In the last few years, gamers have seen some great (and not so great) RPGs on consoles. Pillars of Eternity is one of those sleeper games that gamers may miss. For one, the game has been out for nearly 2 years on PC and two, it’s pretty much Baldur’s Gate without the Forgotten Realms license. That’s actually not a bad thing. Considering highs such as The Witcher 3 and lows like Mass Effect: Andromeda, Pillars of Eternity – Complete Edition scratches an itch that most older RPG lovers miss. We have Obsidian Entertainment and Paradox Arctic to thank for this effort.
The plot is not unlike most RPGs. Your main character is traveling along with a caravan which is then ambushed. After running across a cult ritual, a supernatural event occurs in which you then find out that you are a Watcher (no, not Uatu), and you go forth to seek out your destiny. Along the way in the main quest line, you run across a mysterious village where children are being born with no souls. It’s then up to you and whatever companions you find to solve the mystery.
Even without the Forgotten Realms license, players have a wide range of selections when it comes to creating their characters. Don’t expect some of the more exotic D&D varieties such as teiflings and such, but there is enough variety elsewhere to keep you from missing it so much. Keep in mind as well that characters don’t gain XP from killing creatures, but from completing main and side quests, and there are enough to keep you busy. After a play through of nearly 5 hours a few days ago, I realized that I had completed a bunch of quests but was still just hitting level four. Again, this game is not designed with grinding in mind, it’s to be played like a D&D adventure.
Gameplay video courtesy of IGN
Similar to Divinity: Original Sin (another excellent RPG), this game is a PC to console port, so players will have to adjust from using the mouse to controller. It handles pretty well, so that won’t be too difficult. Within a few hours, players will find it pretty easy to navigate the systems, change the inventory, stances, and AI. Most of these changes are standard fare, really. There are times when things can get a bit wonky, as controls can suddenly change and you will see your characters walk right off of a map. However, a few clicks will get them centered again. There are adjustments you can make to get that point and click feel, but it handles well with standard movements. One thing that I did like is that with certain movements, you can make your party move faster on-screen. I also like the fact that, while you can buy adventurers to build around your party, you can also meet certain characters whose machinations may be diametrically opposed to your own or actually are there to help. For instance, the mad wizard you brought along may be the key to the whole game. Likewise, the smooth-talking, even-tempered ranger you recruited may wind up stabbing you in the back…while looking you in your face.
Graphically speaking, because this game is a throwback to the earlier aforementioned RPGs, if you never played Pillars of Eternity on PC, do not expect it to have the graphics of Dragon Age or The Witcher. This game is built similarly to older games that were on the Infinity Engine from the 90s, which explains why it looks the way it does. It doesn’t look great on new TVs, but to tell the truth, the meat is in the story and you’ll definitely get lots of it here. On the flip side, gamers who are used to fully voiced characters should be warned, as they will not get that here. Surprisingly, a lot of NPCs are voiced, but there is a lot of dialogue to be read as well. Again, that’s how most of these games were designed; to be read. Occasionally, gamers may also experience a loss of framerate when a lot is going on, but thankfully nothing has happened to the point where my game has crashed.
The issues I encountered weren’t huge but worth noting. For one, I wish there was a way to change the perspective to get in closer to see characters, but I have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t Dragon Age so getting up close and personal just won’t happen. While there is an auto pause before and during combat, unlike newer games where players can use their weapons and abilities, players here will feel more like they are refereeing the fights as opposed to taking part of them. The caveat here is that one must plan accordingly and if you suspect a big fight is ahead of you, save and save often since you may not be in total control of battles. The biggest gripe I may have is with the loading time. There’s one thing that I don’t miss with older games, and that’s each and every time you enter a building or a new map you have to constantly wait for it to load. Thankfully, load times are not long but can still be annoying.
I realize I may not have gone deeply into this review as this is a game that has been out a while and has been reviewed extensively. To the point, however, any fans of the older CRPGs will feel right at home playing if they didn’t play this on PC already or are looking for a double dip. It’s also great for new fans looking for a classic feel of gameplay. Best of all, for what you are paying for at $50, you get the base game as well as The White March expansion. This should be enough to keep you busy until Pillars of Eternity 2 drops sometime in 2018.
4 Soulless Children out of 5
P.S. As a sidenote, don’t forget if you want to play the classics, such as Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and so on, Beamdog has you covered for both desktop and mobile versions.