There was a time not so very long ago when the Dungeons and Dragons RPG games where among the key reasons that gamers turned to the PC. Of a stupidly high standard, engaging and massive in size it simply wasn’t possible to get the same experience on a console. Games like Baldur’s Gate and never Winter Nights let gamers into a world rich in lore and adventure and as such most have a huge following even now. We’ve had a few enhanced editions of older games but Pillars of Eternity is the first new game in the genre to come out in a while.
Pillars of Eternity is certainly a spiritual successor to the best in the genre and anyone familiar with the style of those games will know what to expect here. You view the game from a sort of isometric/top down view and click around rather lovely looking enclosed maps to move your adventurers around. The presentation is very close to other games of this type in terms of display with the only real changes being to stream line the system so that things like spells and weapons are easier to sort out and use.
Of course, this isn’t a game in the Dungeons and Dragons universe so there is a fair amount of things to get used to. There are unfamiliar races and classes and we spent quite a long time having to read through the descriptions of things before finally settling on which type of character to build. To start with we did feel a bit lost but then that has to expected when a game of this size basically builds a new set races, classes and the general lore of the land.
Luckily, the combat works much the same as before and if you’ve played any other Obsidian games then you’ll know what to expect. Its turn based with time freezing when you first encounter enemies so that you can set up your initial strikes. Each character has any special commands, spells or alternative equipment displayed above their portrait on the main screen and getting them to do something requires a mouse click and then another click where you want them to execute it. If everything is getting too hectic you can also pause the combat by pressing the space button. When your character performs an action you then have to wait for a bar to run down before they will then perform the next.
The visual design of the game is strong and helps to draw you into the world. New areas cry out to be explored fully and there are lots of hidden treasures to be found so it keeps things interesting. There are also suitably epic and brooding musical scores to accompany the visuals which set the scene excellently. The addition of some colour blind options is also a very welcome sight as the initial set up of friend and foe is that of red and green. Clicking the colour blind options changes friendly targets to blue which will at least help some people. Changing the shapes around friend and foe would have made things evens clearer but it is a least a solid first step to accessibility.
The story itself is suitably epic (and slightly familiar) as well. We’ve certainly scene a main character in these types of games before who suffers from strange visions. That said the games plot is so dense and there is so much else to see and do along the way that something somewhere was always likely to seem a little familiar. Indeed, sub quests will fill up your journal like no tomorrow and there’s also a stronghold and crafting to get involved with.
We won’t even pretend to say that we have managed to complete everything the game has to offer but what we can say with confidence is that it has kept us interested for hours on end and it is highly likely that we will. In a game of this size that is the real trick as there has got to be about fifty hours of game in here at a conservative estimate and when to take into account trying out different classes you are going to be reaching into the hundreds.
Overall, Pillars of Eternity is a triumphant return to the genre. It’s filled with moments of wonder and sends you on an adventure more epic than pretty much anything else we’ve seen over the last ten years. There’s so much detail in the world that you can’t help to be drawn in and there’s some much flexibility in how to play that it really allows you to try and adventure in the way you want to. The writing and voice acting is also excellent. If you’ve been looking for a truly epic adventure then this is the game for you.