Pillars of Eternity Review
If your old and decrepit like myself (27 years of existence is old in gaming terms), you may remember the epic tales woven by the developers of Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II. Back in those long forgotten days the RPG was a pretty new concept and the Baldur’s Gate franchise was based on Dungeons and Dragons, which is a table top roleplaying game. These games are beloved because of their character development, story and their focus on following Dungeons and Dragons rule sets within the combat, as well as the beautiful hand painted backgrounds that players play on. The combat itself was complex and death, was a pretty common occurrence, leading to the odd habit of spamming quick save regularly before a big fight. Now, what does this have to do with Pillars of Eternity you may ask? A LOT would be my answer.
Pillars of Eternity is a Kickstarter project developed by many of the original developers who made the Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and Planescape Torment games. All of which focused on an isometric viewpoint and were built on the Infinity Engine. The idea of the Kickstarter project was to create a spiritual successor to those games/ I would say, overall, they’ve done a pretty good job of this.
Pillars of Eternity follows a protagonist who gains the strange power of being able to see peoples past lives and experiences. The game itself mirrors much of Baldur’s Gates combat and focus on story. I would rather not ruin the story too much, but the game very much feels like a compelling story with rich lore and fascinating interparty dialogue. Side quests are everywhere and the main plotline spans a large portion of hours. When I say a large portion of hours I am talking in terms of old school games, we are talking 100s of hours of gameplay.
One of the interesting new aspects that has been brought to the genre is the cut scenes. In Pillars of Eternity they do not exist. What’s in their place is interactive text based scenarios, in which you can make choices and actions. These are very reminiscent of a dungeon master in Dungeons and Dragons proposing several options to the heroes. These scenarios can rely on multiple factors. Perhaps you have a grappling hook in your inventory that could help you climb a wall? Or perhaps you character is incredibly strong and is able to do this independently? There are often branching choices and various solutions to individual problems.
Another interesting aspect is party interaction. The game provides a varied group of NPCs who can join your party of whom you can interact with and learn of their history, background and help them to achieve their own goals. While I have enjoyed this aspect of Pillars of Eternity, I do feel that the characters are a little lacking in comparison with those in the Baldur’s Gate games. While the world is interesting, it does not compel me with the same sense of fascination that the Baldur’s Gate franchise did. Perhaps this is because I have gained rose tinted glasses in my old age, or perhaps it’s because I haven’t actually fully explored the story to its end point.
At some point in the story you gain your own keep. You can upgrade your keep and use it for sending off party members on missions to gain gold or items. The micromanagement of the keep itself is fun, however upgrading the keep is solely focused on how much gold you have spare. The keep itself seems more of a money sink as opposed to having any particular purpose other than something in which to upgrade. Again perhaps due to being only half way through the game, I may have a limited perspective, but so far the keep seems to have little impact on the game. Also the fact upgrades are bought via gold can feel at times to be merely there to offer you something to do with the gold you earn, as there is very little else worth purchasing in the game. This felt a little like a missed opportunity as perhaps the developers could have tied some form of quests that lead to upgrades or other ways of expanding the keep.
As someone who played previous infinity engine games, I would definitely recommend this to players who experienced Baldur’s Gate and its ilk, as well as to new players. However adapting to this type of game as a newcomer may be difficult, the game may feel cumbersome and overly difficult. Also much of the game is left to the imagination, much of the game requires long periods of reading text as opposed to being offered voice acting. Additionally , many games nowadays do not seem to offer such difficulty and strategy and this may put off some new players. Currently you can buy the game on steam for £34.99 and I would definitely recommend this to any hard-core RPG fan, as well as fans of Dungeons and Dragons.
I would give this game an 8 out of 10.
· Complex and difficult Combat, strategy is required
· Fairly interesting NPCs
· An interesting overarching plot
· The return of Isometric RPGs!
· The keep felt like a money sink and seemed to have little purpose outside upgrading it for its own sake
· The Plot and NPCs while interesting, do not surpass that of previous games such as the Baldur’s Gate saga