In my Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire review, I gave the game a 9,7 and felt it was just a few shades shy of the perfect score that I gave to Divinity 2. Although they are the same genre, Pillars stands out as the more narrative focused of the two. Playing like one of those "chose your own adventure" type of books, I praised the story, the characters, nostalgic visuals and the challenging gameplay.
Being the first out of three announced DLC, I felt like Obsidian Entertainment had a tough task to deliver expansions that felt relevant next to what the base game had on offer both in terms of story and characters. So what does Beast of Winter bring to the table beside the intriguing new location? Let's break it down.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire – Beast of Winter is available for purchase on Steam.
STORY & gameplay
The story of DLC starts off with you receiving a letter inviting you to Harbinger's Watch, a frozen, snowy island in the Deadfire archipelago. The island is populated by the followers of the titular Beast of Winter who is, in fact, a god called Rymrgand. His charming personality as you'll get to know him is completely true to aspects he embodies, few of which are cold, entropy, collapse, famine, and plague. His worshippers are led by a man named Vatnir who actually called you there, and it soon becomes apparent that they are a crazed cult that true to their god, desire chaos, and destruction on both the world and themselves.
The twist on this is that they, in fact, go about it in a more comical than threatening sense. This is most apparent when not long after your arrival, an undead dragon appears in the settlement and they jump out with arms stretched toward the sky, begging for the sweet release of death and humorously showing disappointment when not struck by a fireball. They are furthermore completely oblivious to the true nature of what's happening around them, blindly believing in whatever nonsense Vatnir preaches.
It's apparent that from the first 10 minutes, that this is a tonally different, more focused and linear adventure than anything found in the base game. This is what makes the DLC both good and bad and will ultimately decide to whom it appeals. There are some twists and surprises in regards to what at first seems like a straightforward story and a surprising amount of humor for a story dealing with the realm of the dead souls seeping out and freezing the land of the living.
After going through the open Deadfire and often feeling lost and overwhelmed by the number of quests, I personally appreciated a more linear story the DLC offered. Across this 6-8 hour adventure, you'll mostly talk, pick up a new companion, solve some interesting puzzles, do some fighting and even travel to a different dimension but that's it. There are no side quests, no branching paths or anything of the sort.
Luckily, what is here in terms of story, dialogue and lore is immensely interesting and writing is as strong as what's on offer in the base game. Even the lore of the existing characters in both your party and from the original game is expanded to further give a sense of cohesion to the full package. Some of the party interactions are quite memorable, further fleshing out and investing you emotionally in their backstory.
Gameplay-wise, other than the aforementioned puzzles, don't expect you'll be doing anything different than what you did in the tropical part of the archipelago. The combat is still as challenging as ever with character permadeath giving a sense of urgency and careful approach to any enemy encounter. Keep in mind that if you finished the base game and leveled up your party, you might find yourself to be a bit overpowered for the content in Beast of Winter.
All in all, there is some new loot to be had but nothing that will change up the game or the way you play it in any noteworthy way. This is not inherently bad as the base game provides more than a solid gameplay foundation but I sure would have liked for this segment to offer something a bit more unique. Here's hoping for the other 2 DLC's to further spice things up.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
Visually, things remain the same as in the base game, at least from a technical standpoint. Some of the locations and set pieces, however, are worlds apart from anything in Deadfire. The White Void area and some of the puzzle segments particularly stand out from the rest of the visuals, sometimes giving Beast of Winter a completely alien vibe which is a hallmark of a good DLC.
The voice acting remains excellent across the board for both old and new characters, the fact that is helped by the already mentioned high quality of writing.
Beast of Winter is a great DLC. Sure, you could say it's a bit on the short side, but that's only when compared to the gargantuan amount of content present in the main game. In fact, when comparing the two, there isn't anything remotely innovative here and if you played only a few hours of the base game, you know what to expect – interesting, fleshed out characters, visually appealing locations, and some challenging combat. Add to that the new time stopping, interesting puzzles and what more do you want from a DLC? If you liked Deadfire, Beast of Winter, priced at $10, is a no-brainer.
|+ The new locations||– No noteworthy loot rewards|
|+ Interesting story and lore||– No exploration or side quests|
|+ Some awesome puzzles||– A bit short|
|+ Challenging combat|