EDIT: I started this discussion without realising that the Project Eternity megathread also covers PoE2 related things. However, seeing that the existing thread is strictly no spoilers, I decided to rebrand this thread as a [SPOILERS ALLOWED] discussion of the game to avoid overlap. So fire away, fellow Principi!
I started playing PoE2 a week ago and I'm completely sucked in. It is as if the rest of the world has faded into obscurity. I find myself playing every chance I get, and when I'm not, it is all I can think about. I simply can't think remember the time I've been so excited about a new CRPG. Seriously, this game is that good.
PoE2 has definitely caught me off guard. I usually find modern games, even the critically acclaimed ones, to be lacking in comparison to the Infinity Engine classics. In one of my past threads, I bitched about how no game except Baldur's Gate seems to do it for me anymore. On top of that, I didn't really enjoy the first Pillars of Eternity all that much. I found it heavy, clunky and lacking in that ephemeral hard-to-trace something that separates a good game from a truly great one. As such, when PoE2 was announced, I was completely indifferent. I didn't back it and wasn't looking forward to playing it. I definitely didn't expect it to blow me away. Rarely have I been so glad to be proven wrong.
It seems like Obsidian really did their homework, because everything that annoyed me about the first installment seems to be either improved, changed or removed in the second. The double health bar, annoying stacking rules, unnecessarily verbose gold plated NPCs that added nothing to the story - all gone. The story companions, which I found dull and hard to relate to in the first game are much more fleshed out here. They banter, joke and involve themselves in conversations much more readily than in the first game. There are even romances now, which I honestly didn't expect. Overall, there seems to be a lot more humour around, in and out of conversations. Whereas PoE1 felt at times grim and overly serious, PoE2 is much more easygoing and lighthearted.
The colonial setting is a perfect change from the cookie-cutter medieval countryside of PoE1. The world of Deadfire reminds me of the Monkey Island games more than anything in the fantasy CRPG canon, and I mean this in a good way. I appreciate that Obsidian went for something fresh and quirky rather than clinging to more conventional, epic-writ-large high fantasy tropes. The ship is also a vast improvement over the original stronghold. Investing in upgrades and hirelings actually makes sense now. In fact, it is vital for getting ahead in the game, just as it should be.
The new multiclass system. Where do I even begin? It's brilliant, so much more intuitive and streamlined, yet so much more varied and complex than anything the first game had to offer. I've tried several multiclass builds and combos and they all seem to have their place, even the more unorthodox ones. And there's kits, too! Obsidian has really outdone themselves here. I'm currently playing a Herald (Troubadour/Shieldbearer) and it's exactly as fun as I'd imagine a D&D bard/paladin type of character to be, both rp and gameplay wise. I also appreciate that you get to multiclass story companions, too.
The combat, too, seems significantly improved from the first game. I'm playing on PotD with the latest difficulty patch [1.1 beta] and so far, the game has successfully kept me on my toes. Encounters are more varied and often require you to come up with creative solutions and strategies to handle. There's just something so satisfying about aiming your pistol at a barrel of gunpowder and have it demolish the enemy backline in a big bwoosh. I dig how spells and abilities are replenished after each battle, as this encourages a more all-out playstyle over carebear tactics. Also I like that there seem to be less filler encounters in dungeons, meaning the battles you fight are fewer but more challenging.
Excuse my rambling. The point I'm trying to make is that this game delivers. Do yourself a favour and give it a try, even if you, like me, didn't particularly enjoy the first game. In closing, I want to say that for the first time in a long, long while, I'm playing a game that doesn't make me wish I was playing BG instead. And this means a lot coming out of a grizzled BG-veteran's mouth.