next one and after should give 2 slots per point or something. Maybe you get a slot automatically as well after every 2 levels or so. Right now, you're in a way forced to put a point into memory every level or so if you actually wanna have that feeling of "progression". Especially as a mage where you rely on skills a lot more.

Even on that note, I do like how they shortened the AP uses and what not for everything, made it more compact. Combat is still pretty exciting. They should just remove telekinesis tho. I'm glad that pickpocketing and lockpicking is just one thing now with "thievery" as well. Talents are still well done, and I do agree that they help with going a certain playstyle, but the whole "Armor" thing just goes against that for me in which you're forced to play a single type for your party, physical or magical.
Muahaha. So called it; i had issues with this armor system back when alpha 1st became available and I feel vindicated.

Thank you for talks in depth reviews.
Regarding the weak early armor - so I noticed in this every play through. And yes, it can be frustrating ... but as others have pointed out - you ARE a gang of prisoners lol. I mean, all things being equal, the magisters should be better equipped. And I feel that once you escape the initial fort (sorry if that's a spoiler), you immediately start making up that discrepancy. So I'm not saying you're wrong! I'm only saying it adds to a degree of the immersion. It's you and your tactical genius vs their better equipped and prepared force.

Is it naive to think there's no way they're not going to fix the electric/poison thing? I didn't even mention it because it was SO over the top that I thought "oh no way, that's obviously an accident." Like my 3rd play through I had an inquisitor type - and any time he had a fire/poison/air staff, he'd CONSTANTLY set himself on fire/poison himself/stun himself. His own self! I had to find a water staff and hang on for dear life! (fun fact, almost everyone seems to have water resist - or at least it felt that way). But otherwise, I completely agree. I think the terrain and effect combos are a trademark of DOS, but please, don't make them PUNISHING to us!

I'm on the fence about memory. Early on, 1 point in strength doesn't even affect your damage. Meanwhile 1 point in memory means an entirely new cooldown ability to use. It's quite powerful.

Later on though, it becomes such a stat tax. But from a balancing standpoint, I don't see an easy alternative. Too many abilities, all of which scale smartly off your loadout (bravo Larian, you nailed that well), you can easily become 4 homogeneous units of destruction with no clear definition of "what" you are from an RPG perspective (I'm a sword/shield summoner who combos fire and earth for lots of damage thanks to his aerothurge skill! Also I heal/buff/polymorph. Oh you too!? Neat!).

I recently reloaded DOS:EE to play with a friend and I 100% agree with the better flow in DOS2. I just kept thinking "wow, my turns' over already!?" In DOS2, you always feel like you get to do so much with each turn, even if it's a lot of little stuff. The combat is way streamlined and flow-ey.
I actually played DOS:EE with another person right before starting this. (fun fact, wasnt gonna start this until full release but we both wanted more Div so!). And the combat is more streamlined and stuff. Like when we finally got into combat (with full party), and my friend was controlling Ifan (playing wizard) he was able to do so much I was surprised bc in the previous game, me as a wizard was only able to do 1 or 2 things early game. The combat and the way AP works now is IMO so much better.

And I do agree that they should have better armor, but that also works against you, bc if you want to survive once you get out of the fort, you have to be a big higher level and decent gear, and only way you get that is by killing all the magistars who are SOOO WELL EQUIPPED. At that point it just gets frustrating to reload again and again bc you want the exp and loot so u can survive out there, but you don't have the means to fight them head on, when they even have more people then you (or at least equal numbers for the most part). Now, me and my friend didn't mind reloading and try to figure out, but we just came off DOS:EE and knew how combat and elements worked and were kind of prepared, but this type of frustration in most part is just gonna turn off the new players. The learning curve in DOS:EE was steep, but it was satisfying, in this game....the game ends the tutorial, gives you the beach fight with 2 voids and says "well, i'm peacing out, gl figuring this out).

And I don't mind having a crap ton of abilities, bc IMO it gives you that idea of progression and power. (Which is something i love in DOS:EE because levels were far apart and levels actually counted for a lot with you putting points in and being able to get more abilities, you felt stronger by each level, unlike most rpgs where you level up and its just "cool"). The same is what I want to feel in this game, but with memory, its i want more abilities (and not want to switch out the ones i have)....or do I want more dmg or health or go a bit earlier....There is the Memory talent, but i mean there are abilities that take 2 slots and 3 so its like, later in the game those "3 slots" arent gonna do much (i think). In order for them to limit the whole (im this and this cuz i put points into all this) they could have a cut off point. Like i know its a classlass system in a way, but after getting 3 trees (poly, warfar and scoundrel lets say) u cant invest in fire and other stuff. Also, I do hope they change how electric and poison. Me pointing it out isn't me being Naive, its me bringing attention to it, since its not a new feature, its something that has been implemented before, and they turned it up (either this patch or has been from start, idk) and it was something i wanted to bring forth.
I just recently finished the alpha build a second time with the summoner and I realized at lvl 8 with 10 in summoning skill my pet is a huge demon with 372 hit points.

Now it seems bugged because it only does 3-5 damage (which is less then previous levels), however this is possible each skills have breakpoints at certain level making then particularily interesting.

I also had a caster with 8 aerothurge and on her own she would completely wreck the enemies' magic shield.
If you have 10 Aerothurge you simply double your damages against shield which is about 80-120 depending on the situation (High ground, specific status increasing damages, etc) and you can also have your caster with a crit build for even more damages.

I use chain lightning in some situation like that and with just one cast the caster had wrecked the shield of 3 persons out of 4 (during the battle on the beach before going on the boat, the void worm, the tank, Alexander and the rogue were all stripped from their magic armor. Alexander only had like 40 point remaining). The more I play the more I think we underestimate the power gained from focusing on one skill.

However I am a bit sad that we did not have source abilities for summoner or the shapeshifter yet. Can't wait to see those.
With all the complaints about magic, I really think people are undervaluing Aerothurge. It's easy to miss it, maybe they're thinking "nah but I use Pyro" or whatever, not realizing it's ALL magic attacks. Once I got that up there (even just at 6-7), I realized I really only needed the 1 mage. She could absolutely wreck anyone that needed magic targeting, letting me keep 2 physical and a hybrid support/switch hitter (summoner) to flex.

It's enjoyable for sure, but NOT intuitive, made worse by not following the previous game at all in that regard.

I do agree, something has to be bugged with that incarnate's damage. The totem's fire off 40-50 point smacks every round - they're holding up their end (potentially 150 points of damage for 2 ap!? yes please!). The incarnate can whirlwind and be lucky to put out 30 points total. It's absurd. And the NPCs ignore them and trigger attacks of opportunity and they're negligible.
I just realised armor system makes constitution as a stat utterly worthless, because the battle is either won or lost by whoever side losing their armor first, if they do then is chain CC until death, this happens to enemy and player it is tragic, no point in having any health pool if enemies just CC you anyway. Something need to be done about this so constitution is actually valued. Otherwise why not just pick 10% more damage or whatever to destroy enemy's armor and CC them until they are dead?

Heck, with Rain and electrcity combo, i can skip rounds until the turtles/magisters/prison fights are stunned to death, thats ridiculous, whats the supposed strategy in this?
© Larian Studios forums