came back for the good ending. it didn't seem all that different - the special final boss fight with spoilers powers was a cooler finale than the standard ending, but aside from that and the dialogue I had missed w/ Huppo, the character beats were pretty similar. Don't take that to mean I'm coming away disappointed - I was replaying to see what I had missed throughout the game more than I was to change the outcome of the story. i didn't really have my hopes set on the power of friendship fixing everything where the power of 4/5 friendship had faltered.
it was definitely an easier game on second go-around. knowing when I got healed, when people got killed (and so when to take their equipment), and how to better use everyone's abilities streamlined a lot of parts of the game where I was running thin. even near the beginning, I didn't realize on my first playthrough that wilderness areas had fixed encounters along the paths with no respawns. I stuck to the path to avoid depleting my healing items and missed out on the cyberknife and such.
I also stacked HP/MP recovery early and often. in particular, rumor + his cigar + empathy was enough to grind as long as i liked in the wasteland, which bought me the hammer of truth and got me fairly overlevelled to boot. I barely used items besides stimpacks for the back half of the game.
The power level of the party seems like a tricky thing to balance against - as soon as you feel self-sufficient enough to grind, you can get strong enough to overcome the limitations on healing and income. it did take me a second playthrough to develop the system mastery to pull that off though.
in any case, it's a cool game you've thrown together here and it stuck to my brain enough to come back for seconds.
mild spoilers past here, small bugs and notes
I forgot to mention it before, but I ran into a game crash at the start of the utopia slash encounter second phase. It happened after losing at least once in my first playthrough, but I can't recall if it came before or after her monologue and sprite change.
There's a room in Cramp's mansion - I think a lab? Got a bunch of notes to read, the eyeball trap you have to defuse in the mutant cells room, and the lion painting. It's missing a south wall, you can walk into the void around a cultist encounter. lost my screenshot though
I like stance powers; it was a shame that I only got to use Huppo's max-bond special stance for one boat section where I was already too overpowered to get much use of it.