Pillars of Eternity Review

With 74,000 Kickstarter backers contributing millions of dollars to its creation, Pillars of Eternity needed to be good. Better than good, in fact – to justify its status as the then-highest-funded crowd-sourced game to hit Kickstarter, Pillars of Eternity needed to offer gamers a rich, rewarding, engaging experience they would come back to again and again.

pillars of eternityWhen Obsidian Entertainment began their campaign to raise financing for their game, they earned an incredible $1.1m in little more than 24 hours, giving them their target almost immediately. Eventually, in just over a month, Pillars of Eternity reached an astounding $4,163,208 budget – giving the development team an unexpected amount of support, but also a great deal of responsibility.

Thankfully, Obsidian has worked magic to create an RPG in the grand old-school tradition, with a focus on story, engaging characters, and exploring a world so rich and diverse dedicated gamers will find it irresistible.

Your Quest Begins …

As technology has evolved, developers have brought us a huge range of stunning, textured RPGs: The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion & Skyrim spring to mind, with their amazing freedom and overwhelming number of quests; we also have Fallout, Fable, Dragon Age, and more, providing immersive experiences for casual and hardcore RPG-fans alike.

While these are, for the most part, beautiful to look at, creating the illusion of a living, breathing world, many gamers clamour for something a little more in keeping with the classic titles of old – with less emphasis on technical prowess, and more on story and compelling gameplay. Baldur’s Gate is one of the most revered entries in the genre, and Obsidian has tapped into it beautifully to make Pillars of Eternity both a unique breath of fresh air and a love letter to the isometric games of yore.

Pillars of Eternity is gorgeous to look at, but lacks the obvious expansive, panoramic landscapes of Skyrim (for example): you can’t climb to the top of a mountain and survey the rolling plains and misty peaks stretching on for virtual miles around you – the isometric camera is fixed, showing you small figures on stunning, static backgrounds. Players can build a party of up to six characters, either from a selection of recruitable figures – all diverse, all everyday people with their own distinctive personalities – or by creating their group from scratch.

This focus on player-convenience is a key fixture of Pillars of Eternity, and one that gamers are sure to lap up in droves. How many of us became infuriated by Skyrim‘s brutal inventory rules? You’re suited up with armour, brandishing heavy weaponry – and you need to collect a key item without having enough space for it. You were faced with a choice: drop other important objects and come back for them, or take everything and be doomed to walk to your nearest base. Thankfully, Pillars of Eternity sidesteps this entirely, with an infinite amount of item-storage accessible at any time and place (however, this can be disabled for players looking for a little more discipline).

The Real Beauty is in the Detail

Attention to detail in this game is incredible. Every character you meet, and every environment you enter, feels unique – you’re highly unlikely to see the same features used over and over, or hear the same story about a guard taking an arrow to the knee ad infinitum. Obsidian has performed an amazing feat by building a world that feels both comfortingly familiar and fresh: any gamer looking to revisit the joys of so many days spent exploring old-school RPGs will have plenty to revel in.

Another noticeable deviation from many modern titles is the restraint in voice-work: while some characters are graced with a voice, this is nicely performed, without any of the cheesy over-acting or tough-guy talk some of today’s games inflict upon us. The game is text-heavy, with environmental interactions chosen from a choice tree; there are no cinematic cut-scenes (which often outstay their welcome anyway) – instead, we have text over storyboards to tell the tale.

With so many backers supporting the Kickstarter campaign, Obsidian had a lot of goodwill and expectation riding on their game – and they more than deliver. The game offers around 70 hours of gameplay (though, outside of the quest, players can indulge in an apparently-infinite dungeon, enjoying the game’s fun – but unremittingly tough – combat for hours on end).

While it may not be to everyone’s taste, fans of classic RPGs, and those looking for a refreshing alternative, will adore everything Pillars of Eternity has to offer.