I made a similar thread to this a couple of days ago. Didn't get any traction, so might as well leave a reply with the stuff here
To some of the points, especially about the narrative part of the game, I must say that a lot is part of the game engine capabilities. The heavy dialogue and long reading was perfect for BG 1 and 2, would be very outdated for a BG3. The trick and hard part for Larian is to achieve the same feel despite
the voice-overs, cinematics etc. I feel the narrator is nicely done and well written, adding a lot to that feel. It couldn't be perfect cause perfect is different for each of us. Especially for the cinematics, however, I would not even judge them as they are. They are obviously not working as intended in the final version so a simply "Hey guys! Don't forget to polish those!" is enough feedback.
WARNING: Spoilers. Suggest you have at least one play through before reading if you don’t like them. That includes BG 1 and 2
Also contains full plot speculation but not too obvious I think.
I overall loved the Early Access. But this did not happen immediately and I think that’s a great shame. That is not because the Early Access was initially bad, but because for the better part of my experience in the introduction, my head was engaged in a debate: “Is this Divinity 3 or BG 3?” Until I first visited the Grove, I was heavily leaning towards "Divinity 3" but the scales started tipping to a balance the more I played. I fully understand how premature it would be to decide on this matter based solely on an Early Access play through however first impressions matter and, considering the decades of history the franchise carries, it is as inevitable a comparison as, perhaps, it is unfair. So I hope this helps:Feedback
Points that enhanced the “Divinity Feel”
1. Origin Character Option: Their very existence in the character creation screen felt very “Divinity” and very far away from BG. Your Bhaalspawn was always yours. While I can understand the thought process behind this choice, having a simple “one character” creation screen, would immediately take me away from Divinity. Their existence also immediately told me 2 things and made me speculate on a third, points 2, 3 and 4 below.
2. Limited NPCs: whether true or not in the full game, already by the Character Creation I “knew” or at least it was impressed upon me that the NPCs that would accompany me in this adventure would be 5 very specific characters… and I already knew their names. In the full version I would also know what they look like and their basic information. That made me feel I won't have the dozen or so NPCs you would randomly find all over the Sword Coast in previous BGs and the thrill and excitement you got when you saw a character portrait in a dialogue. Whether that was because you walked around the market or the sewers, hop!, that portrait would raise the inner exclamation: “oooohhhhh I found a guy/gal, they are cool, what do they do, who are they, can I keep them?”
3. I am not in this alone: again, without knowing how true it would be in the actual game, from the character screen I was left with the impression that my character was not alone in the whole situation. My suspicion was immediately that “hey, this feels like Divinity: trapped in a situation together with other people”. This greatly contradicted the feel you had when playing the Bhaalspawn: even if it lasted but a moment, when Gorion dies you are left with a feeling of “Holy cow. I am a level 1 noob in a forest. Alone. And obviously some pretty tough scary dude wants me dead” This feeling never truly left.
4. Meta-thoughts:(plot speculation. Kinda) because of the all the above, I started overthinking: suppose I am a THIS would the companions also be like THAT.... OK. I made a whole theory here. One that the game fed further so in the very very off-chance it could be true I'd rather not bask in the glory of "AHA! I was right!" and let people enjoy the game. Point is, my meta thoughts lead me close to Divinity 2, possibly because of points 1, 2 and 3.
These four, perhaps above all else, took me away from a “BG Feel”. Even as I recognize how much overthinking lies behind 4 and how far off the plot I probably am, they sunk the scales heavily towards a “Divinity Feel”, even before I pressed “Venture Forth”. Again, this is not a "good/bad" thing. This is feedback on how I felt.
5. The obvious: Game engine. That being said, the way I see it, it’s a. only natural and b. ultimately irrelevant. The nostalgia of Infinity Engine clones is only that: nostalgia. And while nostalgia can have immense value, I feel like it was a right call not to try and replicate it to a fault and frankly I loved the Divinity engine so couldn’t care less. The feel would be decided elsewhere for me, but I know that for some this could be a factor.
6. No obvious connection to BG (plot speculation. Kinda): There is no obvious connection to the plots of the previous games. If anything, any teases and hints in the content came a bit out of nowhere, at least in my play through – could be they mean nothing or could be I have missed something, even though I would think that such a hint would be offered much, much more openly, forced upon me even. That being said, perhaps the fact we haven’t changed means True Souls are special in a way that ties to BG and that thought spiraled into the abyss that was point 4. above etc etc…
7. You start at a beach laugh I mean, sure you don’t, not really, but you kinda do when it matters. This can very well be a signature move put deliberately (at least I thought it was so) or a nice way to more easily guide the player to a specific direction. But I actually chuckled when I thought “OK, here we go, the good part starts” then I landed on that beach. laugh
Points that enhanced the “BG Feel”
1. Exploration feel: From the very first play through of the Early Access, after –some- exploring, I felt the same need I felt in BG 2: any unexplored point on the area could contain a story and I want to see it. When I did see them, the actual stories did not fail to deliver.
2. Encounter feel: You can be a cruel DM, Larian. A cruel cruel DM that likes to see those players suffer. You feed off the tears of the very players that worship you and Bhaal was a slightly ill-mannered nun compared to your cruelty.
I LOVE IT. But that's just me.
Cruelty aside, every single encounter, combat or otherwise, felt like D&D – which was BG’s greatest success (for me at least). That (along with the rest of the Black Isle games), was BG’s THING: they were the closest one could get to a D&D experience. You have managed this superbly. Walking around Early Access was like browsing through a ready-made Adventure book. The shove thing annoys me, it's why it's also my first suggestion, but that was it. The encounters as adventure and atmosphere encounters, were well done - even if the cinematics and dialogue need some polishing, the core has quality.
3. Lore: Some could consider this “cheating”. An “easy” way to replicate the BG feel, cause the lore does it for you and it’s all ready. I don’t. It is done amazingly and that’s not an easy thing. The lore is there in an excellent manner that brings the FR to life, whether through History, Arcana or Nature checks or encounters, locations and books and even to aesthetics and design. I am sure different people have different images and experiences about how FR "should feel" but in this Larian presented their vision very well in my opinion.
4. Deep “random” NPCs: A specific story connected to Tyr followers is a prime example: a whole story is there, the quest opens a window for you to look through IF you pry it open. It made me wonder how much I could have missed in other similar quests, because I didn’t have the inspiration to do something similar to Speak with Dead.
5. Class can feel special: Was talking to a mate about the Hag. “Got so lucky and rolled a 20, amazing detail that and amazing luck” he said with his warlock. “…..I needed a 9 with my ranger/nature” I said. That felt FANTASTIC. As fantastic as Icewind Dale Paladin going “I see your evil aura” to the Yuan-Ti. Also: BAAAAAAH
6. World Map: This was a huge thing for me. When I clicked on the path and saw the world map I sighed with relief and went “OK, they know how to subtly make it feel BG”. The little things are big things. Those I’ve seen you’ve nailed, simply and efficiently.
Only three. That’s it.
1. Make “Shove” less powerful (maybe simply prone) or make it an action: right now, any elevated combat turns into a shoving contest. In many ways, it also makes a Dual-Wielder obsolete: why dedicate my feat to hold a longsword so I can waste my bonus to a XX% chance of doing 1d8+Y, when I can shove one to oblivion instead?
2. Alignment – Especially Alignment Dialogues: I know it’s been raised before, I know that 5th doesn’t make such a big deal out of it. And it doesn’t have to be, after all even in BG you had evil dialogue options with a LG Paladin. But it would feel better to have it there. BG is D&D – kind of. An essential part of that is to make the character and RP them. Even if I don’t have to be locked down by the alignment, some dialogues simply feel better if they are linked to the character concept you had when you made them. It also eliminates other problems: exactly because 5th doesn’t tie alignment to systemic classes, the existence solely of a “Ranger” option, doesn’t cover the array of options that differently aligned Rangers would have, in a moral situation. Would players feel “pushed” towards their alignment option? Maybe. But that simply adds to the replayability of the game: I played the game as a LG Devotion Paladin. Let’s try a LN Vengeance. Or a LE Warlock. Or or or…
3. God Specific Dialogues: Let me say that this might exist; the Selune ruins could be a prime place to trigger some, especially with priests or paladins or religion heavy classes: but I did not encounter any as my ranger, at least.
Hope this helps