Earlier this week, the highly-acclaimed Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire grew a bit larger with the addition of the Beast of Winter DLC. The new content takes players to the frozen realm of Harbingers' Watch, a small village filled with fanatics dedicated to the god Rymrgand and his portion of the "Beyond".
The DLC opens with The Watcher receiving a letter from an Endings Godlike named Varnir. The Watcher is invited to Harbingers' Watch, a tiny village housing a cult to the god Rymrgand, one of the pantheon of gods in Eora and dedicated to famine, plague and entropy. The first steps on the island see the player receive an enthusiastic welcome by the cultists who call her the Duskwatcher, apparently because death and destruction follow her footsteps. It suits their narrative too as they are all looking for the glorious end to existence, theirs and everyone else's, it seems. Other than that, I'm not going to delve into the story. It's worth finding out on your own!
Beast of Winter is a departure from the more tropical climes that we've spent our time in during the main game. Obsidian has done a wonderful job conjuring up a frosty feeling with some new aesthetics in the buildings and even in the retooling of assets they've used before in the rest of PoE2. Honestly, coming out in the middle of summer was a great thing -- as the heat rises outside, the cool blues and whites and the freezing feeling of Beast of Winter can make you feel downright chilly while playing.
If you've finished the game, you'll load the DLC from "the point of no return" save file, but your party and all of its equipment will be intact. Once the missive is received, you'll set sail for the southern reaches of the Deadfire Archipelago. All of the action all takes place on an iceberg, a setting that can cause problems if you ignore the effects of the cold on the team. That's not the only thing that can challenge you either. Beast of Winter is a definite step up in difficulty even for players who have completed the game with a strong party. Even so, you'll really have to be on your toes as the very first battle will challenge even the toughest, hardcore player.
TIP: Be sure to turn off scaling.
TIP: Be sure to be buffed, rested and have all your idols and spells reset.
At any rate, the gameplay is as excellent as it is in the main game, so there is little in the need of explanation there beyond new effects (cold, frostbite and all manner of freezy badness). It's definitely worth keeping a Watcher's eye out on the party as these new effects can be pretty significant. And I don't know if it's just me or not, but damn...everything hits a LOT harder, checks require a lot higher numbers to be successful and traps are a lot harder to disarm, if at all.
All of the things that we love about cRPGs and Pillars of Eternity 2 are present. Players will meet and be able to recruit Vatnir, solve challenging puzzles, fight off undead dragons and "even have the chance to take on the aspect of a god" in the end.
Vatnir is a rare Priest of Rymrgand and Endings Godlike - those whose souls have touched Rymrgand before they were returned to the Wheel. As a teammate, he has the Condemnation domain and a focus in Famine, Entropy, and Winter. Additionally, any spells that depend upon a priest's god and faith reflect Rymrgand's portfolio. Vatnir can summon aspects of Rymrgand through his Spiritual Weapon ability, which summons dual battle axes, or Incarnate, which summons a reflection of Rymrgand to fight at his side. If all else fails, he can cast the Call and the Symbol of Rymrgand to usher in the cold from Rymrgand's realm to freeze his enemies. If Vatnir is just one too many priests to have in your party, he also has the option to multiclass as a Celebrant (Priest+Chanter), or a Zealot (Priest+Rogue).
All players, even thoughts who do not own Beast of Winter, will find some very welcomed new and tweaked features.
- the ability to skip the intro
- new character customization options
- 1-button ship resupply at vendors
- Veteran & Path of the Damned balance improvements to, yes, make them harder
- mod support
- stash search
- tweaks to the reputation screen to provide more information about how you're doing with your companions (and why)
- suggested companions - this is awesome as it provides the right companions with the most interesting dialog options for every quest
- challenge modes - these include removing the ability to use pause, permadeath after 6 seconds, Solo & Triple Crown challenges
All in all, Beast of Winter is an interesting, fun and challenging addition to an already 5-star game. It's part of the Season Pass for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, so it's included in that purchase. If you'd like to buy it separately (and it's worth it, believe me), you can do so for $9.99.