Later this week, Pillars of Eternity launches after over 77,000 crowdfunding backers demanded it to happen. The spiritual successor to the Infinity Engine RPGs of old (Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment), Obsidian’s game has a lot of hype and hope riding on it. Here are our first thoughts after several hours with the review copy.
Full disclosure, our copies were provided free of charge by Paradox and Obsidian, though several staff members have also backed the title (myself included). And frankly, those of us who did back the game are extremely happy we did. Our final review is coming later this week from Christopher Coke, and my own first impressions here may not be indicative of what Chris thinks. We’ll just have to wait and see where he ends up with his opinion.
Our video first impressions
But frankly? Of all the major RPGs we’ve seen released in previous months, Pillars of Eternity is the first one to make grab me from the first moment. Even everyone’s Game of the Year, Dragon Age: Inquisition can seem boring and obtuse at times. But from the tutorial onward with Pillars I’ve been hooked. That said, I don’t think Pillars will be for every gamer, rather it will mainly grab those folks who remember Baldur’s Gate era RPGs with a lot of fondness and those who have been missing that style of game ever since Black Isle closed shop.
Though based on seconds rather than turns, the pause-to-plan combat is back. The many, many, hand-drawn maps with secrets to uncover are there. Tons of meaningful and interesting side-quests abound. There’s one early on where you meet a man whose friend just died to a bear in a cave, you later find that man with the dead friend’s wife and can decide what happens from there. You have a deep character creation at the outset, hordes of fantastic companions to play with, and loads of interesting decisions in dialog and how you handle situations that actual alter the game as you play.
If there’s a weak link to Pillars of Eternity, it’s the visuals. Though drastically improved over Baldur’s Gate, the characters and NPCs are still low quality, but look fine from afar. Pillars is a game that’s meant to be played from the higher ¾ view, and while Obsidian enables you to zoom in on the action, it’s not always pretty. Voiceovers are simply fantastic, with a soundtrack that will make you proud to be a collector’s edition own if that’s what you opted for.
I don’t want to spoil too much for you here, or take away from Chris’ final review on the 26th. I’ll just say that it’s rare for an RPG to take me away from my daily MMO routine, because I too often miss being around other people. But Pillars of Eternity is one of those games, and I hope it’s the beginning of a whole new series of titles from Obsidian. Its world is detailed and fully realized, the lore is deep enough to warrant its own books, and I’m dying to finish the game just to see what happens to my own little Watcher. Oh, and the fact that you get your own stronghold to build up and customize is just icing on the cake. Player-housing isn’t just for MMOs you know.
In short, if you loved the Black Isle RPGs, and wish they would make a comeback… Pillars of Eternity is your game. Stay tuned to the site on the 26th for our full review, and watch our many streams of the game this week if you want more eyes-on. But for my money, Pillars of Eternity is well worth the wait.