Pillars of Eternity is a video game from 2015. It has been on my list for a while, but other video games got in the way. Now I finally bought a version on sale and started playing.
What is Pillars of Eternity about?
Pillars of Eternity is a role playing game set in a former colony of the Aedyr Empire. Lord Raedric VII has invited settlers to come to the colony, with the promise of land and wealth. Your character followed that call, and at the beginning of the game, you’re in a caravan heading that way.
Unfortunately, your caravan is attacked, and you and a few companions are driven into nearby mines by a magical storm. You emerge from hiding to witness some weird people performing a strange magic ritual. It leaves your companions dead and you with strange new powers.
The story escalates from there, dragging you into several conflicts brewing in the land.
Pillars of Eternity is a roleplaying game in the style of Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. That style of game has continued to hold appeal, and has led to games like Tides of Numenera, and this game. Both Numenera and Pillars of Eternity were the result of Kickstarter campaigns. The interest for these games is clearly there, but publishers apparently don’t want to bother with them. Which is a shame. That said, Pillars of Eternity had a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and was funded.
These games all feature pre-rendered 3D isometric landscapes that your party explores. The world is divided into a number of maps, and as you travel your maps fills out. Pillars of Eternity follows this formula to a T, with your character starting in Gilded Vale, and traveling to Dyrwood, Defiance Bay, and other settlements in the area. What it adds, is a ‘stronghold’. You get your own castle, that brings its own set of quests and can be upgraded and manned by hirelings.
The combat of the game is semi-real-time, like in Baldur’s Gate. Everything happens in real time, but characters have cooldowns in between actions. In other words, actions are really turn-based. This is different from a real-time RPGs like Mass Effect or DragonAge, and from turn-based games like Divinity: Original Sin. I personally dislike this kind of in-between style of Pillars of Eternity. I loved Divinity, and I loved Mass Effect, but this half-assed approach is not my thing.
That said, Pillars of Eternity is an addictive game, like Baldur’s Gate and Torment are.
Like Baldur’s Gate and Torment, Pillars of Eternity has text. Lots of text. I love writing, up to a point. This game cleverly uses both the writing and the 3D environments to paint a rich world.
That said, it’s not all functional. M. Harold Page explained this very well, writing has to be integrated into the plot. If writing is not integrated into the plot, I dislike it. Which is why I barely skim all the books I find in games like this. In fact, I usually ignore pieces of parchment, audio tapes, and background info dumps that developers pepper their games with. I didn’t read the lore in God of War, I skimmed all the text data points in Horizon, and I didn’t read the books in Pillars of Eternity.
Luckily, that doesn’t detract from the experience — so far, at least. And maybe some people do like all that background churn. I just can’t be bothered these days. Life’s too short to mire your plot in background info, but I can just ignore it, so I’m happy enough. Even if all those books in Pillars of Eternity give me FOMO.
Pillars of Eternity is a great game if you like classic roleplaying games like Baldur’s gate — and I shudder to call them classic, because I grew up with the even older classics like Eye of the Beholder, but okay.
If you don’t like lots of text, and lots of clicking around pre-rendered 3D maps, then this is not the game for you.