Game Review: Pillars of Eternity

The following is a guest review from DrXan.

Release date: 2015
Version played: PC (via Steam) in 2020

Developed by the RPG veterans at Obsidian Entertainment, Pillars of Eternity is a 2015 CRPG revival in the vein of Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. You take control of whatever class/race combination you fancy in the world of Eora. You quickly discover that you are especially special when you begin remembering your past life and the mysterious figure who seems to know you and not like you very much. So begins your journey in a world filled with souls, spells and serfdom: the classic combination for fantasy!

+ the choice of races and class combos is mindbogglingly complex: 6 basic races, each with multiple subraces, as well as 11 classes AND different affinities/gods for varied classes means you will spend plenty of time getting immersed in the world before you even start the game
+ character cultural backgrounds add another layer of choice; being called a ‘copperfucker’ because you chose to be an aristocrat is always a lovely surprise, as is better blending in with high society for the same reason
+ the beautiful little ‘storybook’ interludes between chapters, consisting of an illustration and a smooth voice over gives a great sense of the world
+ the game strikes a perfect bleak atmosphere (see the first town’s main centrepiece below) where civilisation seems to survive in spite of the environment and the forces aligned against it
+ this game has HARD choices when it comes to quest outcomes, often there is no right or wrong but only shades of very muddy grey in how your character solves problems. People will remember your actions and your reputation will precede you, whether that’s good or bad
+ stat checks are such a key part of the CRPG genre that they are used in both conversations and environmental events. Is your character a weak wizard? Well you just got a sprained ankle jumping that gap when the fighter did it easily
+ the classic ‘gather your party’ feel of the companions, each with their own personal story, class and quest, really adds to the classic DND inspired feel of the world

– this game is wordy: where a good section of the main dialogue is voiced many other full conversations or quests will need to be read though exhaustively (especially if you enjoy exploring dialogue trees)
– this game is mechanically dense; do you know the difference between prone, stuck and confused? You better learn it quick because that enemy is immune to two of them and coming for you
– why is the ‘improve detection’ and ‘stealth’ mechanic tied together? And why does it have to make me walk so slowly
– there is no main ‘tutorial’ for classes or mechanics, just a basic starting section before you are thrown into the world (I only learned that I can eat food without equipping food after 100+ hours)
– Hiravias and Durance. Who are they? You will meet them, talk to them and quickly understand why they are a negative point

> Obsidian, who developed Fallout: New Vegas pulls the old ‘3 factions, choose one now’ routine here again, but with a slight bit more nuance to their character than in New Vegas
> Obsidian also revives the classic Fallout ‘ending slideshow’ here so you can see how you helped/utterly ruined the lives of your companions and the wider community
> This was a Kickstarter project so ‘backer characters’ appear all over the game world with unique backstories you can read. You can also murder them for assorted loot if you prefer
>this game could have really benefited from an ‘endless mode’ or some modding support to add more to play
> if you don’t like getting a little philosophical then maybe brace for the latter quarter of the story

Should you play this game: Absolutely! I am an absolutely biased fan of CRPGs as a whole and their modern revivals are such amazing recreations and improvements on the classics. Although enjoyment and playtime may vary, I can’t not recommend this game for how well it creates a world you feel wholly immersed and a part of. I only regret that the entire game wasn’t voice acted, and that I don’t have the money to buy the DLC currently, because I would love to have another heaped spoonful of this depressing yet deep world.

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