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E3 2015 – The White March Part One Preview

William Murphy Posted:
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The first expansion to Pillars of Eternity is upon us, and lo: it looks really freaking good. We met with Obsidian’s Josh Sawyer at E3 to chat about The White March Part One, what players can expect from the expansion, and what we can all expect from future content updates going forward.

First off, Josh told us how they didn’t want to wait for 6 months or more before putting out the first expansion, and instead decided to release the first expansion in two parts.  The White March isn’t just for end-game players of PoE either. You don’t have to have finished the game to get the goodies in White March, as shortly after you unlock your own stronghold in the main campaign you’re contacted by an NPC to help explore what’s going on in an abandoned Dwarven Stronghold called the White Forge.

The problem? No one can figure out how to get in.  That’s where you come in. You’ll first find a way to get the Ogre clans to stop attacking local villagers (either by destroying them all or coming to a peaceful solution), and then the tale will unfurl from here.

There are two new companions being added with White March Part One: a bad-ass drug-addled old man of a Monk and a Construct Rogue that’s really handy with a gun… she’s also a known murderer.   As PoE is pretty much all about its characters, these two are bound to be new favorites. The monk, during our demo, was always a bit… aloof, for obvious reasons.  Their conversations help flavor the time between fights and story with really well-written party banter.

Josh also showed off the brand new feature of Party AI. A lot of folks don’t like micro-managing their party members every few seconds, so the Party AI will allow you to set routines and behaviors for each member of the party.  Supports can support, ranged can stay at range, and more. It’s going to be a wonderful tool for fans of the game, that’s for sure.

Another small, but bound to be useful feature is individual stealth. Now you’ll be able to truly use your rogues to scout ahead in stealth mode, and then have the rest of the party avoid danger or maneuver around to others areas if need be. Josh said that this will be added with the expansion patch, but you won’t need the expansion to access the feature (same with party AI).  They want the content to be what you pay for, but the quality of life changes will be for everyone.

There are loads more interludes with the book-like “Choose Your Own Adventure” events as well. Only in White March, your party make-up will matter much more. In one event we were shown, players had to choose who to send climbing up a rope that was losing its grip from the place where it was fastened. If you chose wrong, like say… a big heavy character, you can imagine what happens.

There are also loads of new monsters in the game, but along with them many of the classes have new higher level abilities to go with the higher level cap (raised by 2). Monks, for example get Dichotomous Soul which enables them to split their soul into a fire and ice embodiment as both go off to fight enemies with fists and feet of frost and flame.  Loads of new talents, new spells, and more are all available with the expansion.

One of the other big features of the expansion are Soulbound Weapons. They’re like artifacts you can find throughout the expansion content, which add huge bonuses to your character based on their class, and have some really gorgeous special effects as well.  You’ll unlock more powers on the weapons by completing specific achievements, sort of like leveling up the weapons as you play.  You can take it all back into the main game, companions, weapons, skills, everything. It’s not just limited to the new areas.

Paradox isn’t saying just when the expansion will release, but you can expect it sooner rather than later, because that’s part of the reason of splitting into two parts. They want it out before players forget about their game.  Backers who pledged the expansion on Kickstarter will get both parts one and two, while players who didn’t back the game will need to pay for each (but Josh did say the price for each part will reflect the fact that it’s a two-part expansion). 

Stay tuned to MMORPG for more coverage on the expansion, including our review, once it’s live later this year.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.