Over four years after its initial release, as well as the release of a sequel, Pillars of Eternity has made its way to the Nintendo Switch. Exploding from its beginnings as a Kickstarter campaign, every release so far has been a success. With a lot of ports to the Switch being hit or miss due to the constraints of the console, Pillars of Eternity has a lot to pack into a small package. Including the mountain of backstory and systems from this colossal game, along with the conversion of PC controls to the console, able to go with you to all the Nintendo rooftop parties you can handle may be too good to be true. Let’s find out if it is with our review of Pillars of Eternity on the Nintendo Switch.
Pillars of Eternity drops you right in the middle of a camp, in a group of misfits travelling through a forest, the Dyrwood, an area known for dangerous cultists who will attack outsiders to defend their relics. After being tasked to go out and find some supplies, you come back to find your entire caravan has been killed by said cultists. After a brief fight, a strange storm occurs and forces you to run inside a nearby cave, leading you to see cultists using a machine which can pull souls from their bodies. The machine explodes with energy, killing your partner and imbuing you with the power to see and speak to souls. After waking up to find this, you set off to look for answers to both what has happened to you and what you saw, starting your grand adventure.
Gameplay feels like you’re getting thrown into a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. After creating and customizing your character, picking from a race, class, stats, traits\, and abilities, from the beginning the game lets you choose your own path and your own way forward. Conversations with other characters feel like you are having an actual conversation, while being able to learn more about the world’s lore as well. Exploring the world and interacting with NPCs offer the chance to find side quests and new party members, find hidden caves that can be filled with danger and loot, as well as contribute to the game’s fantastic world-building.
Even though originally a PC game, the controls are surprisingly intuitive after a bit of a learning curve. Though the inventory and paper doll management could use to be a bit more streamlined for controller use, everything else feels spot on. You can spin a targeting cone around your currently active character to target NPCs and items around you to interact with, while having the ability to cycle through multiple targets within your cone. Moving around with a joystick feels natural and being able to quickly cycle between characters both in and out of combat comes in handy often. Both triggers bring up a radial menu to cycle through, one being character management options (such as inventory, maps, quests, etc.) and the other having skills that you can use. Character and inventory management feels a little clunky, needing to activate either side of the screen before being able to interact with it, as well as needing to drag items into your paper doll into their respective slot to equip them rather than just being able to click an equip button.
Compared to other games on the console (looking at you, Fire Emblem), the text is more than readable within Pillars of Eternity, even in handheld mode. This is huge, since the game heavily relies on interaction with NPCs, and the developers made sure to make dialog boxes huge. They cover almost the entire screen, which feels odd at first to have most of the game screen disappear in favor of chat, though definitely was the right decision here. This, compared to the text log shown at all times on the screen, makes no sense. The log is barely able to show two lines of text and seems like its just a waste of space on the screen. There is an option to go into a scrollable version of it through one of the radial menus, but the display of it feels like a PC leftover.
Overall, Pillars of Eternity is both a fantastic port and still a fantastic game. While it may not have a lot of the ease of access features many newer RPGs have, it doesn’t need them. This is the type of game that is an experience. While definitely not for everyone, checking every corner of every area provides the player with either new items, or new lore to enhance their experience. Pillars of Eternity plays more like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and with the ability to take it with you on long commutes or boring events you have to attend, this makes it a great addition to any RPG lover’s catalog.
Note: Our Nintendo Switch copy of Pillars of Eternity was provided by PR