Game review: Pillars Of Eternity

Game review: Pillars Of Eternity

Classic role-playing games (RPGs) are hard to come by - you know, games like Baldur's Gate (1998) that let you control up to six characters, explore a fantasy world, find quests, finish tasks and kill monsters via a top isometric view.

Major game publishers shunned this genre, doubting its profitability. Obsidian Entertainment turned to crowdfunding in October 2012 to realise its vision of a new classic RPG - Pillars Of Eternity.

Character creation

First, you create the protagonist, your own character, choosing from six races and 11 classes. Each race and class has its perks, abilities, backgrounds and disciplines.

You can choose your character's gender, face, skin tone and hair style, and distribute points among your attributes. You might, for example, want to allocate more points for the Perception attribute, which would open up more conversation options.

After the character has been created, you can explore the fantasy world of Eora, from the Free Palatinate of Dyrwood to The Vailian Republics, each with unique cultures and customs to be discovered.

The journey begins

You arrive in Dyrwood looking for a better life.But the caravan you are travelling with is attacked, and you escape to a nearby ruins. While inside, you survive a biawac, a spirit wind that arises in cursed ruins to shear souls away from living humans.

So, you become a Watcher, someone who can talk to souls and see their past lives.

You journey to find out what has happened to you. On the way, allies will join your quest and you will encounter foes who try to stop you. Ultimately, your actions are linked to the fate of Eora.

Voice acting shines

As in a classic RPG, the game is played via a top-down isometric view. The graphics are not spectacular, but good enough.

However, voice acting is where this game shines. A lot of the non-player characters (NPCs) have their own voices. Conversations with NPCs are sometimes fully delivered with the right emotion and tone.

At times, the members in your party will talk among themselves and that can provide comic relief.

The soundtrack is top-notch. When you pass through an idyllic forest, "nature" music plays in the background. A soundtrack pulsating with tension tells you enemies have been spotted and combat begins.

Combat

This is a tough game to beat with its real-time-with-pause tactical combat.

The main reason is that your character's health does not regenerate on its own. It regenerates when the characters rest or sleep.

The Endurance element dictates how long it takes before your characters are able to attack again after an earlier move.

Pausing and issuing orders to the individuals in your party to use the appropriate weapon or spell on the correct enemy is crucial for victory.

And victory is sweet. There is plenty of loot to collect.

Quests, quests, quests

Quests are the staple in Pillars Of Eternity. You get yours by speaking to NPCs as you travel around Eora and, sometimes, from your party.

In conversations with NPCs or your party members, you can be benevolent, cruel, honest, deceptive, passionate or stoic.

The quests vary widely. You may be asked to pick an item or explore a place.

Depending on how you go about the quests, your reputation in an area will rise or fall, and that affects how different factions react to you and whether you can get quests from them.

I particularly like the idea of a Stronghold or home castle, which you will get upon completing some quests. It offers a place to rest and brings income through taxes.

Worth waiting for

Apart from slow loading times (as long as 20sec) when you move from one area to another, and the time-consuming gameplay, it is hard to find fault with Pillars Of Eternity. This game might not be for every gamer, but it is the definitely one that classic RPG fans seem to have waited an eternity for.

trevtan@sph.com.sg

Rating 9.5/10

$45 in Steam Store (PC, version tested; Linux and Mac) Classic role-playing


This article was first published on April 22, 2015.
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