The past Steam sale got me a large number of games in stock. Most of which I probably won’t play. But there’s just one that got me going through the nights and mornings – Pillars of Eternity. The game wasn’t that enticing to look at and the videos weren’t that enough for me to look forward to the game. But a high review score and some comments that make sense? Whoah. Those reasons were enough for me to think twice and here there I was, going through the late nights firing up the game. But, is it worth it?
*Due to the frugal nature of the author, the game is almost one-year old prior to this review.
Pillars of Eternity is set in the world of Eora. Dwarves, elves, humans, and other humanoids, mingle across vast cities of the empire. The game is specifically founded on the region of the Eastern Reach, a large swath of land where-in some states seceded from the large Empire and have acquired means to manage themselves on their own, despite the difficulties and rundown economy.
The player starts as part of a caravan heading for a border town in the Eastern Reach. The caravan encounters a freak accident that leaves everyone dead and imbues the player character with the power to read souls. Reading souls can be treated as a either a curse or a blessing as it allows the afflicted to see the previous lives of people that they encounter. Ultimately, if left unchecked, it affects them too much and they become insane.
The first tree you encounter in a town is a good indicator of what is in store for you.
Deciding to cure him/herself of this predicament, the player goes across the Eastern Reach to confront those that are responsible. Along the way, the region is also affected by a phenomenon that renders babies soulless, leaving them in an immediate vegetative state once they are born. Is it connected with what happened with the player?
If you’re itching for some old-school isometric RPG, Pillars of Eternity will satisfy that. Stylized in a way that is reminiscent of the 90’s vibe of roleplaying games, Pillars of Eternity has the dice rolls, moral alignment, and interesting NPC interactions.
Initially, the player builds up the character that would represent him in the game. A series of past histories and jobs are available to choose from and they affect dialogues and interactions in the world of Eora. And as always, a limited number of stat points can be appended to several attributes to customize how the character will react against combat and diplomacy.
Experience points are gained not with every encounter but with every completed quest and for every area discovered. Downing a difficult boss won’t net the player a prompt to level-up unless it is part of a slaying quest. The good thing about it all is that the available quests are not the usual run-of-the-mill fetch ones. They have substance and some are incredibly well written, drawing the player in to ask for some more tidbits about the how’s and why’s.
As the adventure drags on, the party becomes tired and will have detrimental status effects to show it. Resting will remove these disadvantages.
The player’s adventure goes through a number of locales, though limited, offers a large variety in terms of size and content. There are no random encounters and combat is usually found inside dungeons, city streets, and lonely locations.
The Grieving Mother’s questline is a bit trippy and text-heavy. But kind of rewarding to those that endure.
Friendly NPCs can also be spotted and recruited to join the gang. Some of which offer a good background story that is told through a series of quests. Although, the player can make use of “pub-churned” NPCs that are custom built by the player similar to that of the main character. These allies do not have an in-game tale to tell but if the player wishes to have a squad full of heavy legionnaires or archers, then he is free to do so.
Even wyrms can talk.
Oh, and Pillars of Eternity is not for the type of person who hates to read long lines of text. The game has walls and walls of text to read through and is a bit similar to having read an e-book. In certain times, voiceovers are available, granted that the NPC is of major importance to the tale.
Among other things, crafting and base building is also part of Pillars of Eternity. The player can craft and imbue weapons based on the materials collected along the adventure. At some point, a rundown fort can be acquired and restructured as a base of operations.
Form time to time, marauders invade the stronghold.
The game is not turn-based. Every character, be they friend or foe, acts in real time. However, upon attacking or doing something, a character must recharge for a short-time in order to act again. The mechanics are similar to ATB in Final Fantasy and gives off a hybrid approach compared to the frequently used the “stop and go” method. The player can pause the game to issue commands prior for each character to act out.
Forming a barrier of tanks to protect those behind is a recommended strategy in Pillars of Eternity.
Pillars of Eternity is not an easy game and it requires strategy and placement, and is not reliant on player level and items. I found this good as the game forces the player to make use of the environment’s design and micromanaging skills. Choke points become traps that could stop the enemy from rushing to your mages. It is also advisable for the player to take into consideration the formation of his party.
The game is made through the use of Unity Engine. While Unity is not a pretty engine, it makes most games work and the same can be said with Pillars of Eternity. The graphics are not that good compared with other titles but hey, it’s a game that wants to emulate the RPGs of old and it’s pretty when you think about it. Music-wise, there’s nothing to complain about save for the looping combat theme that you’ll most likely hear from the beginning until the end of your adventure.
If there WERE dragons.
Pillars of Eternity is one of those games that brings back the old and reforms it into something new. There’s nothing innovative with it, but it was released at a time where-in it is different with the norm, and I can say that the charm lies in there. The overall mechanics are not altogether forgotten, just made into something that reminds us of what it was.
Despite the lack of innovation, Pillars of Eternity is a great and solid game. The story is well-written, the combat is deep and punishing, and most quests are well-written. If you’re a fan of RPGs, then it’s one those games that you should watch out for should there be another Steam sale.