Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pillars of Eternity: Fantastic!

Wednesday March 16th 2016 was a good day in roleplaying games for me.

After well over 80 hours, I finally managed to finish Pillars of Eternity ("POE"), surely one of the best (if not the best?) isometric RPG games in recent history.

In a world where MMORPGs seem to be the heavy hitters, there is something refreshing about diving into a single player game, selecting your party of stalwart adventurers and misfits, and leading them on a journey of discovery where you get to make every choice for your group.

As there are lots of high-quality reviews on the web, I'm just going to make a few points here...

"You must gather your party before venturing forth..."

Hearing this classic phrase the first time I left a party member behind and tried to leave a map in POE made me smile. Not only did it take me back to 1998 and Baldur's Gate, but it confirmed again for me just how much hard work and love went into creating this game. Obsidian deserves a lot of credit for the excellent work they have done with this title. I for one am very grateful that their Kickstarter was so successful! 

Now that's a successful Kickstarter...

From start to finish, POE is a quality experience. 

Right out of the gate, character creation gives you this impression. You are free to choose from a wide range of races and classes, and while the standard fantasy tropes are there (Elves, humans, dwarves - or similar) it is nice to see some original races appear too. You get to choose your religion or any god that you want to follow, as well as their backgrounds. Naturally all of this affects your stats and outlook on life as well as providing potential bonuses with various weapon types.

That doesn't mean that you are stuck on a particular path however. The game provides a large variety of weapon types, and although classes favour certain weapons, that doesn't mean you can't use others. Leveling up gives you the opportunity to specialize in certain weapon sets throughout the game. A priest can specialize in the "Ruffian" weapons skill (and the 4-5 weapons that encompasses) just like an assassin. It was refreshing to have a wizard in the party who had some skill with a rapier.

The impression of quality initially created continues throughout the game in a number of ways. As far as I know, my game wasn't affected by a single bug. Voice acting was good where it existed, and the interface was usable and generally quite efficient.

Great story, with satisfying depth... the heart of any great RPG. That is as true now as it was 20 years ago. Even if Pillars is a quality experience, it wouldn't be as good as it is if the story wasn't up to scratch, so I'm happy to report that it IS good. Also, there is depth here in both the combat and roleplaying, giving you sufficient challenge, but always plenty of options to tackle them. 

That depth is furthered by an interesting array of NPCs who you can choose to join your party. Sure, no-one quite matches up to the lovable madness of Minsc in Baldur's Gate (not to mention Boo) but some of them are up there. You'll find some enjoyable side quests and personal stories to explore on their behalf too. One mark of a good set of party NPCs is how difficult it is to make a decision about who to have in your group. In POE, that can be a difficult choice from both a roleplaying AND tactical perspective and I found myself arguing with myself on many occasions who to take into my party.

Finally, there is literal depth, in the form of a hack and slash super-dungeon that seems to go on forever (you can enter and leave at will though), and access to other mini games. If you choose to, you can even take on castle management and maintenance for your stately home, taking it from shambling moldy pile to gleaming castle of dreams.

So, if you have any kind of interest in roleplaying, tactical combat, fantasy storytelling (and have a PC, MAC or Linux OS), you owe it to yourself to at least consider giving this a go. 45 US Dollars for the Hero edition (base game) doesn't sound cheap, but you get an amazing amount of gameplay and value for money out of your purchase!

Good stuff!


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