I've continued on with Pillars of Eternity, so it's evidently doing something right, even if I'm not entirely clear what. I'm a sucker for massive worlds that keep promising more around every corner, so I guess it's that.
Two entirely separate issues that are guaranteed to infuriate me in fantasy RPG games:
Calling rabbits smeerps. Mates, if you cannot be bothered to do anything more original than rip your enemies directly from Dungeons & Dragons to populate your dragon-infested dungeons, do not give them stupid alternative names as if that'll improve matters. It's a fucking kobold, at least have the balls to say as much.
Not properly gating your quests. Early on I received a quest to get rid of the local tyrant. I was encouraged to do this subtly, which I did, because I love being a sneaky bastard. I crept over the castle walls, stole some disguises and got to the lord through a back entrance. What's there? A boss fight I was completely underlevelled for, which destroyed my fresh-faced band of punks in literally five seconds. My options were a) backtrack about half an hour, or b) stick the difficulty down to the wonderfully euphemistic 'story mode', which is what I did (it was still a close fucking fight).
I hate this type of shit because it's so easy to account for. Put a suggested level next to each quest. Don't have the quest-giver show up until the player's reached a certain level. Have the fucking quest-giver say you look too wet behind the ears for it. Even arbitrarily locking me out from it is better. I just know, from the whole feel of the game, that this was deliberately left open and undefined because it's, like, totally hardcore, and it ain't going to hold your hand princess.