I’d like to say that I spent my gaming time this past weekend on all manner of MMO adventures, but save for a couple brief stints in LOTRO (more on that later), I was completely and utterly enthralled with Pillars of Eternity. It’s got its hooks in me bad in a way that, say, Dragon Age: Inquisition failed to do.
I was a bit sick, so I sat on the couch under blankets with my laptop, going through this game with increasing fascination. It really is, in so many ways, a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate 2 (and many other Infinity Engine games). Instead of taking the full 3-D pseudo-cinematic route of Witcher and Dragon Age, Pillars opted to return to an isometric format where the backgrounds are mostly detailed 2D with the characters and some objects in 3D. But more than just the looks, Pillars is such a callback to the grand old days of CRPGs that its triggering waves of nostalgia and admiration in me.
What I like best, I think, is that it took the old format and updated it to make it much more user friendly and interesting. Character creation and growth, for example, is not a hodge-podge of complex statistics or overly simplistic choices (hello Mass Effect), but a clearly explained system that has many, many choices to allow you to develop the characters you want.
For example, I rerolled my main character after an hour into the game because I had a better idea for her. So now she’s a Moon Godlike (for the endurance boosting) that I’m making to be an expert fencer. She dances on the front line, striking quicky, all while doing chants and summons (and if you’re a Chanter, let me say that Phantasm *rocks*. I had one fight where my whole party was knocked out and the Phantasm helped to kill the last guy and save me from a complete wipe).
Combat is more interesting now, too, with the dual pools of health and endurance. Instead of just having one mass of hit points, you have endurance (which I think of as “fight hit points”) and health (which are “campaign hit points”). It’s easier to heal endurance than hit points, but both are important to keep up. I like how it allows for your party to be knocked down during a fight but not killed outright, making for less stressful encounters.
But probably my favorite aspect of Pillars of Eternity so far — about 8 hours in — is the story and worldbuilding going on. It’s just an interesting fantasy world with plenty of cool little stories (many of which told in descriptive text boxes) and nailbiting choices. I like how there are dialogue options that open up depending on all sorts of background choices — what your stats are in various areas, what your race is, where you’re from, etc. And some parts are simply rendered in “choose your own adventure” prose with sketches displaying the scene in question.
I also really like — and recommend — the option to turn on the voiced developer commentary. It’s slightly spoilery, but I appreciated the insights into making every zone and knowing some of these background details.
Right now I’ve managed to clear out and claim my stronghold, which definitely reminds me of Baldur’s Gate 2’s keeps. Oh, another detail I am warming up to: fights don’t give you XP. They do give you lots of loot, but not tying XP to combat frees players up to fight, stealth by, or talk past some groups. That’s cool.
Anyway, I’m highly recommending this game, especially if you have fond memories of Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, or Planescape: Torment. Here’s hoping the fun keeps going!