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You’ll Want To Spend An Eternity With Pillars Of Eternity

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Some of my favorite gaming memories, outside of running from mudcrabs and nix hounds in Morrowind, come from the original Black Isle/Troika/Infinity Ward series of D&D-inspired computer RPGs. I was a kid, so they were all incredibly difficult games for me at an age when understanding the background systems at work was something I simply hadn’t put time into. I remember running around the first village in Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter and having absolutely no idea what the hell I was doing, until I was brutally murdered by trolls. Surprisingly, this was a fond memory.Screenshot 2015-04-07 02.01.49

Fast forward 15 years, and you might think Pillars of Eternity is a very high resolution graphics mod for an expansion pack to one of these games. Although it’s set in a new (and incredibly well designed) world, it still feels like stepping into your favorite pair of comfy bunny slippers. Pillars is a game that takes nostalgia and does interesting things with it.

Pools of blood are in season this year for overlord decor, apparently.

Pools of blood are in season this year for overlord decor, apparently.

 

The design in Pillars will be familiar to anyone who played and enjoyed the old school Infinity engine games. For those that haven’t, it’s reminiscent of Neverwinter Nights and other top-down party RPGs, though the systems under the hood are not your grandpa’s second and third edition D&D rulesets. This is a change for the better though- Dungeons and Dragons rules always felt like they were shoehorned to fit the game instead of the game being designed around them, as anyone playing a sorcerer in BG1 and BG2 probably noticed (no casting stat, no problem).

Screenshot 2015-04-08 23.37.56

Pillars plays out much like the old school RPGs of yore, but it does it with a level of polish that hasn’t been seen since someone dug up the Hope Diamond. The game just works, and it works very well. Side quests are compelling and well-integrated. The plot advances organically, though not so subtly that you will miss details. There is a fair amount of reading in the game, so be prepared to read several novels worth of dialog by the end, but all of it is so wonderfully crafted and lovingly tended that it never feels like a chore. Characters have purpose or extensive backstory in almost all cases, and prying a little bit will usually let you learn much more about the world around you than just where the best weapon sets are.

"Touch their soul" is clearly a euphemism for a public hand job.

“Touch their soul” is clearly a euphemism for a public hand job.

The Kickstarter content from the stretch goals is surprisingly well-integrated as well. The stronghold is an interesting diversion and base of operations while you go about your merry way slaughtering all opposition. Under it, the endless paths of Od Nua will give you about 15 dungeon levels of madness to fight through for sweet, sweet loot to equip your party with. You’ll also learn more about the Dyrwood natives, their artifacts and their history through the exploration of it all. All told, it’s probably some of the best stretch goal content I’ve played around with yet.
My verdict on Pillars? Buy the Hell out of it, as soon as you can. It will give you about 60 hours of enjoyment with beautifully crafted dialog, lovingly rendered scenes and intensely difficult fights that will challenge your skills as an RPG fan from start to finish. If the base settings aren’t enough, you can even do Path of Iron mode and see just how hard things get when the game is purposely turned against you with extreme prejudice and a single save file that gets deleted when you die. So, grab your best suit of armor and roll up a party (I recommend a chanter AKA the summoner battle bard) and get your ass to Dyrwood.

"We aren't lost. I just fancied a look at this shiny map."

“We aren’t lost. I just fancied a look at this shiny map.”

About Whiskey Ginger

Whiskey Ginger is a scientist by day and comedy writer by night. Other than his passions for the nerdier things in life, he also writes for comedy sites dedicated to fraternity and postgrad humor. His parents just wish he'd write less dick jokes.

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