Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Pillars of Eternity – Released, and a Quick-Take

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 27, 2015

Okay. So…. there’s this game. It was crowdfunded. Some seasoned vets of making PC RPGs from Obsidian were working on it. It was code-named “Project Eternity,” vaguely reminiscent of the “Infinity Engine” by Bioware that was used for the classic Dungeons & Dragons based RPGs, Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2, Icewind Dale 1 and 2, and Planescape: Torment. This evolved into Pillars of Eternity, which was promised to be a game in the same style as those classic titles. It promised an isometric view, lush hand-painted backgrounds, party-based adventuring, intricate real-time-with-pause  combat, rich world-building and storytelling, and more interesting quests than you can shake a magical two-handed sword at.

I tried to keep my hopes down. After all, it funded for “only” $4 million. That’s not a big budget by today’s standards … or Obsidian’s. Sure, they were able to reduce their budget requirements by adhering to less-than-AAA technology or requirements. And the engine was built on Unity, which made tech development a little bit cheaper. But these days, technology is not the main cost of game development.

A new world, new game system, and an incredible legacy to live up to on a limited budget? Yeah, there’s no sense in setting my expectations too high. I wasn’t even planning on playing it the first day. But I guess I can download 7 gigs worth of data in less time than I thought, and so a few hours after I got home from work, the game was ready to play. With a little fear of disappointment, I started it up.

PoE2And lost myself.

After a handful of deaths (apparently sneaking past a wild bear takes a bit more skill than my newbie rogue actually possesses), I managed to break the spell and start working on the things I had intended to work on. But all I can say at this point is that if the game continues along the same trajectory that it has established in the first hour or so, then I don’t know if I could have set my expectations high enough.

I feel like I am playing Baldur’s Gate III. No joke. It’s that good. So far, at least. And the game interface, while new, feels right at home for anyone who played the Infinity Engine games. The game system is totally new, but still feels familiar to a Dungeons & Dragons veteran. It’s really everything I would have expected if the game had been entitled Baldur’s Gate 3, minus the licensed parts.

A long time ago, I talked about making character generation really feel like part of the game, part of the world introduction. Some games have taken the tack of burying the character generation, doling it out in pieces during the introductory segments (I’m looking at you, Bethesda), or just skipping it altogether. But I’ve always maintained the belief that a good character creation sequence can actually enhance the game, providing the player with some fantastic background and back-story while they are tinkering with the little 3D object and pile of stats that will be their surrogate in the fantasy world on the other side of the screen.

Pillars of Eternity nails it.

Half the fun was just going through the different races, sub-races (!), classes, and cultures (!!) available and getting some feel for the world into which I’d be thrust. It was just enough that when the opening text and voice-over hit, as alien and new as the world was, I felt like I at least recognized some of the references. And of course, when all else fails, classic pseudo-medieval European background suffices. I don’t have to scratch my head wondering what a crossbow or scale armor is.

PoA_1The introductory sequence is pretty much pitch-perfect. I mean, for an introductory sequence, which does demand a bit more hand-holding than the rest of the game, although it gradually relinquishes this approach as you wander about hitting your marks. When you finally hit the outdoor map, it feels like the training wheels come off, and you are off to the races. But in the meantime, there’s drama, there’s death, there’s peril, there’s tough decisions to be made, and there’s plenty to learn about in this strange new world. The developers do an excellent job at this point of providing a balance of action, exploration, character development, introduction to the game systems, and exposition.

Although I never did brew myself some tea. I keep thinking I need to do that, still.

Anyway, there’s still a part of me that wants to hold my expectations down so I don’t get disappointed by the final result, although I have heard I have many dozens of hours of play-time to go before I hit that point where I can make such an evaluation. And yeah, I realize that like any good game developer, they’ve put their best foot forward and worked hard to make a great first impression. But … if things keep going like they are… Pillars of Eternity is going to stand out from a crowd of what has already proven to be excellent computer role-playing games over the last couple of years.

Life is good.

Have fun!

Filed Under: Impressions - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • McTeddy said,

    I’m really looking forward to this one. Money and time are tight at the moment, but it’s taking everything not to pick up the game.

    I’m a big fan of obsidian games. One of the few modern companies that make RPGs that are actually RPGs.

  • Flux Capacitor said,

    Its good so far. I just really, really wish it was turn-based. Even better if it was grid-based.

    Baldur’s Gate didn’t have too many problems with this type of combat primarily because it was much less complex – fewer/no class abilities and no disengagement mechanic.

    In Pillars, I’m constantly fighting the damn system trying to use all the abilities properly. And the characters seem to almost always need to move to use them, so the enemies get free attacks on them. Even just getting your characters to move into position for a regular melee attack often results in disengagement attacks. I usually feel like I lose not because I did anything wrong, but because the system is such a ridiculous pain.