68 reviews liked by rainfrog
However in the intervening years I’ve fully become a “do media in release order” bitch so BR 1 it is and I really went in expecting the worst and given that mindset I was so pleasantly surprised. It’s not that this isn’t a game for perverts because certainly it is, deeply. But the creep shit in this game is simultaneously so present and also so incidental, so just kind of irrelevant to anything happening except that it’s there too, it very quickly kind of washed over me. Never not chafing but almost always accompanied by a game that, when I let it in, revealed itself to be more thoughtful, more economical, and more tightly constructed than it seemed at first glance.
Blue Reflection follows Hinako Shirai, a teenaged ballet dancer at the top of her game who has suffered a catastrophic injury that has left her able to walk but fully unable to exercise at all beyond a light jog, let alone continue her ballet career, which she had until now dedicated her life entirely to. She was good at it. She had a future. It was her passion. Gone. And she’s fifteen. So Hinako is experiencing the midlife ennui of a person mourning their life at an unfortunately early age, she’s entering her fancy school late in the semester due to her intensive physical therapy, in the regular program, not the scholarship program for gifted students that she was accepted into because her gift has been taken from her, and she’s depressed, and she’s ashamed, and she’s kept her circumstances as secret as she can.
This is the person that mysterious magical girls Yuzu and Lime intentionally target to enlist in their secret war against the Sephirot, ancient beings in competition to remake the world to their desired image, while the magical girl Reflectors fight to preserve humanity from within the Common, a realm of collective unconscious that manifests itself based on the heightened emotions of the people unlucky enough to find themselves in the vicinity of the Sephirot, like the people as Hinako’s school. Once she’s been roped into the scheme with the promise that if they win she’ll get one wish granted (she will wish for the returned use of her leg, obviously) and accepted her mantle as the point man Reflector of their little team, the shape of the game emerges, where each chapter is centered around one of the girls’ classmates going through some emotional crisis and the girls entering her brainspace to stabilize her feelings via the combo powers of beating up monsters and also Hinako learning to empathize with people. The literal power of friendship. Occasionally a fifteen story tall tank made of meat or something will roll in and try to level the school but this only happens like nine times.
All of this could come off as very rote, and because it’s a Vita game clearly designed with a handheld stop and go philosophy in mind, stories are relatively thin and their volume is high instead. Most chapters will have a girl be introduced in one scene, there will be a second scene where her problem is explained and she freaks out, there’s a very brief dungeon crawl in her brain, and then the resolution is an equally short cutscene. Then, between chapters there are periods of side questing and Persona-esque social linking for as long as you want before you opt into the next story events. Only maybe four of the twelve supporting characters factor into the story in a big way after their introductory chapter, so how well you get to know these characters is entirely up to you, and I wouldn’t say all of them are even worth getting to know. Maybe half? But with fifteen main characters I’d say half is a pretty good hit rate for interesting guys.
The glue here is Hinako herself. One of my favorite recent video game protagonists, she’s the only person who doesn’t realize that she’s in a story about the power of friendship. Or rather, she isn’t convinced that that’s a thing that is worth making all that big of a fuss over. Hinako is depressed, and short tempered, and inarticulate. She can barely find it in herself to be civil with almost anyone on a good day if whatever they’re saying doesn’t hold her interest, but she has good reason to be pissed off. People are needling her constantly: volunteering her for extracurricular activities without her consent, needling her about her absences, joking with her about her leg, pestering her Not To Give Up The Dream Of Ballet, bullying and then bribing her to be a superhero against her will when she’d really rather just be left alone. NOBODY will leave her alone, and nobody really tries to understand why she’s not happy to be treated like she should be happy or plucky.
Of course the story won’t let her be this way for long, not entirely, and her job does require her to understand and empathize with other people in order to help them heal emotionally, something that is challenging for her, because she’s not healed emotionally herself. But eventually she comes around enough to want to be for other people what she isn’t getting. “I want to understand her better” is a line that starts popping up over and over in the back half of the game, even when she backslides, even when she lashes out, even when she’s challenged by people who hate her and when she’s most vulnerable and when she feels betrayed by people she thought she trusted.
It’s okay that the immediate stories of the supporting cast are so thin because all of them feed back to Hinako’s interiority, and this story is so intensely focused on her growth from someone who is isolated and apathetic to someone who Gets It and wants to be the person who helps other people Get It, even when everything else is in pieces.
Because Blue Reflection understands how being a teenager can be such a deeply isolating experience, that this is a feeling so many of us carry around when we’re that age, and that it can manifest in a lot of ways and in so many circumstances. Every girl in the game is going through their own shit but almost all of them are really just experiencing a loneliness or a fear of loneliness that they don’t know how to get out from underneath. Hinako knows this better than anyone because the stakes of her situation aren’t reversible, which puts her in a position to relate to everyone easily but also use the experience of helping them to figure out how to cope with her own issues.
This is all enhanced by the structure and style of the game. While there are obvious stylistic cues from the Persona 3 school of anime teenager games in terms of the social link-esque systems that drive the side content, Blue Reflection strategically has no time management feature and no expendable resources that limit the way you interact with the cast or the world. As long as you don’t choose to advance the story, you can live out as many days as you want between chapters. You can max out your friendship with everybody, take your time doing those sidequests, spend your leisure in the Common grinding out materials for crafting. An endless malaise of this dreamlike, dissociative routine, cutting everything but the stuff than anchors you: no school, no adults, no travel, shit dude, no transitions between animation poses. Only the thick haze of the summer afternoons, locked forever into the twilight hour of a sunset so dense you can’t see people on the roof if you catch them at the wrong angle, slowly gliding through the hallways to the softly ethereal piano-led edm that never stops, just tinkling away through every moment of the game.
This malaise is so hard to break out of, but Hinako learns to, slowly. I think the power of friendship gets a lot of hate as like, a concept, but it’s good, it’s a good thing to hitch a story to, you just have to do the work. Blue Reflection does that work. It becomes meaningful when the person who utilizes the Power Of Friendship to battle gods and shit has to do a lot of work on herself and with herself and others to empathize with other people and reach out to them actively, even though she is loathe to do it. It’s not nothing. Throughout the game Hinako is doing this stuff but she’s also being used, manipulated, lied to, and betrayed, in cruel ways, ways that cut to the most vulnerable parts of her, by people who mean a lot to her because of her experiences as a Reflector. This doesn’t come out all at once, but unfolds, small revelations unwinding over the course of the back half of the game, and it means more for her to choose to love and to protect other people anyway when she thinks she will come out the loser for it than it would if Hinako was a plucky character who believed in hard work and like, enjoyed other people’s company lol.
All in all I’d say I had a great time with Blue Reflection, way better than I thought I would. I even liked the parts where you play it, which most people seem to think are bad too. But given how much I got out of the vibes and the narrative (the game is STRONGLY vibes-based I’m not gonna sugarcoat how much of this clicking has to do with music and visuals hitting heavy) when most people seem to think it’s not worth the bother or like, mediocre at best, maybe I am just built different. Perhaps I am simply the champion of mid RPGs. The world may never know. I do feel like I should clarify though, having not really mentioned it much, that the game is like 75% pervert shit, there is just really no talking around it. It’s nonstop pervert shit, just pervert stuff all the way down. All the good stuff is there too but it’s coated in this layer of pervo nonsense. You just gotta take your lumps sometimes I guess.
Anyway if you’ll excuse me I’m a busy lady I have to go watch a 26 episode Blue Reflection anime that nobody has even heard of that inexplicably got an English dub two years after it came out even though no Gust game has been dubbed for like fifteen years. So I can play the sequel game afterwards. Obviously.
It's worth noting that I skipped straight to this game, not playing the first - it seemed to be reviewed quite a bit more poorly, with reports of fanservice that might've bordered on outright uncomfortable. I was already taking a gamble, with very little idea if this would actually be any good, so it made sense to shoot for the best chances.
One really standout aspect of this game is the way Rena and Yuki's relationship is handled - undeniably explicit, a core part of their arcs, and a consistent factor the game still pays mind to once it's established. It had me grinning from ear to ear. That said, it does make all of the other casual intimacy in the game kind of weird - like, in almost any other context, I'd be saying "yeah these girls are gay as hell", but since the game has proven it's willing to actually come out and say it... what does it mean when it doesn't? I dunno. Nonetheless, seeing the girls walk around holding hands and go on "dates" where they lie in bed together is good for the soul.
The game does have a number of rough edges that add up to a janky experience, like, I could seriously nitpick all day. So I will.
- The camera in fights is all over the place.
- Enemy designs are just kind of weirdly abstract without any connection to what's going on in the game.
- The skill names all being in different languages for ~aesthetic~ makes them very difficult to memorise and assign meaning to.
- The crafting system demands a tedious excess of material grinding if you care about upgrading everything.
- The fragment system has a lot of niche or redundant effects, rather than encouraging interesting builds.
- The stealth segments are godawful and contribute little.
- There's a lot of asset reuse and padding - even if that one time it was totally justified and really cool.
- Having to wait for skill animations to play out makes timing awkward when blocking big attacks or in the whole one-on-one mode.
- Asking a whole second playthrough for the true ending in a game that is neither short nor deep is very questionable.
I definitely wouldn't go so far as to call this an outright bad game, it's just, I dunno - making good art is really hard, actually, and when you focus on the standout masterpieces that's easy to lose track of. Sometimes you need a little mid in your life.
That's a lot of complaining, but the game's pleasures are comparatively simple, as already described - flashy spectacle, hella yuri, and a relaxed pace. Ultimately, I did enjoy my time, and the game was exactly what I needed right now.
Blue Reflection Sun
I also quite like the combat system and overall presentation. The combination of the music and the school's visuals give the game a very dreamlike feeling, I dunno how to describe it really... I also really like how some of the Common's zones look like, and the menus are pretty cool too.
The combat system on its own is very fun, I would basically say it's like a mix of Grandia 2 and Bravely Default. The sad thing is that random battles get defanged entirely as soon as you get a few levels and Fragments. Boss battles remain fun the whole way through for me, but they also feel pretty easy. In fact, I would say they get even easier as the game goes on due to how you can charge Ether and use the Timeline boost to almost give you infinite turns. The boss' style and music go hard tho, so I was happy everytime they popped up.
I quite loved the characters and story more than I expected, even if it's pretty cliche. Hinako is particularly great.
My biggest gripes are probably the overall gameplay loop, lame fanservice, and piss poor translation. The gameplay loop mostly consists of grinding out of social events and completing quests in the Common, and the Common is extremely fucking dull gameplay wise. The translation is mostly poor because there's a million typos, repeated words, and some Fragment descriptions say the opposite of what the Fragment actually does.
So yeah, basically this is a game that feels like it flipflops between being mediocre and PEAK. I will applaud the balls on Koei Tecmo for releasing this at 60 (and not having dropped the price outside of sales after so many years)
Baldur's Gate 3
I've never participated in a full D&D campaign due to the few attempts I've tried fizzling out after a session or two. So, I don't have any knowledge on the elements of this game that were pulled from actual DnD lore and manuals or what was changed/simplified. The only dungeon I've ever been in is the public restroom of my local Walmart, so this is purely a review coming from a person who just enjoys playing a variety of wildly different games.
My first initial thought was to create a Tav that was some replication of a character I created who never saw the light of day from one of those previous DnD attempts. Enter in my Half-Orc Bard, primarily meant to cast debuffs as some sort of unga bunga saboteur to anyone who dared step to my party. Turns out, that idea was atrocious and it resulted in my first 15 or so hours getting absolutely nothing done and everyone getting absolutely raw dogged by every fight we came across. Fine. My saviour Withers came to town and the game allowed me to change things up, thank god. You can do this with any of your characters at literally any time and I can't thank them enough for including it because after this, we cruised through Act 1 like it was nothing. My character was now a dual wielding Bard with the occasional healing buffs instead. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't necessarily craft the character I thought up in my mind, but I just attributed that to me not understanding DnD classes or mechanics, so it's whatever.
As for someone who has never played a game like this before, it was slightly overwhelming at first. By the end of it, I was glad to see a multitude of giga spells and attacks at my disposal, but to say that it wasn't confusing at first would be a huge lie. The game just kind of assumes that you'd be aware what every little dice roll means, or what concentration even is in the first place. I originally thought that buffs could stack similar to JRPGs, but it took time for me to realize that's nowhere near the case because it isn't really explained. There's some fights in the game where misclicking or getting your concentration immediately broken is very bad, so I imagine that first 15 hours would have been more manageable if it was a bit clearer. Nevertheless, we persevered.
The combat in this game has highs and lows for me. Once I finally grappled the mechanics and shifted my spells around, it started to become a lot more fun. It became pretty clear to me that pre-emptively making my life less miserable for the future was the best strategy to getting through some boring as shit fights. My character looked like a dumpster, yet had such high charisma that it meant fighting 20 less enemies in some scenarios. So, I don't even want to imagine what playing this game without it is like. The persuasion rolls were some of the funniest moments in the game for me and it actively changed the outcomes of some battles. The worst fights in this game are the ones where it's 50 vs. 4. It's incredibly tedious and the difficulty of them are purely based on the map layout and initiative roll of your characters. Act 3 has some of the most horrendous fights I've ever seen in my life. They basically boiled down to just forcing the enemies to walk through a meat grinder of AoE spells, which was incredibly unfun.
I persevered through all of that because I was genuinely intrigued in the story and characters. I was the most invested in my party of Gale/Shadowheart/Karlach, but the other characters chilling back at camp had compelling weight to them as well. There are definitely some characters who were treated with more care than others. Astarion and Shadowheart's plotlines are like 3 novels of writing in comparison to someone like Karlach, which I found pretty disappointing. I wish that the other characters interacted with each other a bit more because it kind of feels like they just are friends by default after a certain point despite never seeing them together in any capacity whatsoever.
Playing this game as an asexual person is a wild ride. Everyone wants to eat your ass in this game. I tried to make the ugliest character I could and yet, she was still a super model. You do not understand how badly I wanted to play as a goblin freak, only to realize that if I got my wish, the characters would still cry for my grubby goblin hands. I see why this is the way it is, so that everyone has an option, but they didn't need to give Wyll such a sad puppy dog face after I rejected him. I'm not complaining too much about it because it's optional content, it just took me out a bit because it continued to be the funniest thing ever. You know I still gave in and got that fire engine hot rod pussy though.
The level of pseudo-sandbox this game gives you to play in is tremendous. I've found myself getting pretty exhausted with open-world games lately, but it's mostly because those games don't seem to offer really anything in their worlds for me to stay interested. Here, there's side quests and interesting lore bits crammed into just about every crevice. It helped really sell the world building for me, as someone with zero experience with DnD. I found myself investigating through most conversations and genuinely wanting to absorb the information as much as possible because it was actually interesting, for once, and delivered by actors that were giving it their all. If I could complain a little bit though, I wish the journal was handled a bit better, especially with the time sensitive sounding nature of the events taking place. Some quests are written with such mixed signals and given deceptive waypoints, that it literally caused me anxiety. It would result in me running around looking for the way to go for way too long sometimes.
This game was great. It was great for the first 2 Acts, it was even awesome. Then I beat Act 2. Oof. Act 3? Oof. Pretty much all of my criticisms revolve around this section of the game, just like most others who have beaten it. I actually find the sheer amount of people who are saying this is a 5 Star masterpiece while also openly admitting that they still haven't even set foot past Act 1 in the same sentence is insane.
I'm gonna vaguely mention some things that happen in Act 3 without directly spoiling them, but if you want to know literally nothing about Act 3 before going into it, this is your stopping point of my review.
I personally think that the pacing in Act 3 from start to finish is paced very weirdly in comparison to the first two acts. Before, I really felt as though the side quests and every little battle or tribulation weaved together very nicely no matter which scenario you went to first. Pretty much as soon as I entered the city in Act 3, the city that the characters have been talking about the entire game, the city that my character is literally from, a certain character decided "Hey. You stepped foot in my area so I'm now going to railroad you into doing my very important quest. :)" WHY? A scenario that was only triggered because I was exploring in a game meant to be heavily explored. I thought that was a very odd choice, and I didn't like it. Not to mention that most of Act 3, all of the character trauma companion quests are backloaded in this section. It made the game start to feel like a big checklist, "Ope- I did Shadowheart's therapy session, so now I gotta do Gale's." Of course, I wanted to do these quests because I cared about the plotlines that were hanging open, but I feel like they just could have been wrapped up a bit better while also intertwining themselves with the important plotlines as well. It just made Act 3 a bit of a slog to get through, especially with a certain grief fueled fight that might as well have run me over with a car. I also didn't really care for the introduction of Spoiler, Spoiler, and Spoiler. It just felt goofy the way that it was done at the end of Act 2.
And for my last trick, this section of the game is still atrociously buggy. As my playthrough went along, it ran mostly fine up until the final battles of Act 2, where I noticed some graphical bugs beginning to show up more often with every session. Once I got to Act 3 though, Jesus Christ. Baldur's Gate was supposed to be this beautiful city no one would shut up about, but all I saw was endless planes of grass with invisible walls and people floating around while the game chugged to load everything. It messed with the cutscenes endlessly. I had some weirdo conversations with some companions who were suddenly addressing me as one of the Origin characters instead of my Tav. I couldn't finish some side quests because they just simply wouldn't work. It made every session closer to the end even more painful than the last.
My last grievance: The Ending. I will not spoil, but holy shit did it give me the biggest course of blue balls I have ever been given. I spent 110 hours with my party, suffering through some grueling, endless fights, the game shitting itself to death, and the emotional weight of every character piled on top of my back, just for the ending to feel so incredibly rushed with basically zero closure to any of the characters, including mine. Some companions weren't even present. It felt like such a massive wet fart to the face, I questioned if the game bugged out and missed some scenes and it turns out that, no, it did not. This was what I was left with. The final cutscene did not load a single building or object and the final dialogue scene kept freezing because it couldn't load the transitions. That was... a way to end my playthrough, for sure.
I am happy having played this game, but it did not come without it's problems. It's definitely a unique playstyle that I had to seriously commit to learning and I am seriously glad that I did. But, this game does not stick it's landing and that's really unfortunate. The plot threads were what inspired me to keep surviving every battle despite how hard they were getting, so to see the final 25 or so hours to end up like this, really threw me off and kind of offended me.
I really do want to give this game a lot of the credit it deserves though, but it's a weird one to think about. Acts 1 and 2 are basically entire seperate RPGs worth of content and length alone, with so many diverging paths to make the adventure you want while never feeling like they're overstaying their welcome. That alone warrants this game to being fantastic. It's been a while since I truly gave a shit about such a large cast of characters. But, I cannot hand wave how salty everything in the last act made me. I still had fun though, and I'll be remembering this playthrough for a long time.
Baldur's Gate 3
This review contains spoilers
The ambition comes from stuff like the game being entirely ok with you locking yourself out of major content. It doesn't strictly railroad you through pre-written quests. Which is cool to see from a mainsream RPG after modern Bethesda stamped everything remotely interesting out of the genre over a decade ago. And this approach obviously balloons the scale of production up tremendously just because of how many alternative voice lines and routes they have to record and code and the routes that branch off that, etc.. But it feels like misplaced effort in this case. Yeah cool there's 40 hours of alternative dialogue in act 1 alone but is any of it in service of an engaging narrative? And a lot of quests end up feeling pretty railroaded despite this effort anyway. And furthermore it doesn't even feel immersive in its presentation. For as much of a wonder as this game apparently is from an ambition level, dialogue is still very Fallout 3. Changing a character's mind is as easy as picking change their mind (Persuasion) and getting a lucky roll. The person you're talking to will go from swearing on their god they've followed with every waking moment of their life that they're going to do something, only for you to hit them with a short, unvoiced, one sentence You stop that and their next dialogue will have them do a full 180. I feel like the extra effort to have your player character fully voiced, with alternate takes depending on your roll, could have gone a long way.
As a DND experience this feels like the worlds most hands off DM. No fun flourishes or extra detail. No rolling a 1 on a charisma check and getting an embarassing character interaction where you try to lean against a wall and smooth talk someone only to voice crack, stumble your words, and trip over your own legs. Anything DND related is presented extremely dry, mechanical, and bare bones. Clashing with the detailed graphics they went for that feel at odds with how NOT detailed anything else is. Not much here we haven't seen countless times already by (imo) much worse gaming companies.
The group you're travelling with feels very robotic and are rarely truly present as characters in what's currently going on. Talking to them at almost any point will bring up complete non-sequitur discussions. Going deeper into the relationships angle is functionally just stopping the game to engage with the worlds simplest visual novel dating sim. At most you'll occasionally have popups saying "X character approves" if they like a decision you made. Otherwise BG3 is a weirdly roundabout way to launch a mediocre porn game. Oog oog you can customize your benis oog oog why don't the devs customize an actual video game instead? Speaking of, the character creator is shockingly bare bones just like the rest of the game. I appreciate some of the progressive options but ultimately the creator is too limited to create anything either fun or immersive. Frankly had more fun seeing all the different hairstyles and faces for each body type in even something like Pikmin 4's small scale custom character. But I digress.
It's hard to feel like you're anything but a band of high school drama club jerks who feel absolutely nothing when ending the lives of people for no reason whatsoever 'cuz they've all got main character syndrome. Extending to practically every NPC from every corner of the map who has any kind of event going on. Every story I've personally experienced or heard told to me has just been people murdering or attempting to murder someone or getting themselves killed. The whole game you're just meeting one-off characters and they say and do nothing of any consequence and they may or may not die but you have no motivation or attachment to any of them at any point either way anyway. At no point do I feel like I'm deep in the web of a gripping narrative who's story beats I control. I'm not on the edge of my seat feeling the NEED to come back and play more to see how things unfold. There's nothing to unfold, every questline is unbelievably small scale and even heading into act 3 I still don't know what my motivation as the main character is supposed to even be. I'm going through the motions for no reason other than everyone else seems to love this game and it's so big technically speaking so I MUST be missing something. But the more I dig the more baffled I am. The more quests I do the more unsure of why I'm playing. Not just in a "This is boring why am I playing" way... But inserting myself into the world and trying to roleplay, I constantly find myself asking "WHAT AM I DOING AND FOR WHAT REASON??"! And it's not because I'm roaming around an empty world with nothing to do. I just think the writing wants you to meet it 80% of the way there. It wants you to be so inherently invested that it can just present major character moments or world-shattering events with almost no natural buildup or motivation and get away with it. As soon as it became clear the eye worm wasn't a driving force narratively I fell off and was never presented with another narrative to even follow. I feel like I'm watching a mediocre road trip movie and wacky, disjointed hijinx ensue at points and for some reason they wanted to force an R rating by throwing in some awkward swearing and sex scenes out of nowhere? No connective tissue or cohesion between any aspect when it comes to the storytelling.
The most coherent scenes with your party is when they introduce their totally devious secrets, or have some occasional in-fighting. In every scenario I just respond how I naturally would, which is to say, "stop trying to kill each other!". So much of the writing following the main party feels like they need you to be either inherently interested, or needlessly argumentative to get anything out of it. But like I said responding with what's for me, rational and normal, leads to them going "oh cool thanks crisis averted" and that's that....idk you could say I'm playing wrong and not exploring dialogue but their stories imo are not as interesting as they want you to think they are. And roleplaying as someone besides a hyper-aggressive brute leads to you being a fence sitter who has no real input beyond saying "For the love of God stop killing each other" And that's not all too immersive anyway considering you'll spend tens of hours slaughtering people for any minute reason anyway even if you're trying your best to talk your way out of conflict. Any remotely important event you'll always have the option to talk to every party member one at a time about it, but none of the events were anything I cared about enough to hear everyone's thoughts. So here I am 25 hours into the game still being given the option of seeing what everyone thinks of having a vampire in the team while I'm literally standing in some mystical magic end of the world godlike realm. Everything you can grill people on feels so small and meaningless and not relevant to anything so I just...don't. And I don't know why I would...? And I'm usually the kind of person who sits there for 3 minutes really psychoanalyzing a character or situation stressing over what's the best dialogue choice in games where it probably doesn't even matter that much. Here though outcomes are all too predictable, and practically demands you save scum if you don't want to just murder everyone anyway. Never felt like digging into dialogue and really thinking about what I say gave me more valuable info or anything. I was just engaging with it for the sake of trying to meet the game halfway but that can only take you so far. And that's not to say the dialogue doesn't effect much, dialogue is basically where all the work was put in. I convinced this guy to slay like 10 of his followers so the fight with him becomes a 4v1 instead of a 4v11. Went from a 10 minute long endeavor that I ended up losing anyway, to an effortless 3 minute stomp. All just because my dice roll on dialogue was lucky the second time. So yeah dialogue is important but it struggles to manifest into immersive storytelling instead of just "Do you fight this person or not".
Speaking of fights, holding it all together together, is a combat system so slow it makes Final Fantasy 1 look like Kingdom Hearts 2. Some of the most grueling and unengaging battles I've ever seen. Not that there isn't any difficulty, personally I've struggled quite a lot not gonna lie. But I genuinely have a hard time finding room for much strategy. I know for a fact someone who's really into it could prove me wrong and say Oh using this big brain strat I can effortlessly win any encounter in 3 turns or less on the hardest difficulty But from my experience, waiting a full minute and a half for it to be my turn again...Then my moveset is attack once for 7 damage and maybe move 10 feet...There's not a whole lot to experiment with. The fighter class feels like the only one that's growing. By level 6 I'm doing heavy damage with each attack, and getting 4-6 attacks in every turn. With the ability to give myself a better heal than even my dedicated healer who's the same level. Meanwhile my Rogue of the same level gets to do either 4 damage...Or if I go through the extra effort to put him in a sneaky spot, he'll do a crit strike that'll do at BEST RNG, 80% of what ONE of my average mindless fighter attacks are doing. And that's his entire turn. Just feels like everyone but the fighters are so half baked, literally the more fighters I put in the team the less I struggle. They do the most damage, have the most health, have the most actions, can wear the most effective armor... I can't talk for all the classes of course but the ones presented to me through the main roster make me feel obnoxiously underleveled even though it's not that kind of RPG at all. And as I mentioned, it's dreadfully slow. Especially when it's struggling to function properly and someone attacks, and it takes the game like 10 seconds to calculate how much damage it needs to do, that happens occasionally. I swear the only reason this game is so long is because they've devized the slowest battle system known to man.
I thought maybe act 2 would pick up for me as I was getting more of a personal mission. Like I was given a setup and a clear goal to reach. I then walked for 40 seconds, did a boring dungeon and an annoying boss fight, and that's kind of it. Best part of the game so far. The only time a logical series of events occurred. I understand there's apparently another 50 hours of content I missed but I can't pretend like I care. This is the closest to engaged I ever got and I don't think roaming around desperately trying to find something that speaks to me will do anything but make me resent the game even more. I haven't gotten into act 3 at all yet and maybe I will. I just figured now's a good time to get my thoughts out while the game's still remotely relevant. Given what others have said I doubt act 3 is gonna change my mind on anything, and I already wasn't having the most polished glitch free experience to begin with.
Small anecdote, but I really tried to come at act 1 from different angles to see if making different choices would make me feel better about my impressions of the world and how much control I really had. For example came up on 2 guys harassing an old lady who apparently took their sister. I told them to put their weapons down and be reasonable (they weren't even holding weapons but whatever) They then decided to fight me to the death and then the old lady reveals she was actually lying to them and DOES have their sister, and it was just an overall downer. I wanted to try and save her brothers. Long story short after exhausting every route this quest can go on I find there's no way to actually change anything. If you side with the brothers the old lady disappears and they die to forest traps even if you went ahead and disabled them all ahead of time. If you initially side with the old lady but then slay her in the battle that ensues, well the 2 brothers will still want to fight you to the death because words speak louder than actions in this game. Found one person on Reddit who managed to find some incredibly specific esoteric way to get to the next part of the quest without them dying, but the brothers are merely in a bugged out state where they want to fight you on sight but still think they're talking to a (now not there) old lady. And their survival is of course never mentioned because the game expects to strictly railroad everything to one outcome. Apparently in Early Access there was a way to prevent them from getting themselves killed but despite how long Act 1 was worked on seems they had to scale back so hard that the entire point of the game had to be gutted. I know this doesn't represent the ENTIRETY game necessarily, there is routes so drastically different that you can even miss out on major party members joining you. But I can't say I found most quests to have much meaningfully different outcomes narratively depending on my actions. Closest thing is that you can trigger a war in the druid camp, or get around causing that in a large variety of ways. Outside of that I was consistently just left disappointed with how little my input really mattered. If I liked the railroaded story that would be one thing but I was so tired with how repetitive every encounter was I was desperate to take control.
So yeah tldr story goes nowhere, roleplay appeal ends as soon as you don't want to just murder people at every corner, most content lacks cohesion or motivation, party members are sloppily integrated, the soundtrack is incredibly generic, fairly buggy and at times has major performance hickups for seemingly no reason, dialogue options are bethesda-esque, combat system's the most boring combat in the history of video games, classes feel poorly balanced, the romance options feel out of place, I don't really like any of the characters, the animation is often too stiff and lifeless to allow the voice performances to really flourish, the Ui is clunky, the controls can be janky.... I honestly hated this so much it made me go back and try Baldur's Gate 1 for the first time ever. 4 hours in I'm having a blast with it, total opposite experience. This is a completely overproduced butchering of the original game. You can't just spend 4 years recording dialogue and have it come out to a good game. In the effort to faithfully deliver an adaptation of a freeform tabletop game based on spontaneous alterations to the script and/or player freedom...They met the limitations of Video games as a medium and didn't really do anything to get around that fact. Even with taking what in my eyes is a very simplistic approach to alternate routes (Mostly just do you murder someone or not, with a boatload of the illusion of choice) it took 6 years to put together. Modern demands for a major triple A game make it incredibly unrealistic to expect anything I actually value from games like this to make it in. BG3 is more respectable than a lot of its contemporaries but still falls to the exact same traps. Modern Western RPGs absolutely LOVE wasting years of dev time on the wrong things.
The backdrop of a vaguely Soviet Union totalitarian regime and the nature of personhood in artificial intelligence go unexplored despite being the only source of narration for 2/3 of the game, before switching gears to an even more thinly articulated trauma allegory. There's a strong mechanical foundation here but without a coherent thematic or narrative direction it ends up little more than a competent imitation.