Wot I Think: Pillars Of Eternity

Oh thank goodness. After 77,000 backers, $4 million raised and nearly three years in development, Obsidian’s Pillars Of Eternity [official site] is here, and it’s just stunning.

This is the RPG I’ve been craving since Planescape: Torment, the first to win my absolute love since Dragon Age: Origin. It’s a vast, deep and wonderfully written game, malleable to how you want to approach the genre, replete with companions, side-quests, an enormously involved combat system, and lasts a solid 60 hours. Here’s wot I think:

Let’s be clear about how this review’s going to go. If you want to go in completely blank, as I did, then stop reading at the end of this paragraph. Because all you need to know is in the introduction above. Let me summarise: “Should I buy Pillars Of Eternity?” Yes. There, good, job done. If you want to know why it’s good, then read on, but it’s crucial to accept that to do so, I’ll have to allude to aspects of the game that aren’t revealed in the first half hour. But trust me, I’m good at my job, and I won’t actually spoil anything. I’m barely going to mention the plot.

You can’t kill a god without consequences. That’s what I’ve learned, within the opening hour of Pillars. It wasn’t me though – it happened before I showed up.

I, it turns out, am a paladin, a female Pale Elf from The White That Wends, called Ambrée. (50 points to the first person who can figure out the path my brain took to that name). A member of the order of the Kind Wayfarers, I’m a drifter, never fixed to a location or family. That’s all decided in the character creator, before starting the game. You could be any of six races, eleven classes, many cultures, and seven backgrounds. There are more defining choices to be made once the game starts, and indeed occasionally as it continues, via an intriguing ability to decide which of a selection of memories is the one you just had.

In the opening minutes, on a journey toward Gilded Vale (a popular destination for new settlers in the Dyrwood), your party gets in a spot of trouble, and you end up stumbling on a very peculiar ritual. A ritual that has some rather profound consequences for you, and your relationship with the soul.

And with local children being born without souls, something is clearly seriously wrong in these parts, and its repercussions are playing out amongst both the religious, and the scientific.

This is, of course, in an entirely new setting. Where the AD&D universe has provided the maps and dice for BioWare’s RPGs, Obsidian’s Kickstarted endeavour meant no spending a fortune on a license. Instead, with quite extraordinary aplomb, they set about building their own game world and ruleset from the ground up. Which has worked out pretty damned well.

While the dice rolling is all hidden, I got the impression it used a lot of D100s. The structure is all familiar, and attacks are based on particular attributes and their efficacy against others, with some special attacks and skills available once per encounter, or once per rest, as D&Ders will recognise. (Of course, encounters come thick and fast here, and each mob of enemies is considered a separate encounter, so long as you come out of attack mode between them.) Levelling is an infrequent process, working exactly as you’d expect, with alternating levels providing new skills or traits – I was level 11 by the end of the game, to give you an idea of the pace. It all feels incredibly solid, and extremely well tweaked.

The world is also familiar while entirely new. Dyrwood, where all of the game’s towns and locations exist, is Obsidian’s creation, while still a fairly conventional fantasy foundation on which to build its novel and intriguing tale. Rural farming communities, faux-medieval sprawling cities, and of course a green-n-naturey town further along the way. It’s a nice, sensible tablecloth on which they lay out their delicious picnic.

In practice, Pillars is an incredibly faithful recreation of the Infinity Engine that drove games like Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment, except this time cleverly crafted in the Unity engine. So it’s a fixed angle, isometric view of your character and his or her companions, green circles about their feet, and a cursor you’ll recognise from the Baldur’s games. It’s extremely customary in appearance, but at lovely big resolutions, with a much more appealing zoom.

In fact, technically it really doesn’t deviate from BioWare’s tradition. The tradition, I should say, of creating epic, fantastically well-written, and utterly enchanting fantasy games. You can control any of up to six party members by selecting them, clicking where you want them to head, with whom you want them to talk/trade, and of course which badduns you want them to chop/explode up. Conversations offer many choices, a lot of which will shut down other possible responses, and your personality will determine both the possibility and content of future conversations, even with future characters. Quests are assigned in enormous numbers, mostly on the side, all cunningly encouraging you along the route of the game’s core path. (Don’t worry – you can backtrack/branch off at any point – in fact, you’re encouraged to.)

Combat is in real-time, but can be paused at any moment. It also defaults to playing out in slow-motion, to offer a compromised middle-ground for those who prefer to dish out orders on the fly. However, with six characters, anything up to around twelve enemies, and dozens and dozens of spells, chants, attacks, special attacks, potions, spawnable beasts and scrolls between them, pausing still remains a sensible choice. There’s so much going on in the combat, and I think one of Pillars’ greatest achievements is in how willing it is to let you decide just how much of it you want to take on.

The difficulty levels are the most crucial thing here, and I imagine will cause all manner of bravado bullshit amongst internet heroes, who will insist that they somehow impossibly played it on the toughest level and found it too easy. They are blowhards. Ignore them. This game is tough.

It goes to some lengths to communicate this. Choosing “Normal” (as I always do for reviews) it was rather feveredly checking I was sure. Normal is, it says, for 90s RPG veterans, who’ve never let their skills slip since. I figured that’s me, because while (oh God, confession) I’ve never gotten very far with the Baldur’s Gate games (look, I missed them at the time, and haven’t had a spare 400 hours since), Planescape: Torment is in my top five games of all time, and I adored Neverwinter Nights 2. And I still ravenously consume RPGs. Ho boy, RPGs got easier, folks. My RPG muscles have grown floppy. Normal is pretty much perfect – the idea that Hard and Path Of The Damned exist above it is a touch daunting – and Easy offered me a comfortable place to breeze through more bitty scraps. And if the toughest toughness is still not enough for you, you can then tack on Expert mode, disabling lots of the in-game help, and Trial Of Iron turns it into a roguelike, with one save file that deletes on your death.

If intricate combat is the aspect that puts you off story-led RPGs, then Easy mode is there for you – but don’t expect to be quite off the hook. While it means most fights require a minimal amount of issuing commands, and the simplest fights will just play out with auto-attacks, there are some moments where even Easy proves a challenge. Certainly not an insurmountable one – like I say, it turns out my muscles have atrophied over the years, but there wasn’t anything that held me up for too long. But yes, I was grateful it was possible to switch down to Easy whenever I wanted.

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  1. Brosecutor says:

    “If intricate combat is the aspect that puts you off story-led RPGs, then Easy mode is there for you – but don’t expect to be quite off the hook. ”

    Eh, I wish there was a mode where you could just skip the mind-crushingly tedious and grindy combat these games seem to require by law. There’s a mod for DA:O where you can skip battles; let me know when this game gets the same treatment.

    • Taverius says:

      Happily its not hp-sponge combat like in DA:O.

      Things die quickly, and you die just as quickly, so most encounters will be over in a handful of attacks.

      How you position yourself and what abilities you use have a much larger impact on which side is on the ground and getting their boots nicked at the end of it.

      There’s a sliding scale in how much management each class requires to do well, with paladins firmly on the end of the set-and-forget side, and cyphers/rogues/rangers on the micro-heavy side, but this is no snorlax-fest where you just set your guys to autoattack and wait 10 minutes.

    • Relani says:

      Yeah, I think the battles in CRPGs can be pretty tedious too. I really wish you could just manage your main character in the battle and then the others could be AI controlled in an intelligent manner. I hate having to pause each round and dole out five different actions to all your party members (then repeat that 6x before the battle is over).

      Someone created an awesome mod for the Baldur’s Gate II party AI that made your characters really smart and reactive to battle conditions. It was great just having to control my main character mage during battles (which is a lot of micro-management in and of itself, obviously).

    • Orija says:

      Read a goddamn book.

      • Enkinan says:


        Thank you for my first laugh of the day.

      • Gessen says:

        My EXACT reaction haha.

      • irongamer says:

        My thought exactly.

      • Emeraude says:

        Seriously though,as much as I love myself some good combat and other interactive systems to go around and beyond the text-based narrative choices (and am looking forward to this), I know of no “choose your own adventure” books that reach the level of interactivity of a good computer RPG, and I can understand why people would want that experience.

        A Visual Novel with the depth and breadth of Alpha Protocol in choice and consequence would make for a pretty decent *game* (too bad nothing released by Telltalle so far comes close). That we have our personal preferences doesn’t invalidate that.

        • April March says:

          I know, right? I’d love a game that has that kind of depth and just loads and loads of text. The Choice of Games… games are the ones that come closest to scratching that itch but they still fall very very short. It wouldn’t even need to be a visual novel to work for me – I’d pay good money for a novel-sized text adventure like that.

          I don’t know why no one has used TWINE to make something that resembles a CYOA, only with no combat and making use of the fact it runs in a computer: states too complex for your finger to keep track of, and mayhaps a few procedural events. I probably would do that myself if I wasn’t so incredibly lazy.

          • denizsi says:

            You both should take a look at Age of Decadence, a very CYOA heavy upcoming RPG currently in Early Access on Steam. Iso-3D, turn-based combat, mini text adventures. It easily trumps Alpha Protocol in reactivity, in how choices unfold and branch. Combat is very tough but quite the opposite of grindy (something you can not say for Alpha Protocol) and is better to steer clear of unless you have a very combat-centric character as it is quite easy to die and there are enough opportunities to get yourself killed if you are not up to the challenge but you will never complain about grind in this game. There are numerous non-combat paths for non-combatants, including all sorts of trickery, treachery, double-crossing and backstabbing through diverse means.

            The game has long been in the making but is finally nearing the end of development. Estimated release date is July but probably a bit wiser to expect it around October. Has been covered at RPS every now and then:
            link to rockpapershotgun.com

      • Brosecutor says:

        Will do. I will also proceed to get off your lawn.

    • jezcentral says:

      Brosecutor: “Eh, I wish there was a mode where you could just skip the mind-crushingly tedious and grindy combat these games seem to require by law. There’s a mod for DA:O where you can skip battles; let me know when this game gets the same treatment.”

      WHAA-AAT? If you are a female Bioware writer, may horrible things happen to you and your family.

      Oh, hang on. You appear to be a bloke. Carry on.

      • jezcentral says:

        Also (in the absence of an Edit button), I agree. It would be nice to be a one-hit-kill badass. That’s the way Varric told it, anyway.

      • LunaHex says:

        I assume this is supposed to be a funny reference to when that actually happened but it’s not.

        • DXN says:

          I assume that’s supposed to be a withering putdown but it’s not.

    • Luminolza says:

      It was mentioned in the past that a lot of fights can be avoided by diplomacy or taking alternative paths, which is why most XP is awarded for completing quests, rather than just killing things in combat.

    • jasta85 says:

      you actually can avoid a lot of fighters if you have a stealthy party and lots of conversation skills. you get no experience for killing enemies (aside from the first few kills of each new creature you meet as you fill out your bestiary) so there’s no reason to attack every group you come across unless you want whatever loot they drop. it’s a perfectly viable strategy to sneak by as many enemies as you can.

      • vahnn says:


        I’m going to reword exactly what he said just to emphasize the point: You only get kill-xp for the first few enemies of each type that you discover. After they, they give no xp. So creating a stealthy character to avoid most fights is completely viable. You won’t be lagging behind 2-3 levels from your friend who was playing a Fighter and running in gung ho to smash every enemy in sight. And with proper skills and attributes, there are lots of situations you can talk your way out of and avoid the fight altogether while still getting something useful from the encounter.

        Give it a whirl! My current character is a rogue, but I’m quite certain my next character is going to be a pacifistic, charming, sneaky druid.

        • khomotso says:

          Very good to know before I get started, because that’s the route I’d prefer. Thanks.

  2. iucounu says:


  3. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Hmm. I’m really looking for an answer to “If I got put off with Wasteland 2 and Divinity: Original Sin less than a third of the way through, should I buy this?” which might be a bit more specific than the answer put forward early in the review.

    • Bremze says:

      Depends on what put you disliked about those games. The writing and world building is worlds better and pretty much any character concept is viable in combat, if that helps.

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        I’m finding it rather hard to quantify exactly what caused my disengagement, but those attributes sound like they might help.

        • Mordaedil says:

          Yeah, I didn’t really like either of those games as much as I would have liked to, they are probably fine games and all, but not what I was expecting.

          PoE’s beta was also on the same scale, made me really dread this release. Now that I’ve sat down and played it, I can confirm I like it at least 30 times better than my wildest dreams.

    • WiggumEsquilax says:

      I’m in the same camp as you. For me, the worst parts were the repetitive combat and the endless faffing about with inventory.

      Pillars has scripted and differentiated loot drops to make inventory less Diablo and more Baldur’s Gate 2. Judging from what other’s have said, combat is less bullet sponge enemies and more tactical choices and maneuver.

      If you love tactics and hate the skinner box, rejoice!*

      (ノ゚▽゚)ノ ヘ(^_^ヘ) (ノ゚▽゚)ノ

      ヘ(^_^ヘ) (ノ゚▽゚)ノ ヘ(^_^ヘ)

      (ノ゚▽゚)ノ ヘ(^_^ヘ) (ノ゚▽゚)ノ

      *Rejoicing may be entirely premature, as I haven’t actually played Pillars yet. Still, it’s never too late to be proven right.

      • Cinek says:

        “For me, the worst parts were the repetitive combat ” – well, already in an Alpha version of PoE combat was more varied and interesting than at any point of Wasteland 2. So I think it’s safely to assume that the full game is much more rich in terms of combat than Wasteland 2 ever even tried to be.

    • gunny1993 says:

      I know what you mean … I really should love games like this, they tick many boxes of things I love: Intricate combat, well written characters and stories, deep involved universe with lots of stuff to discover.

      But not a single game like this have I ever really enjoyed, the worse thing is I have no idea why, I just can’t get into them.

    • ru_disa says:

      I’m in the same camp as you. I played Wasteland 2 for about 30 hours, then it became a chore. It almost made me sad to have to drop out like that… For some reason, though, it led me to finally finish my first playthrough of NWN2 and start Mask of the Betrayer immediately afterwards. Now I’m having fun again.

    • mforww says:

      Harlander –

      I feel you on getting somewhat tuned out with Divinity and Wasteland 2. I’ve thought a lot about this and I’ve come to a few conclusions:

      Wasteland 2’s combat system got boring pretty quickly… not a whole lot of depth. Furthermore, the characters you had were customizable but not actually interesting. “Ok, this is my melee guy. This is my shotgun guy. This is my sniper guy.” And they just did their thing over and over again without any need to change during the course of the game. A better system might have included Fallout style perks, or given more freedom for interesting builds. Pillars of Eternity sounds like it gives you those extra options, and makes combat very tactical and intense.

      For Divinity, my primary issue was the complete lack of direction at times that caused me to have to look up how to do stuff on a regular basis. Also, I got underleveled and every single fight became a bitter, brutal affair. It’s embarrassing to admit, but it might be the first RPG where I was like, “Shit, this game is actually just too HARD”. And I beat the new X-Com on classic difficulty with Ironman mode, so it’snot like I don’t get tactical RPG’s. The difference between Divinity and a classic like BG2 is that BG2 was challenging without being frustrating.

  4. yabonn says:

    50 points to the first person who can figure out the path my brain took to that name


    …. At least I got 50 points.

  5. Dale Winton says:

    Cool I’ll dust off the reading glasses and buy this after work tonight
    Sounds like i will be playing on the easy setting

  6. Laurentius says:

    Cool, I have high expectations ,hope it will live up to them.

  7. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    Great! Let me finish dragon age first, reminds me I still have wasteland2 to pick up as well… Arrgh there’s just too much shit to play these days

  8. Frank says:


    Also, nice one with the post pagination there.

  9. Zekiel says:

    John, I trust you and I so want this to be good so… I’ve just read the first paragraph. Now I just have to wait a few months for the inevitable bugs to get ironed out… I assume there are bugs? They’re pretty much inevitable in sprawling RPGs, even ones not made by Obsidian…

    • derbefrier says:

      yeah i skimmed through the review and didn’t see any mention of any bugs so maybe thats a good sign? Over at PCG their reviewer said they only ran into one real bug that made him have to restart a fight so from what i can tell the game looks pretty stable.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      John can obviously say more about the relative bugginess of Pillars, but the sense I get from the reports of the people playing it for review is that the only bugs are script triggers failing to fire occasionally. A quick reload fixes that, though.

      So yeah, I would tentatively encourage you to dive right in.

      • John Walker says:

        I’ve heard of some very minor bugs from others since posting, minor things that’ll likely be gone in the first couple of days, but I didn’t experience any of them. I had it get a bit weird about getting rid of loot sparkles at one point, but reloading fixed that and it never happened again.

    • Horg says:

      I was hoping this would turn out fairly bug free so that we can finally put the blame for Obsidians buggy games where it belongs, on the various publishers who forced them to release before the game was ready. With no major complaints from any review source, I think we can finally say they’ve done it.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Like you, I have avoided reading any reviews! However, through tactical comment examinations of various reviews (including this one) I have determined that the consensus is that it is remarkably bug free! The only bug I have so far heard of from is one where your last party member getting knocked unconscious causes a game over even if they have a specific ability that would ordinarily allow them to get right back up.

    • Zekiel says:

      I am very happy to hear the reports of mostly bug-free-ness. That is enormously encouraging – especially given how much I like Obsidian and want them to be able to produce games that are unequivocably lauded rather than having to say “It’s got some of the most interesting writing and characterisation I’ve ever seen in a game… but you’ll just have to cope with all the bugs.” Hooray!

      Am now feeling more and more tempted to just buy this…

  10. Emeraude says:

    Kinda bummed that it seems the boxed copy happens to be Steam locked.

    As much as I’m glad this game was made, as much as I hope the best for Obsidian, I guess that cements my decision to stop bothering with Kickstarting games.

    • Riaktion says:

      I’m confused, I respect your decision… I didn’t back it after all, but I guess I’m just confused about what it is that was the last straw. The fact that the boxed copy is on Steam? Where you after a DRM version, i.e the boxed version and no steam or anything… if that’s the case then ok dokey. I guess you feel you were mislead? Can you elaborate?

      • Asurmen says:

        Pretty sure he/she/it wanted a physical copy with no DRM given their comments in the past regarding DRM and the internet.

        • WiggumEsquilax says:

          May have been entirely feasible for Obsidian to implement a non-DRM boxed copy, since Pillars is for sale at GOG. Mystery that they didn’t.

          • DarkLiberator says:

            Might be up to Paradox their retail publisher.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            it might be that they felt that as they’re selling the game properly at retail the average future consumer is going to prefer to have steam functionality over a drm free version which they could as easily pick up at GOG? Whilst steam has its downsides I think it’s quite understandable that many people do like it as we often see consumers actively requesting it.

        • Wheelsner says:

          As far as I’m aware all backers with a physical game reward will receive a DRM free copy on disc.

          Currently all backers are able to select either a Steam or GOG key online. They will receive a physical DRM free disc at a later date. This was the result of a recent backer survey as Obsidian had expressed concerns that they would either have to ship an outdated DRM free build which may require patching, or alternatively shipping the release build but condehaving to delay the other physical rewards.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            even better news! and sounds vaguely familiar now you mention it

      • Emeraude says:

        The idea was that by kickstarting games we’d promote an ecosystem of games free of the DRM bullshit; not to get a DRM free version for ourselves while the main version of the game is released with DRM.

        If I look at the games I’ve backed released so far, what I have is a bunch of DRM-addled games with a digital DRM-free version thrown on the side. Not exactly the same thing, and what we already get anyway if we don’t help finance a game.

        Someone buying the game retail today couldn’t sell or gift the game back were it not to his/her liking.

        What I get from this is that people in the industry either don’t get the issue, or they just can’t afford to care because of the current realities of the market. Either way, well, no point in trying to get support for something that will not, and it seems in all probability cannot be delivered.

        • SanguineAngel says:

          Whilst I can see your point of view, I personally think the DRM free digital version is a legitimate solution – if that’s your priority. Although no one really likes DRM in and of itself it can’t really be denied that steam as a service is really rather popular.

          I would disagree with the assertion that the idea behind kickstarting games was to remove drm from the industry. I’d say the purpose behind kickstarting games for most people was simply to get games made that otherwise would not have seen the light of day or would have been deformed beyond recognition being too risky for a traditional publisher to take a punt on.

          • Emeraude says:

            Well, yes the idea was to promote games being made that aren’t via a traditional model of funding.
            DRM was *one* of the qualities those games didn’t have and we wished to promote. It was not the whole of it, but it was part of it.

            And since it appears our support isn’t needed for the game to get funded buying the games post release seems to me the better solution. No point in paying more than it’s price point on release to promote something that isn’t going to be delivered.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            I sympathise with your disappointment, even though I don’t share it on this occasion. I’ve done my share of aspirational participation.

          • craigdolphin says:

            As a backer myself, I would be greatly annoyed if the physical copy comes with DRM and I disagree that providing a digital download key for a DRM-free copy is an acceptable alternative.

            I needed the physical copy because I have capped satellite internet: total bandwidth allowed is ~12 GB (up and down combined). The download key is nice and all, but I can’t use it without sacrificing internet access for the following month. And much of that bandwidth is required for working from home etc.That is part of the reason I object to DRM, and why downloadable this and downloadable that just aren’t an option for some of us.

            I backed (and paid more) for a physical copy, and I only backed after they told everyone that the game would be DRM free. I cannot play the game until my physical copy arrives many weeks from now. I will be Mr Grumpy pants indeed if I learn that after all that waiting I’m going to be expected to put up with shitty DRM nonsense.

        • Premium User Badge

          basilisk says:

          The idea was that by kickstarting games we’d promote an ecosystem of games free of the DRM bullshit

          I’m afraid this was wishful thinking on your part. I never thought this angle was part of the big Kickstarter craze, and neither apparently did most of those who were Kickstarted.

          If anything, this seems to conclusively prove that developers choose Steam not because of the DRM, or because of evil publishers forcing them to do so, but purely for convenience. Which, in this age of frequent and small post-release patches, is offered by Steam and nobody else.

          • Emeraude says:

            The “we” was specifically me and people I know, my bad, I wasn’t trying to imply that it was everyone’s desire going into Kickstarter.

            Apologies for the misunderstanding.

        • eggy toast says:

          Counterpoint: if you try to Kickstart a game the very first question people will ask you is “is it on Steam???” because a huge chunk of people don’t want to buy a PC game if they don’t get a Steam key

          • Emeraude says:

            That’s in no way a counterpoint: you can have a fully DRM-free game release that could *also* be redeemed on Steam for people that wants such a thing.

    • Fry says:

      You haven’t been paying attention. Only boxed copies purchased at retail are tied to Steam. If you got a physical copy as part of the Kickstarter, you’re getting a DRM-free installer.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        And there’s nothing preventing you from buying a gog.com copy and burning the installed to disc.

    • wengart says:

      I guess i’m net replying to all your comments in this thread. However, in this case backer demand for a DRM free version actually got Pillars put on GOG for anyone to purchase.

      I backed and chose the Steam version because i don’t really see how DRM free benefits me in this particular instance, but the option is there.

      As far as the boxed copy I suspect they had to make a choice between including a Steam key and a GOG key. Steam is undeniably more popular than GOG so the decision was made for them in that instance. Although I personally don’t think it is that much of a loss. I don’t know anyone who has purchased a boxed PC game for 2-3 years now.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I’m almost positive that on the formus they said they would fix that to a gog pass if requested.

      • Emeraude says:

        Which is nice of them, but totally misses the point, as it becomes functionally exactly what Steam does: you still have to register your DRMed copy.

        Anyway, the game start really decent so far.

  11. derbefrier says:

    nice buying immediately after i get off work .

  12. Themadcow says:

    I love the Stronghold idea (especially the huge dungeon beneath). I’m replaying Suikoden 1 and 2 (for the 4th time through each) on my Vita at the moment and having your own castle, and seeing it grow, has always been one of my favourite features. I know similar things are available in games like Skyrim but a castle is where it’s at.

  13. XhomeB says:

    I was excited when I helped kickstart this thing, now I just can’t wait to finally play it.
    My only complaint already: shame it isn’t turn based, but oh well…

  14. TheRaven says:


    Sit down at my desk, and this is the first thing I see on RPS.

    GIF for emotion

    link to oi47.tinypic.com

  15. amateurviking says:

    I have had to cancel a meeting so I can get home in time for 6pm central Europe time. I am going to fill my face with RPG goodness.

  16. go3th says:

    Pale elf? Ambrée? Anything beer related I guess!!

    • Lyrion says:

      Pale elf looks like Pale ale which is an amber beer?

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Pretty sure it’s the fact that she’s so pale, she’ll need a good high factor sunscreen such as Ambre Solaire. The additional accent is just to fantasy it up a bit. If this isn’t the explanation I’ll be disappointed but at least I now have a solid naming convention to use for my own Pale Elf characters.

  17. Guvornator says:

    Thanks to The sheer, splendidness of both this game and the review, I now have “Pillars Of Eternity” set to the chorus of “Living In America” going round and round in my head. There is no higher honour. I think…

  18. anHorse says:

    Oh. I was kinda hoping the green and red circles of old CRPGs would be done away with in this update of them.

    Never got along with that particular design choice

    • John Walker says:

      If it’s a red/green colour-blind issue, then the game has you covered – there’s a setting.

    • Zekiel says:

      Would it help to point out that, by comparison, Planescape Torment sometimes used hideous pink circles instead? They were really upsetting.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Minsc_N_Boo says:

    I had high expectations for this, but after reading the review I may have surpassed them! It sounds like it ticks off every thing I want in a RPG, and have been dreaming of since I finished Baldurs Gate.

    I have just started Wasterland 2, so it might be a while till I to play this…. but it sounds like it will be worth the wait.

    Ahhhhh we are all heroes – You and Boo and I. Hamsters and Rangers everywhere……. REJOYCE!

  20. MuscleHorse says:

    So John, would you recommend leaving the messages that tell you that your stats/reputation/race/etc have enabled a dialogue option on? I find that kind of thing annoying most of the time and prefer to have that side of the gameplay hidden, and I know I’ve seen that RPS agrees with me on this in the past, but it sounds as if you’re recommending the default setting here.

    • Hunchback says:

      Seen that this is completely optional, i’d say it’s really up to everyone’s taste to play with… I personally like these kind of message and info. I dislike games that throw things at you for no apparent reason, as consequences of things you’ve done and you weren’t even aware of doing. We get that plenty IRL as it is, don’t need it in our virtual worlds too :P

    • John Walker says:

      I recommend you choose to play howsoever you wish. I like having that sort of stuff on, as often wording can be ambiguous/misinterpreted, and I end up saying something that gets the opposite reaction I was after.

  21. dangerman77 says:

    Dammit, Walker, I don’t preorder. I don’t even like you. But I read the first and last paragraphs and immediately went and bought it.

    • April March says:

      Sh… shut up, John! Just because I’m buying the game you recommended it doesn’t mean I like you or anything!

  22. Hunchback says:

    I must be getting -really- spoiled by modern games, but i’ve realised i am more and more put off by games with huge stories that are NOT full voice-over. I just struggled with Wastelands 2 and D:OS, reading through pages and pages of dialogue while trying to chill in the evening after a long day at work… just doesn’t work anymore.
    I feel sad about it, because i really love cRPGs (we used to call them simply RPGs, what happened? :D ), i grew up with Baldur’s Gate 2 and Icewind Dale and i’ve played a fair deal of actual D&D3.5 with RL friends. I guess i am too old and spoiled or tired now though. I’ll definitely check this game out though, i just doubt i’ll make it far in the story.

    • lanelor says:

      A question for John in the light of the previous comment:

      If you have been playing mostly RPGs for the past 15 years, does PoE feel like the reason to stop wondering if you aren’t getting too old for gaming and remember the Good Old Days(R) when you are looking at the credits at 4,30am feeling a bit sad that the journey is over?

      • airknots says:

        Just noticed that PoE could either mean Pillars of Eternity or Path of Exile.

        • Emeraude says:

          Been a point of contention for months now. The fighting has been brutal, with both sides throwing punctuation at each other.

    • Ed Burst says:

      I feel the opposite. I’m sick of games with full voice over where I inevitably click to interrupt the guy talking because I’ve already read the subtitles and didn’t want to have to listen to the bland voice acting in the first place. And I’m sick of games where they stop revising the dialogue and giving you more options because they’ve already spent their entire acting budget.

      • Hunchback says:

        Well that’s just bad games and writting. I can say the same thing for text-only games where i’d skip over dialogues and story because it’s so bland and boring that it’s not worth reading (WoW and most MMOs?).
        Skyrim did a good job of providing full voice over for millions of quests, and also gave you books and notes and other bits to read too, Fallout 3 too i guess. There’s a sweet spot between reading and voice over, and the quality has nothing to do with the form itself.

        • Asurmen says:

          You seem to have missed the point. Voice takes time. I can read faster than you can speak. My time is valuable, so I’m rarely prepared to listen to large amounts of voice. Fully voiced can work, as long as it’s shorter stuff that doesn’t cause my impatience to kick in.

          It’s a seperate argument than bad writing or story in general causing you to skip.

  23. karthink says:

    Oh, fantastic. This is FANTASTIC.

    One question: Does the Steam version require Steam to be running? I’m trying to choose between GOG and Steam. GOG is entirely DRM-free, but manual patching is going to be a bother, especially in the first few months when they’ll come thick and fast. Steam’s got sweet autopatching, but I don’t trust my flaky Internet connection or Steam’s Offline mode.

    • karthink says:

      Context: All other Paradox games can be run directly from the executable without launching Steam. A few Obsidian games too (Alpha Protocol, Dungeon Siege.)

    • Cinek says:

      GOG is about to release GOG Galaxy which will feature auto-updates, so… there’s that to help you make right decision. ;)

      • karthink says:

        GOG has been “about to release” GOG Galaxy for eight months now; Pillars is already here.

        My sojourn to the disconnected lands is in the next month. Well, intermittently disconnected. I can probably still squeeze a window of net access once a week.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          Throw steam into offline mode before you leave and it SHOULDN’T bother you with patches.

  24. Premium User Badge

    PoulWrist says:

    Backed at the 50$ lvl. Haven’t kept up with development at all, not read anything about it.
    Not going to play it till at least some months from now as I figure there’s going to be some huge patches coming. Just like with Wasteland 2.

  25. GoneToPlaid says:

    Pale elf -> White Prophet/Fool from Robin Hobb’s books -> takes the name Amber in Bingtown -> Ambrée?

    • GoneToPlaid says:

      I see Ambrée is also a beer by the Jester King brewery. Another connection to the Fool?

  26. Enkinan says:

    Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever heard RPS proclaim a classic with this much certainty, and we are in a pretty special time for games recently. I’m fucking hyped.


  27. noodlecake says:

    I discovered with Divinity: Original Sin that RPG combat can be both deep and time consuming while still being amazingly fun (unlike every other non-action RPG ever), but one of the reasons, I think, was being limited to only four characters. I think 6 characters is slightly too much, but in a game built with six characters in mind, only taking four would close off a lot of the game (Less breadth of skills for dealing with certain situations). This really puts me of playing it.

    I found dealing with 6 characters in Baldur’s Gate just too much micromanagement and it felt more like work than fun to me and I gave up about 5 or 6 hours in.

    • Premium User Badge

      cpt_freakout says:

      Thing is, even if RTwP could be seen as ‘turn-based’, having an actual turn-based system changes the combat entirely. Four characters in turn-based combat can be interesting, but in RTwP it can feel limited tactics-wise. I found the six-member parties of the IE games great because you had all sorts of tactical options and you could come up with challenging situations for which you were directly responsible; from NWN onward the 4 char limit meant little variation per battle because tactical play was reduced to skillsets instead of a mix of skillsets, positioning, and knowledge of the ‘rules’. The point is that they’re different types of games even when they resemble each other; I guess it’s a bit like playing Rise of Nations and Starcraft back to back… since they resemble each other so much it’s kinda difficult to please what are essentially two different tastes of combat designs.

    • stkaye says:

      Well, if it’s truly similar to the Infinity Engine/D&D template, it really shouldn’t be a problem playing through with four characters instead of six. You’ll be able to grab four party members who roughly correspond to the classic four pen and paper class archetypes and probably won’t miss out on any important gameplay as a result.

      In the Icewind Dale games, it was almost foolhardy to create a party with more than four characters. They had a punishing difficulty curve and the ability to gain levels faster became really important. But of course, in those games, there wasn’t any story content to miss out on by taking fewer companions (notwithstanding DLC).

      So go for it, make a your four-person crew! I think the only thing you’ll be missing is the interactions and quests you’d get from the two missing party members, and you can always swap those guys in later.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Flanking is a lot more viable and interesting with six characters in the party. You can spare someone from the core group to try a flanking maneuver, which usually involves not being in combat for several turns while they move around and get into position. With just four party members, it’s usually critical to have everyone actually in combat during every turn.

      That’s in theory anyway, I don’t know how well flanking works in this game. Much depends on the scripted enemy placement and level design.

      Six characters also means you’re more free to select party members based on personality or unusual abilities, even if they wouldn’t be ideal for a “core” group. With four characters, I’m more tempted to min/max the party design, and end up with something boring like the usual Holy Trinity + one extra (rogue or ranger type).

    • derbefrier says:

      what i hate about RTWP is trying ti play a co-op game with it. Trying to co-op Baulders gate was like pulling teeth. Divinity:OS was some of the best rpg co-op I have had in a long time. Since PoE is single player only i dont mind RTWP so much it just makes co-op a pain in the ass with 4 or so people trying to pause the game and pick thier moves all at different times.

    • Cinek says:

      “I think 6 characters is slightly too much” – You are never forced to play with 6 characters. It’s entirely possible to complete the game with just one character, though it obviously makes it much more difficult. That said – you should be able to play with 5 or 4 characters just fine unless you bump difficulty settings too much.

  28. TomxJ says:

    Wow, it seems like everything we were hoping for. What are these pre order items? do they add anything to the game? If not i’ll wait for a sale.

    Tom j

  29. Kasper_Finknottle says:

    Not sure if anyone has mentioned this but Game is selling the Hero edition for £27.99 link to game.co.uk :0)

  30. SamGad says:

    I have it, here, sat in front of me in an retro DVD case. (it’s got that new game smell and everything)
    And I can’t bloody play it, “I’m not out yet, go away!” it tells me when I try and install it.
    A dismal state of affairs..

  31. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    I am so happy to read this review. Sounds like everything I was hoping for when I backed. Now I just need a week or more off work to dive into it.

  32. Horg says:

    Very pleasant music score so far (why does no one ever mention that in reviews anymore?). The title screen track is a gentle woodwind and melodic percussion piece which works up to a gentle uplifting crescendo, and the character generation piece is almost ambient woodwind and string, very relaxing. So much more peaceful that the BAH-BAAAH-BA-BA!……into to BG2 that tried to blow your ear drums out before you even got going ¬ ¬

    • Emeraude says:

      why does no one ever mention that in reviews anymore?

      Because orchestral music sucks !

      They should have gone with my initial suggestion at the time of the Kickstarter and use a full electro hip hop soundtrack !

      • Monggerel says:

        Pillars of Miami.

        You know, I’m genuinely curious how a super-casual soundtrack might go with a game like this.

        • Robert Post's Child says:

          Maybe that’s the spoiler, the game time-jumps to a retro-futuristic neon-haze cityscape, thus pre-empting the Alternate Universe Re-Imagining any fans might get into on Tumblr.

      • Buuurr says:

        Nah. That would have been a major mistake. Not all of us are into bathhouses and ecstasy. An alternative option for those of alternative lifestyle could be an option of course but few of those, if any, play this type of game.

      • Horg says:

        That would have been a perfect compliment to my suggestion of a fully customisable dance studio. Mo-cap racial dances with rag doll control over every limb. Damage your enemies egos by serving them sick moves in time to the beat.

  33. almostDead says:

    GLORIOUS there’s a cheevo specific for ks backers and it’s causing the cheevo brigade nuts.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      I’m currently bummed out as my SSD is being sent away to get replaced/fixed and I can’t claim my key, let alone play it but that gave me a schadenfreude-based smile. Thanks!

  34. Buuurr says:

    This is the tits! Awesome! Finally! A game I can love and immerse myself into. Much like Torment it is full of dialog and surprise and consequence. Love it!

  35. Orix says:

    “Pale Elf from The White That Wends, called Ambrée. (50 points to the first person who can figure out the path my brain took to that name)”

    Definitely Ambrosia Rice Pudding.

    I won’t accept any other answer.

  36. Mr Coot says:

    This sounds perfect. I’m currently on a self-imposed new games moratorium while I chip away at unplayed ones in my Steam library. But it is on the procurement list.

  37. Dale Winton says:

    Played it for an hour , not too bad on the text so far. I like it very much and I will see how we get on with it. Wish I could spin the screen about though
    £19 on cdkeys.com by the way

  38. thekelvingreen says:

    All I want to know is: must you gather your party before venturing forth?

  39. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    I’m not complaining about this WIT (it’s good!), but I hope to see some words about this game from Adam, who seems to have a better background for writing about this specific type of game.

    I’m very interested to see Wot He Thinks, even if it’s just in an RPS Verdict.

  40. Jambe says:

    Gorram pagination; this is the internet, ffs.

    Nicely-written, though, Mr. Walker.

  41. Carra says:

    Glad to see my kickstarting money was put to good use. I had a ton of fun with Divinity: Last Sin last year, looks like this might be good for another 60 hours of fun.

  42. Darkheart says:

    4 hours in (1 hour char creation, hehe) and I’m lovin’ it! If you are even remotely interested in a RPGs, get this!

    • derbefrier says:

      Yeah I was able to get a. Few hours in before I had to sleep. I was truly impressed with just about every aspect of the game so far. The whole thing is just great.

  43. Werthead says:

    I note that none of the reviews I’ve read so far have touched on the game’s most vitally important option, namely the ability to switch on “Silly Big Heads On Your Characters Mode”. I haven’t tried it yet, but appreciate the option.

    Also, the miniature titan space pig is amusing in its inexplicability.

  44. satan says:

    I know that character creation is probably the only time I’ll be looking at my character up close, but it would have been nice to have some more customisation options, or at the very least some more skin tones.

  45. Taear says:

    It’s going to sound absolutely ridiculous but my favourite two things in the game so far are the area looting and as a part of that if you click to loot whoever is closest will go and you can just put EVERYTHING in your stash so there’s no limit on how much you can loot.

    Then I was surprised and happy to see a gravestone for Mike Singleton who created my favourite games (doomdark’s revenge and lords of midnight) when I was a kid. I didn’t think he was known outside of the UK so it was cool to see.

    Genuinely the game just feels like they’ve poured love into it. Exposition is weird at times, but it doesn’t take me out of it at all. Even stuff like the hireling system (basically you just make a new character) is amazing.

  46. fredc says:

    I’ve only done 30 minutes or so and it’s really good.

    Aside from the return to Planescape/Baldur’s gate style RPGing done very, very well, I _love_ the huge nod to Darklands with the interstitial “choose your own adventure” style screens illustrated with line drawings/etchings.

    The odd missing voice line doesn’t bother me. Only thing I’m not hugely thrilled by so far is the clunkiness of the backstory.

    The place names seem to have come straight from a generic fantasy fiction name generator. And the narrative has already diverged from the strictly sensible. A little while ago, a bunch of crazed zealots butchered some people. My character catches them in the act but because he has a single rank in “Lore”, he engages them in an informed discussion of the finer points of religious doctrine. And despite being a bunch of crazed fanatics who have presumably grown up with this faith and who have just literally axe-murdered innocent people, they stop in their tracks and listen to my character’s sophmoric take on their belief system.

    Even if this crap continues I think I’ll be able to forgive it. I’m liking everything about the engine so far and a lot of the writing is better than that.

  47. Sui42 says:

    So, basically, it’s an old school RPG.

    I was actually somewhat disappointed that the review didn’t explain a little more about the quality of the story.

    I feel like game reviewers, even on this relatively ‘highbrow” site, are still very much treating games as technical objects.

    The game bills itself as an old school RPG; that’s it’s selling point. I didn’t need a long review to explain that it achieves this. Instead, what I want to know is: is the story actually any better than some shitty pulp fantasy novel? Because if the answer is ‘no’, I really don’t want to spend 60 hours of my precious adult time playing what is essentially an old game.

    In fact, I don’t want to spend 60 hours of my time playing a new game either. I played Dragon Age: Origins for about 10 hours before realising I was wasting my time playing World of Warcraft offline. Which may have been worth it if the story was any good. But, in the first 10 hours at least, it was pretty awful. The characters were annoying, the plot was dull. A good story HOOKS you, a good story FORCES you to read on.

    From the sound of it, as the game took 30 hours for Walker to ‘care’ about any of the characters, I will not enjoy this game. There is no film, novel, song, poem, painting or – indeed – game, that I would endure for 30 hours in order for it to ‘get good’. No, fuck that – I have better things to do.*

    *masturbate and read link to takeabreak.co.uk

  48. noodlecake says:

    Well I was going to outright buy this, but then knowing how much I didn’t enjoy Baldur’s Gate, and how annoying I find this obsession with regressing games back to the 90s, I thought I would pirate it first to demo it and see if it was worth the purchase.

    No real tutorials (although that could be because the game was in alpha), not especially good tool tips a lot of the time. clicking on a character and then hovering the cursor over an enemy turns the icon into a sword, which should mean attack, but then right clicking makes my guy just stand there getting hammered, till I left click on one of his weapons and then left click on the enemy. My guys all nearly died in the first fight because of this. Felt stressed by the amount of nannying the characters all needed. Found the visual style depressingly dated. Turned off the game. Uninstalled it, relieved that I hadn’t decided to spend money on it.

    It did make me start playing Divinity: Original Sin again, though, which does throwback old school with a modern twist exceptionally well.

    • noodlecake says:

      (I mean beta, not alpha. It was a version that was uploaded relatively recently)

  49. melancholicthug says:

    Dammit RPS, now i HAVE to buy this. Even if not playing right now, i want to support those fine chaps of Obsidian. They really deserve it.

  50. montorsi says:

    I feel bad for the voice actors who have to work with this hilariously stilted dialogue. Obsidian’s infatuation with their own writing is mostly OK when it’s only the written word (still thick and wordy) but then it’s brought to life and I can only pity the actors they’re employing. The awkwardness is palpable.