Since game consoles have grown in popularity over the past two decades, the Computer Role Playing Genre (CRPG) popularized by the Baldur’s Gate series and other games inspired by tabletop RPG’s has slowly begun to fall by the wayside. Games where you can; gather a party, micro-manage their abilities, and fight in combat against fantastical foes have slowly begun to be relegated mostly to the PC’s console brethren.
Not only has Pillars of Eternity designed itself the same as the RPG’s of lore; but it is also crafted in an entirely new world, with an entirely new set of stats, classes, and abilities.
The entirety of Pillars of Eternity is set in the world of Eora, mostly in the nation called the Dyrwood; a land plagued by a problem in which children are born without souls, and any attempt to magically imbue them with one turns them into savage animalistic beasts. You are a character who becomes known as “The Watcher”, a being able to see into the souls of others, to view past lives and help end the torment of others. You begin the quest to investigate the awakening of these powers, and soon become embroiled in the problems of the world and its people.
The world of Eora can feel like a ruthless, yet real place with acts of murder, infidelity, greed and the occasional nudity.
When creating your first character it’s nice to see that instead of the standard statistics of Strength, Wisdom, Endurance, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Luck (which are popularized by most RPG’s in the modern age) Pillars of Eternity’s system uses similar (yet different) stat bases in creating characters. The stats used are Might, Intellect, Constitution, Dexterity, Resolve, and Perception, which are used for skills such as stealth, athletics, lore, mechanics and survival.
The eleven available classes you can pick from include the standard Fighter, Paladin, and Wizard, but also contain new classes such as The Cipher (who attacks enemies on a soul level to damage and cause negative effects) and the Chanter (who can summon creatures and buff allies with his/her chants). There are eight different characters included in the standard version of the game, enabling you to round out a perfect party of five followers with balanced classes and capabilities. There is also the option to allow you have the nonplayer characters level up automatically, or you can choose to micromanage each party member’s skills and abilities to custom tailor them to suit your needs.
Aside from the characters that you stumble upon over the course of the game; you can also round out any party by going to a tavern to create an all new adventurer that enables you to create whatever class you might need in your party at the time. This is most useful in the early game when you have not managed to recruit the NPC characters that the game provides, however, there are quests in which a second paladin or druid can be vital to success.
Once in the game, the controls are much like any other RPG; you click on an individual character and move them around the map, though unlike most RPG’s you can also select the entire group or only part of the group to move ahead so that there is no need to move them all individually. Combat can unfold in one of two ways, either by issuing commands to each character in real-time, casting spells and attacking the enemy; or by pausing the game temporarily and issuing commands and watch it all unfold in a sort of “real-time with pause” genre.
When not in combat there are countless hours of exploring the world of Eora, disarming traps, looting chests, and speaking with NPC’s whilst undergoing both main (story) quests and side quests. NPC’s you encounter have a variety of dialogue options that tailor how the conversation goes; over time the way you interact with NPC’s will create a “reputation” that will close off certain options in quests and unlock new ones. This also ultimately can change how events in the game play out and can even change the way the game’s ending unfolds.
As the story progresses you will also gain access to your very own personal stronghold, which can be built from the ground up with shops for crafting materials, as well as stores for purchasing equipment. Additionally, if you don’t feel like a long night at the inns or taverns in the main cities to get rest or buff up your characters you can simply do all this at the comfort of your own stronghold.
The crafting system is a great way to save up your gold for the most important purchases such as flashy new armor, or awesome new weapons. Crafting your own food, potions, or even scrolls is a great way to keep your precious gold for moments when you need it the most.
There are very few problems with Pillars of Eternity, as it is a very well polished, well-optimized game; however the lack of in-depth explanation of the in-game stats requires the player to experience a bit of trial and error when making their character, as certain stats are highly necessary while others are negligible, with very little information on what makes certain stats so important. Another issue that could be cited is that while the game was designed for computers in mind, the lack of controller or gamepad support makes it somewhat inaccessible to those who have a hard time controlling games with a mouse and keyboard.
Regardless of these issues, anyone who gives Pillars of Eternity a try will be greeted with gorgeous visuals and a well-crafted soundtrack that enables the player to be immersed in the world of Eora. The graphics of the game are vibrant, with well-detailed artwork and scenery that makes each new area a feast for the eyes as well as a new challenge to be overcome. For someone who normally turns the audio off in most games so music can be played in the background, I found myself greatly enjoying the game’s soundtrack and didn’t feel the need to adjust the in-game sound more than lowering the volume for comfort purposes. Each NPC character that the player can recruit has a wealth of backstory and lore behind them, and the world of Eora itself is full of lore and mystery that will have players captivated for hours upon hours of incredible gameplay.
In summary, Pillars of Eternity is truly a revival of a long declining genre, with over 60+ hours of gameplay in a single playthrough, and the possibility of many playthroughs to experience all the endings and content that there is to offer.While it has a few problems here and there, they are largely minimal, and you will likely find themselves immersed in a vibrant and thriving world of magic, intrigue, and mystery.