TheManFromACRONYM Reply to on 31 August 2017
|Originally released in 2015 on the PC thanks to the crowd-funding efforts of more than 70,000 contributors who raised more than $4 million, award winning RPG 'Pillars of Eternity' finally makes its way onto the console platform and proves to be worth the wait for fans of of traditional role-playing games!
Set in the fantasy world of Eora, in the nation of Dyrwood, you play 'The Watcher', a foreigner travelling to the land from abroad in search of a new life who - after being exposed to the unnatural energies of a supernatural event - awakes with the power to see and interact with the souls of the living and the dead.
You soon learn that the land of Dyrwood has been afflicted by a strange curse that causes children to be birthed as 'hollowborn' - catatonic, and seemingly without souls of their own. Using your newly found powers you elect to investigate the mystery, learning that the souls of the hollowborn have in fact been stolen...
Pillars of Eternity is an RPG in the finest traditions of the genre, involving a main plot along with myriad optional side quests featuring in-depth character creation and advancement, party-based adventuring, interactions via multiple choice conversational options, decision making that shapes how the game and your characters reputation develops, dungeon crawling, treasure hunting, crafting, trade, and real-time combat with tactical elements.
Prior to diving into your adventure, you must first create your unique character. Character creation options include:
- Physical appearance, including gender, race (such as human, elf, dwarf etc), hair style and colour, skin colour, and clothing/armour colour.
- 11 different character classes - barbarian, paladin, chanter, priest, cipher, ranger, druid, rogue, fighter, wizard, and monk.
- Attributes - Might (representing a characters physical strength), Constitution (a combination of your character health and stamina), Dexterity (hand-eye coordination, balance and grace), Perception (representing a characters senses), Intellect (your characters powers of logic and reasoning), and Resolve (determination, drive, and willpower).
- Culture. Your characters background, origins, and upbringing - the options for which can provide additional attribute bonuses.
- Background, such as Aristocrat, Drifter, Explorer, or Mercenary - the options for which can provide bonuses to the skills of survival, atheletics, lore, mechanics, and stealth.
- Character voice and name.
Your character can equip a variety of weapons, including both ranged weapons (such as bows, crossbows, and firearms), and close-combat weapons (both one and two-handed weapons, such as swords, sabres, battle axes, maces, shields and bucklers), and can also wear several items of clothing (hoods, belts, gloves etc), armour (breast plates, helmets, gauntlets etc), or jewellery (rings, necklaces) which can provide bonuses to defence, attack, skills or attributes, or alternatively are simply aesthetically pleasing.
Gameplay involves navigating your character and their party around an isometric world viewed from a top-down '3/4' perspective, and utilizing a ;fog of war' whereby new areas only become visible as you gain line of sight on them, with the world essentially split into a vast series of maps representing locations such as towns, dungeons, and forests, with each map also including numerous sub-locations that can be entered, such as caves, lairs, and buildings.
Each map is occupied by various characters who you can meet on your travels. These may be characters that can be recruited to your party, NPC's who may provide side missions, information that may assist you on your quest, or just trivia and anecdotes, or enemies - which can range from humans and other races, to wild animals, supernatural beings, monsters and many other mythical beasts and threats, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Once an enemy has been defeated an entry will be made in your grimoir which will include important information to help you combat such threats in future.
Maps are also littered with obsticals (which if you have the right abilities or tools to cross may provide you with treasures), traders (such as the blacksmith or merchant to whom you can purchase new weapons, armours, potions, scrolls and spells), plants, minerals and fungi that can provide you with the ingredients and componants required to make potions or meals that can provide buffs to your characters, as well as other points of interest that simply enhance the depth of your playing experience by proividing information and background on the world around you.
Combat - when it occurs, as it frequently does - pauses the game and brings up a tactical interface which allows you to choose actions for each of your party, allowing you to switch between them in order to best position them, choose which weapons, spells or abilities they should use, and choose which of the availible enemies they should target. Once actions are chosen, you can end the tactical phrase in order to enter combat, at which point your party will engage in the actions you have chosen for them.
Attacks play out automatically, and the speed and success of those attacks are determined by your characters attributes, and modified by any buffs or bonuses provided by your weapons, armour, abilities, or spells.
Each round of combat is essentially a series of digital 'dice rolls' which when added to your attributes and skills determine the probability of success. For example dexterity influences the speed of your attack, your chance to hit a target, and your chance to avoid/deflect an incoming blow, where as might determines damage, whilst constitution represents you ability to absorb damage with your character being killed should it be reduced to zero.
In terms of graphics the game hardly stretches the capabilities of the next-gen console format, but visuals remain functional, pleasing, and easy on the eye, with each map or location packed with interesting features and points of focus, whilst character animations are smooth. Sound and the musical score meanwhile are atmospheric, whilst the quality of voice acting is solid and varied.
In terms of criticisms - the limitations of the visuals aside - its fair to say that Pillars of Eternity is a somewhat stodgy and old fashioned RPG entirely in the style of games such as Neverwinter Nights, Baldurs Gate, and Icewind Dale that helped spawn the genre, and as such is only really going to appeal to hardcore fans of those games. It is also somewhat liniar, usually providing a quite obvious path through each map, and requiring previous locations to be revisited on few occasions.
If you are such a fan however, Pillars of Eternity will provide you in excess of 70 hours worth of nostalgic, in-depth tactical role-playing action and story telling in the finest traditions of the genre!
This version of the game is also the definitive edition, and includes the DLC 'The White March: parts I and II'.