I'd like to open up by saying there has been no official comment on this by Obsidian. While this was temporarily released into the wild in a patch (and was then removed hours later), it's entirely possible that Obsidian has never had and never will have any intention it being a feature for PoE 2. It could have been something they messed with very early in development then abandoned, that somehow ended up in the live build. It could have be something they're working for a future game using the same engine. It may not have anything to do with PoE 2's future. With that disclaimer out of the way, let's get into the (fairly short) juicy details.
On December 20th it was discovered by a poster on the PoE subreddit that a recent patch had an undocumented feature; creating a new game gave you the option of playing with either normal real time combat or turn based combat. As would be expected, this changed the game's combat to resemble other turn based / tactical RPGs where characters have limited movement points and can take 1 action per round. There's a comment in that thread that shows recorded footage of how it looks in action. Soon after, a hotfix was pushed out that removed this feature.
Anyone who's played the game before will know that making such a drastic change to the combat system will require a good deal of rebalancing to make it work. There are mechanics that simply don't work on a 1:1 basis when transferred from a real time to a turn based system. There's been some speculation, if this is a future update that's being worked on, it may utilize mechanics from the table top Pillars of Eternity pen and paper game that's currently in development.
It certainly wouldn't be out of the ordinary for PoE 2 to receive this kind of extensive update post release. Outside of the DLC releases, the game has seen a lot of extensive re-balancing, UI updates, and other quality of life improvements since its release. The timeline that Obsidian published has a "More to come" tag teasing further updates in 2019, after the game's final paid DLC has already been released. There is also the upcoming console release, which this could potentially coincide with.
As a further interesting tidbit, there's this Tim Cain quote from a 2015 RPG Codex interview:
mindx2: Mr. Cain, or as you are called, Sir Tim Cain… now that you’re back designing and with Obsidian I would love to you say, “I would love to do a turn-based game!”
Tim: I love turn-based games. This actually goes back to something Chris was saying, when I worked on South Park… right when I arrived there it was a real-time game and one of the things I was asked was to make it turn-based. It’s easy to turn real-time systems into turn-based ones, so I’m just throwing that out there
Tim: I’m familiar with a lot of these systems in Pillars and how to convert them. Again I’m just saying that…
Anyway, that's about it. As I said, the actual details of the situation are pretty simple and short. Most of the post is just guessing at what it could mean. Hopefully this isn't considered too "low effort" or "limited scope." One of the most common criticisms I've seen of the Pillars series is the real time combat system, with many people expressing that they wished it would be turned based. The potential for that being a reality could be a big deal.
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