The RPS Advent Calendar, Dec 14th: Pillars Of Eternity

What is the best RPG of 2015? The RPS Advent Calendar highlights our favourite games from throughout the year, and behind today’s door is…

Pillars of Eternity!

Adam: Last year, Divinity: Original Sin brought me back into the RPG fold. I play loads of games that are somewhere within the genre but it had been a long time since a studio released an RPG that seemed to be tailored to my personal tastes, and that was built on the kind of systemic design that I enjoy in every genre.

Pillars of Eternity was always going to have a harder time earning my love. While I’ve played and enjoyed the Infinity engine RPGs that are a rich part of its heritage – most notably the two Baldur’s Gate games – but they’re games that I’ve always appreciated rather than adored. Where Divinity was built on systems and mechanics that relied on computer simulation, keeping track of hundreds of variables within the world and creating unexpected interactions as elements and play-driven events overlapped, Pillars appeared to be much more focused on the creation of a pen and paper style roleplaying system, and a world to fit snugly around that system.

I thought I’d play for a few hours, nod appreciatively, then head for fresh pastures. Instead, Obsidian’s latest owned my evenings for weeks after release.

John goes into some details about the story and world-building below, and that’s the key to the game’s appeal as far as I’m concerned. Thanks to the obvious inspirations and the history of the genre, it’s no surprise that Pillars of Eternity looks like it might be a very traditional ‘fetch the treasure, grab the MacGuffin, resuce the prisoner, save the world’ kind of deal. Instead, it’s a story made out of interwoven parts; many shorter stories and backstories working together to create something grand. And it’s steeped in a fictional theology that presupposes the existence of a pantheon and then explores the consequences of that fact.

I’d love to see more of the world and characters, and the recent update that added companion AI means that I’m even enjoying combat on my second playthrough, which will involve my first look at the expansion.

The release of Fallout 4 has caused an overly enthusiastic appraisal of New Vegas in some quarters. It’s a great game and my favourite 3d Fallout game but it isn’t my favourite Obsidian game. This time last year, Alpha Protocol was, bugs and all, simply because it felt like a game that nobody else could or would have made. Pillars of Eternity looks like a game that many studios might have made but if you spend enough time with it, and can at least tolerate its stacks of stats and text, you’ll find rare depths and complications.

John: I love it when a game exists in my brain not as a memory of mechanics or moments, but of a place I’ve been. Pillars feels like a crazy holiday I went on.

The effort to create an RPG in the style of BioWare/Black Isle was a complete success, providing something that echoed the ethos and storytelling of a Baldur’s Gate, but with the common sense that’s been added to the genre since. Borrowing heavily from AD&D, but with a completely fresh and original ruleset, this is 60 hours of purist and purest RPG yum.

A god is dead, another appears to be rising up rather too powerfully, and some animancers are learning that raising the dead has consequences. Meanwhile, you seem to suddenly be able to perceive the past lives of inhabitants of the world, and rather more troublingly, children are being born without souls.

It’s into this mix that you become embroiled, alongside far more local and familial matters regarding companions you gather, people you bump into, and personal exploration through a neat little system that lets you select which memories you’re having.

What’s so apparent here is how much love and care has gone into every aspect. The faithful modernisation of the Infinity Engine is done with a delicate hand, the writing is frequently exquisite, the multitude of sidequests interesting and worthwhile. Companions take their time to become meaningful, but when they do, they really do.

It’s smart, tough, interesting and involved, while telling you a story you’ll want to hear. And it contains lines as great as, ““Trouble with having all these gods is you’ve got support no matter how dumb your ideas are. Maybe we had the right idea blowing some of ‘em up. Less of them to hide behind.”

Go here for more of our picks for the best PC games of 2015.

106 Comments

  1. leeder krenon says:

    Ah ok, so Witcher 3 is the overall game of the year then. Right? :)

    • Gorm13 says:

      Can W3 be a better game than PoE if PoE is a better RPG than W3? Seems illogical.

      • Shadow says:

        I’ll be a bastard and say that, while good from the story and oldschool trip perspective, PoE is not all that engaging as an actual game. I must’ve played like 10 hours, trying to find that special charm everyone seemed to be talking about, to no avail.

        • kozzy420 says:

          Fuck outta here with that bs, Pillars was simply amazing. Not engaging? It was the years most engaging game.

          • lalilulelo says:

            Opinions policeman here! You and everyone else here are not allowed to have an opinion, so please refrain from having one and especially from voicing it in public.

        • phlebas says:

          The six or so hours I spent trying to make it through character creation without crashing before the first patch were pretty bad. The game got amazing pretty quickly after that though.

        • qrter says:

          I played PoE for more than 10 hours, and it never really clicked with me, either. It was perfectly enjoyable, had some lovely moments, but the world never came alive, if that makes any sense.

      • minijedimaster says:

        Yes, it can. You’re illogical.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Witcher could get best open world game. Or best hair.

      • Fomorian1988 says:

        I highly suspect MGS V to best open world. So Witcher’s either best game of the year, or MGS V will actually get the title (which is possible – where else can you send enemies into the skies via balloon?).

        • Tacroy says:

          Just Cause 3, assuming the hot air balloon made it to Medici.

          They won’t survive the trip, but you surely can.

        • kud13 says:

          Since Invisible Inc. took best strategy, MGS V will probably be the best stealth game, FO4 will be open world, and TW3 will take GOTY.

          Either Just Cause 3 or Mad Max will take best action.

          • Cederic says:

            Surely Just Cause 3 is nailed on for Bestest Best Explosions?

      • malkav11 says:

        Witcher 3 will clearly get Best Witching.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      I came here just to give voice to my disagreement, as pointless as it may be, but I’m glad that the very first comment here said it for me. To be honest I haven’t played The Witcher 3, but I have played the previous games.

      I was never a fan of D&D and Baldur’s Gate (I grew up on Diablo 1 and 2), so while PoE might very well be a great game, it’s not the sort of game I’d pick first (TW3) or even second (Divinity: OS) out of the many RPG’s we’ve been blessed with the last few years.

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        Swordfishtrombone says:

        (Please note: genuine question, not being a dick.) What made you choose TW3 if you’ve never actually played it? And more importantly, why in the name of all that is holy haven’t you played it?!

        • Darth Gangrel says:

          I should have said that I played the two previous Witcher games and loved them, but I wrote that in the RPG Scrollbars article and then I forgot that I should have written that here as well.

          My PC can’t handle The Witcher 3. I bought my laptop as a backlog decreasing device and after 4 ½ years, I still consider the Witcher 1 to be a fairly new game compared to the most recently released games I’ve played. I should and want to play The Witcher 3, but I’d also like to play the whole thing and wait for a GotY edition or simply a price cut. I’m so used to buying old games cheap that it’s hard for me to buy a new game that costs more than 5 euros. I have lots of other great games waiting for me and I could always play some Witcher mods if the Witcher itch(er) becomes too strong.

          • Unclepauly says:

            Dear Lord, when you are that commited to backlog decreasing that the Witcher 1 seems like a new game I really think you outta rethink your whole backlog decreasing strategy. Or maybe even just forget about backlog decreasing but trust me I know how hard something like that is. My OCD compels me just as much as many others.

      • ritsl says:

        I’m confused, if you haven’t played Witcher 3, and you don’t think Pillars of Eternity should get it, what was your pick for RPG of 2015? Personally mine was Undertale, a game that I have played and thoroughly enjoyed.

        • Darth Gangrel says:

          I thought I made it clear in my previous comment: “I’d pick first (TW3) or even second (Divinity: OS) out of the many RPG’s we’ve been blessed with the last few years”. That is, The Witcher 3 is my choice for GotY 2015, followed by Divinity: OS (The Enhanced Edition, since original D:OS came out in 2014).

          • ritsl says:

            Your previous comment was written well over an hour after mine. I did read it though, and I while I understand where you stand, I do wish you would only voice your opinion if you had actually played your pick for best RPG. Otherwise it just seems obsequious.

            For the record, Undertale will run on your laptop.

        • phlebas says:

          I expect Undertale will be best something else though. Best story?

    • Blastaz says:

      You’ve got to feel for Bethseda. Their five years in the making AAA blockbuster gets beaten out to rpg of the year by a scrappy AA kickstarted upstart and everybody’s reaction is “guess Witcher 3 is game of the year then.”

      Poor fallout…

      • pepperfez says:

        “AAA blockbuster” is its own genre. I’m sure they’d rather Fallout be recognized as that than as an RPG.

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        basilisk says:

        Time to (yet again) point out that Bethesda never called Fallout 4 an RPG. According to their marketing, it’s an “open world game”, full stop.

        • Hidden_7 says:

          Which is some nice truth in advertising, because it really isn’t an RPG. I’m enjoying it quite a bit, because I enjoy that style of open world game, but it really isn’t an RPG by most metrics.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      I keep wishing Witcher 3 was as good as everyone says it is.

      • Unclepauly says:

        No need, if you don’t like it you don’t have to.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        I’m actually like that when it comes to The Witcher 2. It’s not that it’s a bad game in any way, it’s just that they changed so much about what I liked from the previous games and I haven’t gotten much joy out of the new things they’ve added. My expectations played a trick on my mind and now it’ll never be as good as the first one, but I’m bound to like it more if I play it more. I just can’t do that now, since I’m trying to play all the other games on my backlog (GoG and Steam).

  2. Flavour Beans says:

    The lack of it being acknowledged anywhere in this post makes me think that The Witcher is going to come up with overall Bestest Best of the Year. Awh well.

    Also, I just played through Alpha Protocol again a month back; still a fantastic game. Would love to see someone revisit that.

    • Merlin the tuna says:

      Whenever I see people speak well of Alpha Protocol, my icy heart thaws just a tiny bit. Really a lovely game, and a shame that it’s so forgotten.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        We need a kickstarter to kidnap Obsidian and ProjectRED’s QA department then lock them all together in a cell with spy movies on endless loops. Promise to let them out when they finish a game.

      • kwyjibo says:

        Whenever I see people speak well of Alpha Protocol, I think, “these guys have no fucking taste”.

        • Zekiel says:

          Charming. I don’t think Alpha Protocol is amazing, but it is very special. Can’t think of another game that has managed what it did.

        • Unclepauly says:

          Your post just makes me think “He’s never played it and just likes bashing opinions”. I R Correct?

        • Flavour Beans says:

          Whenever I see people resort to ad hominem attacks over games that people like and they dont, I think “Huh, that’s unfortunate to live that way.”

    • xsikal says:

      The only things stopping me from another playthrough of AP are the security (lock picking and decryption, I think) minigames, which I remember as being incredibly annoying, especially for someone with lousy eyesight.

      • kud13 says:

        Stock up on EMP grenades. they bypass all minigames. Yes, including lockpicks. No, don’t ask me how it works.

  3. internisus says:

    Incorrectly tagged Advent Calendar 2016. Time marches on quickly enough as it is!

  4. Yukiomo says:

    Now that initial opinions have had time to settle, how does this game compare to Dragon Age Origins? That is probably the most recent mainstream game that can be reasonably compared to, right?

    • geisler says:

      Not sure if blatant troll but… No.

      • Yukiomo says:

        Both games are party-based fantasy RPGs heralded as spiritual successors to the Infinity Engine games. As far as I can tell, neither Dragon Age sequel really tried to go for that vibe. I’ve seen criticisms that both games contain less than ideal writing and a lot of fluff and grinding; having played Origins, I do not necessarily agree with those criticisms. Thus the query about comparison.

        • geisler says:

          Not in any way, shape or form, is DA:O comparable to the IE games. Bioware used the “spiritual Baldur’s Gate” gimmick for marketing purposes, sure. And when comparing industry standard “features” lingo, they both might appear to check the same boxes. But please, i should not have to elaborate on this. Watch 30 seconds of gameplay of each game on Youtube, and it should be pretty obvious that PoE could hardly be compared to DA:O.

          • anHorse says:

            Yeah DA:O actually bothered to make improvements from the IE games

            ;)

          • geisler says:

            How cute, you think i like the IE games (or PoE for that matter) don’t you? Nice try. Actually one of the mistakes DA:O makes is introducing even more banalshitboring encounters than already present in (most of) the IE games.

          • anHorse says:

            Haha you have been tricked

            For I will merely shit on everything!

          • Zekiel says:

            I think they are totally comparable. Sure, one is 3D and one isn’t, and the combat systems are quite different, but at the end of the day they are both Real-time-with-Pause in a world with few other contenders. They’re both party-based, they both have plenty of dialogue while having combat as the primary and default approach to solving problems. I can’t see how anyone could think they’re not obvious comparators.

          • Darth Gangrel says:

            Lol, “banalshitboring encounters” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Man, the combat in that game was really grindy and most cool area-of-effect spells felt useless and you had to micromanage everyone and and and…

            If I could play DA:O for the first time again I’d play it on easy, so I could simply nuke everything and not bother with companions getting in the line of fire (which they always did), but I didn’t and so it was awful and so I hate it. It may be unfair or whatever, but I hate it all the same.

          • malkav11 says:

            I wonder what version of Origins you played where AoE spells were useless instead of nearly gamebreakingly powerful. Possibly one where you tried to have a balanced party instead of just running three mages and a tank (the golem, of course)?

      • Unclepauly says:

        You can accuse him of trolling and shit on his question but you can’t offer up an example of something that would fit the question better?

    • Bremze says:

      Terribly disappointing because the Good Writing pip on the feature checklist actually means good writing instead of fucking hot space elves like people have come to expect thanks to the great efforts of Bioware.

    • Zekiel says:

      I kind of agree – I can’t think of any game in the last 10 years that’s easier to compare this to than Dragon Age Origins. I’d say the characterisation wasn’t as strong, the world-building was slightly better, and the actual dialogues were significantly better. Systems-wise it knocks the socks off DAO.

    • onodera says:

      DA:O has better companions, more engaging skills and story, PoE has better worldbuilding and better pacing (no Deep Roads or Fade).

      • Jeremy says:

        The Fade made me want to scream. That is all.

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          magnificent octopus says:

          I had to download a mod to get through the Fade. I don’t see how certain character builds, like archers, could get through it, with no companions to hide behind.

          • Darth Gangrel says:

            I loved being in the Fade, best part of the game. The thing I enjoyed so much was that you could shape shift into different forms, which allowed you much more variety and alternative strategies than the rest of the game. Turning into the flaming skeleton let you unleash fire balls at melee distance without hurting yourself. A great “say hello to my little friend”-moment. With no party members around you didn’t need to worry about any Friendly Fire incidents. I typically did the Fade first or almost first, because it was the most fun one.

      • kud13 says:

        I honestly don’t know how I managed, but I never struggled with either.

        I rolled a dual-wielding stealth rogue, and I went into the Mage’s Tower right after Redcliffe, which I did after (mostly) finishing the elven quest, except for the final fight.

        With a stealth-focused char, I had no problems in the Fade.

        And i did the dwarves last, so Deep Roads, while repetitive, was never the end of the world some portray it to be. Basically I kept myself entertained by making sure my char got the last hit on every ogre to get the badass finishing move animation.

    • InternetBatman says:

      All this is just my own opinion, but I would say Pillars is handily better than DA:O, but both are worth playing.

      Combat is way more interesting in Pillars than DA:O for the following reasons:
      1. 6 member partys have a far wider array of tactics and builds available.
      2. There is a huge array of build varieties, and every one of the wider array of classes feel unique.
      3. There are significantly more enemy types, with a wider array of powers. But I do miss combos.
      4. Better set piece battles with fewer bosses. Most of the bosses in D:AO were just slugfests that didn’t really put the party in danger.
      5. No deep roads.

      Writing is worse in Pillars than DA:0:
      1. Many of the origins were great. Even though some were less so.
      2. While Bioware’s plots are pretty standard, it’s for a reason. Bioware has stumbled on a very serviceable plot.
      3. The Qunari were quite well written.
      4. It felt like significantly more side content.
      5. Pillars lacks a unifying theme and focus.
      6. D:AO doesn’t have backer npcs.

      Items are better in Pillars. I can’t even remember the D:AO items. Pillars had items like the Disappointer, and the White Spire, and best of all guns that fit the setting.

      Exploration is significantly better in Pillars. There actually is exploration, and some fairly dramatic landscapes if you keep exploring. There’s also the cool DM style skill challenges. Similarly, the setting is slightly better in Pillars, lots of believable and interesting conflicts. The real world historical analogs make more sense. The made up languages are actually pretty cool too in Pillars.

      Graphics are significantly better in Pillars.
      DA:O’s pseudo-3d and muted colors didn’t work as well as Pillars mastery of 2D and willingness to use the whole palette.

      Animations are better in D:AO. There are special animations for beating certain monsters, and many animations for different attacks.

  5. Zenicetus says:

    Assuming you’re saving Witcher 3 for GotY, I suppose Pillars wins this category by default.

    I liked it enough to finish, but if a RPG should be judged by anything, it should be the quality of the writing as well as presentation and mechanics. For me, the writing in Pillars just wasn’t that great. There was way too much filler, and the central theme (there are no Gods, but there kind-of are) just didn’t click with me.

    On the other hand, I’ll give Pillars credit for at least being a localized storyline and not having to save the World or Reality Itself. The Witcher 3 gets docked one point for that, but everything else about the game is so amazingly well-polished that it doesn’t knock it off the pedestal for me.

    • daphne says:

      I agree that Not Saving the World is itself something extremely significant, but I’d restore a half-point to TW3, myself. You don’t save the world yourself but find the person who eventually saves it… or not, given the ambiguity of at least one of the endings, an ambiguity you could extend to each of them.

    • Zekiel says:

      I do agree that what turns out to be the main plot is not handled tremendously well. It’s a great concept, but its not seeded well enough throughout the game and I felt like the consequences weren’t explored well enough after the Shock Revelation near the end.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Exactly. It was potentially a great idea but they fumbled the execution.

        • Zekiel says:

          Shame. I give Obsidian points for trying – at least it wasn’t a Bioware/Blizzard “I want to destroy the world because… I am evil ahahaha”.

        • Zekiel says:

          On the other hand it does feel like they could have made the Big Reveal a lot more effective without expending a great deal more effort.

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    gritz says:

    I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t figure out what it wanted to be.

    It clearly wanted to straddle that line between crunchy RPG mechanics that reward system mastery, character optimization, and party synergies, while also embracing the dense worldbuilding and characterization that are Obsidian hallmarks.

    But instead, all of those interesting NPC’s were given unbelievably bad stat distributions, and spaced throughout the world such that you wouldn’t even meet them until dozens of hours into the game.

    The end result is that if you want to maximize the strategic side of the game, you’re forced to make your own story-less filler NPC party and ignore the meticulously crafted backstories of your compatriots.

    Sure, you could always crank the difficulty down and roll with the useless companions to get their stories, but that kind of defeats the point, right?

    (I haven’t played since a month or so after release, they might have patched out the terrible companion stats by now)

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      Aerothorn says:

      First, yes, some companions had stat changes; second, I played entirely with companions on normal difficulty and was steamrolling by game end.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Same here. I did choose default companions that made the best synergy as a team, instead of the ones that might have had the most interesting stories. But the fact that their individual base stats weren’t 100% optimized didn’t bother me.

        From a role-playing perspective, you wouldn’t expect to meet perfection in every possible companion you run across. By the last third of the game, there wasn’t much that could touch my party of default companions aside from a few annoying mind-control enemies.

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        gritz says:

        But that’s what I mean- playing on anything but the harder difficulties and steamrolling the game with an unoptimized party kind of belies the whole point of a crunchy systems-first RPG like this.

        • ffordesoon says:

          Disagree. Many, many, many people (myself included) love these sorts of games without believing the obsessive micromanagement of builds and inclusion of trap options to be a necessary or good part of them. In fact, it actively detracts from them for me. Pillars is still plenty crunchy, and I like that, but it also doesn’t make you, as John often puts it, “do taxes.” This is because the systems are appropriately crunchy and deep without that depth coming at the expense of clarity. Any reasonably attentive person can figure out what they’re doing wrong and correct it without leaving the game, and there aren’t fundamentally broken builds at either end of the power spectrum.

          Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the game or its design is perfect, but you can feel the thought and care and love that went into the most minute aspects of it, and that’s not something you can say for many games.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Not everyone plays with a min/max mindset. There’s nothing wrong with that, but opening up the game to people who just want to get into the story, or into deep roleplaying with their character widens the potential audience. Games that only focus on crunchy systems-first playstyle to the exclusion of everything else don’t get this kind of production budget.

          In fact, the game moved even more towards accommodating multiple playstyles by eventually adding party AI as an option. The original release forced everyone to get deep in the weeds on each class skill tree, so you’d know what commands to give during combat. Now you can pay less attention to that, if you want to.

          Options are good. As long as hardcore systems-oriented RPG fans aren’t harmed by allowing people to play in a more relaxed way, then it’s all good, and the developer sells lots of copies to fund continuing development of the series.

  7. Zekiel says:

    Delighted that this made the list – I feared that with Witcher 3 it would miss out. I loved my time with PoE – it’s by no means perfect but I think it is a worthy spiritual sequel to Baldur’s Gate 2 which is incredibly high praise from me. Hooray!

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    Aerothorn says:

    So, Pillars of Eternity next month?

    Oh, wait. Nevermind.

  9. anHorse says:

    I thought the actual mechanical RPG side of pillars was a bit shit

    Writing was nice just because there’s not enough games with decent writing but I couldn’t ever make myself enjoy playing the game.

    Oh and backer NPCs were a massive mistake, even if everyone did eventually figure out to ignore them

  10. csbear says:

    Mind blown… Was not expecting this due to the fact that I thought RPS liked it, but was slightly disappointed. I was off on my assumption obviously. I personally truly enjoyed it and although I have seen people saying that Obsidian played it safe, Josh Sawyer and friends drew me into their world for weeks as well. PoE was scrutinized to death as Obsidian hovers between AAA and indie, thus catering to a large cross section of fans, but deservedly so as they are a respected developer and the hype naturally follows. And it seems Sawyer really cares about his fans as he is regularly communicating about feature changes, patches, etc. If you felt PoE was great game or even just a decent one, this is a big deal for the resurgence of RPG development and especially for its fans. (But if you didn’t enjoy it, fortunately there are some other great RPGs mentioned below in Richard’s column!)

    And yes, Witcher 3 has got to be the big one now!

  11. Le blaireau says:

    I agree mechanically it was pretty bad, also there were no really interesting items that changed the way you approach encounters (which themselves all ended up going the same way). It was clearly a system designed for not allowing trap builds and discouraging save scamming which made everything very samey and half way through properly boring. I’ve been messing around with Age of Decadence the last few weeks and MY GOD it’s so much more fun and strategic.

    • csbear says:

      AoD is great! One of my top games I’ve played this year, and still have a ways to go.

  12. Beefenstein says:

    Combat dull, characters dull, world dull, writing dull.

    I guess it was a sneak advert for tabletop role-playing?

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      Gnarl says:

      I would say the combat was fiddly and unrewarding, and most of the characters dull. But tabletop is always better.

  13. Laurentius says:

    I like this game. I’ve beaten it, it was fun. The writing, world building and characters are very good. I didn’t like the combat, at certain moment it became servicable but the real time combat with pause just don’t go well with me. And such I value lst years turn based combat cRPG : Wasteland2 and Divinity:OS way higher. Because combat is no fun in PoE I think I will pick Shadowrun:Returns:HongKong as my cRPG of the year (though I am still not done with it).

    • csbear says:

      Yup, the real-time combat was a let down. Turn-based please! Not sure if this is correct, but I wonder if Obsidian wanted a more “actiony” combat system to satisfy the masses, thus the real-time instead of turn-based?

      Nice to see some good words on Shadowrun:HK. I’m excited to play that as well.

      • pepperfez says:

        Baldur’s Gate had real-time-with-pause combat, so it’s a concession to history if anything.

      • EhexT says:

        It’s 100% because the Infinity Engine games were real time with pause and Obsidian has said so often. That’s what they kickstarted so that’s what they had to do. Several members of the dev team prefer Turn based, but you make what you promise. Take note other Kickstarter devs (Frontier, etc.).

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          teije says:

          That’s right. Although I really liked PoE and plan to play through again with White March part 2 is released, I do wish they had gone with TB combat, the RTWP was my least favourite thing about the BG games and PoE.

          I’m glad that Torment went turn-based, they had a poll of their backers, and that won.

        • malkav11 says:

          Yeah. Turn-based is clearly better but it’s also not what was promised in the Kickstarter. And it’s still a huge improvement over fully real-time combat, which so many other CRPGs seem to be adopting these days.

  14. Zekiel says:

    Something I feel is often overlooked in PoE is the roleplaying system. I thought Obsidian did a really good job of enabling you to play a role in a satisfying way since it tracked the various dispositions rather than simply a good/evil or Renegade/Paragon slider.

    Sure, you don’t have to include an overall “characterisation” tracker in your game at all (they could have just gone with faction reputations) but by doing so it allows you to feel like your character has got – well, a character of their own. And it allows them to have the world react to that character (though I confess I didn’t see an awful lot of reactivity in that way).

    • Dicehuge says:

      Yeah I loved that, and I was pleasantly surprised with how often it would come up in conversations and stuff. I just like that it showed a tendency toward subtle, gradual building up of decisions and reactions, a nice change from the bioware tendency toward every 4th conversation having a massive, earthshattering decision that will affect the fate of everyone everywhere.

  15. heretic says:

    I put in 34 hours arrived at the bigass tree place down east, got distracted by other things and haven’t been back since…

    I really wanted to love this but only ended up liking it a bit, there’s just not much in the story that makes me want to go back. I guess I might at some point but I don’t see that in the near future :(

    • Zekiel says:

      I suggest you might be disappointed if you did go back. As much as I love the game, it did feel like it took a slight dip in quality at the bigass tree place. :-(

    • kwyjibo says:

      I binged on it at the beginning and got just as far. Went onto other things and then tried to get back to it, onto to find out that I no longer gave a shit.

      The story never really grabbed. And it wasn’t worth investing any more time in the same boring combat.

  16. Zekiel says:

    Also – I think it really did do world-building well. The whole concept of a god killed by men – and the exploration of why it happened and what consequences it might have – is a really fascinating one. And they layered it on top of a native american / nth generation colonists dynamic that was rather interesting in itself.

  17. kud13 says:

    One of the few games I’ve sunk tens of hours into this year (the other being TW3, and, bizarrely, Age of Kings HD)

    I missed out on the IE games in their heyday, and still haven’t gotten around to playing the Baldur’s gates. I loved Planescape, and though PoE wasn’t as rich and out there as that, I enjoyed it. The late-game, when my companion’s quests grew to the end, and the pantheonic plot was revealed was solid. But yeah, once you win the “ear” of all the aspected gods and hear the offers, the game gets much less exciting.

    Also, the combat could be both enthralling and infuriating: the former when it all clicked, the latter when you had the encounter planned out “just right”, but had to replay it 20+ times to have it play out the way you envision it (Guardian of Od Nua with under-level party, anyone?)

    Still, happy to see it mentioned. Since i’m waiting for the second half of the expansion, this game’s temporarily gone out of my head, thanks for reminding me of it.

  18. Wulfram says:

    I was ultimately a bit disappointed in this.

    That I wouldn’t love the writing probably shouldn’t have surprised me – I’ve always preferred Bioware’s style to Black Isle and its successors’. Still, the way the quality seems to drop off in the 3rd act was disappointing.

    The combat system was fairly meh. I liked the idea of engagement, but the enemy AI was never really up to making it interesting. And difficulty wise it started out quite challenging but too quickly turned too easy.

    The stronghold was rubbish, and too blatantly only existed because it made an attractive stretch goal for the Kickstarter. And on the subject of the Kickstarter, the way they incorporated Kickstarter rewards into the game was jarring.

    Oh, and crafting was rubbish. Admittedly crafting is always rubbish, but in this game the regular items were pretty lame if you ignored the crafting too.

    • Zekiel says:

      Agreed on almost all counts – I thought the combat was actually pretty good, just annoying that the per-encounter powers meant you did the same thing in lots of combats. I think the game would be improved significantly simply by cutting about 50% of the combat encounters, so that you got less bored of per-encounter powers and it wasn’t quite so LOOOOOOONG.

      Can I ask what makes you say the crafting is rubbish? I thought it was functional but unexciting. But then I couldn’t decide whether being able to upgrade magical weapons/armour was a good thing – it meant you could keep the cool sword you found near the beginning throughout the game; on the other hand it kind of discouraged me from experimenting with different weapons I found.

      • Wulfram says:

        Possibly I was too harsh on the crafting. It was just bland and flavourless, and helped make finding magic items less interesting

  19. Fnord73 says:

    Im just one third into Witcher 3, so it may be that its a sharp downturn from here, but its the first time in many years Ive actually felt like, you know, roleplaying. So unless you unlock a special category for it, it has to be GTY if its not the best RPG?

    Goddamn, the choices. I let a werewolf kill his wifes sister, just because it felt like Geralds kind of justice…

    • Zenicetus says:

      That’s the decision I made too about the werewolf, and it’s why this game is so great. Don’t worry about what RPS says about it or anyone else, just enjoy the ride. It’s the best game of this type that I’ve played in the last several years.

      CDPR has perfected their formula, and it will be interesting to see what they do in a cyberpunk world for the next one. Big shoes to fill, but at least its their own shoes.

  20. frobishlumpkin says:

    Grieving Mother. Goodness, she was a good companion.

  21. Cropduster says:

    This is comfortably my favorite game this year.

    I must heartily thank Obsidian for having the balls to make it. I think it’s alienated a lot of RPG fans who aren’t into the Infinity engine/D&D mechanics (or at least the anally retentive levels of micromanagement). It’s been an amazing year (or 2) for nostalgic returns to classic CRPGs but pillars is one for the ages imo.

    Thank god and kickstarter this exists.

  22. groovychainsaw says:

    I kinda bounced off this after a few hours (maybe 10?). I think being time-poor these days doesn’t help, and having played ALL the infinity engine games in the past made me feel like there was a lack of innovation – which is no surprise really, just deflected me. The combat was really boring, the plot was just about interesting enough, but not enough to stop me wandering on to the next shiny thing.

    For comparison, I only discovered divinity with its enhanced edition recently, which strikes me as truly brilliant and innovative in a number of ways that PoE isn’t.

    As others have said, it would have been nice to see what they could have done here with turn-based, rather than the dated real time with pause, which is a halfway house that isn’t very satisfying (for me).

  23. guygodbois00 says:

    So, Fallolout 4, best shooter of 2015 – confirmed.

  24. waltC says:

    I like PoE and I’ll pick up the final expansion in the game…but the most succinct observation I have is that while PoE drags quite often, W3 rarely does…which I find amazing, frankly. W3 has elevated the art of the CRPG far beyond anything that has gone before–it is a triumph, really. While PoE appears to have only marginally interested its developers during creation, it’s obvious in W3 that CDPR poured its heart & soul into the game’s development. There’s no way that in any contest W3 might fail to come out on top. I do like PoE, absolutely; I like a lot of games. But W3 is a watershed.