Pillars of Eternity Review and Gameplay: Page 2 of 2

Pillars of Eternity Review and Gameplay
The story begins...

Gameplay

Now that you have all you need it is time to set off. The journey will be perilous, so make sure you know how to survive. You will need more than the skill to fight. You will need diplomacy, you will need good moral judgment and wit. There are many ways to progress and be sure you are aware of each.

Did I mention that every option in the character creation process will open unique choices throughout your adventure? Well it will! Obsidian really set a new standard for PC role-playing games with their Pillars of Eternity gameplay. Not only did they give you a mountain of possibilities for open-ended customization and character creation, they made sure to incorporate it in the general flow of the game.

Yes, it is a standard RPG game, where you talk to people, get quests and fight monsters in pausable combat. You get treasure and rewards to improve your characters, blah, blah, blah. We are so used to this formula that game companies always strive to add something more. By now they should understand that it's not the amount of content, but how well it fits the flow of the game. After playing Pillars of Eternity, you can tell that these guys get it.

They enhance the novel like aspect with scripted challenges where you are offered choices of how to proceed. Often these choices will depend on stats or even items held. If you want climb up a wall, you can try barehanded, or if you happen to have a grappling hook, you will have an option to use that and so on. Sometimes certain choices will give you penalties, like losing your weapon or getting tired.

Did I mention the fatigue and camping system? It's great! Your characters can get tired through combat and long travel, of course. Though this seems to happen far more often than in the Forgotten Realms titles. It feels more real. When tired, you need to set up camp to rest and recover. Of course, for that you need supplies. You cannot carry an infinite amount of supplies, so it's not possible to rest whenever you want. More realism! On the plus side, from what I've seen, you won't be attacked while camping. So it's more about rationing supplies than risk.

Camping also replenishes health. Did I mention the health system? It's great (again)! Instead of having a set number of hitpoints which cause death when depleted, you get a health bar and some endurance. Your endurance is a fraction of your total health bar and said endurance is what you lose during fights (along with your health). If your endurance is depleted, you are knocked out, but it replenishes after the fight is over, as long you have health left. It's a unique system that serves to balance out the battles with the camping supply rations. This will change the way you approach each fight, giving you much more numbers to juggle (especially since there are still those abilities that require resting to replenish).  

Graphics & Sound

Though your quest is of dire importance, forget not to enjoy the little things. The beauty of the forests, the culture of the towns. Take the time to remind yourself what it is you are fighting for.

Let's be honest here, who really cares about graphics or sounds in games like this? We all know that the story pulls the most weight right? Still, we are human and we like pretty things. Let me tell you, this world is pretty. Not the World of Warcraft kind of pretty, but a truly serious, realistic kind of pretty. It has lovely greens, grim leafless branches, ruined houses, detailed stonework and furniture. I guess you could say it feels like an actual world, rather than a space filled with objects relevant to your quest.

I especially like the purple hazy effects and ominous sounds whenever you interact with souls. Speaking of which, I love speaking to souls if only to hear that distant echoing voice modification. Actually, I like speaking to any characters in general, because the voice acting is surprisingly well done. Perhaps the only one I don't agree with is the male mystic voice for my avatar. I love his phrasing and choice of words, but that style of speech really irks me. He sounds like he's prancing around in a tutu.

I find the music a welcome improvement too. It's not the best, it's not something that I'll remember on a dime, but it does serve the setting well. Sometimes it even stands out enough to get noticed, which is a huge compliment today. Most of today's games have music that we never even notice, like they take the term "background" way too seriously. Here, just listen to the menu music a bit, then click on "new game" and you'll see that some real thought was put into it.

Difficulty

The journey will be more perilous for some than others. There are those who are survivors, those who are used to such hardship and then there are those who just happened to get caught up in something beyond their comprehension. Worry not and never give up, you will find the best way for yourself and grow from it.

I feel like it's important to mention difficulty. Especially when there's a general consensus that games have become too soft these days. Instead of challenging us to better ourselves, they give us candy even if we fail. Pillars of Eternity does offer a good selection of options to regulate difficulty. Not only is there a difficulty slider, but other buttons on the side (read their descriptions for yourself) to help further accommodate your level and desired challenge. They thought of everything. Well, almost everything.

There is one glaring issue - massive difficulty spikes. Despite all their options, I still found myself missing an extra position for the slider. On one setting, most of the fights are a cakewalk, but if I increase the difficulty, I get facerolled in others. This is especially true for certain boss fights, as they are ridiculously overpowered compared to the minions you fought to reach them. Nobody's perfect, I guess.

Verdict - 9/10!

No matter your shortcomings, no matter how far you get or how early you fall. Rest assured your tale will be sung by the minstrels of the land and remembered for all time.

The verdict? This is a good candidate to set a new standard for tactical RPGs. It gets almost everything right. The only thing I can criticize it on is the lack of life in the NPCs, especially the companions. However, the game itself, the character I created and the story made me not even care about how dull my company is. Having a stronghold made me care even less. No matter the few minor flaws in Pillars of Eternity, gameplay wise it is the best RPG to come to PC in a long time. Hats off to all the backers and to Obsidian who delivered on what they promised. Is it worth the asking price? Most definitely and even more! I give it a whopping 9/10! How would you rate Pillars of Eternity? Review some of the points made and let us know in the comments.

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