PILLARS of ETERNITY: DEADFIRE
Obsidian Entertainment & Versus Evil Production
PILLARS of ETERNITY is not just a game it is a commitment!
It begins like an MMO, with a story based in the World of EORA, followed by the character creation phase. From the start where the VERSUS/EVIL and OBSIDIAN ENTERTAINMENT took over the monitor screen it took me a full 90 minutes before actually beginning to play. This isn't because I am not used to playing MMO's or am a novice at adventure action games but because I read and studied every possible option available to me. I did this because I knew that unless I was really unlucky in my choice of character I was going to spend a lot of hours playing the one that I chose. As a reviewer I guess I should have tried every character Class and Race and every possible combination and option, but in all honesty it was physically exhausting creating just one character and playing it for hours, I really couldn't afford the time to create and play every choice available. There are 6 Races, Human, Aumaua, Dwarf, Elf, Godlike and Orlan with 11 Class choices. Then there are the possibilities of Multi-Class characters, and the Passive and Active Abilities for these choices.
So let's begin with the possible Difficulty modes.
The Story mode: developing the tale with less combat. Relaxed: For players unused to Real Time games with Pause. Classic: Standard play for semi experienced players who enjoy exploring and fighting. Veteran: More enemies, more aggression, more tactics - all by/for the enemy. Path of the Damned: The A.I. is deviously devillish. This is like the Veteran mode but on Speed.
I selected the Relaxed Mode.
To begin with I discovered that the World of EORA is where the Gods rule and mere mortals, of all Races, live, die and are occasionally reborn through the turning of the Wheel. The Gods have positioned the PILLARS of ETERNITY, great structures created of the relatively unknown material Adra which has mystical and mythical powers.
The game begins (in Relaxed Mode - I cannot state for other modes) with your character in Ghost-like form, called a Shade, in a misty region with nothing to be seen other than a smoky pathway that appears and expands as you follow it. After a while of meandering along the pathway you are shown to a room where the Pallid Knight sits, you are shown to a chair opposite. After pleasantries are exchanged (I'd like to say that happened but it didn't, the Pallid Knight isn't that pleasant) the Pallid Knight tells you a tale, finally explaining that a rogue (aka a "dead") god, Eothas, has evil intentions for EORA and the other Gods are worried about what he may be planning - for once they have no idea and they aren't playing games.
You are asked to help - yes that's right, the Gods need help - but if you don't agree to assist them you can go back to the Wheel and remain in Shade form or even die for definite. So no choice then!
It appears that you have been selected because Eothas has a tiny portion of your soul and that when you enter the Shadow World to help the Gods you are known as a Soul-Without - not Dead but neither are you Alive.
In your life you were once the Lord of Caed Nua, which is a wooden castle next to, and overseeing, a small community. The castle is believed to be cursed or at least it was, it is now destroyed beyond repair, some of Eothas's doing, and now you want revenge, thus the Pallid Knight's offer is actually not as much as a threat as first perceived, in fact it is an open invitation for you to get what you want, probably without defiance of the Gods. As you defeat various types of enemies/creatures you gain an advantage over that particular type of adversary.
Now you arrive at the character creation and other choices begin. By now the game is 5-10 minutes in and apart from listening and answering it has only been a game of patience - but don't get used to the slow pace, at least not after the character creation is completed.
Human: Most common folk gain +1 Might and +1 Resolve. Live anywhere but mostly Meadowland, Oceanside or Savanna, and can do almost anything as a trade or career.
Aumaua: Largest of the Kith races who live close to water and gain +2 Might. The Aumaua are folk who are known as Island or Coastal People.
Dwarf: Similar to dwarves from most fantasy games gain +2 Might +1 Constitution but -1 Dexterity. Known as the Boreal or Mountain folk.
Elf: Another typical fantasy race +1 Dexterity and +1 Perception. There are two known types of Elf, the Pale folk (more integrated) and the Wood Elves (forest dwellers).
Godlike: Resembling your choice of race except for the horny head style which prevents the wearing of any head gear. +1 Dexterity +1 Intellect. Four types: Death, Fire, Moon and Nature.
Orlen: The smallest of the Kith races -1 Might +2 Perception +1 Resolve. Wild and hearty little folk.
I selected a Godlike Elf as my character.
You can choose to make your character multi-class if you wish, but remember, just like role-playing and MMO games, by doing so you accept that you will grow slowly in levels and can never hit the extreme pinnacle of either Class. Classes are somewhat typical and each has its own ability tree (Active and Passive) on which players can follow their character's expansion and skills/abilities, using gained points to spread around the possibilities on offer. Here I will list the Class choices and continue the creation of my character but will be briefer:
Classes: Barbarian, Chanter, Cipher, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Priest, Ranger, Rogue and Wizard.
My Character continued .... I selected a Godlike in Human form. He is a Ranger with the skill of Wounding Shot and with a Boar for a companion. Choices of companions and their main advantage/s:
Stag (damage), Wolf (damage), Lion (speed), Bear (armour), Antelope (defence) and Boar (health).
Attributes: Might/ Constitution/ Dexterity/ Perception/ Intellect/ Resolve.
Culture: Choose where your character comes from - list and explanations.
Background/Job: From Aristocrat through to Slave.
Weapon Proficiency: Select your weapon or weapons as applicable.
Looks: Portrait, Colour/s of clothing, Head, Voice and Pose
Gender: Male or Female. Different looks for either but start mannequin is in same attire for both.
As I said already, this took me a full 90 minutes to complete. Of course you can create your character a lot quicker, especially subsequent characters (if you decide you do not like the first one you make and want another or another) but I wanted the total experience and thus went through every option - many I haven't even mentioned here - possible.
Almost from the beginning there were three of us in my party, myself, a fighter I collected along the way and of course my Bear. These can all be moved separately by selecting one and then click on the ground where you want them to move to - if your cursor turns red then the chosen point is not available. You can also select all of your party or as many as you wish by "drawing" a box around those required to select them, then clicking on the ground will move them all there. You can also give them specific commands but for me it was better to let the AI take over and run them, thus when combat occurred I was only looking after my character, the Fighter and Bear got stuck in as necessary - the enemy are always shown with red circles at/around their feet to make them easy to pick out, especially if you have ranged weapons and can stand back whilst your companions melee. If you lose all your party then you can restart from the last Save point unless you are taking the hard line and then you have to begin all over again - I don't consider this playing hard-line I think it is frustrating enough to have to go back to the Save point let alone start all over.
PILLARS of ETERNITY has elements of MMO games and regular Action/Adventure games but despite the long character creation and preamble for the back story this is not a role-playing game, at least not in the manner that I consider to be role-playing. I do like the Map-Movement whereby you can select places shown on your map, click on them,and travel directly there. I also like that if you select an available spot between villages or other points of interest (note I said "available" not every point on the map can be map-moved to) then you can investigate there and continue on your journey on foot. What I am not so keen about is the number of areas you can see but cannot reach due to the set perametres; I know that games have to use limited space but mountains, steep cliff drops etc are better in my opinion for unavailable movement than plains etc where you cannot go simply because the game isn't open enough to allow it.
From the start you are given tasks and quests and as you continue you will fulfill these and obtain others. You are mainly free to do what you want and go where you wish (within the paremetres), you are not led by the nose and you do not have to complete the task/quests in any particular order, though there are things you need to do or find at times for success. Finding items, objects, cash etc is a case of searching the bodies of those you just killed (or found), breaking barrels, chests and such like, plus you can find "secret" points of interest by moving your cursor around the screen and waiting for hot-spots to light up. You have a (mainly) top down view but at an angle rather than directly overhead.
You can only see as far as the screen lets you though there is some leeway via the camera views (arrow keys) but not a lot. Apart from using the arrow keys you can play PILLARS of ETERNITY by mouse movement and point and click. You have an MMO style hub along the base of the screen from which you can select actions, change team formation etc. "I" brings up the Inventory where you can see what you have collected, what your character is wearing or holding, both of which can be changed on this screen, plus you see portraits of your companions and can flip back and forth between them and also swap items from each inventory. Items that cannot be of use have some Red Text otherwise as you move your mouse cursor over an item it brings up all of its stats as well as showing you what you currently have on your character in the position the item would occupy, immediately allowing you to see whether ti is best to keep what you have or exchange it for the item in the inventory.
When you visit a merchant you can sell what you don't want from your backpack (inventory) and/or buy something from the trader. Unlike some recent games there is no auto "sell junk" button, at least not one that I have found, and I've sold a heck of a lot of junk.
You can really immerse yourself in this game and if you are not careful it will take your hours away from you in an instant. I have often found myself saying that I'll just check this area, talk to that person, search here or move there and then I'll take a break, but that break always ends up being just out of reach, at least until I am informed my coffee, dinner etc is now cold or that I am late for an appointment - tempis fugit (time flies) they say and while playing this game it is absolutely spot on.
My advice is to give yourself plenty of free time and then settle yourself in for a long action-adventure (translation: don't try playing it before school or only start playing it when your wife is out or you don't have any immediate appointments).