Writing a review for an expansion to a story-based RPG is never easy. Suffice it to say, you’ll want to turn back now if you don’t want spoilers on Pillars of Eternity’s White March Part 1. If you just want the score, and to know whether or not it lives up to the game’s earlier content? The score is 8.4 and yes, it definitely does. Read on for our full review.
The White March Part 1 left off with both a story complete, and a cliffhanger portending doom for the northern reaches of Eora. We managed to reopen and reignite the White Forge inside of the long-forgotten Durgan’s Battery, and the town of Stalwart became a prosperous mining town in the months between WM part 1 and the beginning of part 2. If you recall, as the fires of the White Forge roared on and as you returned of Caed Nua, the first expansion ended with an ominous foreboding noise from the north beyond Stalwart.
In short, without giving too much away? The White Forge was closed for a reason. Reopening it went and pissed off something ancient, and there won’t be an easy way to appease them. I loved every single second of The White March’s story in parts 1 and 2. I played through Part 2 twice, once with my original character, and once on Story Time with a new character (we’ll talk more about Story Time momentarily). Often in these long and winding RPGs, I get lost pursuing side quests, and the main story sometimes takes a back seat. This time, like Part 1 before it, the tale of the White Forge and Eora’s ancient gods had me so enthralled that I finished the main storyline first, simply because I wanted to know how it ends. And for those who like replay? You’ll be happy to know there are several possible endings, all based on the choices you make.
Story Time, the new game mode in Pillars of Eternity 3.0 (which applies to vanilla PoE, and the first expansion) will make subsequent playthroughs much more enticing. Those who play Pillars know it’s not an easy game. Even on “Easy” Pillars nuanced combat can be challenging for those who don’t have the patience to take it step by step and strategize between actions. Story Time, in Game Director Josh Sawyer’s own words:
“Story Time uses the encounter composition of Normal difficulty but biases the math heavily in the player’s favor. Enemies have lower stats overall. Party members Crit more often, especially when enemies are at low Endurance. Enemies have increased Recovery (attack less frequently), crit far less, have inaccurate Disengagement Attacks, do less damage overall, and do much less damage against party members who are at low Endurance. Hostile status effects on party members are reduced in duration. The party can also carry (effectively) unlimited Camping Supplies.”
Essentially, you can and still will die if you don’t pay attention, but Story Time makes the game’s difficulty far more entertaining. If you haven’t finished Pillars or have never bought into it because of the aforementioned difficulty, today’s 3.0 launch is the absolute perfect time to try out one of 2015’s best games. If you loved Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate, and games of that ilk, Pillars is basically a love letter to those games with a more in-depth combat system and an all new world and lore to delve into.
There’s a new companion, complete with her own story and questline in TWM part 2: Maneha. An Aumaua Barbarian, her voice reminded me of Suzie Ford – resolute, kind, and determined. I’m not buttering up Suzie, either, it really sounds like they hired our beloved News Editor to voice the brutal combatant. And she is someone worth taking along too. My main was a range-focused Druid, and I love Durance (at range) and Sagani, so having another capable melee fighter was fantastic for my first playthrough. Her story, nuanced and layered as the Watcher’s own tale, is worth seeing through to the end as well. She may not be as fun to bring with you as the Devil of Caroc, but kudos to Obsidian for making yet another memorable character.
The Pillars of Eternity story seems to come to a close with the completion of The White March part 2. If the gaming gods are just, Sawyer and his team at Obsidian are already planning on where to take us with Pillars of Eternity 2. There’s a whole wide world they’ve crafted, and we’ve only touched in a very little bit of it all. This expansion really made me keen to find out more about the old gods, their struggles, and why exactly so many seem to have forgotten them save the fringe cults. In whatever form we get the next installment, I hope it touches more upon the past and layers in more of the Eora’s carefully constructed lore. Hats off to Obsidian Entertainment for creating and curating a fantasy world I can care about again, and here’s hoping for many more adventures in the future.
GAMEPLAY: 9 Story-Time makes for an overall more enjoyable experience for those just looking for a good RPG tale. The game’s new quests are among its best, and the always welcome challenge of Normal and above difficulty will give fans of tough games something to work through.
VISUALS AND SOUND: 8 Pillars of Eternity’s hand-made backgrounds are a thing of beauty. The character models are “OK”, but it’s the game’s sound and the fantastic voice acting make this one superb.
POLISH: 9 Simply put, there aren’t really any noticeable bugs, the difficulty balance feels right, and the game is polished to a sheen. Bring on Pillars 2, please!
LONGEVITY: 7 There are plenty of side quests, a nice lengthy main quest, and loads of replay value. Still, we’re rating on the longevity of this single expansion. VALUE: 9 For $15 and free to Kickstarter backers, there is around 20 hours’ worth of content here. Definitely worth the price, and more considering replay value on other characters.