Despite owning Pillars of Eternity for a long while, I’ve just recently gotten around to trying it out. I’m a big fan of isometric RPGs — both the action and party based varieties, and have been since the early days of Diablo and Baldur’s Gate. Obsidian was involved in the creation of some of these old school RPGs, and their experience shows! This isn’t the action RPG variety, but rather the party based kind, where the action is more strategy based than how fast you can mash buttons. Most gamers will know all about this sort of game, and most RPG fans probably ran through this title more than once by now. Pillars of Eternity 2 is already on the horizon as well, so this was a good time to dive in and try to strike one of the deeper games off of the backlog list. I have plenty more to go as far as the backlog goes, and plenty more to explore in Pillars as well. I’d like to notate that despite knowing about the game and knowing that it was similar to cRPGs of old (along with reading good things around the blogosphere) I’m basically going into this playthrough blind. I’m going to attempt to not look up anything and just play through naturally.
After firing up the game and watching a short into movie, I was greeted by the character creation screen, and I was surprised by how feature full it was. The cRPGs of old that I keep referencing made use of AD&D rulesets and so the character generation would reflect that and though this feels similar, there are races and classes that aren’t D&D specific. The stats and skills for each character feel fairly original as well, but that old school feel is still present. It’s just a prettier version of the tried and true, and sometimes that’s all the Old Guard needs. I was taken aback initially by the amount of race and class combinations possible, but assumed that it wouldn’t really matter as you tend to pick up a fairly balanced party in these types of games. I ended up settling on playing a Druid.
I went heavy on Intelligence because I figured if this game was anything like other modern RPGs I’ve played (such as the Dragon Age series), having a bevy of spells at your disposal is rather useful, and sitting in the back with your main character while your AI controlled party beats on things tends to be the best approach. However, it seems that the druid is more about shapeshifting into bigger animals (I chose boar form) and diving into the fray. Whatever the case, the choice doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference as I suspected.
The story unfolds in a similar fashion to most isometric titles, with some in-game dialogue scenes, and then other more animated cutscenes. The graphics are crisp and the animations tight and the lighting effects are excellent. Combat flows well, though I have to get used to only being able to cast spells a certain amount of times per day… but it’s such a throwback and tugs on the right nostalgia strings nonetheless. Apparently you’re a traveller who’s sick and trying to find out what’s going on, but there’s a shroud of mystery that has yet to be lifted. I’m still fairly early on in the campaign, travelling a modest distance to this point.
Earlier this evening I reached Magran’s Fork after being turned away from the Gilded Vale, but I did pick up a wizard buddy. We were clearing the zone when a pack of wolves overwhelmed us and I called it a night. Overall I’m really enjoying this title, it feels really good to have the nostalgic feel in a modern title that still shows its roots. The Dragon Age and Mass Effects were true to their roots in a similar way but still upped the graphics and brought the gameplay in the 3D realm so they were good but this is good in a different way.