Crowdfunding was just beginning to blossom when Obsidian Entertainment announced Pillars of Eternity. Many thousands of people had never previously backed an unreleased game before. I was one of them. However, the company and its key stakeholders had the runs on the scoreboard. These included award-winning and popular titles such as Fallout: New Vegas, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords.
These were games that I and many others sunk our teeth into. Hundreds of hours were spent exploring their lavish worlds. Consequently, Obsidian Entertainment had developed a dedicated fan base who were chomping at the bit to see what was next from their studio. Consequently, when they announced that they required crowdfunding for Pillars of Eternity we were quick to hand over our hard-earned cash.
However, it wasn’t just the developer that made us eager. Instead, the developer was joined by their announcement that their intention was to develop the title as the spiritual successor for the likes of Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and the like. Ultimately, Obsidian’s Kickstarter campaign raised over US$4 million. This was the highest amount ever raised by a video game crowdfunding project at that time.
Given the fact that it was the first crowdfunding experience for many backers, many of us had no idea what to expect throughout development. As a result of the confidence that the studio inspired there wasn’t fear that they would take our money and run. There was just an earnest curiosity in how Obsidian would go about communicating their title. Thankfully, they were outstanding. Updates came regularly and the communication on their forums was second to none.
Although the team had their focus on the direction that they wanted the game to go in they presented constant opportunities for their backers and fans to have their say in what went into the game. This is something that is very evident in the final product of the game.
The Story of Pillars of Eternity
The events within Pillars of Eternity take place within the Eastern Reach, located in the southern hemisphere of Eora. This region contains a number of nations.
Essentially, the player is a foreigner who is the lone survivor of a mysterious storm. After surviving the storm you witness cultists performing a ritual that strips souls from bodies. After experiencing this you learn the ability to read souls which makes you The Watcher.
You must learn the truth behind the cultist’s actions and essentially save the land.
Pillars of Eternity’s Gameplay
It is within its core gameplay where Obsidian hoped that Pillars of Eternity would be a spiritual successor to those legendary titles. The game is party-based, real time-with pause tactical roleplaying game. It utilizes a fixed isometric user interface for the game-world with two-dimensional pre-rendered backdrops. Furthermore, its reliance on the archetype character classes and gameplay mechanics draw upon the influence of your prototypical Dungeons & Dragons type game.
Before setting off on your adventures the player creates their character. The eleven character classes include your typical archetypes. However, each has distinct differences that can go a long way to altering the manner in which a player would handle challenges and the way in which events play out within the game.
Primarily, the Pillars of Eternity has a main plot with quests that need to be completed for the game to continue. However, as is typically the case, there are a substantial amount of optional side quests that range from mundane to outstanding. Thankfully, in my multiple playthroughs, I can claim that there are very few fetch quests.
Player Actions, Combat, and Companions
The actions of the player play an important role in the game. The player can develop their reputation, both for the best and the worst, and this does change the way events play out. This creates the distinct possibility for multiple playthroughs. It also creates a reliable system for the player to become fully invested in each character within their party and eliciting a carefully chosen behavioral response.
The game’s combat system is well developed albeit it feels standard for the genre. Damage affects both endurance and health. Endurance regenerates after combat while health can only be regenerated through rest. However, if a character loses its entire health the character is permanently deceased. Players need to be mindful of when and where they rest as there are certain places where rest is impossible. Consequently, rest becomes an important strategic component of the game.
Unfortunately, the downside to the game’s party is that the companions are too easy to recruit. There isn’t substantial enough challenge to getting them to join your party. This results in a loss of connection in understanding the significance of their individual motives.
Pillar of Eternity’s Presentation
The presentation is never the highlight of these types of games. And so it continues to be in Pillars of Eternity. However, I must advise that I found the artwork and the soundtrack to be of the highest quality.
The artwork adds aesthetic value to the game’s production. The color palette has had a lot of thought put into it. The dungeons are as dark and as gloomy as they should be. The right areas shine within each location.
Likewise, the soundtrack has been very carefully determined and features tracks that are befitting each theme and event within the game. Consequently, this enables the player the opportunity to be immersed in the title.
Why You Should Buy Pillars of Eternity
If you’re an old-school RPG gamer then you’re likely already aware of the game. If you still haven’t purchased this game and given it a thorough playthrough then purchasing the definitive edition is the way to go. It contains the base game, the Deadfire Pack, the Royal Edition Upgrade Pack as well as the two high-quality expansion packs which are the first and second parts of The White March.
Furthermore, coming in 2018 is the sequel to Pillars of Eternity. The sequel has retained the Pillars of Eternity brand name but includes the iconic II as well as its subtitle, Deadfire. The closed backer beta recently launched and early signs from those who have played it insist that the game has the potential to be even better than the original. Therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to get into a continuing franchise.
Overall, Pillars of Eternity is an outstanding role-playing and combat game. The game is superbly written and is generally a delight to play.
Why You Should Not Buy Pillars of Eternity
Regardless of the outstanding quality of Pillars of Eternity, I argue that it isn’t for everyone.
Unfortunately, if you’re not the type to enjoy reading substantial amounts of text throughout your game then you’ll likely have a bad time. The writing is of high quality but it takes an avid reader to digest it all. However, if you are a reader then you’ll potentially find that the game’s difficulty tends to be at its highest at the beginning and middle portions of the game. It tails off towards the end and there will be times where you feel as though you are overpowered. Unfortunately, something that has been fixed to a significant degree but remains imperfect is the game’s typos and spelling errors.
The voice acting could also do with some improvement. It’s far from the worst that I have heard but given the budget that Obsidian had to work with, I feel that they could have had a much better result.
Pillars of Eternity: The Final Verdict
Pillars of Eternity is my favorite RPG. It is clear that it is a labor of love. That much is clear. It isn’t perfect but the imperfections add character to the presentation of the game. Having played through the game several times now I eagerly await the sequel.