Pillars of Eternity is a role-playing game (RPG) developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Paradox Interactive. Before you write it off as being just another game, however, know this: it was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, and received overwhelming response — they went way beyond their original goal of 1 million, raising around 3.9 million by the end of the funding period.
Many will know Obsidian Entertainment from their previous developments of many other games, notably Fallout: New Vegas and South Park: The Stick of Truth. And Pillars of Eternity is one of those games that you will enjoy if you love classic RPGs.
Before The Journey: Character Creation
Character creation is an important aspect of many RPGs, and I particularly love PoE’s character creation system. I spent about an hour fine-tuning my character in every way possible, since, as every gamer knows, your choices affect the stats of your character. Many of the character stats are explained in detail during character creation, and you can check them by simply hovering your mouse over the highlighted words. This is something that many games don’t provide, and which gamers only learn after creating their characters or checking online guides.
Apart from character stats, there are also different races, sub-races and a number of other choices which give your characters unique looks and features. They can also affect your character’s starting stats. One thing to note, however, is that options for changing a character’s facial looks are quite limited.
Players will notice that the main aspect of the game is its story, and this is particularly evident as we find that many conversations are narrated. PoE’s concept is that every choice a player makes will affect them in one way or another — be it how non-player characters (NPCs) respond to you, or the outcome of certain quests. To help new players get oriented, there are plenty of guides and hints that appear throughout the game.
PoE also uses the isometric view present in classic RPGs. This might appeal to some, but those who are not able to rotate their angle of viewing may find this less-than-desirable. It could also be a source of frustration at times, such as when a tree or wall is blocking your view of the map.
That said, the graphics of PoE provides players with a sense that they are playing something classic, yet polished with the standards of modern gaming. The effects and particles of combat animations and spells are beautiful. Players with colour vision deficiencies will also be happy to know that there is a “colorblind mode” included in the settings.
The Journey To Eternity
PoE can tend to surprise even experienced gamers, as party management turns out to be especially important in combat. Even while playing at “Normal” difficulty, players might find it challenging to journey through the world of PoE. One lesson that I’ve learnt is to save often, as losing a battle sequence will require you to load an earlier save.
Also note that characters that fall in combat will be killed off permanently if further damaged; in higher difficulties, characters falling in combat will mean permanent death to party characters. Engagement is often not the only cause of death; other dangers may be also present.
Character development can feel slow and unrewarding to some, as characters have 12 levels and will only gain experience points through exploring, completing quests and slaying enough of certain types of foes. Foes in PoE also do not respawn, as they yield no experience anyway. For players of modern RPGs, this means that there will be almost no “farming” to be done. Certain players may find this appealing, as it adds to the difficulty and challenge of the game. On the other hand, some may find that this concept diminishes replayability.
Everything in PoE is played in real time, including combat. It can be quite challenging to manage a whole party of characters, but PoE includes a pause system so that players can have extra time to issue orders. It also has a “half speed” mode, which will allow players to engage in combat at a slower speed (but still in real-time) should they find the normal speed challenging.
One thing I found out is that characters have to be managed manually — there is no AI that helps control your character, such as in games like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim or Fallout: New Vegas. This may be a source of frustration for some, as characters can sometimes get attacked and end up frozen in place. Character pathing can also be terrible — they tend to get stuck in narrow doorways with other characters, which can be really frustrating as this means that a member of your party will simply die for no good reason.
By the way, I must mention that FF is on. I repeat: Friendly Fire is on. So don’t cast damaging spells on your characters or you may find them doing more harm than good.
PoE also features a stronghold which players can obtain somewhere along the game. A stronghold is like a mini game by itself, where players can get improvements and upgrades. Players are also able to use their stronghold as a place for their characters to heal and rest. In addition, stronghold allows players to obtain bounties and sent idle playable characters on quests. There are also times during stronghold when players need to make choices which come about during certain “events”.
Musical Scores And Sound
PoE is accompanied by a wonderful music score. The menu music is already a testament to that. In the world, each place and location is accompanied by a different piece of music which defines its tone, setting, mood, etc. The sound effects also do a good job of helping players immerse themselves into the world of PoE, with different environments giving off different sound effects.
I would say Pillars of Eternity is the kind of game that is worth playing for its story and challenges. How much you enjoy it will depend on what kind of gamer you are. I particularly enjoy Pillars of Eternity for its character creating, dilemmas and combat challenges. Other features such as the day/night cycle and graphics can be interesting as well. Frustrations such as viewing angle and character AI are simply minor drawbacks of the game, and they can be easily adapted to. Overall, I would say Pillars of Eternity is worth picking up if you enjoy classic isometric RPGs with challenges, with a mix of modern graphics and style.