After interrupting my walkthrough twice, I finally managed to finish this on normal and without the expansions. Great game, but I can't imagine playing something with a similar combat system, like Tyranny, anytime soon.
Interestingly, it took me 60 hours to complete, which is rather similar to the 66 hours it took me to finish Wasteland 2 (vanilla, not director's cut) and the 62 hours for Divine Divinity (vanilla, in co-op). In all three cases, I think I would've preferred a shorter and more condensed experience. In terms of the combat mechanics, I liked Divinity best!
I found understanding PoE's mechanics quite hard. It's very difficult to compare weapons or armor, for instance. Due to the suppression mechanic, selecting and distributing equipment among party members becomes an absolute nightmare that I really hated (seriously, what were they thinking!?). I still have no clue how relevant the interrupt stats are and whether concentration is all that important. There are way too many status effects. Tons (too many!?) spells as well, which must be a nightmare to balance. I have a good grasp on priest and druid (that relentless storm, boy, what a game changer!), but I don't think I've even tried half of the wizard, canter or cipher spells. By the time the grieving mother joined my party, I really didn't feel like learning yet another spell based class. That being said, there were two fights that really made me learn the game: the Ogre druids in the Endless Paths and, finally, the blasting Adra dragon. If it wasn't for these two fights, I would've breezed right through without an indepth engagement with the game's rules. Sometimes, I really miss the games of old which were often unforgiving, unbalanced and really punishing for the player but so rewarding at the same time. There is nothing quite so thrilling as to finally outsmart the game. Real frustration definitely helps in creating a real sense of accomplishment as well.
So let's talk about the Adra dragon, my beloved nemesis. I met him with a full lvl 12 party, feeling quite good about myself. Two hours later, after countless wipes, I realized that I would not be able to able to beat him without a lot of preparation. So I spent a few hours doing just that, came back, and defeated him right on my first attempt. Such a sweet feeling! :-) Here is how I did it (PoE 3.06): I equipped weapons and spells that focused on slashing, frost damage and raw damage, where the dragon's DR is weakest. I enchanted my armors and added beast slaying to my weapons. All party members with a revive ability received armor with the second wind ability, which lets you get up after the first knockout. I crafted health potions and revive scrolls. I respecced all my party members to have the talent beast slayer, the deflection talent and a lot of shield talents, especially for the casters who hardly use auto attacks. I chose +3 perception as resting bonus (for higher accuracy) and beast slaying as camp fire bonus. At the start of the fight, Durance cast prayer against fear and my chanter also had a chant against fear (first phrase) and for higher deflection (second phrase). I used a lot of summons to deal with the dragon's other minions. I also tried paralyzing the dragon, but that only worked for one brief intervall. I did not use that dragon specific debuff you can get from the dragon slayer, so no idea how useful that one would have been. Thus prepared, the fight went down like a breeze. So nice! :-)
I'm really glad I finished the game, because the ending felt quite epic to me. It also served nicely to wrap up the story. On several occasions during my playthrough, I didn't fully grasp what was going on (Saint's war, godhammer, animancy and all that), but it definitely did click for me towards the end. The thoughts on religion are perhaps not all that novel, but it's definitely a more nuanced treatment than I would've expected from a video game. The watcher itself, as a character, didn't really grab me that much and I couldn't really identify with his identity crisis and struggle.
I also got the impression that Obsidian really improved the Stronghold experience. Defending my title with a real battle and having all these visitors with requests felt awesome! Really nice of them to patch all this stuff in.
All in all, great fun! :-)