In the same fashion as classic isometric RPGs like Baldur's Gate, a new title has established itself as a top notch experience. Following a story of torment, hatred, suffering, loss of hope, and the courage to fight back against what is wrong in the world, there is an adventure here for everyone to love. With roughly 100 hours, gorgeous environments, customizable party options, and more, this is a must buy for any RPG fan looking for the next best thing.
Pillars of Eternity, developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Paradox Interactive, is an isometric RPG in the same vain as classic Fallout and Diablo titles. If deep story, interesting game and character lore, intense and immersive combat, and dozens upon dozens of hours of gameplay is your style, then you'll want to put down everything and check this game out. This is the highest of quality when it comes to the old but far from forgotten genre of isometric RPGs. Flashback to the year 2012, Obsidian opened up a page for the development of the game on Kickstarter. It gained over $4 million dollars, making it the most funded game at the time. This not only said that there's a strong community who wanted to see what the company could make out of the premise, but it showed that love for the genre is far from dead.
Getting into the story though, it is a massive and long lasting one. Too much to possibly summarize, but let me do the best I can. Essentially… it tells of a man or woman (completely dependent on how you choose to create the main character) who one night witnesses a cult performing a strange ritual. As fate would have it, the character gains an awful, yet powerful, ability to interact with souls. The people who possess this power are called Watchers. While setting forth on a journey to somehow reverse this unwanted effect, it becomes visible that the world around is falling apart. There is a plague known as the Hollowborn Plague, that is causing children to be born without souls. There is animosity towards animancers who come to find out are just as much victims themselves. Once you get wind of a man named Thaos, things only begin to intensify as his reign of this plague needs to come to an end, no matter the cost.
You can buy the game on Steam for $44.99 or PS4 / XB1 for $49.99.
Before you set off on this 100 something hour adventure, you'll need to come up with a main character. I'll begin by saying that the character creation is one of the most in depth customizations I've played. Of course, in this day in age, we get many RPGs with a pretty lengthy character building section, and even for games that aren't classified as RPGs like the various sports simulations. You'll be able to make some of the traditional races like Elves, Dwarves, and Humans. But you'll also be able to select some fairly strange ones like Orlans (halflings) and Godlike which are very abnormal looking individuals with horns or flames protruding from their head and body.
After selecting race, you'll need to pick which attributes your character will excel in and which ones will be their weaknesses. This again includes several of the pretty typical options like Might, Constitution, Dexterity, Perception, Intellect, and Resolve. Now, this is where the depth takes off a bit. Depending on where you made your choices for the first two categories, you'll want to guess the best way to maximize your abilities with skills. These include Stealth, Athletics, Lore, Mechanics, and Survival. If you've played Wasteland 2, another deep character customizing isometric RPG, the skills will mean much of the same. They're pretty self explanatory as the description is in the title for each of them, but essentially where the attributes are number-based, skills are probability-based depending on the circumstances you find yourself in.
It plays out in isometric RPG fashion, meaning you'll view the world in an angled top-down fashion. It doesn't have any grid based movements, but instead everything flows like a miniature world, with characters walking in any and all directions around the map. When in combat, you'll be able to grab party members and tell them where you want them to move to before continuing laying down detrimental blows to the enemies. You can do this in real time and watch everything play out like a movie, but strategically this will catch up to you sooner or later and you will find your party completely crushed. Imagine running the max 6 party members, and you decide one person needs to flank left, while another one needs to retreat from enemy damage before he/she dies. If you let the battle play out while you give commands to the first party member to move, by the time you can get back to the second one who is nearly dead, they will be dead.
When battles become chaotic, pause and play style will come in hand. Whenever you want, for however long you want, you can pause the action to evaluate and dish out new orders for your soldiers. It might all sound like a pretty clunky system on consoles, with various different buttons need to execute the various different commands, but actually it all works out better than you would expect. The two main buttons controlling radial menus will be the L2 and R2 buttons on the Dualshock 4 controller. The L2 button will be used mostly for your game related features, like controlling when to camp and rest, the inventory, attack option, attack log, and dialogue log. The R2 will bring up more combat related options such as your special abilities and items that might be needed like health potions. The directional buttons will be used for your gameplay preferences. Clicking up or down will make camera adjustments if the starting setting just isn't right for you. The left and right directional buttons will adjust game speed. You can slow it down, speed it up, or keep it normal. This can be a huge bonus for those looking to breeze through some otherwise slow paced map traversing. The slowdown can be useful when constantly pausing during combat becomes tiresome.
Quests are more than numerous in this title. You have 4 different types: the main quests, side quests, companion quests, and then tasks. For the main quests, there is the inclusion of the two expansions for the game that released for PC (The White March Part 1, and The White March Part 2) that seamlessly blend into the original and doesn't require a separate game file to play through. Side quests are just as you would expect them to be, except they have more thought put into them than your typical RPG adventure. I was surprised by the lack of fetch quests, which I feel have begun to plague many titles nowadays.
Thankfully you won't have to deal with the nasty reputation and boredom that the typical fetch quests bring. Tasks are simplistic in nature, and are essentially side-side quests. They're easier to complete and don't require much time or effort. Things like bounties and hit contracts. Companion quests dive deeper into the backstories of the preset party members. I won't give any away because they each have their big plot twist that makes you appreciate taking the time to venture into them, but somehow take my word that they deserve at least one play through each.
Sound and Graphics
As you can probably tell from pictures or videos (and because I mentioned it twice before), the game plays in isometric fashion. The camera choice is a classic one, but often times I feel these type of RPGs put the camera too close to the character, making map traversal annoying and confusing, while others opt for an exaggeratedly zoomed out camera that completely breaks the immersion. Occasionally a game just sucks bad enough that there's nothing the camera can do to help. Here, I felt it hit the perfect medium that few games succeed at due to the adjustable option. Being able to zoom in or out depending on the environment was crucial for me to stick with for long hours at a time. Every scene captures an almost cinematic landscape of the area, while still being close enough that you feel personal with the characters and the combat situations they're put in around every corner.
If you walking within the walls of a castle, you'll see the green fields and the big strong castle walls in the back, while the citizens walk about in safety. If you're out in the woods, maybe you'll have a river flowing through the screens like in the picture below, and many lush green trees and bushes. Everything from character designs, to combat animations, to the world depictions is really gorgeous. It moves with a life of its own, constantly challenging you to tell if you're playing a game or watching an RPG visual story unravel itself.
The game does have voice working and thankfully so. The main characters have an enormous amount, which is to be expected as they have more dialogue opportunity, but NPCs around the world have their own lines to speak as well. Just like the graphics, there were no shortcuts made
By far one of the most immersive RPG experiences around, Pillars of Eternity captures the essence of the past greats while improving it in ways that will feel inviting for even newcomers. It has a massive amount of reading, which means lore is plentiful. Luckily it is all extremely well written and almost never feels like a worthless use of in-game time. If reading isn't your thing though, you can safely skip through it in order to soak up the enjoyment of strategic real time combat or pause and play combat. Regardless of which style one you lean toward to in favor, they both are top notch. Building your band of rough and tough men and women is as diverse as you can hope for. The preset allies all have unique personalities as well as more than interesting stories.
Changing them up for characters you design and hand pick stories for is also a great choice as no two characters will play the exact same. Customizing your main as well as party members is filled with hundreds of variations, insuring you never feel it gets repetitive in nature. This complete edition includes all of the previously released expansions for the game when it was on PC, which of course gives you more bang for your buck. Again, if you're an RPG enthusiast, or are looking for a game heavy in both combat and story, you would be a fool to pass up on this package. It's a must buy, sooner or later.