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Darkest Dungeon II review: All aboard the murder-coach




Ride a stagecoach through a grim-dark world on the edge of ruin

Assemble a band of hardened but troubled anti-heroes

Battle against both real and emotional demons as you face the darkness

Darkest Dungeon, from Red Hook Studios, turned the entire genre on its head when it introduced the concept of PTSD to the standard dungeon crawler template. The heroes (for want of a better word) in that game were presented as more down-to-Earth, normal(ish) people than you usually see.

Afraid of the dark

Darkest Dungeon II takes that core concept and runs with it. Actually, it takes that concept and hops on a stagecoach with it, since that’s your primary mode of transport in the sequel. Instead of languishing in an inn between delves, your ragtag band of miserable hatemongers languishes in a rickety old stagecoach instead.

All aboard the murder-bus

You need to keep the flame burning, and you do that by winning fights and helping the needy. Unfortunately, winning fights is an incredibly difficult affair. See, Darkest Dungeon II continues its predecessor’s penchant for punishing you even in victory. You may win a desperate fight against a band of zombies or deranged cultists, but even if you, you may emerge somewhat changed.

Taking hits, missing blows, and seeing their allies die has devastating effects on your party members. You begin with just four, a decent enough crew comprised of a tank, a couple of DPS types, and a plague doctor who doubles as a healer, sort of. The thing is, the enemies in Darkest Dungeon II are just as strong, if not stronger. You will trade blow for blow based on an initiative system, but the odds always seem stacked against you.

Bonds of battle

As a result, you will lose people. When anything negative happens, your heroes will gain a little point against their mental health. Fill the gauge (actually a little row of dots under their name), and they’ll have a breakdown. This can have a multitude of effects, as can other negative consequences. You can lose the ability to hit your target, or you can suffer reduced damage or defence. Certain characters lose access to their moves.

What’s even more worrying is that you won’t know what your heroes will be afflicted with until it happens. Surviving encounters requires a lot of skill and even more luck. It’s not just a case of staying alive; it’s what you have to live with afterwards.

In order to take this concept to the next level, Red Hook Studios have deepened the systems at play in a pretty extraordinary way. Character actions can now directly affect the other characters. They’ll accuse each other of kill-stealing, or of favouring other party members if you heal one of them first. Just as they can build relationships during brief moments of respite, so too can they fall out.

Love in a time of plague

Sometimes they’ll form bonds – not always romantically, although it can happen. They can become respectful of one another, in which case they’ll sometimes attack in tandem. They can grow fond of one another, in which case they’ll often step in front of their beau to take damage for them. It’s an intricate system, though perhaps a little too intricate.

See, it’s almost impossible to identify which actions will cause a rift between characters, and it all seems pretty random. Also, certain actions can instantly shatter previously built bonds, which is annoying as much as anything. My Highwayman, Dismas, ended up going so mad at the Plague Doctor that it affected his ability to shoot straight. A literal blind rage.

And yet despite this, it remains eminently playable. You’re intended to die, you see? It’s supposed to happen. Although, Darkest Dungeon II is much more of a roguelike than its predecessor. Now you’ll permanently unlock gear and trinkets on each run – or at least, the possibility of them. Everything you find will be added to the loot pool in subsequent attempts, while you can unlock permanent skills for each character by using special shrines.

Tragic heroes

Now and then you’ll meet people out on the road who will need your help. There’s no actual transaction here, and you can’t really say no to them, but it’s still a way to build or break relationships. Not that you’ve any real control, mind. You can pick what you like, but if your Plague Doctor gives your Defender the last After Eight instead of the Highwayman, all hell will break loose.

Despite the inherent difficulty and the unpredictable relationship system, the combat is what makes Darkest Dungeon II so damn good. It’s so impactful, visceral, even, if you’ll permit the use of the word. The battle music is incredibly atmospheric, and watching your heroes dive in front of one another to take damage, or deliver punchy, violent blows to the enemy is an absolute joy.

It’s a shame, then, that it veers away from this at times, attempting to shoe-horn in what can only be described as mini-games. And you have to indulge, too, if you want to unlock extra skills. The Shrines are a bit too hit and miss, requiring you to faff around with new mechanics, none of which we’ll spoil other than to say that they’re not as fun as just fighting for your life against the enemy.

Achievements & Completion

Although Darkest Dungeon II looks finished (it really does look stunning), it’s actually an early access game. All that’s available right now is the first of five chapters, though you can unlock extra characters and skills, and its roguelike nature means there’s lots of replayability.

Completing a run straight through may only take a few hours, but it will take several hours of trying and failing and swearing and crying before you get there.

Final thoughts on Darkest Dungeon II Pros Relationship system has massive potential Looks and sounds amazing Combat is brutal and addictive Cons Negative effects are too unpredictable New mechanics are hit and miss So, so grim

Final score: 3/5

It’s easy to see why Red Hook has opted for the early access approach here. This is more than just a continuation or copy of the first game. It introduces a host of new mechanics and gameplay elements, not all of which work as intended. It also feels bigger, maybe grander, despite being technically unfinished in terms of the campaign.

What’s here right now though is absolutely worth your time. That said, it really is incredibly dark and deliberately grim, so some people may be put off. If you’re a fan of the world and its systems, though, you won’t be disappointed by what’s on offer.

Darkest Dungeon II is available for around $19.99 on the Epic Games Store. You can find the details and recommended specs here.

*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC. Review copy provided by publisher.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus Review: The All

About this Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus review: I tested the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus review unit over a period of seven days. It was running Android 12 on the January 2023 security patch with Samsung One UI 4.1. The unit was provided by Samsung for this review.

Update, July 2023: We’ve updated this review with new alternatives and software information.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus (8GB/128GB): $999 / £949 / €1,059 / CA$1,399.99 / Rs. 84,999

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus (8GB/256GB): $1,049 / £999 / €1,109 / CA$1,469.99 / Rs. 88,999

Armor Aluminum, Gorilla Glass Victus Plus

157.4 x 78.5 x 7.6mm


Ultrasonic in-display fingerprint reader


Stereo speakers

Phantom Black, Phantom White, Green, Pink Gold, (Graphite, Cream, Sky Blue, Violet — online only)

6.6 inches, Dynamic AMOLED 2x

2,340 x 1,080 resolution


19.5:9 aspect ratio, 120Hz refresh rate

There’s no question it’s one of the brightest phone screens I’ve ever viewed.

The S22 Plus’ killer feature is called Vision Boost. You can thank the Dynamic AMOLED 2X lighting for this feature, which provides brightness levels of up to a whopping 1,750 nits. This incredible brightness (the same as the S22 Ultra) allows you to use the phone outdoors under direct sunlight with total ease. There’s no question it’s one of the brightest phone screens I’ve ever viewed. It comes across as more vivid and dynamic when compared to the iPhone 13, Pixel 6, and older Samsung models. It’s a video monster.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1

Adreno 730


128GB / 256GB non-expandable storage

What about those pesky benchmarks? We ran the phone through the gauntlet, including 3DMark, AnTuTu, and GeekBench, and the phone put up solid numbers, but they weren’t quite the chart-topping figures that we were expecting. The CPU numbers achieved by the S22 Plus often only equaled those of Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100-based devices. Meanwhile, Apple’s A15 Bionic, in the iPhone 13 Pro, beat the pants off of the 8 Gen 1 on CPU scores.

Battery: Better than ultra

Eric Zeman / Android Authority


45W wired charging

15W wireless charging

Wireless Power Share

The Galaxy S22 Plus delivered noticeably better battery life than the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

On an average day with the S22 Plus, I scored a respectable screen-on time of about seven hours. That’s a bit more than what I got with the S22 Ultra. Further, the phone was ending the day with more left in the tank — closer to 40% than the Ultra’s 30%. That allowed me to use the phone through the morning of the following day before requiring a recharge. In sum, the Galaxy S22 Plus delivered noticeably better battery life than its larger stablemate despite the difference in battery capacities.

Like the Ultra, the S22 Plus charges at a maximum of 45W via a USB Power Delivery PPS-compatible charger. Samsung doesn’t ship a charger in the box, so you’ll have to pick one up on your own. Using a Samsung 45W charger we saw excellent charging times for the S22 Plus. It typically topped up from 0% to 100% in just over 50 minutes, and easily reached the 50% mark in just 25 minutes. That’s not the fastest we’ve seen, but it’s fast enough for most people.

Wireless charging is limited to 15W, the same as the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Our 18W Qi wireless pad needed a solid 90 minutes to recharge the Galaxy S22 Plus from zero, which is a significant improvement over the wireless charging time required for the S22 Ultra’s larger battery. There’s also reverse wireless charging available at a pokey 4.5W. It’s slow-going to recharge accessories such as smartwatches, but the S22 Plus is on par with the competition in this respect.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus won’t net you two days of battery life, but it easily outlasted the S22 Ultra by reaching lunch of the second day. For many users, that should be plenty adequate, and you can always give it a boost with a few new charging accessories.

Camera: Keeping up with the family

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

50MP, Dual Pixel AF, OIS, (f/1.8, 1.0μm)

12MP ultrawide, (f/2.2, 1.4μm, 120-degree FoV)

10MP telephoto, 3x optical zoom, OIS (f/2.4, 1.0μm)

10MP front camera, (f/2.2, 0.7µm, 80-degree FoV)

4K video up to 60fps, 8K up to 24fps

The megapixel count may be different, but the results from the main camera are practically identical to those of the S22 Ultra. That is to say, shots taken in a variety of settings show solid focus with proper white balance and good exposure. Samsung’s treatment of color continues to be a bit more oversaturated than competing devices, but the company has dialed things back so the results aren’t too ostentatious. HDR worked well in the majority of shots and, most importantly, the images mostly match what my eyes saw in the real world.

The telephoto camera has an optical range of 3x compared to the main camera, as you can see from the photos above. I think the most important aspect of these images is the uniformity of exposure and color with the main camera. There’s still plenty of detail in these shots and the zooming action didn’t introduce too much noise, either.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a second, dedicated 10x zoom telephoto lens that the S22 Plus does not share. The sample images at 10x zoom, like the 3x shots, still show color uniformity and carry over a pleasing amount of details. You will see more noise in these images, however, and they’re not quite as sharp.

The 12MP ultrawide does a fine job. It pulls things out to a focal length that is 0.6x that of the main lens. There’s clearly some optical distortion in these images, which reach a 120-degree field of view, but that’s part of the fun of ultrawide cameras. They certainly give you a different perspective. Again, the color tone matches the other cameras and there’s still lots of detail, good exposure, and little noise.

In the series above you can see the entire focal range of the Galaxy S22 Plus, which can run from ultrawide through 30x Super Zoom (a combination of digital zoom and Samsung’s AI Super Resolution technology). The photos through about the 10x setting are totally usable, but the 20x and 30x images are beginning to look a bit rough. As you can see, however, the S22 Plus provides users with an excellent amount of focal range that allows for lots of creativity when snapping pics.

The S22 Plus is able to take portraits from both the main camera and the telephoto camera. The above series shows you what a standard photo looks like from the main camera followed by a 1x portrait and then a 3x portrait. The bokeh in the 1x portrait is subtle and the focal depth leaves enough room that both figures appear to be in focus. The bokeh in the 3x portrait is far more aggressive, which means Washington’s head stands out more. One thing to note: the S22 Plus produced better exposure in this series than the S22 Ultra did.

Here is a series of selfies and self-portraits, taken during the day and at night. The daytime photos are decent all around, with good focus, exposure, and detail. The night shots are a lot softer and much grainier. One thing to point out, the default “single person” selfie view provides images that are only 6.5MP in size. You have to use the “multi-person” view (or wide-angle selfie) to get the full 10MP from the front camera.

How does the S22 Plus camera fare at night? It does a fairly decent job most of the time. Critically, the exposures, color, and details are more or less identical to the results of the S22 Ultra. That suggests Samsung’s software is doing a good job. That’s not to say the photos are perfect. For example, despite giving the lenses a fresh coating meant to help reduce glare in nighttime shots, you can see plenty of it from the lights in the pictures above. The bottom three photos are all the same scene taken with the three different cameras. Again, even at night, the consistency across the photos is impressive.

Android 12

One UI 4.1

Four years of OS updates, five years of security updates

The Galaxy S22 Plus offers a smooth, well-supported, feature-packed Android experience.

Samsung gave the Galaxy S22 Plus a powerful selection of software, features, and controls. While it doesn’t include the S Pen functionality of the S22 Ultra, the S22 Plus is still one of the most capable Android smartphones in the market and shouldn’t be ignored even by power users.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus is one of the best phones in the market right now.

That’s not to say everything is perfect. Samsung cheaped out a bit on the memory and storage options, particularly when you consider there’s no expandable storage. The speakers could be better, too.

In the long run, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus is one of the best phones in the market. It may not boast the extravagance of the Galaxy S22 Ultra with its quirky S Pen, but it’s not trying to. The Galaxy S22 Plus stands firmly on its own ground with its own strengths and its own identity, making it the top Android phone from 2023 for those who don’t need a stylus.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus top questions and answers

Yes, the S22 Plus is IP68 rated, meaning it will survive in up to 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes.

No, the Galaxy S22 Plus does not come with a charger in the box. Check out our guide for the best options.

No, the Galaxy S22 Plus does not expandable storage, which means you have to think carefully about which variant to get. You can choose between 128GB and 256GB models.

The S22 Ultra has a larger screen with a higher resolution, a slightly better camera system, and a larger battery. It can also be had with more RAM and storage — see our detailed comparison here.

The main differences are that the S22 Plus has a larger display, a bigger battery, and supports faster charging (45W vs 25W).

There are seven colors to choose from: Phantom Black, Phantom White, Green, Pink Gold, Cream Graphite, Sky Blue, and Violet. However, the last three are online exclusives on Samsung’s official store.

No. Unlike the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the S22 Plus has a flat display.

Yes, the Galaxy S22 Plus supports both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G technology.

Yes, the Galaxy S22 Plus is among the best — if not the best — phones in its class.

Lenovo C325 Review: An Unimpressive All

It’s always nice when PC makers cram above-average components into budget-friendly, space-saving, energy-efficient machines. This is not one of those machines, however. The Lenovo C325 all-in-one PC costs just $499 (as of April 10, 2012), but this is definitely a case of “you get what you pay for.”

Our review model came with an AMD E-450 processor, which explains the system’s performance scores–though the dual-core E-450 packs decent integrated HD graphics, this processor is designed for small laptops and netbooks. The C325 also has 4GB of RAM, 500GB of hard-drive space, and built-in 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and it runs the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.


Graphics performance on the C325 is nearly nonexistent, too. The integrated AMD Radeon HD 6320 graphics hardware is okay for casual multimedia consumption, but not much else. In PCWorld’s Dirt 3 graphics tests, the C325 managed an unplayable frame rate of 16.2 frames per second (medium quality, 1024 by 768 pixels). In other words, the C325 is a gaming machine only if you’re a Minesweeper aficionado.


Housed in an all-metal chassis, the C325 sports a matte 20-inch screen with a slim, shiny black bezel. A 0.3-megapixel webcam is located at the top center, and Lenovo’s logo sits at the bottom center. The power button occupies the right side, while screen/volume adjustment buttons and a screen-off button reside on the left. Slightly curved silver speakers jut out from underneath the bottom portion of the bezel, and the entire system sits on a sturdy, tiltable stand.

On the left side of the system, directly behind the screen, are a few convenience ports: a multiformat card reader, two USB 2.0 ports, and microphone and headphone jacks. The right side of the AIO houses the tray-loading DVD-RW drive. The rest of the ports–four USB 2.0 ports, one gigabit ethernet connection, and a lock slot–are on the back of the machine, easily accessible in the lower-left corner. Nothing too fancy, but since this is a budget AIO with a netbook processor, it’ll do.

Screen, Speakers, and Peripherals

The C325’s 20-inch screen has a native resolution of 1600 by 900 pixels, and is unremarkable in every way. It’s bright enough, but the matte texture leaves images and text looking soft and slightly out of focus. Individual pixels are clearly visible, and video playback struggles. Blacks are sort of gray, colors look washed out, and high-def streaming video with dark scenes looks sort of 16-bit, with visible color gradation. Our review model didn’t come with a touchscreen, but you can get a touchscreen on the C325 for around $50 more.

The speakers on the C325 are like laptop speakers–pretty bad, but useful if you just want to, well, listen to something. The two 3-watt speakers are located directly below the screen and face forward. They’re acceptably loud, though you will hear some fuzziness at higher volume levels. Sound is generally muffled, and lacks bass and fullness. Lenovo does include SRS Premium Sound enhancement, which offers a mediocre surround-sound simulation.

As for peripherals, the C325 comes with a very basic keyboard and mouse, both of which are USB-wired. The keyboard features flat, Chiclet-style keys that have a slightly rounded bottom and a soft-touch feel. The keys are comfortable to type on, and offer surprisingly good feedback despite their soft-touch nature. Also included on the keyboard are volume controls and a silver button that opens Lenovo’s Vantage Technology software with one touch. The optical mouse, equipped with two buttons and a scrollwheel, is slightly jumpy and oversensitive. It’s also very narrow–a little too skinny, even for my small hands.

Bottom Line

Lenovo’s C325 is simply unimpressive all around. It’s boring to look at, it’s a poor performer, and multimedia looks and sounds average at best (and awful at worst).

But all is not lost–the C325 has a small footprint, both physically and environmentally, thanks to its decently sleek design and energy-efficient netbook-class processor. Plus, it’s fairly cheap. So if you’re looking for a budget-friendly, space-friendly, and environment-friendly computer–and you don’t really care about performance–this might be the all-in-one for you. I think it would make a good secondary PC (especially if you snag the touchscreen option) for a kitchen or for a child’s room.

Lost Ark Hall Of The Twisted Warlord Abyss Dungeon Guide

Lost Ark Hall of the Twisted Warlord Abyss Dungeon guide

Need a hand with the Lost Ark Hall of the Twisted Warlord Abyss dungeon? We have the tactics and tips covered.

So, you have completed the Demon Beast Canyon and Necromancer’s Origin Abyss Dungeon and want to try your hand at the next challenge on offer? This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the Lost Ark’s Hall of the Twisted Warlord, Abyss dungeon, which is the third dungeon you unlock.

Be aware, to enter this dungeon you need to have a party of four players with 460+ item level, who have all completed the previous two Abyss Dungeons to enter. Keep this in mind if you’re forming your own party, as may need to use matchmaking if you don’t have the right squad ready.

Lost Ark Hall of the Twisted Warlord Abyss Dungeon Mechanics and Tactics

The first thing you need to know is this dungeon uses the typical two boss setup. Also, each of the bosses in the Hall of the Twisted Warlord Abyss Dungeon contains wipe mechanics. Keep in mind we will explain these tactics, and recommend tips you need to overcome what could be a disaster.

Rook and Bishop tactics, tips, and mechanics

The first boss encounter in this dungeon will test your teamwork and strategy. There are two bosses in this encounter that you are going to want to make sure you kill at the same time, to avoid one of them going berserk.

The major mechanic to understand for this fight is the Phantom power team wipe ability that happens twice throughout the fight. A message will pop up to let you know this is about to happen, at which point Rook – the large boss – will move to the outside of the arena and begin targeting a random player. You will know if you are being targeted as a red target icon will appear above your head.

If you are targeted, you need to move to the opposite side of Bishop (who will be standing in the middle of the arena) from Rook. Rook will then fire a blast of energy towards you and stun Bishop who would have wiped the team. If you are not targeted, you will be surrounded by a purple knockback aura, you need to avoid bumping your teammates as well as Rook’s blast during this time.

Here is an example of the blast with the structure spawns.

In phase 2, the targeted player needs to do the same again, stand behind Bishop and wait for Rook’s stun blast. If you are not targeted this time around, you will need to destroy the structures that spawn in a circle around Bishop to prevent them from blocking the stun blast.

Other than that, there are several other minor skills you can watch out for. Each of the bosses has its own skillset, so we have listed the Rook and Bishop mechanics below.

Rook abilities

Double punch – Punches first with the right hand directly in front of himself. Then punches with the left and swipes in an arc to his left side.

Bellyflop – After a short delay, bellyflops to a targeted cross-marked location.

Bishop abilities

Shadow Orbs – Four shadow orbs are pulled in a cross pattern from the sides of the arena towards Bishop, she then fires them back out rotated forty-five degrees. The Orbs will also appear as AOE zones on the floor, exploding after a few seconds.

Cross Lasers – Target markers appear on the floor in a cross pattern from Bishop. After a few seconds lasers fire in these areas. The target markers then rotate forty-five degrees and the lasers fire again.

Single Lasers – Similar to the last ability, except this time the lasers are fired one by one and in quick succession rather than simultaneously.

Dark Lines – Long, straight lines of damage. These attacks are not particularly telegraphed but do quite low damage.

Phantom Legion King tactics, tips and mechanics

The second team wipe mechanic is one that seems to trigger randomly throughout the fight. The boss will again summon a shield and will do damage in cones around himself. If the boss remains in this state for too long, he will charge up and eventually wipe the party. Hit him with everything you have in this stage, prioritising those stagger abilities.

Legion King mechanics

Sword Swipes – The boss attacks a target in front of him with two sword swipes.

Sword Wave – The boss will change stance, his sword will begin to glow and after a short time will release a wave of energy if he is over 50% health, or three waves in a triangle if he is below 50%.

Dash and Dive – A rapid dash attack dealing damage in a line. He then teleports above the map and slams down in an AOE below him.

Sword Portal – Periodically, a purple portal will appear and begin raining swords down. Where every sword will land is shown by a purple ring on the ground.

Spinning Swords – On occasion, the boss will fill the arena with spinning swords that slowly move towards him. There is usually a gap somewhere that players can dash through to avoid being hit.

Dive/Dash and Cone – The Legion King will dive towards the nearest target twice in a row dealing damage, and then release a large cone of damage in the direction he is facing. Later in the fight, he begins to dash in a line rather than dive towards the target.

This concludes the Lost Ark Hall of the Twisted Warlord Abyss Dungeon Guide. When you are done with this dungeon, you can now progress onto the Hildebrandt Palace. If you found this guide useful, why not check out our Lost Ark hub?

Pillars Of Eternity Ii: Deadfire Review: A Strong Ship In Shallow Waters

The groundwork was laid for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire to be a spectacular sequel. Its predecessor, 2023’s Pillars of Eternity, did the heavy lifting. It proved Obsidian could resurrect the spirit of the old Infinity Engine RPGs for modern times, underpinned by modern technology. Flawed, sure—the original Pillars of Eternity had its problems. But with the engine developed and the underlying rules in place, the stage seemed set for a daring sequel, if not Baldur’s Gate II-sized at least one that felt that grand in scope.

Yo ho ho

You arrive in the titular Deadfire Archipelago for reasons I’m loathe to spoil. Suffice it to say, your peaceful life in the fortress of Caed Nua explodes in spectacular fashion, and when the dust settles the gods need your help again. As a Watcher, someone who can see and interact with the souls of the dead, you’re uniquely positioned to aid them.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

Problem is, most of the game feels incidental. I’ve struggled to pinpoint why. There’s certainly “a lot” in Pillars of Eternity II—a lot of dialogue, a lot of quests, a lot of areas to explore.

And early on it can feel like the game is full of potential. I was excited when I reached the first big city in Pillars of Eternity II, the stronghold of Neketaka. I spent probably 10 hours there, churning through backroom politics between the major factions—Principi (pirates), the Huana (rulers), and the two competing corporations of the Valian Trading Company and the Royal Deadfire Company.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

There’s a lot of complexity up front, every faction trying to undercut its rivals, and you sort of floating in between them all. A very Obsidian setup, and also reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate II and the way it dumps you into the enormous city of Athkatla.

The Deadfire is a very different sort of environment than the placid faux-Europe high fantasy of the previous game. It’s, well, islands. Thus you’re quickly given command of a ship, your mobile base of operations for Pillars of Eternity II.

IDG / Hayden Dingman IDG / Hayden Dingman

That applies even when huge shifts in circumstance happen. You might, for instance, liberate a fort from a group of slavers, and after doing so another faction moves in. It’s cool to see that sort of dynamic change, given the locations in these sorts of games are usually so stagnant. And yet, once you’ve liberated the fort…nothing. You’d think the fort’s new occupiers might have their own set of quests to uncover, but no. They’re just like “Cool, thanks for letting us have this fort and, uh, here’s your coins,” and you sail into the sunset.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

And again, these are the major settlements. Most of the Deadfire is even less reactive. Obsidian did a smart thing here, making lots of smaller and denser maps instead of the sprawling wildernesses from the original Pillars of Eternity and the Baldur’s Gate-era games. A lot of them are just generic combat encounters though, and although these peppered the woods of its predecessors, there’s something dispiriting about sailing to an uncharted island, fighting the four monsters waiting there for you, and then leaving again.

Companion storylines are weak, too. There are eight companions to find, and around half are from the first game. Those returning companions are a bit stronger, given another game’s worth of context to help bolster their weak points. The new additions are one-note archetypes though. Worse, the pacing of their unique quests is all off. This is a 50-hour game, and yet I’d wrapped up some of my companion’s stories in the first 10 to 15 hours. They had nothing new to say to me for the rest of our time together.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

I can’t help but compare that approach—a very Baldur’s Gate style approach, I might add—with last year’s Divinity: Original Sin II, where I was still uncovering new details about my companions 80 or more hours in. Pillars of Eternity II’s relationships feel flat and artificial in that light.

The one standout improvement: Pillars of Eternity II’s approach to loot. There’s tons of trash, but also a bewildering number of unique items—poisoned swords, flaming axes, spirit-reaping scythes, all with names and backstories. It’s possibly my favorite part of the game, forcing you to decide whether to use the spellbook you pilfered off that old lich or maybe the one bequeathed you by a grumpy archmage. Your items have stories, and I always prefer that to “Longsword +1” or what have you.

There’s also a fourth-wall breaking encounter rating, which helps prevent the random-feeling difficulty spikes the genre’s had in the past. The original Pillars of Eternity was very traditional in its approach—the first sign you’d wandered into a high-level area was usually when your party was obliterated in a single hit. Presumably due to the more freeform exploration in Pillars of Eternity II, you can now see an encounter’s recommended level, and prepare appropriately.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

The game’s easy. Surprisingly easy, for an Infinity Engine vet. I played on the “Classic” difficulty, which gave me a fair amount of trouble at times in the first Pillars of Eternity, but I breezed through this one. The final boss battle was longer, but not necessarily harder than anything else.

That’s a bit disappointing to me, but probably a relief to those who don’t love micromanaging during real-time-with-pause combat. Your party AI can mostly guide itself to victory outside a few fights, as long as you’re the appropriate level, with you chiming in only to send a well-timed fireball towards your enemies.


IDG / Hayden Dingman

I’ve suffered a significant number of crashes though. And anytime I played more than three hours at a go, I experienced significant slowdown, with sub-30 frames per second performance until I exited out and restarted. I’ve also had enemies I killed refuse to die, locking me into eternal combat with a foe who can’t be targeted. The only way to fix that one was to, again, exit to desktop and reboot the game.

I’ve had quest logic break, so someone ordered me to talk to someone I’d already killed. I’ve received messages from characters claiming we’d never met, even though we had. I’ve had characters disappear from the map entirely. All told, I finished the game with three broken missions—meaning I could never complete them, and thus never remove them from my log.

And most entertaining, I’ve had a drawbridge lower, then immediately raise again—but my characters could still cross the “raised” bridge.

IDG / Hayden Dingman


Bottom line

Despite all my complaints though, I generally enjoyed Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. The central story is excellent, with a strong continuation of its predecessor’s themes—and, mercifully, it’s easier to follow. The problem is there’s not much outside that central story. Pillars of Eternity II feels like a game built off the backs of four or five major “setpiece” moments, jaw-dropping story beats with the sort of spectacle I didn’t think was possible in an Infinity Engine-style game. If Pillars of Eternity II were only these moments, I think I’d enjoy it better.

But there’s this entire Deadfire Archipelago to explore, and very little of it worth exploring. As I said up top, Pillars of Eternity II feels at odds with itself, stuck between wanting to be a smaller, story-driven experience and a larger, more complex world. The end result is an awkward compromise at best.

Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite Review: Basic, But All

What you need to know about the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite

The Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite is yet another ultra-cheap smartwatch from the Chinese brand. It only costs €50 (~$60), slotting it in nicely between Xiaomi’s popular Mi Band line and the recently released Xiaomi Mi Watch. Eagle-eyed fans might also recognize it as a rebranded Redmi Watch.

Although it has a traditional smartwatch form factor, it’s best to think of the Mi Watch Lite simply as a Mi Band with a larger screen. There are important differences between the two, but its focus is on fitness, not smartwatch features.

Also read: The best fitness trackers you can buy

Battery life and the charger

Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Xiaomi says the Mi Watch Lite can last up to nine days on a single charge. My testing shows that claim is accurate.

I’ve been using the watch every day for sleep tracking, notifications, and a handful of workouts each week. Currently, I’m on track to get the full nine days of charge. If you work out nearly every day, though, you may see reduced battery life.

The charger included in the box is fine. It’s proprietary (hello e-waste) and not very attractive. However, it allows for a nice bedtime clock view when the watch is plugged in.

Sleep tracking

Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite is a good sleep tracker. Like other Xiaomi wearables, it keeps track of your total time asleep, deep, light, and REM sleep. It then gives you a sleep score from 0-100 based on how well you slept. Overall, the charts in the Xiaomi Wear app are easy to read.

Nevertheless, there are a few limitations. It does not track naps or daytime sleeping. If you have an unconventional sleep schedule, the Mi Watch Lite won’t be the sleep tracker for you. I’d also like Xiaomi to improve its sleep score implementation a bit. Right now, it’s light on the details on where the score comes from. It doesn’t give many details on how to improve your sleep score either.

A few other tidbits I liked about the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite:

Firstbeat workout analysis: Like the Xiaomi Mi Watch, the Mi Watch Lite offers detailed post-workout analysis. It is provided by Firstbeat, the now Garmin-owned analytics company. After your workout, you’ll see your total time, distance, calorie burn, steps taken, average and max cadence, average/max/min pace, average speed, heart rate, heart rate zones, and VO2 max.

The watch faces: Xiaomi doesn’t allow for third-party watch faces, but it offers plenty of nice first-party options. There are over 120 available for download through the Xiaomi Wear app.

The basic apps are all here: While the Mi Watch Lite doesn’t have support for third-party apps, it comes with all the basic pre-loaded apps you’d expect.  There is a guided breathing app, a compass, an air pressure app, an alarm, a stopwatch, a timer, a weather app, a flashlight, as well as the ability to control your phone’s music.

What I don’t like about the Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite

The hardware and design

Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

I won’t rag too hard on the Mi Watch Lite here. This is a €50 device, after all. However, I have run into some hardware issues that you should know about before buying one.

The straps are interchangeable, but it is very difficult to change them. The button to unlock the straps is too hard to press down. I’ve only successfully been able to remove the straps on my unit once. I’m not sure if this will be the case for other devices, but it is for mine.

Speaking of straps, this is about the same quality silicone strap as you’d find on the Mi Band line. Translation: it feels cheap and rubbery, yet soft to the touch.

I can’t give Xiaomi a pass without addressing the obvious design cues taken from the Apple Watch. The Mi Watch Lite copies the Apple Watch’s design in all the wrong ways, even down to many of the watch faces. I’d really like to see Xiaomi design a watch on its own merits and not based on whatever Apple is doing at the time.

The Xiaomi Wear app needs a lot of work

Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

I just covered the Xiaomi Wear app in my Xiaomi Mi Watch review. In the interest of brevity, I will point you to that review if you want to learn more about the companion app. While it’s a step above Mi Fit in aesthetics, I have frequently run into translation issues, conversion issues from metric to imperial, and issues with time preferences.


Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite

A Xiaomi smartwatch for just €50

The Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite is one of the cheapest smartwatches you can find. With onboard GPS, all-day heart rate monitoring, and 11 different sport tracking modes, the Mi Watch Lite boasts a surprisingly capable spec sheet.

See price at Amazon

See price at Gearbest

See price at Xiaomi

If the Mi Watch Lite isn’t your cup of tea or isn’t available in your region, you can find many alternatives that share the same DNA. The obvious competitor is the Amazfit Bip U. It is readily available on Amazon in the US, India, and other regions for around the same price as the Mi Watch Lite. It can track far more sports modes and has the same long-lasting battery. However, in her full review, Adamya noted that the materials used in the band are quite cheap-feeling.

The Amazfit Bip U Pro, which costs $70 in the US, is nearly the same device as the Bip U. However, it also has onboard GPS and Amazon Alexa support.

Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite review: The verdict

Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The Xiaomi Mi Watch Lite is a good fitness tracker, but a very basic smartwatch. If you’re after the Mi Band experience and would like the benefits of a larger display, Xiaomi’s latest budget smartwatch is a fine option. It’s limited beyond those basic functions, however. Those looking for an on-device voice assistant or music storage for offline listening will want to look elsewhere.

I hope to see more competition in this space from companies that aren’t Xiaomi or Huami. Until then, this might be your go-to option if you want a smartwatch for around €50.

Next: The best cheap fitness trackers

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