Pillars of Eternity is a modern masterpiece and a stunning homage to the classic CRPG of the 1990s, indisputably one of the finest games in the genre, it still has many flaws, some of which turn what could be one of the greatest CRPG of the last 20 years into a chore.
How does it Hold Up?
The world of Pillars of Eternity looks good for the style it’s replicating and is beautiful in its own way, but it was also outdated graphically upon release. Its graphical prowess was never the main selling point, the world-building, however, is exceptional, maps look varied and lived in, with dozens of handcrafted locations to visit and hundreds of NPC to interact with the world is both vibrant and immersive.
There is a massive amount of voice work, and most of it is of exceptional quality. However, as you progress into the game some conversations are a bizarre mix of fully voiced, partially voiced, and entirely mute, I would if voice work was full for main/party characters, and random NPCs were text alone.
The writing of Pillars of Eternity is excellent, and while the role-play descriptions do get tedious to read, the dialogue is solid and believable.
The Darkside of Kickstarter Fan Fiction.
The writing of Pillars of Eternity is exceptional with one exception, the awful backer NPCs that fill some cities, clicking upon them and viewing their soul (background story written by the backer) gives you a viewport into the minds of some of the internet’s worst writers, almost every character is both terrible and exaggerated, as well as some having a random agenda.
One story of note was a random tale that hopped from people not liking elves, to people not liking thieves, only to end on the reason no one liked them was due to them being lesbians.
Somehow the townsfolk could tell their sexuality by just watching two hooded women walk into town for the first time.
It was a bizarre mix of awful fantasy and glee style “us vs the wicked bigots” and both aspects felt, flat, forced and like it was written by a teenage girl who had never dated anyone.
I wish I could say that was the worst, but no.. it got much worse, from heroes whom the whole world loved, to warriors who fought many wars and never so much as got wounded despite facing overwhelming odds alone.
I won’t go into the multitude of neckbeard fantasies involving beautiful elvish women. It was cringy.. trust me.
Another annoying aspect of this system was entering a building (loading screen required) only to find it populated by a handful of these awful Mary Sue NPCs, it felt like a waste of time (2 loading screens), as their stories are not only not necessary to the main story, they are entirely superfluous and mostly terrible.
Shoogee Doogee from Boogee Woogee.
I loved the companions in Pillars of Eternity, Obsidian knowns how to make believable party members, and most of them are excellent, interesting and have phenomenal voice acting, however, at times their backstories can feel a little overkill, as you are given reams of superfluous information about their homeland, families, interests, beliefs etc.
In smaller doses, this information would be very immersive, but a massive flood of it all at once feels overwhelming.
Combat is good, but not quite right.
The mass array of skills, buffs, debuffs and abilities are fantastic and makes combat feel exciting.
Combat would be far more interesting if it was turn-based, the pause/real-time combat often feels clumsy, and party members are less intelligent than in Obsidians 2005 title, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords, and will mostly die if left to their own devices, even when using the AI scripts.
I wish the combat system settled on one side or the other of the action/turn-based divide, straddling the fence feels unrewarding in the long run, which is a real shame as the massive selection of skills all feel great when used.
Where Pillars of Eternity Shines.
The choices you make can have far-reaching effects on your story, small mercies or cruelties can come back to reward/bite you, and you can never know if that begged you helped today, could become a king tomorrow, it feels anything is possible.
Friends and allies are fleeting concepts in the world of Pillars of Eternity.
In addition, the 2D artwork for character and NPC portraits is incredibly well made, and I could easily spend hours looking through a portfolio of them, its some of the best fantasy artwork I have ever seen and the art director deserves to be commended for their fine taste.
Worth a Play in 2020?
If you want a deep, engrossing cRPG that is not without flaws, and at times can be a little long-winded, you will love Pillars of Eternity, a fantastic homage to the cRPG of the 90s.
Few cRPG capture the spirit and ideals of Baldurs Gate and similar classics as well as Pillars of Eternity, and you will not be disappointed.
Xbox Game Pass.
Pillars of Eternity, is part of Xbox Game Pass, an ever-growing catalogue of over 100 games that is a great way to try a whole smorgasbord of games, including day one access to all Microsoft first party titles, for just a few dollars a month.