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.