The Setting of Eora and the cheeky bait and switch
I think its best to start this series of what I hope will be akin to a review by overlooking the setting of PoE it self. I have to say, its probably the most original and unique fantasy setting I have ever encountered, with only rivals being Arcanum and Tyranny. First, it falls for basically none of the main fantasy tropes. The closest it gets is by having dwarves and elves, but even they aren't trope-ey, but rather highly varied culturally depending on their ingmhabited enviroment. This could be held uo as critique, but in my view, if you change all the races to just be different groups of humans, it wouldn't change anything, as none of the races really are "the evil / smug / greedy / dumb / super intelligent / poetical ones" who are characterized by this one trait. So the different races just add more flavour to the world, while not playing into tropes.
Then, the bigger reason why I believe this setting is great: it is 100% rational, hard magic setting. Perhaps it is my taste, but I love ot when a setting sets up and then maintains self-consistant lines. And Pillars does this without sacrificing on flavour either. Just because magic is just a natural phenomena, it doesn't mean that it isn't varied. I guess I should explain - in Pillars, all forms of what is considered magic are forms of soul manipulation. Thats right, souls also are material, real things here, the workings of which make perfect sense. It is given to understand that the world of Eora, underneath the dirt and all, is one huge network of a stone called Adra - the vessel of souls which enables the cycle of reincarnation. Going back to magic, those practiced enough can tap into this soul power, and through it alter reality, by using it as a force. By the way, I will probably be talking more in depth later on. I will try to use parts of this post as a jump off point for further posts.
However, here is why PoE1 is quite genious. It frontloads none of this. For the most part, it actually tries to trick you. At the very surface level, the setting at the start feels very much like your boring old DnD: Pantheon of Gods screwing over mortals, semi common use of magic that feels unexplained, backwards medieval setting that has stagnated for thousands of years and a demonization of any that would mess with "the natural order of souls". It wears this mask so well, that it can even turn you off before showing its true face. For instance this happened to me. I had a really hard time getting into this game series. I think I first tried it right after Tyranny came out, and only finished it for the first time a month back. But in my last attempt before this, I quit at the Readric castle, where you meet your first animancer (that is a researcher of souls), who was fucking comically evil doctor Frankenstein. This made me believe that the setting was full on the basic good vs evil DnD mentality. But by god was I wrong, as most ALL of these gripes are addressed and explored in depth if you continue forward.
Sadly, I don't have time to go on further today, so I'll continue some other time.