Chances are you’ve probably heard about how great Pillars of Eternity is and if you’re not already playing it, then you likely will be soon. But if you have somehow managed to evade the recent hype, ignore the reviews flooding the internet, and just generally don’t think it’s worth your time, this article’s mission is to convince you otherwise. Pillars of Eternity isn’t going to be the perfect game for everyone, but it’s a game that everyone should at least play.
If this simple list isn’t enough for you, then you can read our official review here. Or maybe first impressions piece is more your speed. But if you’re into more modern reporting, then perhaps you prefer to watch a video version of some impressions. Once you decide to play, I highly recommend checking out this list of great tips to help you get started. Now that all of those hyperlinks are out of the way, let’s dive right into it!
5) Obsidian Entertainment’s Pedigree
Depending on your knowledge of PC gaming history, you may or may not fully comprehend the extent of Obsidian’s experience with this genre. The Obsidian that we know in its current form is responsible for games like Neverwinter Nights 2, KOTOR 2, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and a handful of other generally well-received creations. However, it goes back much farther than that.
Back in the golden years of PC gaming a little studio by the name of Black Isle exists and was made up of several key members of the Obsidian of today. Black Isle was responsible for games like Fallout 2, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment – all of which are critically acclaimed and often regarded as some of the most influential games of their time. Of course times have changed and the differences between Planescape: Torment and South Park: The Stick of Truth are pretty blaringly obvious, but magic like that doesn’t just disappear. As it turns out, it just festers and eventually boils over into a modern-day classic such as Pillars of Eternity.
4) Great Characters
Great roleplaying games are defined and remembered by a lot of aspects, but near the top of that list is undoubtedly the quality of the game’s characters. Pick one of your favorite RPGs, think about your favorite moments, and pick out what the strongest details in your memory are. Is it a particular moment of gameplay, a cool item you got, or stats at your character screen? I’m guessing probably not. In fact, I’m guessing your memory was a narrative element that was tied directly to one of your favorite characters.
Since Pillars of Eternity is based in a brand new fictional world, with new characters, new rules, and new everything, that means you can throw your preconceived ideals out the door before even starting the game. Of course you have your standard races and classes, but there is a lot of variety and nuance as well. And the character creation portion at the start of the game borders on some of the best this industry has seen – period. Whether it be your ultra-customized hero, or the quirky bar maid that needs your help, Pillars of Eternity is full of interesting and memorable characters from start to finish.
3) Nostalgia Redefined
The most overwhelming influence for this game stems direction from Obsidian’s roots, which just so happen to share roots with the computer RPG genre itself. While it’s not necessary that you be familiar with the likes of Baldur’s Gate before diving into this fresh new world, it will surely enhance your experience if you are.
The old-school pause and play combat somehow feels fresh again. The isometric view lends itself well to the painstakingly crafted environments. The absence of multiplayer serves as a grand demonstration of Obsidian’s dedication to creating a vibrant and details world to explore. Elements from Pillars of Eternity emanate the late 90s and early 00s while simultaneously feeling both wonderful and new at the same time.
2) Innovative Updates to the Formula
Pillars of Eternity isn’t afraid to shake up things you thought you knew. For example, at first it’s going to seem weird making a mage with a lot of points in their “Might” stat, but since all classes use this stat to calculate damage, it’s pretty much a given you’ll have a Mighty Wizard. Then there’s a new class known as the Chanter. While on it’s face it seems incredibly similar to a Bard, there are a few stylistic and mechanical differences to make them unique.
And that’s pretty much the theme here – small tweaks and changes to make it fresh, but not entirely foreign. Juggling your Endurance and Health is a lot like having a Stamina bar, sort of, but not quite the same. Understanding the importance of positioning and knowing how to engage and disengage – that’s the core of the combat system and it hasn’t really been emphasized as much in most modern games. For every ounce of nostalgia, there is at least another full ounce of iteration, which is what makes the core design principles behind Pillars of Eternity so inherently satisfying.
1) Rich and Detailed Storytelling
Above all else though, beyond the pedigree, above the characters, past the nostalgia, and towering over the innovation, above all of that, sits Pillars of Eternity’s masterful storytelling. In a lot of ways it’s your standard “chosen one” story – but there’s so much more to it than that. The pacing is brilliant, the sidequests are immediately intriguing, the plot undergoes satisfying twists and turns, and it sinks its hooks firmly into you from the very start.
However, consider yourself warned, that if you don’t like to read a lot, then chances are that will honestly and truly be a major deal breaker for you. There is a lot of text in this game. Everything from the “cutscene” vignettes and dialogue all the way to describing actions that characters take using flavor text, there are a lot of words to read in this game. The voice acting that exists is stellar of course, but the descriptions and stories on-screen are what really push this one to the top. If you enjoy a good story in an interesting world, then this is a game you need to experience.
Are you currently playing Pillars of Eternity? If not, why not? If so, how do you like it? Hopefully this list has given you a bit of additional insight into why this game is kind of a big deal in the gaming community right now. It’s not really a Baldur’s Gate III, but it’s the next best thing.