Pillars Of Eternity: Review - Games Weekly

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Pillars Of Eternity: Review

Pillars Of Eternity is an homage to a bygone age: a time when developers knew what ‘tactical role-playing combat’ actually meant. This is a 2D isometric RPG where every skill point, piece of equipment, ability and decision matters. The gameplay is so freeform that you could create a band of miniature rogues and attempt to dodge almost every unfriendly encounter, or charge through quests as a party of nimble elf archers and wizards. You could also turn up the difficulty knob and subject yourself to a gruelling experience where the next fight could be your last.

Obsidian has carefully weighed the traditional pause-and-play RPG elements against new features, making Pillars Of Eternity more than a simple reminder of an earlier, brainier genre. It’s accessible, rich, rewarding and utterly without mercy.

When a major event happens in a quest, you will wonder how many other ways it could have played out. You will want to create new characters with different skills and see what those outcomes look like. The dynamic between you and your foes will also change depending on how you adjust your party’s skill mix.

In battle, it’s rarely a simple matter of swarming enemies until they fall. Your foes all have skills, classes and abilities of their own, and you can expect them to use smart tactics to overwhelm you. Every battle has degrees of cost and this level of commitment to Pillars Of Eternity’s philosophy is appreciated. More importantly, the fixed isometric perspective doesn’t make it too difficult to understand what’s going on.

Sure, there are occasions when you inadvertently coerce a party character to cast a spell or use a knockdown ability on one of their allies. When your group is in a crowded space indoors, it’s easy to click on the wrong target in the heat of the moment, but a handy zoom function can eliminate most of these incidents.

Every backdrop is beautifully rendered, with 3D-effect visuals peppered across the more elaborate locales, and the foes you’re up against are as varied as you’d expect from a tactical RPG. There’s also a good dose of sound effects to go with combat, particularly when spells begin firing off.

The story and lore surrounding Eora, though detailed and well-written, doesn’t grab as much attention as the combat but you won’t care. You'll venture off the main path, picking up side quests, experience and items while testing yourself against hardier challenges.

Pillars Of Eternity embraces complexity, inviting players to try new approaches and understand the finer points of pause-and-play combat. Obsidian has finally made the RPG we all knew they were capable of making and it’s damned glorious.


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