Starting with a cutscene which shows the rogue god Eothas rise up out of Caed Nua and walking off with part of the soul of the Watcher. Pillars of Eternity 2 Deadfire puts players in the shoes of the Watcher from the previous game. From the little intro section, you may import your save from the first game or select one of a few ways events could have played out. Regaining your body only to be immediately besieged by pirates, the adventure beings proper in the Deadfire Archipelago. Along the way, you’ll get in naval battles, take on bounties and chart uncharted islands as you try to stop Eothas.
Here at the intro, we run into the first issue with the game, the number of customization options has been reduced. Being an Avian Godlike is no longer an option, head options have been reduced for the other godlike species as well. Admittedly this is a rather small gripe, but origins and backstory are often key parts in establishing a character in roleplaying. Especially considering that the Watcher is the main character from the previous game. Meaning it is entirely possible that your character from the first game had features that didn’t carry over despite being the same person, the same physical body canonically.
Obsidian do an excellent job of handling the world building and how different cultures are expressed in the Deadfire Archipelago. It is quite often to see different island cultures or tribes using slang or local vernacular for a situation. What makes this work is that often these words are highlighted, hovering over them gives you a brief synopsis of what these words mean or why they were used. They also do an excellent job of building conflict by setting up some merchant guilds as being exploitative and having some of the native factions automatically distrust all outsiders. Another nice touch was seeing the conflict within factions like how different pirate captains backstab and pedal influence to move up or retain their seat at the table for the captain’s council.
The combat takes a don’t fix what isn’t broken approach with it being the same as the first game. There are still tactical pauses, some cast per day or cast per rest spells as well as class resources being per encounter based. The biggest overall change to the gameplay comes from the ability to subclass or multiclass. For example, if you start a run with a Fighter you have the option to pick a subclass like the Devoted. The Devoted only gets to choose one weapon to specialize in and gets a bonus when wielding that weapon, but a penalty when using any other weapon. A Devoted Fighter could also multiclass with a Paladin to become a Templar or a Rogue to become a Swashbuckler. Though a character that chooses to multiclass will not be able to gain 8th or 9th level abilities from either main class so a Templar would be weaker than both a Fighter and a Paladin separately.