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Obsidian Entertainment | Official Site
RPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 03/26/15)  | Pub:Paradox Interactive
Distribution:Download | Retail Price:n/a | Pay Type:Free | Monthly Fee:n/a
System Req: PC Mac Linux | ESRB:RPOut of date info? Let us know!

A Modern Classic - Edit

A Modern Classic

I knew what I had to do. I raised my sword… WHIFFED. Again, WHIFF. And again, and again until finally my hits started landing. Between each swing a timing bar would count down for each of us resulting in a game of swing, wait, swing, wait, until finally he dropped dead and I took his feather cap. See, in Pillars, combat has a nasty habit of breaking its own pacing. Thankfully, the later lack of party AI demands that you split your attention and ignore the overt dice-rolling.

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Combat also feels slightly simplistic when compared to its fantasy contemporary, Divinity: Original Sin. The two games bear few comparisons when it comes to combat, but Pillars’ lack of environmental interaction stands out when so much of the world begs to be touched.

Other mechanics show just how much the rest of the industry stands to learn. There is a real depth here uncommon to modern RPGs. Everything from bartering with shopkeepers, to logical looting, to renting upper scale rooms for combat buffs at the inn feels novel. Modern games throw these depth-giving ideas out the window, why? For an extra cutscene? That Pillars does so much with so little and so well is a feat.

Pillars can also be quite creative. Not long into the game, you come into possession of a rundown stronghold in desperate need of repair. This stronghold becomes a home base, of sorts, and can be upgraded with lots of fun options. Maybe you’d like a hedgemaze to boost your characters’ stealth? Or how a dungeon to lock up named enemies instead of killing them on the field? Much more is possible and all of it influences the amount of type of random events which and activities which can occur there.

In other areas, Pillars adapts to improve quality of life. The best example is how you manage your inventory. Starting the game, it seems as if you’re limited to 16 slots per character. It wasn’t until I visited a shopkeeper that I realized some of the crafting materials were missing! Lo and behold, clicking the chest icon on my inventory page which opened “the stash,” a community chest that automatically takes anything that won’t fit in your bag, and is accessible anywhere in the world. It might be a immersion breaking, but if you’re planning on doing much looting (you are) it quickly becomes a godsend.

Even with little immersion quirks here and there, the game manages to marry itself its world and story better than most others. I stayed up late more than one night making my way through a dungeon, going just one more room before camping for the night (literally and figuratively). I started thinking about my time with the game not in gameplay hours but in the days my characters spent in the depths of dungeons and in the campaign proper (which is how it records your time played). It commits to what it's trying to do and succeeds because of it.

The side effect, unfortunately, is that once you’re through the campaign and side-content, the world is likely to become a bit of a shell. At some point, there is the expectation that you will re-roll and do it all over again on a higher level of the games six difficulty options: Easy all the way to Trial of the Damned which deletes your save when you die. That’s what I call perma-death.

Is Pillars of Eternity the perfect game? No, but it is an incredibly good one. When fans backed the Kickstarter to the tune of nearly four million dollars, they did so on the promise of Obsidian returning to their roots; more than that, that they would return we RPG players to our roots. By taking cues from the past, Pillars of Eternity bears lessons for future developers. Accessibility is fine, but players learn to love depth. Cutscenes are important, but less so than a well-crafted story. And the world itself should be the reason to explore, not the experience from the 100th bandit. Pillars isn’t perfect, no, but it may just be a modern classic.

Gameplay - 9: Fantastic with the right amount of challenge for all levels. So long as you don’t mind some obvious dice-rolling, PoE offers a deep, satisfying experience.

Visuals and Sound - 9: The handcrafted environments and well-paired score are beautiful and create a well-realized game world. Character models are low detail but it’s easy to ignore during gameplay.

Polish - 8: Very few bugs. Menus are a little cumbersome and overly busy, and the game relies pretty heavily an intimidating Cyclopedia, but the overall package is well-done.

Longevity - 9: With a meaty campaign and tons of side content, Pillars of Eternity offers dozens of hours of content on a single playthrough. Seeing how things unfold with different choices easily multiplies that.

Value - 10: With a $45 asking price, and a huge amount of content, this value proposition is clear. This is a steal for what you’re getting.

Final Score

9

Pros
 Beautiful, expansive world
 Deep, classic RPG game play
 Dozens of hours to complete
 Replayablity with new characters
Cons
 Combat pacing can feel off