Pillars of Eternity: Review

  • Format: PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Paradox Interactive
  • Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://eternity.obsidian.net/
  • Game code provided by PR

Pillars of Eternity is very, very good. Perhaps not as great as those games it is recreating – and then maybe only because of nostalgia and a few cumbersome elements that haven’t been given an overhaul – but it comes damn close, and is very entertaining on a lot of levels. It does feel like a game that needs multiple playthroughs to fully appreciate as well, which will be a blessing to most, ourselves included.

Obsidian knows what you like and (some of) what you don’t like, with it having done away with quite a few of the clunky systems from older games; but we’d say they haven’t really gone far enough in a few respects. They’ve also created their own systems and worlds set aside from D&D and it really is far better for it, as redundant systems are replaced with far more interesting but sometimes more complex ones.

Your character (not necessarily the only one you’ll create) is quickly thrust into a hunt to root out a plot against the Dyrwood after getting caught in a Cult ritual. You start remembering things that never happened to you and can see the dead and “read” people’s souls (there are interesting side stories, but not interesting enough to read more than a few).

Comparisons are probably the best way to describe the story and party system; it mixes the one central character and many possible premade companions direction from Baldur’s Gate, but also gives the ability to create and recruit storyless, player created alternative companions. Premade companions come with their individual quest lines, dialogue and some reasonable unique equipment (in some cases) – but there are only eight companions which leaves three of the eleven classes unaccounted for.

Also, as your main character is the focus of all the story decisions, it’s their attributes that determine choices for dialogue and how people react to you. Other characters are occasionally used in the interactive “Choose Your Own Adventure” style text sections – which are the most interesting and underused sections in the game. These can involve scaling walls, leaping across ravines, and anything else that doesn’t directly deal with an NPC of sorts. They’re always interesting interactions (with sometimes quite hefty consequences), but it’s an underused trick that works well.

Not using D&D rules means a vast quantity of things have been streamlined to be not awful relics of the past, such as the Health and Endurance system. Endurance is lowered when you take damage and when it reaches zero that character is knocked out. Endurance regenerates after a fight and Health is lowered permanently until healed or rested; but so long as you win a fight, any character that has health left will get up and live on.

It means that when playing a game with a low health, lower defence character, they won’t get permanently obliterated from the game if a stray fireball or crit hits him when they’re feeling peaky. It also means that players like ourselves who are incredibly conscious of their squishy characters can take risks with high rewards without the messiness of permadeath.

Inventory space is seemingly infinite, so you can send all the weapons and armours that you’ve picked off the corpses you’ve left in your wake and sell them in one fairly swift round of selling rather than going back and forth; though equipment duplicates won’t stack. The knock on effect is that it’s an RPG where you can afford to have nice things – that belt of +2 Might is finally in your reach.

You can also craft, and enchant weapons and armour, at any point outside of combat This is not only incredibly worthwhile, it also makes things relatively hassle-free, as you will still need to find the ingredients. It does mean however that you can make interesting items stay powerful for, quite honestly, the majority of the game. Few items with enchantments built in are truly useless, even towards the end of the game.

Combat is only properly activated when an enemy is aware of you, which is good for when you want to regenerate your endurance but it also locks off use of some skills, meaning that you’ll have to wait until combat starts to use a fairly sizable selection of both skills and spells, which admittedly isn’t always ideal.

We have a lot of praise for the game as it is very good but it does fall short with some things. Pathing is awful; having any number of melee characters not able to attack because they’ve decided to walk into other characters instead of walking around them is infuriating. Micromanaging movements just so your party can surround a single creature becomes a chore fast. It’s also a problem when spellcasters/skill users wander around trying to get a line of sight to the target enemy/area. You have no idea what the problem is and they just faff about for what should be a quick point and click before seeing destruction rain down.

Linked in some way to the pathing, is the fact that characters seem to forget that you gave them an action occasionally and will instead attack the nearest enemy, which means you then have to wait until you can actually take an action again; wasting precious seconds of combat and maybe even forcing you to disengage an enemy. It’s devastating to your plans when a spellcaster does it, especially when you want to cast a spell at a specific moment which then passes and leaves you open to a beating.

Pillars of Eternity is a great place to start with games of its ilk if you’re new to them; though going back to the games it draws from afterwards will probably be made more difficult because of the improvements Pillars makes, visuals aside. If you’ve ever had a liking for Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale or any others, you’ll more than likely love this. It does make some missteps but on the whole it is a brilliant game.

critical score 9Critical Hit

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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