So, I completed the game. My first playthrough. It was nice to see the old game, the new content gave some fresh air and it really rises my hopes of a baldur's gate 3. But this hopes about BG3 is what makes me write all this. I promise (though sometimes I could be a little harsh, sorry) I want to be as constructive as possible because I think that continuing in this direction could bring down the experience of a possible future BG3. And the topic says it all: the creation team needs more game designers. Much more, in fact. This game is a game with a huge amount of content, and this content needs to be properly cared. As far as I can see, the content seems like a bit rushed, like if the team lacked of enough design man power. Maybe I am wrong and the reasons behind a different, but still, I think a little of constructive criticism is never bad, though not sure this will even be read by the development team, but there I go.
Let's talk about the new content. First, the overall art is pretty outstanding, to the point that the old art looks rather inferior to the new one. The dorn's quest were the most outstanding of them all. I am not going to say any spoilers, but let's say that his quest in TOB was gorgeous.
Then, the new characters. Very interesting all of them. Nice writting. Different from the original game, but good in their own way. Every character has their own personality, and the character management is awesome. Adding wild magic into the party changed the gameplay and the character's personality plays around that pretty well. Hexxat's micromanagement with her cloak was also very nice adition. She is just a thief, but she doesn't play like a thief any longer, which is good. Dorn was not very special except for the fact of being overpowered, being an awesome substitute of sarevok in SoA, and sadly I cannoy say anything about Rassad, since he was not in my party.
But that's it. A good base is broken by the lack on a good design in several parts. Some of them are quite bad. The designers should have noticed it ATM. Actually, it's quite low in the standards, and probably the new content would not has passed the ergonomy rules of even small companies. Maybe because of the huge load of work, so it could has been fixed just by having some man power in design section.
For instace, the dorn's TOB quest. It is really possible for the player to get stuck in there. Yeah, you can always exit to the plane, but this is bad design. The game should take in account all the possibilities. If the door is closed, something has to happen, the player needs a feedback to understand the situation. Even if he has to search for an exit, player should know his status, mission must be ended and be reported to the player.
There were other situations that were quite annoying. Being teleported in and out in the neera's quest was simply bad design. Why to do this? You were not even able to get the drop of the enemies, you were teleported somewhere else, with no control of what is happening. Then you come into an area where it's impossible to recognice the exit, and once found, you keep on in a place where you cannot sleep (though you are said you can) or exit. You are trapped in a house. Yes? No! Because you can always escape to the planar bag. But the worst is that once you do that, you cannot come back and complete your mission. If you choose to go to saradush or outside, you are done. Though, the fact that you cannot rest, which was supposed to be the iconic challenge of the mission, is screwed.
Now we go for hexxat's quest. The dungeons are well designed. Though a little out of place being able to go anywhere in the world but not being able to explore it, they were kind of enjoyable, except for some issues. First, having to remove the scepter in order to get out of the dungeon. Ok, cool, if it weren't because you keep it with you... for nothing. It's already bad in the original game that once an object made it's purpose it kept in your inventory, but far worse is that the game leads the player into picking it back again after being used. The fact that you have to pick up the object makes the player to subconciously think that what he got is important, and it's not. It goes against the basic logic, and it's cool to do that when you have a challenge or a purpose, but this is not the case. In fact, it's a situation that have few super simple solutions. First, take back the object to the first place you found it, instead of just picking it back. Second, when you set the object in place it becomes a lever which you can set on or off, and it stays there. Third, when you take out the object it get's broken/dissapears. Fourth, make the object a real object that can be equipped.
Furthermore, we have in the third (i think) dungeon three objects that no one knows what they do. Oh yeah, the developers said their purpose, but needing a GD next to you to explain you what things are for is a sign of bad design. The three objects have no real purpose in the end, because the dungeon can be completed again without them, and most of the people does it that way. But they react without feedback. Suddenly one object changes his weight to some ridiculous value. Well, I can understand the challenge, but it's poorly developed. It changes the weight in a very confusing place, full of enemies and traps, a place where the player is totally focused in other things. Again, not noticing something is harder, but harder is not synonym of better challenge, so is not here. The idea could be very nice, and in fact, developing some puzzle involving carrying objects that changes their weight could have been quite cool, but it ended up being something rather poor because of the lack of communication with the player. When the player finds out what's going on is quite late, it has a lot of chances of ending up in a reload and getting rid of the object, so getting rid of the challenge.
There is more. It happens the same as with the scepter. You can carry it all along the game. Not the statue, of course. Or yes? Because you pick the object, some kind of reliq and the brain says "it should be for something". And it is not, because in the end no one knows what is it for or if it has a different purpose than holding you in the trap. But you can carry it by giving it to your teammates. This way you can carry it al along. So the first thing a player should think is "if I can carry this it means it has some purpose". Then somehow, after discarding all the options in the dungeon I thought "maybe it's only purpose is to be sold". A 1000 pounds gold statue should worth a million, but no. Not even one gold. You cannot sell it. You carried it from who knows where to the copper coronet and you cannot sell it. Obviously the huge gold statue ended up inside a little bag in the coronet's kitchen. This is a problem of communication with the player and with a dedicated GD could have been avoided.
Then we get some unbalancing issues. Some aspects of the game has been changed. And as result, some situation's difficulty changed. Sometimes for easier, most of them for harder. But in any case, it affected the intended difficulty curve. The GD responsible of balancing the game should have taken the changes in account and balanced the issue. Every GD works under constrains, and the fact that they could not touch the original game is not excuse to not to balance it. If something got broken, GDs should give solutions, and if no solution is possible, then don't do whatever it breaks the game. Game curve is very hard to balance, for sure, but unbalancing it more is not solution. Examples of these situations can be found all around the forum, with "suddenly hard combats" or directly the opposite.
Then we get some rule breaking features. Ok, I can understand that designers wanted to make some combats more difficult and tried to avoid some exploits. But game rules should never be broken. Ok, there is always some exceptions. Having to make a game with a lot of content always leads into a situation or two where it happens. But you were able to know which combat was new because the wizards recovered their spells.
Let's talk about the user interface. I won't enter in opinions about how good or bad it is. That's opinions. But there are some really big mistakes in there. The UI for the disabled buttons had almost the same graphic. It might look like a bug where the button is calling the wrong graphic, but if you look carefuly, no. They are different. It's hard for the player to recognice what's happening there and it leads into confusion, specially if you don't know very well the D&D rules. Even if artist's didn't take this in account, GDs should have noticed it and reported, as well as the production team should have not approved this. Yeah, it was corrected in the update, but it's something that should be designed from the very beginning. A user interface is responsability of both artist and game designers and the result should be communicative and legible.
And I will stop here. Don't take me wrong. I love the game, I can see how the development team has great ideas and it is still very fun to play. But I think these scattered issues could be a huge problem if they appear as a constant in a future product. I am sure that most of the development team is aware also about these situations and maybe I am not saying anything new. But I really have huge hopes in a real continuation of the BG saga (after the big dissapointment of neverwinter nights that lost the spirit), and I just would like to give my two cents, just in case. I really would prefer, in case of a brand new game, that the game design power is big enough to have all the content well designed, structured and polished. Even if it means reducing in other context. I'd prefer a well worked city that a hundred of areas like the new ones that are totally empty.
Though the thread is clearly oriented to the development team, I would like the users to expose their thoughts about it from a development perspective.