Pillars of Eternity
is generally content to be a creature of comfort throughout the grand majority of its runtime. After all, the reason for its massive Kickstarter success is doubtlessly rooted in the fact that it's an obvious, deliberate throwback to the days of Baldur's Gate II
and Neverwinter Nights
. Things that you would expect to exist in a modern computer role-playing game are not just present, but front and center.
If you have no experience with the subgenre to which Pillars of Eternity belongs, the previous paragraph surely confused you. (I would also suggest that you're in for a real treat, but you've probably guessed that already.) You take control of a party of adventurers; starting small and growing in size as you make new acquaintances and build your strength in numbers. Action and exploration are generally mapped to simple, one-button mechanics, though skills do come into play at specific junctures.
Combat in particular is the major element that identifies this particular breed of role-playing game. It unfolds in real-time, but can and should be paused at any given moment. Normal combat encounters have your party members auto-attacking with whatever weapons they've got equipped, but it won't be long before you'll have to start pausing and making use of the game's intelligently-implemented radial wheel system to queue up special attacks that only certain characters and archetypes are capable of unleashing. There's a certain special something that seals the deal and renders the experience truly special, and Pillars of Eternity absolutely captures it.
Fast and true, Pillars of Eternity holds to the precepts upon which its subgenre was founded. When you level up, you allocate points to the areas that best correspond to how you wish to develop your characters. You'll do some looting and outfitting to maximize your preparedness and overall survivability. It's all classic, intuitive stuff that will really speak to you if you've got a nostalgic yearning for the golden era, and if you don't, it'll probably hook you anyway.
Some key differences help Pillars of Eternity stand out from its contemporaries. Of course, there's your Watcher powers, which do more for the narrative component than anything else, but are worth mentioning anyway. Mechanically, the game dabbles in one particularly unique diversion from the norm: two major resource pools combine to represent each player's true measure of vitality: endurance and health. Managing both is crucial to success, and the punishment for losing sight of either can be costly, devastating, and horrifyingly final. Endurance is a short-term measure, health a long-term one. Losing your endurance in combat is inevitable, but reversible. Take too much damage to this pool at once, and the long-term damage will set in. Lose all your Endurance, and your character will be knocked unconscious -- rendered unable to move or perform actions. Lose all your health, and your character will be maimed. Take even more damage, and your character will die. Permanently. Sounds intimidating, I know, but if you make smart use of the resources you have on hand and choose the most ideal times to rest your party, you should be fine.
Pick up Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition and you'll receive not only the excellent core game, but the two expansion releases that comprise a singular whole, titled The White March. It's a true blue expansion that deepens and enriches the experience beyond its impressive debut.
Obsidian Entertainment is in their element with games like Pillars of Eternity, and it shows. This is their bread and butter, and it's a thing of beauty to see such a labor of love reflected in the finished product's overall quality. If you consider yourself a fan of role-playing games and haven't already played Pillars of Eternity, you should either pick it up now or rethink that self-description.