So this was an interesting almost-month of my life. Pillars of Eternity is the new game from Obsidian, a developer made up of former members of Black Isle Studios, where Baldur’s Gate and just about every worthwhile Baldur’s Gate type game like Planescape: Torment, and Icewind Dale and etc. etc. came from. More recently you may know them from their work on Neverwinter Nights 2 or Fallout: New Vegas. In other words, they might know a thing or two about D&D style PC RPGs. Anyway, look, I am a Death Godlike Cipher, who is some kind of weird mix between a rogue and a mind magic sorcerer, who also has a weird crab head.
This let me sneak around and steal everything AND use my mental powers to mind control almost everyone in sight like an asshole, which is perfect for me. The game begins in a typical style with you being a carefree traveler heading to your new retirement farm, only to be suddenly caught up in mysterious events, which grant you mysterious powers, which make you some kind of chosen one type who must now solve society’s every problem, including those of every individual villager you meet, no matter how trivial, because the life experience you gain from finding some random baglady’s lost ring is vital in procuring more power so that you can more effectively meet the petty needs of even more unwashed peons. You know, fantasy stuff. Anyway, you can tell right when you get to the first village that this is going to be one cheerful adventure.
What’s that you say, bemuscled town man who conveniently wants to join my party? The world is mysteriously cursed, causing most births to result in soulless, mindless morons who can’t even wipe their own asses? Well, I suppose I could try to find some time between errands for peasants to try to stab that problem into submission, if I must…
Seriously though, the main story is actually pretty good. It starts off typically enough, but becomes pretty complex and fascinating as you try to figure out what is going on with your newfound soul powers and what the connection is between them and the “Hollowborn” children, the controversial soul weavers known as Animancers, and the mysterious Leaden Key cult who seems to somehow be involved with them all. By the end it raises some pretty interesting questions about the nature of man and his need for religion, but I can’t really get any more into that without giving the entire plot away.
Combat is also pleasantly deep and complicated. There are very few times, at least until way later if and when you become ridiculously powerful from all those side quests, where just selecting your whole party and clicking attack on something is a workable strategy. You need to pay attention, pick your targets, protect your easily squashed wizard types, and try to manage the sometimes overwhelming odds against you.
Some of the bigger fights are just plain sadistic, surrounding you with powerful enemies, with multiple spellcasters, healers, and tanks, all working against you at once. That’s when you’ll really have to start micromanaging things. If you can get past that damn Raedric fight semi-early on though, you can make it through everything else the game can throw at you. Even the 15 floor super dungeon, the Endless Paths, with enough time and patience.
Speaking of the Endless Paths, they are right underneath the fancy fortress you win for yourself in the early days of the game, which you will spend a decent amount of time upgrading and upkeeping. This seems like an interesting addition to the game, but doesn’t really end up adding much of worth. So you can build some shops that sell semi-rare items and gear. Ok, but I can find all that same stuff and much better by just playing the main game. I can build a bunch of things to get rest bonuses for sleeping there for free. Ok, but they’re not very good bonuses and I can just get better ones at an inn at one of the towns that are usually much closer to me and cost so little that they might as well be free. I can make a tiny trickle of income from it once it’s secure enough, providing I take time out of my actual quests to go defend it against invaders who have mysteriously materialized inside the throne room. Ok, but probably spent even more money just to upgrade everything in it to get to that point. Ok, what exactly is the point of this place then? I don’t know, but by the time I realized it wasn’t really going anywhere I had already invested so much time and money into the place that I felt I might as well just go ahead and finish it.
Overall though, it was a very enjoyable experience. It kept me busy for a good 45-60 hours altogether (game clock said something like 45-47, but who knows how many more hours were actually involved on top of that), which was spread out over almost an entire month. My only other real complaint was that there weren’t enough dragons (or many other huge, imposing bosses). There were only 2 in the whole game and 1 of those 2 was a “secret” bonus boss.
If you liked other old games of this type you will almost certainly like this too. It’s no Planescape: Torment, but it comes pretty close. I give Pillars of Eternity 5 weird backstabbing crabheaded assholes whose grotesque appearance was somehow entirely acceptable to all the filthy villagers in the land…out of 5.