Pillars of Eternity isn’t quite the sort of video game the mind’s eye conjures when people hear the word indie. It was developed by some of the finest developers of role playing games in the industry. A studio loaded with pedigree, Obsidian Entertainment. This particular video game is important to purveyors of a particular breed of RPG that more or less became passé some time around the turn of the millennium. Pillars of Eternity is one of the super stars in the recent resurgence of CRPGs. After roughly 15 year on the sidelines, intricate, isometric role playing games like the ones I enjoyed the heck out of in the 90s and early aughts have made a resounding comeback. And in the process they demonstrated that crowd funding can work and help create products for a niche fan base without the pretense of the capital of a large publisher. It’s because of Kickstarter that fans of CRPGs got Torment: Tides of Numenera, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun, Divinity: Original Sin and of course, my beloved Pillars of Eternity.

For those unfamiliar, Pillars of Eternity hearkens back to classics like Fallout1 and 2, Planescape: Torment and Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2, some of the best RPGs made in the western style. These games established a high bar for player decision driven storytelling in a nonlinear way. It helps that Pillars of Eternity is being developed by a lot of the very same people who laid the groundwork on those quintessential titles of yesteryear. Obsidian Entertainment has an interesting history and is comprised of a good number of ex Black Isle talent.

Because Pillars of Eternity isn’t as much of a rags to riches story as your typical indie game, I think it makes more sense to just give a general shakedown of what the heck Pillars of Eternity is and some tidbits of info.

Crowdfunding At Its Finest!

  • First called Project Eternity
  • Plenty of big names: Josh Sawyer, Chris Avellone and Tim Cain just to name a few! (Fallout: New Vegas, KoToR 2, Wasteland 2, Arcanum, Fallout 1 and 2, Planescape: Torment)
  • Raised 362% of its goal, raking in $3,989,929.
  • Second highest crowd funded video game.
  • Reached $1.1 million goal in 24 hours.

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Breadth

    • Menus, text boxes, frames around the dialogue and the UI in general are heavily inspired by Infinity Engine games.
    • Fixed isometric camera.
    • Influenced by Icewind Dale’s excellent combat, Baldur’s Gates’ ambitious purview, and Planescape: Torments impactful script.
    • A pairing of beautifully illustrated 2D pre-rendered backgrounds and 3D effects and character models.
    • Visually reminiscent of games that ran on the Infinity Engine.

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  • Rules not based on any sort of Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Explore the original world with a party of adventurers.
  • Relationships with party members are influenced by the player characters origins and the decisions they make.
  • Focuses on fantastic adventure as well as becoming intimate with many different locales like cityscapes, thick underbrush and hazard filled dungeons.
  • Up to six companions.
  • Eight totally original recruitable characters.
  • Unwritten, but entirely customizable characters.

 

Created In Your Image

  • Select from five races: Aumaua, Elf, Dwarf, Orlan, Humans and a sub-race, Godlike.
    • The Aumaua are amphibian humanoids with long craniums, webbed feet and hands, unique skin designs and sharp, pointed teeth.
    • Orlans are pretty much hobbits who traded their hairy feet for hairy ears.
  • Godlike have five ethnicities: Death, Avian, Moon, Nature and Fire.
  • The Godlike can be made in any of the other races, but only Fire, Death, Moon and Nature are available.
  • Eleven classes: Fighter, Barbarian, Priest, Rogue, Ranger, Monk, Druid, Wizard, Paladin, Chanter and Cipher.
    • The Fighter, Rogue, Ranger and Barbarian are traditional RPG classes.
    • the Cipher class explores the unique soul magic of the world.
  • Primary Attributes are: Dexterity, might, intellect, constitution, resolve, and perception.
  • Customizable backgrounds/origins allow players to choose scripted origins that influence things throughout the game.
    • Background is something independent of cultural affiliation.
    • Both things are determined post-character creation
    • You can choose to be a man with no past (or not reveal it to anyone, at least).

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Lorecraft 101

  • Pillars of Eternity takes place in the land of Eora, a roughly 16th century world in terms of advancements and tech; think colonization of the New World or Tudor England sort of stuff.
  • Dyrwood is a settlement of foreigners from across the sea.
  • The central narrative occurs in the nation of Dyrwood, a coastal area, thick with forestation resembling the colonial North American wilderness.
  • Central theme of race relations, strained relations between colonizers and indigenous people.
  • Knowledge of ancient civilizations incredibly taboo
  • Colonial forces actively seek out the artifacts of the original denizens of Dyrwood
  • Chosen one trope in full effect.

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Let’s Make Some Magic

  • Magic is derived from a person’s soul and the power is based on the quality of said soul.
    • Some souls pass endlessly through a cycle of purgatorial sleep and waking life, reincarnating several times, spanning generations.
    • Reincarnations aren’t perfect occurrences, resulting in fractured souls.
    • There are strong souls, souls who have traveled across nether realms, souls of a pure lineage, and even souls that can remember their other lives, basically being two beings trapped in one body.
  • Souls can be tapped into and bestow supernormal powers like basic magic or super human abilities.
  • Like a battery and the device that uses it.
  • The healing spells are few and far between with soul magic.
  • Well reason undead: people who mess with the soul in taboo ways, like trying for immortality or something, like a lich tethering it’s being to a totem.
    • Physical body rots away lest the person eats living flesh and blood.
    • Not doing this results in the body falling apart completely and the total unhinging of the mind.
  • All nonsense that tampers with the natural order of things are viewed as necromancy.

Layin’ Ye Olde Smack Down

  • Everything is determined with dice rolls behind the scenes.
  • Combat plays out in real time battles that can be paused at any time to issue strategic commands to allies.
    • Comes complete with the good old auto pause with different criteria for triggering it.
  • Strategy and battlefield control are paramount to success.

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Combat Your Way!

  • Several varying difficulties: Hard, normal and easy.
  • Difficulty augments the who and how many enemies you’ll tangle with, the loot that has a chance to drop and puts a moratorium on how many supplies can be carried and how long your party can rest at camp.
    • AI is unchanged by difficulty.
  • There is an option for permanent death for the stout hearted.
    • When permanent death isn’t engaged, a character who has their health dropped to zero will merely be maimed and downed for the duration of the encounter.
    • Maimed characters can still move about and take part in the battle, but are laden by severe debuffs until they’ve rested.

Deeper Difficulties

  • On top of the regular difficulty settings, Pillars of Eternity comes with three additional options for a  challenge.
    • Trial of Iron: One single save is permitted for the duration of the campaign or until the player kicks the bucket.
      • Saves are handled automatically and if the party should wipe entirely then the save is immediately terminated.
    • Expert Mode: Enemies will be more ruthless in battle, hints are turned off.
    • Path of the Damned: Combat is turned up to 11. Enemy placement no longer dictated by difficulty.

Stronghold, Sweet Stronghold

  • The Kickstarter stretch goal for Strongholds was met at the $3 million dollar mark.
  • These are player owned keeps that start off old and creaky, but are upgradeable and eventually hold events and activities for players.
    • Upgrades contribute to either the prestige or the security of a stronghold and increase the likelihood of pleasant events yielding income or increased security.
  • Temporary attribute bonuses are awarded by resting in your keep.
  • Permanent buffs from buildings with particular specializations.
  • Companions left behind can be sent out on their own adventures.
  • Facilities to produce crafting materials.
  • The stronghold includes a parcel of land surrounding it which brings in tax money.
    • The taxable amount increases with prestige, but things can go south real quick due to bandit attacks.
  • Deep beneath the fortresses are intricate, subterranean stockades.
  • Clearing out these dungeons provides a place to throw brigands, to lock up captive NPCs after besting them in combat.
  • Prisoners can be interrogated or used as leverage for stuff.
  • Security dictates how easily prisoners will be able to stage a jail break.

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What Happens In The Stronghold…

  • Things will pop off in your stronghold regardless of your actually being there or not. Sometimes these events will require attention right away.
  • Every so often people will show up to see you. This provides an opportunity to increase security and prestige, but can also do the opposite. Players need to decide whether it’s worth it to fund their stay with you or help show them the door.
    • Sometime these NPC will have really rare and special things or might even want your prisoners.
  • Your base of operations can of course fall under siege.
  • Always advanced warning of impending assaults.
    • Attacks can be repelled by the player personally or the flunkies can take care of the business with auto calc results.
    • Strongholds that have proper defences ensure that soldiers stay alive, the buildings stay standing and the loot stays where it belongs.

I know it seems like a lot. Like, a lot a lot. But once you let the soothing waves of CRPG goodness wash over you there’s plenty of emergent gameplay and high fantasy adventuring to be had. I can’t wait for Pillars of Eternity to release, but fear for my social life. Between it and Bloodborne I might not see some people for awhile.

There’s still time to grab a copy and get in before the party starts, just bop on over to Obsidian’s website!

About The Author

Evan T
Editorial/Reviews Writer

Evan is a super serious, real life production assistant, video editor, and current review and editorial writer for Gamer Assault Weekly. A failed knife salesman and former member of a prestigious World of Warcraft guild, renowned for his voice and childlike enthusiasm for video games. Has never broken a bone. Hates possums. Mumble-sings.