A Pillar of Achievement
It’s been said (ad nauseam in most cases) that patience is a virtue. This cannot be a truer statement when playing Obsidian Entertainment’s tour de force Pillars of Eternity. Yes, the company that somehow managed to improve upon the Fallout 3 formula with the fantastic Fallout: New Vegas has created a game that might be the best one they’ve done yet. But let me tell you now, go slow or you’ll miss it. Or, more likely the case may be, you’ll shut the game off after you wiped for the umpteenth time. But not for long. You’ll go back to it soon enough. This is a hard one to break away from.
I’m not going to spoil the plot with this review, because it is a good one. Suffice it to say, you have a particular talent you didn’t ask for. Quests ensue. Sounds contrived, but the writing is obviously done with love and with intent. I found the underlying motifs of gods and men quite intriguing. You’re going to do a lot of reading here, but it isn’t bad thing. I actually ended up preferring that the mostly decent voiceovers were absent, as there were some great descriptions between the dialogue that could show more than a voiceover could. Because of the religious undertones in a lot of the story, I did get a little whiff of similarity with the plot of Dragon Age: Inquisition, but it thankfully ended up veering in a totally different direction. This is an RPG, so you have some quests, you meet people that can help, you kill monsters, you pick up nifty new gear to do it all again. As with any solid RPG, the plot is merely the McGuffin for the journey. And what a journey it is…
The game begins with creating a character. I know this seems like a duh moment, but the amount of options for your beloved avatar is staggering. There are countless options here. A lot of it is typical fantasy fare, but not all of it. There are a few variations to make it original. Because I’m boring, I chose a human Paladin that likes to do good things for people (and yes, there’s an option for “bad paladin”). The rest of the game is played in the isometric view. If you’ve played Baldur’s Gate or any other equally brilliant derivation of that game (*cough* Planescape: Torment!!! *cough*), you’ll feel right at home here. I admit I was a little disappointed that the view happens to be locked in one angle. More than once, I found myself wrestling with the shadows of a fight behind a particularly high castle wall that was dead smack in my way. Beyond that though, the graphics are stunning. Every blade of grass, every rock, every ugly cave stone is done with meticulous beauty. Like the writing, it is clear that the designers took a lot of pride in creating this game. There’s a lot to be savored here, albeit slowly. My advice is to stop and smell the roses. You’ll be glad you did.
You don’t gain constant experience through massacring monsters in the conventional sense, so there is usually more than one way to complete a quest. I rather liked the idea of not being tied to farming bad guys just to get to the level I needed to be for more exciting quests. But combat is inevitable no matter what, so it’s a good thing it’s fun. You are the general to these battles, so every spell and special action is entirely up to you. This is a double-edged sword if you’re not careful, as your spell casters won’t go back to auto attacking after a spell if you don’t tell him to. It sounds nit-picky, but the combat is refreshingly satisfying, and after surviving a particularly tough battle you feel like singing Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” Because this game is not a fan of hand-holding, you might want to get in the habit of saving your game often.
To prove my point, I’ll tell you a quick story. I’m in the ruins beneath my keep (a sort of player housing that is surprisingly more interesting than it sounds for a single player game), just feeling things out. I’m still fairly new at this point, still learning the ins and outs of the combat. I destroy a rather large group of bad guys and I’m feeling fairly good about myself. A gigantic hole is in the center. I click, allowing a sort of “choose your own adventure” mini-game to start. I happen to have the proper tools to drop further and further down the great chasm, anxiously awaiting the impending righteous loot for doing such a great job. Instead, I drop down to level five of this dungeon. Now this shouldn’t be a bad thing if I saved the game properly like I’m supposed to. I didn’t. So now, I’m stuck in a terrifying state desperately trying to come back up to safety. I have no campfires (and therefore cannot rest my party, and regain spells, etc.), my whole group is still pretty banged up from the fight before. I had to go up three floors of this dungeon or restart the entire game. Suffice it to say, I did manage to get to safety after about five grueling hours of slow, thoughtful gameplay. And then it hit me. It is quite an accomplishment to keep my mind fixed on the big yellow sun four floors above me. When I got out of there, I was ecstatic. I mean, I was very literally giddy with my little victory. It’s been awhile since I felt that kind of satisfaction in an RPG.
This is just a tiny piece of a larger game full of delightful little vignettes like this. Obsidian has really outdone themselves with this one. This is the RPG for fans of RPGs. No babysitting, no simplistic combat, no boring filler plotlines. This is truly what we’ve all been waiting for when we first heard about the Kickstarter campai
About the Author
Dan "Spanyell" Beers