Pillars of Eternity
Back in the day when I was a younger gamer, major RPG game releases would make me feel all warm inside with anticipation of their debut. When I’d finally see the game box in the PC gaming store, I’d get pretty excited, although not quite as giddy as a school girl (no…not me…ever), purchase the game, and then rush home to play it.
Masterpieces such as Planescape: Torment and Baldur’s Gate 2 are still cherished in my nostalgic heart (sniff). Other games such as Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale were a little more tedious and I felt that they tended to be concerned more with stats and gaming machinations, rather than compelling storytelling and adventure for adventure’s sake.
As the years rolled on, there would appear some new RPGs here and there that would pique my interest, but just as with the boy who cried wolf, each disappointment lowered that anticipatory buzz that I use to get as a game’s release date approached. Instead of driving 80 m.p.h. (oops, I meant 55 in the slow lane, mom) to get home and tear open a game box, I’d casually ride back—maybe even stopping at a fast food joint on the way home. By the dawn of the digital download age, I’d become a more cynical and jaded husk of my former self, in terms of expecting anything good to come out of the RPG PC gaming market. Phoned-in, wannabe epic storylines, and the same, seemingly cloned rocks, trees, and tired interiors, made me wish for the days of yore, when one could sit down and become enveloped in a truly engrossing narrative and experience unforgettable gaming moments. It is with this rather pessimistic attitude that I snorted when first hearing about Pillars of Eternity, figuring it would be more of the same tripe. Boy, was I wrong…
To put it metaphorically, Pillars of Eternity is like a well-oiled machine featuring an original and compelling story, with a large dollop of solid gameplay mechanics, all sprinkled liberally with a healthy serving of cracknip (crack + catnip combo). It’s like an innocent, naked, babe in the woods, that I…oh…wait.
But first let’s back up a little bit…for those of you who have stumbled upon this review without knowing what classic RPG gaming is all about, let me give you a little background. They are generally based around creating a character (or group of characters), and sallying forth into a ginormous fantasy world filled with its own lore, monsters, quests, treasure, magic, and mayhem. They were usually played from an isometric (top-down) perspective so that you could have a good view of all of the unfolding action. When a battle broke out, you’d usually be able to pause combat in order to better manage the tactics of your party members.
Pillars of Eternity features a highly refined version of this pausible combat system, which forces players to think before taking their next action, rather than relying on brute force. This can lead to some truly harrowing battles, and quite often, a big payoff, for utilizing shrewd tactics. Combined with the various different abilities of your up to six character party, and you’ve got a lot of variety, diversity, and replay value built into the core gameplay.
The character creation system is not only brilliant, but is also a fresh departure of the tired and worn out creation systems that RPG gamers are used to by now. Instead of just creating a character and assuming that he or she is just adventuring to be adventuring, Pillars asks why your main protagonist is going out into the world, as well as a hint into what they desire to accomplish.
When you bound forth into Pillar’s rich and vast world, the decisions that you make through your avatar will have an impact on the way that the narrative shifts and plays out. Will you choose to be a dastardly, bushwhacking scoundrel, or a sympathetic and even-handed champion for good? A sly and manipulative conniver, or an upstanding and self-righteous rube? All of your actions and decisions are taken into account. The aforementioned classic RPGs of the past have crossed into this territory before, but none have accomplished doing it as convincingly as Pillars of Eternity has.
The writing is extraordinary, and the story almost seems to have been written for you and you alone. The graphics are lush and engaging, and are somewhat of a throwback to the Infinity Engine games of old in many ways. However, they do make use of the technology of modern times. The backgrounds are highly detailed and much improved over those of their rougher predecessors. Character designs, combat animations, and effects for various spells and abilities look spectacular, and do a stellar job of pulling you into the well-crafted game world. 4k gaming folks will be especially delighted, and zooming down into battles has never looked as impressive in an isometric RPG before.
Pillars of Eternity assaulted me with almost overbearing waves of nostalgia. But it’s inherent charm, epic and compelling storyline, updated looks, and super polished gameplay, has pushed the known boundaries of classic RPG gaming to new heights. I can only hope that this masterful creation spurs other developers to create games of similar ilk, and spark a new wave of both updated classics and new legends. They’re called classics for a reason.
As mentioned, Pillars is a real looker, and those fortunate enough to have 4k gaming rigs can really enjoy jaw-dropping graphics and resolution to go along with the already epic story. Here a monster of a machine that can really bring out with lush visual splendor of Pillars of Eternity:
Also, check out CyberpowerPC’s website for other great options as well.
Yes, it was worth the waiting! I would give it a little lower grade though – maybe 91%. Still, a piece of art.