I never finished the first one, but I did definitely get some enjoyment out of it. As far as I remember I did mostly appreciate the upgrading and the horror aesthetic even though the actual horror was handled a bit clumsily. The game wasn’t always interested in building up tension, instead throwing yet another wave of extremely loud Necromorphs at me. Good point about the hubs! It seems like such a little thing, but it can help invest places with more meaning. I still hope to get back to it some day and maybe also play through the second one.
I’m finished with Tyranny (46 hours) with pretty much all of the available side content done. I did not visit part of the Oldwalls in the Blade Grave, but that’s the only bigger piece of content I’m aware of that I did not engage with. As I’ve probably mentioned I went with the Disfavored. I chose to visit Lethian’s Crossing instead of the Burning Library and I unlocked all of the Spires.
(Story Spoilers) I eventually ended up killing Bleden Mark and the Voices of Nerat while Tunon and Graven Ashe submitted to the leadership of my character. Wasn’t much of a fan of how all of that eventually turned out. The interaction of the main character with the Spires was potentially interesting, but the writers merely used it to make the main character unreasonably powerful which only served to turn the story into a bit of a mess in the last few hours. The problem is that the Archons are defined as powerful beings narratively, while the main character is supposed to be a so-called Fatebinder which is nevertheless running around killing tons of enemies. He’s basically just the errand boy doing everyone’s work with his party of adventurers, instead of engaging with diplomacy or doing some kind of investigation. It doesn’t help that how the Spires interact with our character is never explained and that the story doesn’t benefit from the player character becoming over-the-top powerful. Perhaps other ways of playing through the game work better narratively, but I have only seen one path.
My party consisted of Barik, Lantry and Kills-in-Shadow for most of the game. Barik ended up as the tank and party support, whereas Lantry had pretty high Lore and Control Life and accordingly was mostly casting spells and abilities for support, healing and such. Kills-in-Shadow was melee-oriented with unarmed attacks with no points put into the other skill tree. The main character turned out to be pretty effective at damage dealing with his two-handed weapons. Other than that he occasionally cast an Atrophy spell or some protective skill/spell to help out allies. His Control Atrophy and Lore skills never got all that high as compared to Two Handed Weapons.
Overall I did like the talent system. Not the way one progresses through it necessarily, but that everyone has unique talent trees is definitely a nice touch. I also appreciate that they tried to mix up the whole character creation system, but I’m not sure that it actually forms a sensible whole. Skills progressing with use leads to weird results like everyone being equally good at detecting hidden stuff, defusing traps and stealthing for instance. Then there are also skill trainers and everything also progresses with investment in the attributes. But I’m happy that the system throws out a lot of stuff that was in Pillars needlessly. No Elves, Dwarves, Paladins and other tired D&D-tropes anymore.
Unfortunately Tyranny has more bloat than is good for it. I think overall I prefer the item design to Pillars, but the game was throwing good equipment at me at a constant pace and I was constantly replacing stuff and barely had time to get attached to anything. There were also way too many consumables, which at least on Normal difficulty were mostly unncessary. It didn’t help that half of them had the “Armor stolen” bug in their descriptions.
Similar case with the many skills one gets throughout game progress from various sources. While some of them only provide passive bonuses a lot of them are active skills and there is consequently a lot of competition for the player’s time and attention. Combo-abilities make things worse since they require two of four character to stop whatever they are doing. For much of the time I was only using one of those to open up encounters and not really bothering with the others.
The spell system was interesting though. Lots of possibilities to make fairly interesting spells and Lore requirements are relatively strict - as opposed to basically all other skill checks in the game - so that it felt fairly meaningful to - for instance - craft a healing spell with various improvements and such high Lore requirements that only Lantry could cast it. My main character remained comparatively limited in that area.
In spite of all my complaining it should definitely prove interesting to make my way through the game with another ally at some point. Especially since I mostly liked the character building system.