Developed by: Obsidian Entertainment
Published by: Paradox Interactive
Platforms: Windows, OS X, Linux
Feeling Like: Chalk up another win for Crowdfunding
It wasn’t until I was 31 that I realized time was a more valuable resource than money. After reading yet another top [insert a nice sounding number here] list of video games of all time, I realized that I hadn’t played about half of them. This news was distressing; rather than being overjoyed at the prospect of enjoying highly touted games, I was dismayed at missing the party and distraught that I would never get around to playing them.
Why? Games don’t just go away. What was stopping me from dipping back into retro waters and enjoying them? Hardware limitations, sometimes. I didn’t have all the cash in the world back then (or now…) so if an exclusive was on a console I didn’t own, I didn’t play it. That simple. But for many of the computer RPGs like Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale, it was something else.
It all looked a little too complicated. The isometric views made the worlds look incredible, but also made everything more murky than I was used to. I was a console RPG guy. Where were the bright colors? The big sprites? The easy to understand mechanics? There was so much text (Henry, you LOVE to read!)… I basically identified the SNES as my religion. Anything beyond the gray and purple walls was sacrilegious. I wouldn’t get a competent gaming computer until early 2000s, but I easily could have tried something out of my comfort zone. My friends couldn’t even convince me to try Diablo 2.
Pillars of Eternity caught my eye when all the rave reviews claimed that it was a love letter to the types of games I’d missed in decades passed. Updated mechanics, they said. A true classic, in its own right, they said. Don’t miss it, they said. I said back, I won’t. Not this time. Time was back on my side.
I’m glad I took the plunge, although it didn’t convince me that I’d made a huge mistake missing out on titles such as Planescape Torment or Fallout 2.
You play as a Watcher, somebody who can see into people’s souls and learn about their backstories. The writing is absolutely top notch. A seemingly insignificant corner will have a magnifying glass, allowing you to glimpse further into the world via a detailed written description of what smells and sights your character is seeing. It was the best part of the game. The imagination, creativity and overall quality of the lore was truly mesmerizing.
Some of the story beats really pack a wallop. The first few hours develop like a great fantasy novel, filled with mystery and horror. Bodies hanging from trees, societal distrust and conspiracies pop up with every new location. The muddy textures remained, but I did my best to ignore them. There’s more! Researching the dungeons, going through conversations with NPCs and upgrading your inevitable castle homestead were all thrilling.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I never got around to liking the combat. I found everything occurred so quickly that I had to pause and direct everybody’s actions every few seconds. This grounded my experience to a halt and suddenly, it was too slow. I felt unequipped to handle Pillars of Eternity on the default difficulty setting. No doubt, my inexperience with this type of game hindered my enjoyment.
I also didn’t love the game’s pacing and the load times REALLY didn’t help. By the end of the adventure, I was really ready to call it quits. None of the characters were all that memorable, save for the mad priest that looked like a even more homeless version of Gandalf. It’s not like the effort wasn’t made by Obsidian; each party member has a thick backstory, filled with intrigue and philosophical quandaries.
It’s a total package and a clear win for the Kickstarter/Crowdfunding model. 77,000 backers showed that the RPG thirst hasn’t been fully quenched. I’m going to prevent myself from taking the plunge again with the DLC, but I’m satisfied for now.