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The RPG Files: Pillars of Eternity - Making the Old New Again

Column By Christopher Coke on August 01, 2014

If you’re an old school RPG fan, this year is likely to go down in your record book. Divinity: Original Sin came out last month and impressed us all with its retro-roots and intense difficulty. Not to be outdone, Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity came out of the gate swinging this week and blew away press with a series of interviews and sneak peeks to leave any CRPG fan salivating. The old is new again. That and so much more – Destiny, The Witcher, and is Morrowind coming to mobile? – in this week’s RPG Files.

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Obsidian Entertainment made a tour of press outlets this week, visiting our friends at PC Gamer for an exclusive 30-minute gameplay reveal of their upcoming CRPG, Pillars of Eternity. The video highlights a number of key features but the most immediately eye catching is the robust character creation system. Players will be able to select from 11 classes, six races, seven cultures, ten social backgrounds, and a handful of ethnicities under each race. Some of these are mainly for roleplay value, such as ethnicity, but others, such as the social background will influence how the game plays out.

The developers don’t spend the full thirty minutes creating their characters, however. We also get to see a nice chunk of gameplay, including dialogue and turn-based combat. Your character’s attributes influence the dialogue options they have available but going with the highest stat choice doesn’t seem to be the best choice compared to roleplaying through situations. This is a game that emphasizes using your head when conversing with NPCs. Combat, too, isn’t just smash and grab as the Diablo-esque isometric camera might imply. Skills combine and interplay and pausing battle to plan your attack is an important element to the strategizing your way through tough battles.

Do you see that guys? That’s the wheel of game design coming around full-circle. I got my first taste of these types of games late in their lifespan with Neverwinter Nights. Then they fell out of vogue because newer is better, all of the time, every time. Or so big publishers would have us believe.

Here’s the thing: players never fell out of love with CRPGs. Game-makers just stopped making them. This is one of the increasingly rare occasions when we can sit back and say that Kickstarter did its thing, just as it was supposed. Players stepped up and voted with their wallet in support of games like Divinity: Original Sin and Pillars of Eternity and are now rediscovering why they loved the genre in the first place.

Original Sin and Pillars aren’t revolutionary games. They’re not cutting edge or million-sellers ala Call of Duty. Instead, they’re perfect examples of being just what they’re intended to be: beautiful, hard, deep roleplaying experiences that pull players into the game and make them wish developers could just make the games they wanted to. Publishers get caught up in their own forward momentum. Sometimes this is good but Divinity and Pillars are sterling reminders that good ideas are good, years down the line.

In other news…

If you weren’t excited for Shadows of Mordor, you certainly should be now. Monolith Productions unveiled a new cinematic trailer at San Diego Comic Con this week focusing on the game’s story. Gollum makes an appearance, as well as the ghostly figure of Celebrimbor, one of the original forgers of the Rings of Power who promptly takes the battle right to Sauron. This trailer is easily the best yet. I was lukewarm on Shadows for most of this year. Now, I’m thinking this might be the best Lord of the Rings game to come out since the PlayStation 2. Shadows of Mordor also received a new release date of September 30th.

Speaking of excited, how would you like to play Morrowind on your Android device? An intrepid modder is working to bring the game to your mobile and needs your help to do it. You can download the working APK through the above site’s forums, though be warned: its framerate is still in single-digit territory. For my part, as much as I would love to play Morrowind on the go, I’m skeptical that Bethesda will ever allow this project to see the light of day. Just ask SkyBladeCloud.

Destiny, a game that will be released, just finished out a successful beta test before its September 9th launch. All told, 4.6 million players took part, making it the largest beta event in console history. It will be interesting to see how those numbers translate to day-one sales and even more interesting how the servers hold up. Bets on “higher than expected demand,” anyone? Check out our impressions of the beta here.

Player choice takes center stage in the first Dragon Age: Inquisition feature video, though sadly there is little to be learned that we didn’t already know. If you’re an action combat fan, you can dive into the fray and get busy. If you’re strategic, you can pause-and-play to choose your actions. I enjoy both styles but still need to be convinced that they aren’t diametrically opposed. How necessary is pause-and-play when you can avoid it entirely? Still, it’s nice to have the option to shake things up. In other Dragon Age news, the companion app has been pushed back alongside the game’s release date.

In handheld news, Bravely Default has sold one million copies worldwide, once again proving that Old Final Fantasy (Bravely Default) is better than New Final Fantasy (Final Fantasy XIII et al).

Rounding out the week, we have… a coffee table book! Now, don’t rush to judgment yet; this is a Witcher coffee table book that will focus on the game’s lore (revealed at SDCC). It probably won’t have porn in it but, hey, this is The Witcher. Enhanced Edition “sessions” anyone? If you’re not a fan of coffee or books, have some cosplay. Everybody likes costumes.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Christopher Coke / Chris has been an RPG fan for as long as he has played video games. This week, you can find him taking his second tour of The Witcher 2 and eyeing a long overdue play-through of Mass Effect 3. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight.


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Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.

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