Pillars of Eternity, developed by Obsidian Entertainment and released in 2015, marks a triumphant return to the roots of classic isometric role-playing games (RPGs). Funded through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, the game promised a deep narrative, strategic combat, and a rich, immersive world reminiscent of RPG classics like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. In this extensive review, we delve into the intricate tapestry of Pillars of Eternity, exploring its gameplay mechanics, narrative depth, character development, visual aesthetics, and the lasting impact it has had on the RPG genre.
I. Navigating the Tapestry:
Pillars of Eternity opens with a captivating narrative set in the world of Eora, a land haunted by a supernatural phenomenon known as the Hollowborn Plague. Players step into the shoes of the Watcher, a character with the unique ability to see into the souls of others. The narrative unfolds in a world brimming with political intrigue, ancient mysteries, and ethereal forces, offering players a complex and engaging storyline from the very start.
II. Classic Isometric RPG Revival:
At its core, Pillars of Eternity pays homage to the classic isometric RPGs that defined an era. The game embraces the party-based gameplay of titles like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment, presenting players with a top-down view of a beautifully handcrafted world. This return to the genre’s roots serves as both a nod to nostalgia for veteran players and an introduction to the classic RPG experience for a new generation of gamers.
III. Deep Character Customization:
One of Pillars of Eternity’s defining features is its robust character creation and customization system. Players have the freedom to craft their protagonist, selecting from a range of races, classes, and backgrounds. The game introduces a unique mechanic called the “Disposition” system, which tracks a character’s choices and interactions, influencing how others perceive them and shaping the unfolding narrative.
IV. Strategic Real-Time with Pause Combat:
Pillars of Eternity features a strategic real-time with pause combat system, allowing players to issue commands to their party members and pause the action to reassess and adjust strategies. This approach combines the fluidity of real-time combat with the tactical depth of turn-based systems. The result is a dynamic and engaging combat experience where party composition, positioning, and coordination play crucial roles in overcoming challenges.
V. An Intricate Web of Quests and Choices:
Questing in Pillars of Eternity is a multifaceted experience, intertwining main story arcs with a plethora of side quests, bounties, and exploration opportunities. The narrative complexity is heightened by the meaningful choices players make throughout their journey, influencing not only the outcome of specific quests but also shaping the overall trajectory of the storyline. The branching narrative and the consequences of decisions echo the spirit of classic RPG storytelling.
VI. Rich Lore and World-Building:
Eora, the world of Pillars of Eternity, is steeped in lore and history. The game introduces players to a universe where gods, magic, and ancient civilizations coexist. The lore is woven into the fabric of the world, with books, dialogues, and environmental storytelling providing layers of depth. The meticulous attention to world-building enhances the sense of immersion, inviting players to explore and uncover the mysteries hidden within Eora.
VII. Companions with Depth:
Pillars of Eternity presents players with a diverse cast of companions, each with their own personalities, backgrounds, and questlines. The companions are not mere tag-alongs but integral parts of the narrative, contributing to the overarching story and reacting to the player’s choices. The depth of character development extends beyond the protagonist, creating a party dynamic that feels alive and responsive.
VIII. Visual and Auditory Splendor:
Visually, Pillars of Eternity captures the essence of the classic isometric RPG aesthetic while leveraging modern technology to deliver a visually stunning experience. The handcrafted environments, detailed character sprites, and atmospheric effects contribute to a world that feels both nostalgic and contemporary. The game’s orchestral score, composed by Justin Bell, complements the visual splendor, evoking a range of emotions and enhancing the overall ambiance of the game.
IX. Expansions and Post-Launch Support:
Pillars of Eternity has seen continued support through expansions that expand upon the base game’s narrative and introduce new challenges and content. The expansions, such as “The White March” parts I and II, showcase the developer’s commitment to enriching the player’s experience beyond the initial release. Post-launch support has included patches, balancing updates, and community engagement, underscoring Obsidian’s dedication to the game’s ongoing success.
X. Critical Acclaim and Community Impact:
Upon its release, Pillars of Eternity received widespread critical acclaim for its narrative depth, strategic gameplay, and nostalgic reverence for classic RPGs. The game’s success extended beyond critical acclaim, resonating with a passionate community of RPG enthusiasts who appreciated the return to the genre’s roots. Pillars of Eternity’s impact goes beyond its individual success, contributing to the resurgence of isometric RPGs and inspiring a new wave of developers to explore the possibilities within the genre.
XI. Sequel and Beyond:
The success of Pillars of Eternity paved the way for a sequel, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, expanding upon the foundations laid by its predecessor. The sequel further refined gameplay mechanics, introduced a maritime setting, and continued the narrative legacy of the Watcher. The Pillars of Eternity franchise has become a beacon for fans of classic RPGs, showcasing the enduring appeal of meticulously crafted storytelling and strategic gameplay in the modern gaming landscape.
Pillars of Eternity stands as a testament to the timeless allure of classic isometric RPGs. Obsidian Entertainment’s dedication to capturing the spirit of the genre, coupled with their innovative contributions, has resulted in a modern epic that resonates with both long-time RPG enthusiasts and a new generation of players. The game’s rich narrative, strategic combat, deep character customization, and meticulous world-building have cemented Pillars of Eternity as a cornerstone in the resurgence of classic RPGs. As players continue to traverse the tapestry of Eora, Pillars of Eternity remains a shining example of the genre’s enduring magic, weaving together the threads of nostalgia and innovation in a masterful symphony of role-playing excellence.