Striding Forth – Pillars Of Eternity: The White March Out

It’s been five months since Pillars of Eternity [official site] was released, which is categorical proof that the wheel of time has spun completely off its axis and is careering down a hill toward a cliff edge. Before we’re all plunged into the abyss, there’s another big chunk of RPG from Obsidian to delve into, in The White March Part 1, a snowy expansion for the main game.

The events take place within the core game, rather than being something happening after. That means you only need to have reached Act 2 for the new content to slot neatly into your world, appearing on the map once you’ve returned to your stronghold and had a chat with that nice statue lady. Head on up and you’ll discover the village of Stalward, under attack by ogres, and seemingly threatened by all sorts of problems relating to an abandoned Dwarven mine. It was the site where Durgan steel was made, you see, and many believe there are treasures behind its collapsed walls.

Also in the DLC come the Cragholdt Bluffs, a high-level battleground designed for parties level 10 or higher. This’ll give you a chance to make use of the extension of the level cap up from 12 to 14, as well as play with the party member AI that’s been added in. Also, if you’re playing with a party from nearer the end of the game, when you first approach the White March area you’ll be offered the chance to have things get a bit trickier. It’s a one-time only offer, the game fixing your decision permanently, but of course still letting you fiddle with the regular difficulty levels.

There are two new companions to find, as well – Zahua and the Devil of Caroc – as well as a wealth of new missions and side-quests, the same erratically voiced and not-voiced characters, and all the other visual and UI tweaks that come with the upgrade to the 2.0 build.

This is only part one of the expansion. The second part will appear in the winter (appropriate enough). Right now you can get the first part for £11 on Steam and GOG, or get both parts for a rather minuscule discount of £19. Not cheap, but then seemingly rather sizeable content. I’m playing it right now, and will have a review for you as soon as I can.

41 Comments

  1. geisler says:

    Do the UI tweaks finally fix the abhorrent blurry upscaling of the text and UI assets beyond 1080p?

    • caff says:

      I think ABHORRENT is going a bit far :) – but yeah I’d like to know this too.

      • inf says:

        Not really, it is that bad (probably on high resolutions like 2160p) that it has kept some people from playing the game, see this thread: link to forums.obsidian.net . I play on 1440p and found it very annoying as well.

        It’s very surprising this only now got addressed, one would assume they would have patched it shortly after launch. The problem apparently goes back to the backer beta, you have to remember that this is basic UI functionality. If i would have owned a 4K monitor (like OP probably) i think i would also have put down “abhorrent”.

        • JamesTheNumberless says:

          I’ve never really been sure what the little “p” means but the resolution I play at is 2560×1600 and there’s nothing about the appearance of the UI that spoils the game for me.

    • Caelinus says:

      The change log as this bullet point:

      Improved quality of font text when the game is at a higher resolution than 1920×1200

      So, probably?

  2. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this, but I must say that I’m not a huge fan of expansions being added into the middle of RPG campaigns. Since expansions tend to be cordoned off into their own thing, this means that, no matter when you do it, it’s a lengthy detour away from the thrust of the actual plot.

    And if the DLC is actually well-designed to slot into the main game, as Skyrim’s Dawnguard was, it will feel slight and off-putting should you play it with a high-level character who has nothing else to do.

    When the review goes up, I would very much like to hear your thoughts on this aspect of the expansion. I’ll probably start a new game regardless, so I can really get into the spirit of customizable party AI (yay!) and try out the Barbarian class, which now seems to be the one class not represented by a permanent party member.

    • JFS says:

      Everything you say has merit!

    • Rosveen says:

      There’s still one unrevealed hero from the PoE card game, who might be a barbarian companion introduced in White March part II to round out the roster.

      • Drinking with Skeletons says:

        Very true! The whole trend of splitting up things–films, television series, novels, and now games–is really starting to irk me. We just got PoE five months ago, we could’ve waited a little longer for a complete expansion.

        • Emeraude says:

          I’m looking forward to playing it, but not until the second part arrives next year.

          I have a feeling many of us are thinking the same – preferring to take the dip later once the content is complete and several issues have been ironed out.

          Hopefully doesn’t kill the enthusiasm in the team working on it if it punctually hurts the release sales upon release.

          • Emeraude says:

            Uh? That post was quoting Zenicetus right below. Don’t know what happened.

          • Enso says:

            Same. Stopped playing when I was waiting for the lockpick bugfix on gog.

            Same stratgey with the witcher. Both 1 and 2 ended up with complete editions so I’ll just wait. Plus I’ll have a better computer. Plus I’ll have actually completed witcher 1 lelelelelel.

        • Cinek says:

          Ppl have a short span of attention, especially now, when the next great thing is released every month. So getting these expansions out while gamers still remember the title is really important.

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      John Walker says:

      Spookily enough, before you wrote that I’d already written a paragraph on exactly this subject! It says,

      “Expansion packs that take place before the end of a game always sit a little uneasily with me. Loading an old save, and then heading off on a diversion from the game I’ve already finished, feels like an invasion of the narrative – do I then continue on and finish the game again with this extra chapter in the lives of my characters? Or is it a pocket of alternative reality that I play for the sake of its existing, then quit with the party just stood there with new loot, new skills, new levels, and nowhere to go?”

  3. Zenicetus says:

    I’m looking forward to playing it, but not until the second part arrives next year.

    I finished PoE not long after it launched. After enough time goes by, I lose the edge I had when immersed in a game and totally familiar with the mechanics towards the end. I always have to spend a little time getting familiar with everything when I re-visit a game after several months or a year. Especially one with a complex structure like this one (all those different class abilities).

    I’ll do that once for a major expansion, but I won’t do it twice when it’s split up like this. Waiting is easy enough, especially with Shadowrun HK out right now, and the revamped Divinity OS coming soon.

  4. kud13 says:

    Excited for this, but I think I’ll probably end up waiting for Part II to come out before running through the game again.

    I’m on the fence with rolling a new char. On the one hand, I’d like to try something else. On the other, my sword-and-spear Orlan cipher was a murder machine of Cunning. I may just re-load a really early save once I have all the expansions loaded.

  5. satan says:

    Expansions come in parts now?

  6. Riaktion says:

    and now all they need is the ability to auto level your companions and all the micro management I dislike will be removed :D

    However I doubt that will ever happen.

    • Riaktion says:

      Thinking about it I could just find an “ideal build” of a companion character and follow that… That would be the same as “Auto Levelling” wouldn’t it? And then just leave the AI to do their thing and I can focus on my character. Dragon Age got party based RPG right for me, hands off with management if you want it to be (especially if like me you don’t mind playing these kind of games on easy).

    • EhexT says:

      It has autoleveling of companions. Always did. It’s a checkbox in the options (and I think it’s even on by default).

    • Fry says:

      I haven’t touched the feature it since I actually like managing my party members manually, but the 2.0 update includes party AI.

  7. Shadow says:

    I bought Pillars of Eternity around launch, when it was all the rage. Unfortunately, it didn’t grip me as strongly as I had expected it to.

    The story was nice and all, but the game itself wasn’t so special, and the combat rather boring. Performance was inexplicably sub-standard at times, as well (i.e. second city). Anyway, maybe it’s great for those nostalgic about times past, but I’m not usually satisfied by those games which simply mimic the old as if old was intrinsically better and couldn’t be improved upon.

    Bah, perhaps I’m being overly harsh. I played PoE months ago and it just didn’t stick. My clearest memory is that the combat was quite bland, and ‘tactics’ mostly boiled down to bottlenecking enemies through doorways or similar narrow spaces to make their numbers more manageable (the tyrant of the starter town and his goons come to mind).

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      Mungrul says:

      You’re not alone.
      I Kickstarted the game, and while it’s undeniably pretty, it just didn’t click for me.
      I got almost to the end, encountered a pretty game-breaking bug, gave up, started again a couple of months later, yet couldn’t find the impetus to finish the thing.
      I think it was mainly down to the poor combat and a certain unhappiness with some badly implemented systems (the prevalence of spammable mind-control abilities on enemies I found particularly irritating).
      And weirdly, while I found the story and characters interesting, as a whole I just didn’t feel engaged.

      Contrast that with Witcher 3, which I am thoroughly enjoying a third time through now thanks to New Game+
      Yes, okay, it’s a different kind of RPG, but it has still kept me entertained far more than PoE.

      And when it comes to party-based, top-down RPGs, it’s up against Divinity: Original Sin and Wasteland 2, both of which I massively prefer.

      • WiggumEsquilax says:

        Devs said that this expansion would coincide with a combat overhaul, remedying the absentee tactics plaguing this game. I don’t know that they pulled it off, mind you.

        I gave up on this game around Twin Elms, and for the same reasons as you. If the Obsidian weren’t blowing smoke, Pillars might be worth another look.

        • Relani says:

          Yeah, I think party AI (if it’s decent) will be a big improvement. I hate that every single battle I would have to pause and choose from massive ability lists for all my characters. It makes combat way too tedious. I like just being able to control my main character and have the others in the party make appropriate decisions on their own.

          • Riaktion says:

            Agreed

          • inf says:

            Hilarious to me, people complain about tactical depth, then decide they want the game to play itself (i have to micromanage an entire party boo-hoo). Don’t get me wrong RTwP is a joke to me, and can almost never can be called “tactical” in my opinion. But the fact that so many people hated the full party control in a RTwP full party RPG inspired by the IE games (where the AI was pure shit), is pure comedy to me. You people should stick to modern Bioware turds, if the combat in those games was any more simplistic, they could sell them as interactive novels.

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            Mungrul says:

            Pleasant.
            Inf blocked.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            Inf was a bit rabid in his defence, but I’d just like to throw my two cents in as someone who really likes the combat in Pillars. It’s refreshingly different and that’s something I didn’t think was really possible in this day and age for this type of RPG. It does vary enormously depending on which classes you’re playing and I find it more enjoyable when my main character is the one that needs the most micromanagement. I didn’t find it to be simply Bioware style combat minus the party AI, but something quite a bit different – different too from the IE games. It has got one hell of a learning curve though.

            The worst thing for me about the game is the inventory management, there’s simply too much “stuff” in the game, most of which is just there to be converted into gold. I would remove all but the most interesting items, and increase gold drops.

    • carewolf says:

      I like it quite a bit, but got distracted by Witcher 3, and then heard they would make an expansion that would best fit if I didn’t advance the story. So am looking forward to returning and continuing :D

  8. Beefenstein says:

    I didn’t even realise the game had a story or characters. I just kept getting STOCK FANTASY THING with those watermarked Xs over everything.

  9. Koshelkin says:

    I won’t get it until the 2nd part is out but then I’ll be all over it. I’m looking forward to it!

  10. marlowespade says:

    So, do I have to get the expansion to get the party member AI?

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      I think the party AI is part of the big patch for the expansion, not part of the expansion itself.

      • JFS says:

        Yes, this. PoE will update to version 2.0 regardless of whether you buy the expansion.

    • Jane Doe says:

      The party member “AI” is nothing but an On/Off-switch for party members to auto attack. Do *NOT* expect anything like the Dragon Age party scripts. Not even the unmodded Baldur’s Gate EE scripts.

      Just a switch.

      • marlowespade says:

        Hmmm, that’s disappointing, but even if it’s a switch that lets me bypass the whole “Gee, Aloth is getting hammered in the back ranks Eder, maybe you could take a break from admiring the corpses you just made and go do something about that?” then that’s an improvement.

  11. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    I backed this, but only put about 4 hours into Pillars – which I was enjoying – until I heard the expansion was coming. So I stopped. So I’ll just wait until part II comes out. Not like there’s a lack of other great stuff to play.

  12. JiminyJickers says:

    I enjoyed PoE but it wasn’t great either. I will wait for both expansions to come out and be on a bit of a discount before I will get into it again.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      There’s a lot I like about the game. Some bits are fantastic and I feel fully justified as a backer because the game does give me all the things I wanted from it. It just seems to feel saddled with things that needlessly drag it down in places. Some of the quests and areas are a hard slog with relatively little reward. Combat is great but how it works is not very intuitive or well explained. Inventory management is tedious and the economy is broken. (as RPG economies ALWAYS are – when will people learn?)

      The narrative mostly flows at a good pace, but in some parts can be an equally hard slog. The game builds up nicely to Twin Elms and then once you get there you find you’re totally indifferent to exploring yet another bunch of new areas, and realizing you have to in order to get back to the main story-line in which you’re really invested now, is a bit of a motivation killer.

      It almost feels as though they were overly concerned with making the game as long as possible, that the editorial process was rushed. It’s all very “more is more” and sometimes this is good but in a lot of cases it encumbers the overall experience rather than adding to it. The game for me is ripe for streamlining in most areas of game-play and narrative.