“Pillars of Eternity” review

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Obsidian Entertainment’s “Pillars of Eternity,” funded by the donations of those on Kickstarter, has finally arrived.

First things first though. “Pillars” is an old school RPG. For those not sure what that means, let me elaborate.

This game operates off of some pretty strict rules as well as some that are very similar to those of pen and paper games. Magic spells act on a per encounter basis, some by a per rest basis. You can’t spam spells like “Dragon Age” so don’t expect that kind of combat.

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Seriously though, that’s some pretty scenery.

Leveling up is pretty intense since there are tons of attributes, talents and feats. Each level up won’t give you the ability each time, much like pen and paper games.

Running out of Endurance will knock your character out in a fight. They also have health points. If your character runs out of HP in the fight, their Endurance is handicapped.

So! Now that you know the basics of how this game works, buckle up.

You will probably spend a long time creating a character since the statistics and attributes are all really in depth. It may take you a while to leave the creation screen since you’ll want to really customize your adventurer to fit your style of play.

Combat like Knights of the Old Republic or an MMO. You pick your skill during a fight and wait for it to happen. Remember when I mentioned those rules for spells and abilities? This is when that information comes in handy. It really does pay to pause the game and strategically plan the attacks and movements that’ll happen to ensure that everyone doesn’t get mobbed and wiped. Which can and has happened (to me, a lot).

The world is extremely well detailed and full of characters to walk up to and interact with. A myriad of side-quests await those who are determined to find them. If you end up checking them out, be careful not to fall down that rabbit hole. You may never even get to the story quests.

You’ll also have the ability to get your own Stronghold and fix it up. Once you do that, be aware that you’ll have to defend it from bandits and all manner of monsters that should come its way. Though, if you fill it with soldiers and guards, you can have the computer take care of it for you. In the beginning though, you’ll want to make sure that you take care of all threats as much as possible. The Stronghold also helps you gain notoriety and fame, which goes nicely with the character reputation system.

You’ve got your basic crafting systems too so be on the lookout for things you can grab to make scrolls, potions, and all manner of useful items for your party to stock up on in quests. There are also some items I like to call, Instance Items, that become very valuable when you encounter certain things that might keep you from progressing in a story. For example, a crowbar might come in handy to wrench a sewer gate open so that you can sneak into a castle. Just remember that these actions require Endurance, and might weaken a character in your party.

Try not to get discouraged when you get stuck on a mission or get killed. Stock up on camping supplies so that you’ll be able to rest in the dungeons and save yourself the trips back to towns or buildings. Get used to people falling in battle and prepare for this eventuality. These games are tough, you just gotta be tough too.

Personally, I like the little reminders that this is a CRPG. Instead of just looking at the character models stand in place and reading a bunch of text, certain interactions and dramatic moments have small motion-comics that display next to the text. It’s pretty fun.

Your character can really get molded through these little moments and side-quests. As you go through the game, the choices you make will influence how people view you and respond to you. For example, in the beginning of the game you have the chance to save a chef who’s being held by bandits. Save him, and the inn at the Gilded Veil will treat you with some discounts.

“Pillars of Eternity” really does feel like an RPG of yesteryear. If you’re not familiar with yesteryear, then this’ll be a new and exciting experience. But this game is not an easy thing to just jump into. You have to commit to this game. It is definitely a 40+ hour experience, with at least a couple hours in between plays. There is a lot of game here that really feels artfully crafted. The music, visuals, and story really are a labor of love and you can appreciate the hard work that went in to making this for those who donated, as well as those who are interested in purchasing it now.

Yes, there are some bugs. I myself ran into one that prevented me from completing a mission in game, and actually made me crash frequently and reliably. But, in the next patch, the bug was fixed. So, there’s something to be said about the live service Obsidian is providing for their product, which you don’t normally get from a company after they release something. Though, it does seem to be happening more and more with certain companies.

Should you get “Pillars of Eternity?” I think you should, because it’s a great reminder of RPG’s roots and it’s an extremely well-made and detailed project made by a passionate group of people. It’s worth the money, but you have to really be prepared for what you’re getting into. Don’t be afraid to take breaks before delving back into the game. Really try to enjoy this game in a fashion that isn’t just grinding away. Take your time with it, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more than if you just powered through it.

“Pillars of Eternity” is available on Steam in a variety of versions, some include soundtracks, digital booklets, and more. Happy adventuring!

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Have fun making some pretty interesting and flexible characters!