Pillars of Eternity Wins Eternal Fame
How often does someone develop the game you have dreamed of for years?
I said it before and I’ll gladly say it as many times as I feel like it: Pillars of Eternity does everything Baldur’s Gate does, just better – thus it being the better game overall. Sorry! Loved Baldur’s Gate since its release and yet, I won’t lie to protect it.
Now, after writing about my “first impression” because I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I’ve finished the game AND (seriously) have already started my second playthrough. The reason for this obviously is the stellar brilliance of this game, meaning, in this instance, that countless character builds are valid. So far, in most RPGs, I’ve always felt as if I would need a specific character class to really be able to get the most out of the game and tp play it the way I would want to. PoE is just different. I truly think it’s designed much more intelligent than the typical RPG. It begins with Might “just” being the thing to determine how much damage someone does, no matter if it’s a mage or a fighter. It might (ha) not sound like much, but this is incredibly brilliant. First of, it’s a system that is easy to comprehend (and it’s always important to understand what’s going on) and second it allows for countless viable character builds. After I was finished, the first thing I did, was ask myself how the game would play with a different character. That’s why I started again so soon. With most other RPGs I’m just done at this point. PoE has so many instances in it, that different races, classes, backgrounds, skills […] truly make a difference. I’ve never played a game that would actually take this many elements into account during almost every interaction. It’s so rewarding to play as a druid, but so is playing as a cipher and so on… it simply pays off in different ways.
The world of Eora, they developed from scratch, isn’t any different. Their guidebooks explaining Eora’s people, culture, history, politics, languages, religions […] are simply stunning (Tim Cain’s cookbook…). They obviously thought of every little bit which might contribute to such an RPG experience and then created it. It’s such an incredible task they accomplished here. These people were given the task to do a game that could hold a candle to these old infinity engine games, but they went way beyond the call of duty here. Baldur’s Gate didn’t have to come up with as many stuff, since they “just” used D&D. I really hope they end up in a position, that allows them to make more with this massive potential.
This really is KS at its best though. Throughout the game, I thought that all these little backer moments added a flavor and soul to this game, other games almost inevitably lack. I’ve never seen this done better, because it never distracts or undermines the game Obsidian wanted to and could develop. There is no conflict here, that can sometimes pop up, if people have a say who aren’t developers.
If I would really have to force myself, to find something negative in this project, then I’d say the commentaries could have been implemented a little bit better. By only playing them, if the user starts them, for example. As it is, they start playing automatically after entering a new area and this can result in them being played over the sounds of a fight (monsters often lurk around at the edges of a map) or a conversation between the characters. They also can’t be repeated if something wasn’t understood during all the action.
The characters are all good, but they don’t include eternal favorites like Minsc and Viconia or Morte. That doesn’t make them bad or anything, but they are first and foremost solid and work within the story of that game, supporting it. They are very integral to the major mythology of this story. Some players might prefer it this way, others might like characters more, which work more independently. But I guess that’s what the adventurers hall is for. Everyone can come up with own heroes, if they want to. I must admit I’ve never used the feature and should probably at least try it in the future.
That’s already it. I can’t think of more less than perfect elements. Have I already talked about how pretty the graphics are? No? Shame on me then!
Pillars of Eternity is one of these games, that are satisfying in their story and characters, but also the raw gameplay mechanics. Think Batman: Arkham City. Mages, ciphers, priests, chanters and druids have countless spells at their disposal, that just make each of them worthwhile. Even all the different types of casters have unique traits that set them appart. Mages get their spells from a grimoire (grimoire slam is awesome!) and ciphers have to create focus (done passively with the soul whip) to keep casting. Again, all this stuff is part of very smart game design, that hardly any other games of this genre have showcased so far.
The same is true for camping supplies and no combat XP besides bestiary entries. Restrictions for mages are meaningless, if all they do is teach players to rest after every battle. Making this a resource deals with that problem.
Same goes for restricting XP generation to actual quest solving. Pretty much every walkthrough for one of the old infinity engine games describes how to end a quest normally at first and then kill everyone to get these experience points as well. That stinks, it counteracts every type of meaningful choices and with a game working this way, designers might as well remove options like stealth altogether. Why sneak through a level, if it only makes the player miss the XP for killing everyone? This is the first time that sneaking actually makes sense, because you don’t loose XP and the party doesn’t even take combat damage, which saves them from having to use up camping resources again. That is the very example of smart game design. If the player has options he never uses, they were implemented wrong. This also proves that no one has understood and thought this type of game through like Obsidian has.
I also liked the reputation system a lot. The party can win influence with every single city, which makes so much sense, just because a character is a hero in one city, wouldn’t prevent him from being pursued for petty theft in another – nor would a negative event burn him everywhere. It goes way beyond the basic reputation a party could win in Baldur’s Gate. On top of that the main character even gathers a rep based on how the player behaved during conversations. That too is something much more intricate and satisfying than almost anything other RPGs ever featured. The player can be the ass or hero he ever wanted to be (or everything in between) and all of this has its advantages and drawbacks. Some people are glad to talk to someone more benevolent, others just see a sucker. Amazing!
I’ve really won the impression that if some future Kickstarter campaigns will have it easier to get their funding, it will be because of successful examples like Pillars of Eternity. This is crowdfunding at its best. I already loved Wasteland 2 but I think this project turned out even better. There is a vast amount of stuff to love here.
It took me over 70 hours to finish the game (according to save game time) and I tried to do everything. The game ends with enlightening epilogues, just like Wasteland 2 did and I’m so interested in learning what the already announced expansion might be about!