Reviews

My Top 12 Games of 2015: #10 Pillars of Eternity


Another cold night. My nose is running slightly and my joints creak, brittled by the chill. It seems appropriate then that I would be pining over Pillars of Eternity today. One of the few things that I’ve kickstarted and, like the rest, a project I have 0 regrets for backing. Pillars of Eternity harkens back to the days of Neverwinter or Baldur’s Gate. Games that gave you incredible customization options, deep conversations, and wonderful writing. Well, I’m told I was the one person that enjoyed the writing in the original Neverwinter, but that’s all that matters for my entertainment!

I apparently lost my game progress when I upgraded my Windows. So new character it is!

I apparently lost my game progress when I upgraded my Windows. So new character it is!

Pillars of Eternity starts you off with a pretty thick character customization section. You can pick your sex (yes please [still got the jokes, go me]), race, class, culture, and even a voice. Your stats are granular and harken back to ye olden times of DND. Back when games weren’t terrified of alienating people and presumed that you’d rise to the challenge of learning them. I decided for this run I’ll be playing as one of the Seraphim from my fantasy stories. Phoe is the Seraphim of Sound, a being whose presence is enough to rattle the very building blocks of your being apart. While they don’t actually have a sex I’ve always kind of envisioned this character as closer to feminine than masculine. Boom, got that down. The races are actually even more granular than you might think. Not only having you pick a supertype but also a subtype based on regions or other factors. Of the subtypes of “Godlike” I chose the Moon. Looking pretty slick! Next I chose Chanter, Chanters are basically bards. While you battle there is a series of songs you’ll sing through that have sometimes dramatic impacts on the battlefield. Get into the groove enough and you’ll be dropping some heavy tide turning spells.

I organized my stats to maximize the impact of my class, the game is kind enough to put a gold or silver star beside stats that are either VERY important or merely better than the rest. Culture was a bit of a tossup, and much like race it too has a subtype. I am a drifter, sound waits for nothing. And I picked an avatar that looked close to my character as well as a voice that fit what I envision her personality to be like.

In game the controls match up with isometric RPGs you’ve played before. Hotkeys to select your team members, click to move. And a variety of extra buttons to change the speed of the game, open up various menus, and all the other essentials of roleplaying. Your character icons also give you some really handy updates on important status changes for your characters.

Might want to get that checked out...

Might want to get that checked out…

You can actually play this game pretty actively with the each character doing their action the moment they are ready. I’ll be honest, I’m just not confident enough in myself to try and pull that shit off. So instead I went into the options and toggled a few of the “Auto pause” features. It’s pretty slick, you can set it to pause on damage, seeing enemies, or other “oh shit” moments that you might want to have a moment to mull over. In particular I highly recommend “auto pause on enemy noticing you”. It probably has a slightly different name.

This is another long game. I’ve not actually finished it in truth, which is a pattern you’ll catch with a lot of my list. But it’s not for lack of interest. This game grabbed me by the ghoulies almost immediately and it never truly let go. I love how bleak and hopeless a lot of the world feels. The aesthetics are spot on. Their environment artists did a wonderful job of capturing a brutally honest visual theme. Everything feels “hard” in a way that I can’t quite articulate. It gives me flashbacks to times when I’d make a tiny mistake and lose everything in a game.

Make no mistake, this game certainly hits a lot of nostalgic notes but it is also a great game in its own right. The combat is just delightful in my opinion. You can easily move between characters and queue up moves. If you’d rather just control your main character they have some AI controls that I’ve admittedly not done much with. The music in the game really works for me. I’ve never had the urge to turn it off and I don’t think I’ve ever even turned it down from the default settings. Some, but not all, of the story content is voice acted. This game didn’t have the bottomless wallets of other titles and that’s alright with me. Turns out I know how to read and I had a good time reading through everything I’ve found and everything characters have said.

Even in the time I played it I found a lot of side content and fun secrets. This game really does highlight just how good games can still be. It does little to caudle the player but it also provides ample difficulty options to allow both new interested game enthusiasts as well as old diehard Bloodborne demon soulers. I’m somewhere in the middle, probably closer to the new players than the balls deep hardcore users.

Pillars of Eternity is an absolutely delightful experience. I think if you have the slightest interest in isometric RPGs you should give it a look. Ultimately it DOES get overshadowed by Divinity: Original Sin, in my opinion, but I think they both fill a different visceral need for this genre. If I was a bigger tool I’d be reviewing the Enhanced Edition of that game instead, but I won’t. Let this be the short review for it, go buy it also.

I’ll probably fart up this line each time I talk about the rest of my 2015 games but this is a darn good game. As some folks know my ratings for games basically fall into one of five categories. Terrible games are games that offend me outright, bad games are games that just leave me feeling a bit worse off than before I played them, okay games are games I liked but didn’t really add or remove from my life, good games are games that are I quite like but might not go back and play once I’ve finished them, and finally Great games are games I routinely find myself reinstalling and playing again.

That isn’t to say they are the best things ever made, but they are good enough that a single pass doesn’t feel like enough for me. This squarely falls into that realm. I could probably play through it once every few years and have a good time doing so. With that out of the way, I give Pillars of Eternity the ole “Great” stamp of approval.

Final Thoughts

A complete package as far as Isometric RPGs go. The sound design is spot on. The options provided allow you to make your character truly your own. The combat can be challenging and the tools provided for said combat are just as numerous as I'd hope they'd be. Rather frequently on sale if you are interested but don't care to drop 45-60 bucks.

Overall Score 4.2