Yeah, I think I'm going to start using Pillars as the gaming equivalent of chamomile tea. This game just makes my eyelids droop, and I think I've figured out why. In DA:O and Divinity Original Sin 2, both games I've ended up loving, there's just way more sense of impact and connection to the world. I didn't even realize what a difference the fact that DA:O uses a third person camera and you move the character by yourself makes, but it definitely helps connect with the world and characters more. In Pillars, when you just click on the party to go somewhere, and twiddle your thumbs while you wait for them to do so (even on fast mode), it definitely lessens the feeling of controlling characters in a world, and feels more like moving pieces on a board.
Well, Divinity OriSin 2 also uses a strictly isometric camera, so what gives? Well, OriSin 2 takes place in a 3D world with a fully rotating camera, whereas Pillars' background are strictly 2D and single-angle. OriSin's environments are also incredibly interactive, allowing you to pick up basically anything that's not nailed down, right down to cutlery and sometimes even single coins, and everything is fully 3D rendered. Pillars operates much more in abstract 2D art, lessening a sense of tactility in the world. Considering these games were made on comparable budgets and schedules in comparable timeframes, Pillars feeling so cheap in comparison is a dire mark against it indeed.
The NPC conversations are also incredibly boring, and I've also figured out why: it's literally like reading a book, and not a very interesting one at that. DA:O and OriSin 2 both have fully voice acted (and really well acted to boot) dialogue, which are both enhanced by a switching camera and exquisite narration respectively. DA:O's camera is literally just shot-reverse shot, and the facial animation looks laughable these days, but I never realized how much more palatable it made those long, loooong bouts of dialogue. Pillars has neither, not even music cues or partial phrases uttered out loud, and my eyes just glaze over the paragraphs and paragraphs of text.
Also I'm not sure this game even works the way I understand it should, because no matter how much I try to set specific movement formations, the party always moves in a 2x2 formation, and most of the time i seems the character who talks to NPCs is picked at random. Which gets pretty fucking frustrating when in combat the wizard always seems to run in head first. And I have no idea how the party AI system is supposed to work either. It says that the party AI is active, but in combat the characters do literally nothing until I command them to, and at that point I'm not sure if they're following their AI script or my commands strictly.
Oof, only a little over 4 hours in and I'm already bitching this much? Oh no...