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Where this might become the most relevant in the game is that instead of having a central keep as your base of operations, it looks like you're going to use a ship. Your ship has a crew, it requires supplies including food, water and cannonballs, and it has to be kept repaired. It also looks like you'll get to upgrade (or replace) your ship as you go along, so you'll get to become a terror of the seas, or a pirate hunter, or maybe a friendly but boring merchant.
However, the few ship battles I tried out weren't great. Instead of action sequences involving maneuvering ships around, everything is handled via text. During each round of a battle, you get a certain number of actions depending on your sailing rank, and these actions can be to sail forward, or turn, or fire your cannons, or redeploy your crew (in case, for example, one of your cannoneers gets wounded, leaving you with an untended cannon). I tried a couple of times to close in with the other ship, but this just got my ship blown to pieces, and so I contented myself with using my cannons at every opportunity. If you destroy the other ship, then you collect a lot of gear from the enemy crew (and you can share the captured gold with your own crew to improve their morale). If you're able to capture the ship, then maybe that's a way to receive supplies or upgrade your ship. Ships have equipment slots for things like hull, sails, and cannons, so hopefully equipping your ship will be just as fun as equipping your party.
When regular combat pops up, it's handled in real time, but you're allowed to pause the game whenever you want to take stock of the situation and give orders. By default, all of your characters use AI, but you're allowed to turn it on or off at will, or change how it works. The AI functions reasonably well, but your characters use up their abilities and spells quickly, and my wizard didn't have any issue with blowing up my party, so I eventually turned it off. I would have liked a setting where my party fights with their weapons automatically, but I control abilities and spells. If there's an easy way to set up the (perhaps overly complicated) AI system to do that, I didn't see it.
Instead of the strange health system from Pillars of Eternity (where characters only got to use some of their health for each battle), now characters just have health, and if they lose it all during a battle, then they get knocked out and receive an injury. If your entire party gets knocked out, then you die and have to load your game, and if a character gets knocked out while they have an injury, then they get killed, and you have to replace them (or, more likely, load your game).
All abilities and spells are limited on a per battle basis, and characters automatically (and quickly) regain their health at the end of a battle. So the only reason to rest is to remove injuries. That means you don't need to rest very often, and you can hang onto resting bonuses (gained from resting at an inn or from eating special foods when camping) for much longer.
The battles I saw were tough, and none of them were of the trash variety, so you're not likely to get bored while exploring. I didn't see any boss creatures (like dragons), and the equipment rewards weren't very exciting, but those might be works in progress. However, I did see a soulbound weapon (which you can level up by attaching it to a character, potentially making it very powerful), so those are back
In total, the preview version of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire that I played took about five hours to complete. Supposedly, it included about 5% of the total game content, which makes it easy to calculate that the Deadfire campaign might take somewhere around 100 hours to complete. Everything looks promising at this point, and I'm confident that Obsidian will file away the existing rough edges to produce a polished gaming experience. Look for Deadfire to become available starting on April 3rd.
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