It may have taken an eternity but I finally finished the game. After sixty-one hours of gameplay – although a few hours may have been afk-paused – I completed Pillars of Eternity. I have been waiting for an RPG of this caliber for a long… long… time. Pillars of Eternity was developed to bring us back to good old days of RPG gaming that Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape torment gave us. In fact it seems like Obsidian Entertainment took the best bits of those games to create Pillars of Eternity. After a successful Kickstarter Pillars of Eternity was published on March 26, 2015 and was an instant classic! The game caught my eye just a week before release and was almost an immediate pickup – unfortunately my gaming plate was full but I ended up dumping it the following week and picked up PoE!
I started playing PoE and was instantly hooked. The D&D elements were thick from the start as you created you hero. There are six different races to choose from:
- Aumaua – The equivalent to a D&D half-giant.
- Dwarf – Yup Dwarves the smallest race in the game.
- Elf – Can’t be a fantasy RPG without Elves!
- Godlike – I believe this race was PoE’s attempt at Planetouched.
- Human – Linked just in case there are any aliens out there reading this.
- Orlan– Another small race akin to a Halfling in my opinion.
After you have chosen your race it is time to choose from eleven different class archetypes. These classes were your typical fantasy RPG fair minus the Cipher – a bit more unique but I am sure there is an equal to it out there in our vast universe of games.
- Barbarian – Conan NUFF said.
- Chanter – A unique breed of a Bard.
- Cipher – Uses psychic powers didn’t even use the one you get for the story-line.
- Druid – Turned out to be my favorite playable companions.
- Fighter – My main tank of the group.
- Monk – Did not use or run across as a potential companion.
- Paladin – My main hero. Bubble hearth and g-quit all the way! (WoW Reference)
- Priest – A must need in all parties, you can’t go without one of these easily.
- Ranger – Complete with companion pet so more of a hunter.
- Rogue – I pick locks, sneak around, and back-stab! Except not with this party.
- Wizard – Blow shit up and control! Root Nuke Nuke Nuke!
So you start the game off with a follower companion after a set of tragic events besets your traveling caravan. The story begins to unravel and is told with a mix of voice over narration, voice over interaction with certain NPC’s and companions, and a hell of a lot of reading. The story however was very engaging and at times and really draws you in; the developers did a great job of painting the picture in my mind of what was going on or things that may have happened in the past. I am not one for reading in games; I tend to lean more click, click, click, done. Not with this game there were times where I felt in-tune with my character and his past – almost hypnotic which is scary if you follow along with what’s going on with the story. I am not going to begin to spoil the story here as it is well worth the price of admission; I recommend you play PoE and see for yourself!
The world of Pillars of Eternity is set in the lands of Eora. There is over thirty different maps to explore that have caves and caverns to investigate; dungeons to crawl through; castles and keeps to pillage; merchants to buy and sell from; Non Player Characters to receive quests from and in some cases become playable party companions; and of course a world of monsters, bandits, and beasts to slay! It’s not a complete open world and when you travel from map to map it actually takes in-game time. Depending on difficulty level you are provided with a number of campfires to stop and rest as you and your companions can get tired and receive detrimental effects. I played through on normal and was given four campfires max. In addition to campfires you can find Inn’s and use your home to rest in, and of course merchants can sell you more and you may find them in your travels.
This is not much of a hindrance on normal and easy levels but I would imagine on the higher difficulties it would be a great disadvantage. There were a few dungeon crawls that had me retreating back to a village to resupply my campfire stock. One dungeon in particular has well over ten levels of depth to it and requires frequent trips to resupply and rest the further you venture down. Which presents one of my only gripes for this game — I never finished this dungeon. There are three acts in total to the game plus the endgame sequence. All I can say if you are a completionist make sure you explore and discover everything you can before you are whisked along the story-line and are unable to go back. This happened at least one other time throughout the acts. It goes without saying to save the game often and make sure you don’t go delete and overwrite happy to clean up you list of saves.
Graphics wise there is nothing groundbreaking with this game. The graphics are good enough, it’s the story-line, combat & tactics, and ability to control and grow your party that sucked me in. Shaping your party in a play style that suits your needs is awesome. You can create new heroes and shape them anyway you want OR you can choose to bring up to five of the eight story-line companions you find along the way. Of course when a story-line companion level up you are able to pick their skills, abilities, and spells starting at whatever level they were when you met them. Each companion has its own quest to accomplish and the banter between them, while walking around and in conversation, brings a sense of reality that everyone in the party is indeed a different individual. This can lead to some hilarious interactions depending on their beliefs. My favorite character is the Priest you pick up quite early named Durance. This crazy wide eyed old coot is off his rocker and hardly shuts up at times.
I chose to use four story-line companions and made my own Orlan Ranger and pumped up his Mechanics and Stealth in order to scout and open/disarm any lock or trap that got in my way. I am sure you could have picked any story-line companion to do this but I was selfish and wanted two characters of my own design from the start to control! My hero character was a Paladin and wielded a 2H for DPS (damage per second) and also could off-tank if need be. The rest of my party consisted of a Fighter for tanking, a priest for heals and buffs, wizard for nukes and crowd control, druid for just about everything, and I would occasionally swap in a Chanter for my handmade Ranger because I liked the one you met along the way.
The combat was a top down RPG affair that allowed you to pause and control your party members through the battle. Again nothing ground breaking but developing strategies and tactics is what drove me to carry out each battle in hopes to become victorious! On a normal difficultly there were certain situations that could be difficult and you actually can use the environment to create choke points to help accomplish a victory. I spent a good hour or so on the very last battle and must hand it to them it was epic! Actually had to put the game down for the night and conquer it the next day. There were a few other encounters like this but by far the last battle was worthy of endgame.
The massive varieties of spells your casters get are incredible. I was able to unleash quite the storm of control and damage with both the Druid and Wizard in the group. My Paladin was basically on autopilot with a few moves, lay-on-hand for “oh shit” moments to heal, and an in-combat rez used most the time to get my fallen priest back up. I think if I were to play again I would role a druid instead. There is also a wealth of crafting that includes cooking, alchemy, creating spell scrolls, and enchanting your weapons and armor. To be honest I did not venture very far and used what was given to me along the way. I did enchant my weapons and armor but that was about it. Quests are made up of main, side, companion, and tasks. Often you are rewarded with a bit of coin, experience, and various items to help you along the way. At the start of the game I was a little strapped for cash but by the time I completed the game I had amassed a small fortune of around 60k. In hindsight I should have spent it all before I was whisked away to the end game.
The sound effects and musical score was another huge bonus in keeping me in-tune and engaged with Pillars of Eternity. When you walked into an Inn the sounds you heard may as well been recorded in an old timey tavern. There’s laughter, hushed conversations, the sounds of people drinking and shuffling about, it was an authentic feeling. The ambient music was beautiful and felt like it had influences from games such as the Elder Scroll series and any movie from any of the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit trilogies.
Overall this game was Excellent and well deserving of 5 out of 5! For any game to keep my attention for over 50 hours of game-play it must be amazing and Pillars of Eternity most definitely was. In the end I felt like there could be a sequel to this game and beg Obsidian to do it again! If you have not played PoE yet, and you are a big RPG fan, I recommend it as a must have! Thank you Obsidian for delivering a game that – for me – stands atop of the Classic RPG Mountain.