Not a full review of Pillars 2 yet, but some random observations from what I have seen so far.
I love the ship/island setting, which I thought I would not. Sailing around on a ship allows the world in PoE2 to feel more like an open world compared to PoE1 and moving around its map on pre-determined lines, but the sea setting means the devs didn’t have to spend years detailing a world ala Skyrim. Plus since you land on smaller island at designated anchor spots, you’re movement is still limited and not every important spot needs to be blocked by mountains or behind convenient rivers. It’s perhaps a small thing, but it helps a great deal in creating a more believable world.
Speaking of the setting, PoE2 pushes the world building and depth of culture far more than PoE1 did, and PoE1 was no slouch in that area. At first all of the slang terms in text/speech can seem a bit much, but it all ended up drawing me in and again making for a more believable world. The Elder Scrolls games today, following Skyrim, have really established Tamrial and its culture, and I think PoE2 does a similar job for Eora.
Going back to being on a ship, its basically another piece of gear you upgrade as you go. You can buy different ships, each having different layouts and slots for crew and cannons. You can also buy upgrades such as sails, anchors, and better hull armor. The ship to ship combat is likely the most ‘controversial’ part of the game, as its done via a ‘choose your own adventure’ style text rather than actual moving combat. It’s perhaps not ideal, but with how many games have horrible ship combat, taking a shortcut with text is fine by me, and you can still get some decent strategy out of it. Having one side of your ship equipped with long-range cannons, while the other has short-range, allows you to dictate engagement range, and once you disable the enemy ship’s sails and/or crew, you can stay in their blind spot range and fire away, which really helps in dealing with significantly stronger ships. For easier ships/crews, you can go right to boarding them and into in-game melee combat.
At about 30 hours into the game, the amount of content seems staggering. You have the main quest and the major side plots, there are companion quests, major story arks in seemingly every major city, bounties to hunt down, and then all the little quests/tasks that you come across. I’ve yet to experience a ‘bad’ quest, and a few have been especially great. Companions interact more with the world and quests as well compared to PoE1, which makes who you bring along more impactful. There interactions with each other have also been ramped up.
Perhaps the thing I’m happiest about right now with PoE2 is that its more of PoE1, and the new stuff fits in well rather than changing the core formula of what works. PoE1 was a newer Baldurs Gate, and that formula STILL works today, so why screw with it, right?