Lately the Role Playing genre has been flooded MMO’s, aRPG’s even FPS, but few developers have decided to go the classic route of the traditional RPG. Obsidian Entertainment did just that with their new game Pillars of Eternity. They went right to the route of establishing your character’s “sheet” with some classic decisions of “how many points do I put in stealth?” “ or “what kind of character is my character going to be?”. It really brought me back to my days of playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends; designing characters to be exactly how we wanted to be, and then putting up with the nonsense that the dungeon master, or in this case the developer throws at me.
This game immediately jumped out at me as a game similar to the classic Baldur’s Gate, a game I spent way too much time playing when I was younger so I got pretty excited. It definitely facilitated a lot of RPG mechanics that I much enjoy from DND, as mentioned earlier: editing the way your character looks, editing the type of class/race they are, and the number crunching of finding the perfect specialization. I spent a good 30 minutes of booting up the game simply reading through all the different routes I could go with my character, and finding out which archetype would suit me the best. With each class, as per the usual, there were different skills to each class, and that was another thing that I spent reading.
The skills seem to be well thought out and highly reflect the different ways your character (or characters) will be played. The different races were my favorite part of the character creation. They have the typical human/elves/gnome(or dwarf) races, but Pillar of Eternity have provided their own spin on them as well as introducing their own race: Godlike. I can’t even explain the absolute bad-assness of this race. They just look powerful, with their emanating features and protruding, but I digress. The point I’ve been trying to make is that character creation is incredibly fun.
The story kicks off with your character going along with a group of settlers. As a little bit of story-telling begins, it cuts to your character getting sick and so the settlers stop to allow you to rest up. The leader of the group tells you and another person to head to the nearby river and grab some berries that should make you feel a little better. As with every game, it’s inevitably a bad thing, as some bandits raid the camp while you and this other person are off getting berries. To be honest, the first part of the story was kind of bland- nothing really progressed story wise. But shortly after, the story ramps up insanely quickly with a crazy storm sending you and two survivors from the camp into a cave. As you make your way through the cave, you are told a story of how the cave and surrounding area was some ruins of some culture of another and the bandits that attacked you were only “protecting” them due to who their leader/deity telling them to do so.
“I’m a Watcher. You can trust me.”
Then you exit the cave to stumble upon this cult who surrounds a burnt corpse. The cult leader talks about how they are doing the proper thing and then this huge machine explodes, your followers die, you get knocked out, and the cult ends up as burnt corpses as well. You wake up, and a dormant power wakes up inside you as you become a Watcher: a person who can see memories of things that have happened as well as the events that certain people originated from. It just expands there, quickly too if you happen to talk to the right NPC. The story is cut into different acts, with 4 being available right now. I’d be surprised if Obsidian didn’t release more as the game matured a bit, as I feel like they have plenty of options to explore.
The audio is definitely the weakest part of the game. The only thing I enjoyed listening to was the occasional dialogue. I don’t know if it was intentional or not but it seemed that the dialogue wasn’t consistent. Multiple times, the NPC you’d interact with would spout one line of dialogue and then not say anything the next line. It would get pretty frustrating when I was expecting the funnier lines of dialogue, but be stuck reading the lines like some kind of barbarian! Also the score seemed weak. It might be that I’ve gotten used to the awesome music I’ve been hearing on games lately but, it just felt like there hasn’t been any coordination with what’s going on in the game. In conjuction with that, the graphics aren’t all that mind blowing either. They are definitely a lot smoother than some other RPG classics, but that’s to be expected as the game is a month old when compared to the other games that are 5+ years old.
The gameplay and mechanics were definitely decent enough in some areas, they were frustrating in others. The basics of moving around the map and getting to places seems to take forever. On one hand, you have the option of having the exploration and movement part go up to double normal speed, but even then, it felt so slow and seemed to take forever just to explore new areas. It was very exhausting and just slowed the game play down a lot! At one point, I had to just exit the game because the distance between combat or dialogue just seemed in the excess of 5-10 minutes of walking to the next area – it can be that painful! On the other hand, when combat actually takes place, it’s incredibly fun. You’re able to pause combat to issue new commands to the people in your party, as well as cast some of the many spells that are available to your characters. It’s very much turn based, but the pause feature gives you a lot more time to think about how you want to go about killing your enemies when they pop up.
Overall, the game is quite enjoyable, and is right up my role playing alley. But there are some parts of it that will bore me to the point that I won’t be able to play this game day to day; back to back. I do want to get to the bottom of the story, but when it takes me 5 minutes to get to a point where I hear some dialogue, walk around for another 5 minutes, fight some things for 2 minutes, walk around for another few minutes, then MAYBE hear some more dialogue, I’ll get too bored. Too many high paced games have put me to the point of not having the patience of playing a game like that for very long. I’d recommend it if you enjoyed classics like Baldur’s Gate. Otherwise, pass up – you’re not going to be missing “the next big thing”.