"Are small pools of shadow at the characters feet really that important, though?"
Not at all. Oh, hey, let's ditch dynamic lighting on the character also. It doesn't make any difference anyway.
For me it made a whole lot of difference. The latest screenshots before release looked tons better than earlier screenshots. And the only thing added? Shadows. It simply adds to the atmosphere, and that's a pretty integral thing to an adventure game.
So, what? Was it cut out or never a part of the engine?