First Impressions: Pillars of Eternity

First Impressions: Pillars of Eternity, a new take on classic RPGs by Obsidian and Paradox.

I am ashamed to admit I had not heard of Pillars of Eternity until last week, but I bought it on the spot. Why? Because a colleague uttered the words that I’ve always wanted to hear: “Hey, did you like oldschool RPGs like Baldur’s Gate? Because it’s kinda like that.”

I did like oldschool RPGs like Baldur’s Gate. I also was obsessed with the original Neverwinter Nights and its expansion packs, and many an evening after school was spent playing it with friends. I love roleplaying games, and I enjoy a good yarn, and it seemed that this game would have all of that with a nostalgic feel that would throw me back to my long evenings wrapped up warm in front of my computer, playing through an epic tale and acting out my fantasies of being an adventurer.

My colleague, and most of the internet, was not wrong. Pillars of Eternity is so far very reminiscent of oldschool RPGs, in several ways. Firstly, its character creation is in-depth and detailed. Your choices here will greatly impact your gameplay. The aesthetic is perfectly suited to the gameplay, and the graphics are pretty for an isometric game, which I wasn’t expecting. The game feels dark, which is great for a dark fantasy RPG. Combat is difficult, especially if you’re playing on more difficult settings or not familiar with turn-based roleplaying games (or are out of practice, like me!)

The storytelling is surprisingly good. I often find myself skipping conversations in other games, but in Pillars of Eternity I’ve been reading everything and listening to the often fully-voiced scenes. There’s also one feature I absolutely love, and that’s the story scenes that act almost as cutscenes, where your screen changes to a page from a book. You see text on one side, which is read out by a narrator that acts almost like a DM (Dungeon Master, for those who never played D&D), and on the other side is a sketched out scene, which changes as you continue throughout the “cutscene” or story. I love it, it was incredibly engaging, which is kind of surprising when most games these days require high-action cutscenes to keep people’s attention. I found myself completely grabbed by these scenes, eager to find out what happened to my companion who had just stumbled out of the woods before me, or what that terrifying banshee-like face on the right of the page meant.

One of the cons I found is that I’m not a huge fan of the way abilities are used, as I feel like there’s a lot of clicking involved. This is mostly due to lack of shortcuts for abilities, which I’ve heard is possible to assign but I’ve yet to figure out how. Basically, right now you’ll have to click on the ability you want to use or spell you want to cast, then click on the target. When you’re using a lot of abilities or spells per fight, especially with multiple party members, that can get a bit tedious, but the combat is still fun and active all the same. You also get used to it very quickly!

The only real gripe I have, though, is that playing on a two monitor PC makes edge-scrolling difficult. There is an option in the settings to “Cage Cursor” which, in theory, prevents your cursor from moving onto the other monitor, however when you get into a cutscene it stops functioning properly until you turn it off and on again. However, all that said, I’ve learned to play with middle mouse for scroll and found that it’s actually much easier and smoother than playing with edge-scrolling even when it’s fully functional, so I suppose it’s not all bad!

I strongly recommend this game to anyone who has a love for oldschool RPGs and isn’t afraid of a little bit of difficulty, where your combat strategy is more important and valuable than just bashing things with a big sword. I can almost 100% guarantee you’ll fall in love with it immediately.

First Impressions: Pillars of Eternity is an RPG that old-school players will love.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - A gothic roguelike RPG which is strangely punishing & still fun.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - How will your party members die?

When I heard about Darkest Dungeon, I was dubious. I’ve tried plenty of roguelikes and self-proclaimed “hard games” in the last year or so that have either not lived up to their claims, or have been decidedly un-fun. But people kept talking about this gothic, dark RPG and it got me all interested, so I read some reviews on Steam and couldn’t help but cackle at some of the funny ones. After reading about someone’s paladin becoming a kleptomaniac and stealing from the party, I was sold.

Darkest Dungeon is all about failure, death, and losing everything you’ve worked hard on. You recruit a squad of heroes whom you send out to fight for you, and inevitably they die. A lot. And you get to watch as that hero you actually kinda liked just keels over after somehow surviving on zero hitpoints for the last three battles. On top of that, there’s the “Stress” mechanic which fills up as bad things happen to your heroes and party. When it reaches full, your hero will gain an “Affliction”. These will have negative effects on that adventurer, such as causing them to retreat further back through the party, skip their turn, or even harm themselves.

For a start, the gameplay is fun! I was surprised that I didn’t find losing party members frustrating. I was a little sad when my Crusader died as he was really awesome and the real hard hitter of the group, but I’m hoping another one comes up in the village to be recruited in the future. Hopefully soon, too. The combat is quite slow but that works for the game style, and each adventurer you recruit will have the potential for different abilities, which can make your party feel like a different make-up every time.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon - The dark art style suits the gameplay.

The art style is gorgeous, and fits perfectly with the dark, gothic theme. It’s not a particularly happy game, and that works immensely well with the rough 2d character and environment artwork. Atmospherically, it’s excellent.

Like I said, combat is slow, and the game is not at all forgiving. It is quite possible that you’ll fail quests and lose an entire party of adventurers you’ve been working with for a while, including rare items such as an accuracy boosting ring I’d put on my highwayman shortly before he got critted in the face one room over. If you make the mistake of getting attached to any one hero in your party, prepare yourself for the worst or be sorely disappointed (though we all know you’ll likely be disappointed even if you steel yourself against the pain of loss).

All in all, I would totally recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good dungeon-crawler. Darkest Dungeon is in Early Access on Steam which I generally dislike, but it’s in a great state for play, and considering how much fun it is I would absolutely encourage you to pick it up if it sounds like your kind of thing.

First Impressions: Darkest Dungeon by Red Hook Studios.

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

One of the few games I’ve purchased in Early Access, Divinity: Original Sin has been fully released and I’ve jumped headlong into it co-op with my fiancé this past weekend. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it, as I played during Early Access and encountered a bunch of bugs, not to mention died within my first hour and had to restart because I hadn’t saved. However, after trying it out in full release and co-op, I’ve had a mostly positive experience that I wanted to share with you!

Graphically, the game is stunning for a top-down RPG, and character creation is diverse. Players can play either singleplayer, where they take control of both Source Hunters, or co-op with a friend in which each player controls one of the two characters. These characters can be customised down to the ground, including gender and appearance, voice, and starting skills. There is a class selection which doesn’t seem to be too binding as it only selects what equipment and skills you start with.

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

The environments are beautiful, and as I mentioned the game itself is aesthetically pleasing. This helps enhance the exploration aspect, since you will be spending a lot of your time looking in corners for interesting secrets, as well as searching for adventure in every corner of the map. Conversations can be found anywhere, and you often have to “argue” with your partner (or other character if you’re playing solo) or even NPCs, and this is done through a Rock/Paper/Scissors mechanic which was a pleasant surprise!

Combat is turn-based, which is fun because there’s more tactics involved than your standard RPG which seems to have gone in the direction of hack-and-slash. In Divinity: Original Sin, you have to consider where is the best place to stand in combat, what spells to use and when, when to run and when to attack. I have had to reload to the beginning of fights before because of poor decisions on my part!

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin

I will say, however, that the combat can be frustrating due to packs of enemies having far too much crowd control, meaning everyone in your party may end up stunned, blinded or knocked down for long periods of time. This can make combat very difficult, but not in a way that feels is under your control. This is exacerbated by the fact that my fiancé took a talent called Lone Wolf, which means we can only have one companion rather than two. A full party of four (including two “companions” picked up throughout the story) might make this less of a problem, but frequently we find I’m stunned, he’s knocked down and on fire, and our mage is blinded, which makes the fight unnecessarily frustrating.

You do have to remember to quicksave often, and when I say often, I mean often! Just like most classic RPGs, you may make mistakes, or make decisions in conversations that impact your storyline that you might regret shortly after, so it’s useful to have a loading point. Luckily, quicksaving is as simple as pressing F5 at (pretty much) any time, so it’s not difficult to keep your progress safe!

We’ve already invested around 18 hours into the game, and that’s nothing compared to the 75 hours my friends and coworkers took to complete it, not including all sidequests. The game is vast, and I’ve found myself playing it for extended play sessions without even noticing. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the classic RPGs like Baldur’s Gate or Neverwinter Nights, particularly if you have a friend or significant other you’ve been wanting to play a new game with!

First Impressions: Divinity Original Sin