Pillars of Eternity 2 video examines city life


Dungeons are sometimes great and I guess dragons are OK every once in a while, but if I’m going to spend hundreds of hours in a fantasy world, I want to explore a big old city and mingle with its inhabitants for at least a few of those hours. Perhaps I haven’t been paying enough attention to Pillars of Eternity II [official site], but I thought its archipelago setting might mean smaller settlements and monster isles without any talkative inhabitants whatsoever. How pleasing it is, then, to see precisely the kind of big old city I want to visit in the latest update video. It’s called Neketaka, a name I will always enjoy saying out loud but will almost certainly mangle the vowels of every time I write it down.

Is it OK to be really excited about Pillars of Eternity II if I still haven’t played the expansion(s) for Pillars of Eternity I? I hope so because that’s precisely the boat I’m in. And being in a boat is a big part of the sequel’s appeal. Rather than plodding around a continent, your party (let’s call them a crew; a party crew on a party boat) are sailing around the archipelago, and there’s ship-to-ship combat as well as new ships to acquire.

And there’s a city to explore and loads of ways to wind up or mollify the locals. Let’s take a look at Neketaka:

The street magician segment has given me an idea. What if my party crew all get jobs as street performers – one of them could be a living statue, one can juggle, and maybe a fire-breather? – and forget about the main quest entirely. We need to find Neketaka’s equivalent of the South Bank and claim a spot, pronto. And when the street performers guild starts muscling in our territory, we’ll head back to Party Boat and make our escape. That’s the plan.

This may explain why I never finish epic RPGs. I look forward to not finishing Pillars II when it comes out next year.


  1. Cronstintein says:

    I sincerely hope this follows a BG1->BG2 trajectory rather than DA:0->DA2. I had issues with the first game but there’s potential in the series if they learn from their mistakes.

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    SoundDust says:

    Somehow my favourite moments of PoE were when it broke into that storybook mode, with a description of a challenge of sorts and the multiple choices and skill tests. I was a bit disappointed that there were only 2 or 3 of those bits when I played it through..

    • TomxJ says:

      If that’s you’re bag I would sincerly recommend you fiddle about with a few Merecasters in Torment: Tides of Numenera.

    • Fade2Gray says:

      From what the devs have said, it sounds like those choose-you-own-adventure style moments are supposed to play a much larger role this time around.

      It also sounds like the new Pathfinder CRPG has similar plans.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      I think there were a dozen or so in the original game, but many were in optional sidequests. In the White March DLCs they expanded on them a lot. In the original you might have 3 choices, one which was clearly superior –
      a) Try to climb wall with vines.
      b) Use grappling hook (greyed out if you didn’t have one)
      c) Walk away.

      In White March you might for instance run into a burning house and see an unconcious man further into the house beyond a wall of flames, and you got one of these branching over several choices, the first being.
      Try to:
      a) Find another way around (Perception)
      b) Run through the flames (Athletics/Stamina)
      c) Direct the flames away from the man (Fire Godlike)
      d) Put out the flames with Winter Wind (Druid)
      e) Rifle through nearest drawer for valuables to steal (Lore)
      f) Order a companion to save the man
      g) Leave the house, abandoning the man to his fate

      So you could get special choices depending on your race, class, attributes, skills, items, companions, and very different outcomes. It felt almost like a few pages of Lone Wolf.

  3. lolpaca says:

    On paper, Pillars of Eternity is just my sort of thing, but I’ve always found the system unnecessarily complicated and off-putting. It’s like they started with D&D rules, then made a series of bad choices to make it different, and ended up at something that’s neither intuitive nor particularly deep.

    It’s a shame cos I really do love everything else about it – the writing, the art, the world in general – but I also like a nice well-designed system underpinning it all.

    • Fade2Gray says:

      My experience with the game is that it falls into a sort of D&D-uncanny-valley. If you’re familiar with D&D (or D20 in general) rules, then there’s just enough difference to be off putting and confusing as you try to unlearn some of what you know about those rule-sets while holding on to other bits.

      If you manage to let go of your expectations, some of the changes start to make more sense (rolling a higher to-hit number means doing more damage and vise-versa) but others can still seem odd (what exactly is Might supposed to represent if it increased both melee and magic damage).

      • lolpaca says:

        Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. IMO a system that has 8 kinds of damage, 4 kinds of defense and 2 types of health has gone a bit sideways in terms of design somewhere.

        I just never can figure out offhand where I should be plopping stats and what kind of armour I should be wearing without referring to the wiki, which quickly becomes a chore. A bit more streamlining and simplicity, or just better communication of how all its fiddly little bits fit together would work wonders.

    • Rizlar says:

      Yeah, it always felt like PoE was held back by adherence to it’s roots, perhaps due to nostalgia or just simple necessity? Not just the stats/combat but some stilted visual elements and godawful hammy voice acting too. When they try something different it feels far more successful, and games like Divinity: Original Sin set a high bar for modern RPGs in lots of the elements PoE falls down on (such as combat).

      That said, PoE is an absolutely fantastic game. I’m super excited about Deadfire as it seems to be doing everything I wanted from a sequel. The clunk doesn’t matter when the story and the world are so glorious.

    • mactier says:

      I don’t think it is all that dramatic. It is certainly more successful in that regard than Dragon Age. I actually think the game is just a little boring. And that is not simply, only the system’s fault (which I think is overall okay), but of some of the story design, but also a tricky balance in rationalising the setting and keeping the magic and appeal of D&D. There also it was significantly more successful than Dragon Age, but one can see the seams too often, and there is a certain lack in mystery. Which however I think can be expanded on as the world is more fleshed out and becomes more complex and deep.

  4. Purdurabo says:

    I tried so hard to like POE but unfortunately just bounced off it on multiple occasions mostly due to the combat, which just felt flat and uninteresting.

    • wombat191 says:

      Ive got 100 hours in pillars and a good 40-50 of those are restarting with a new character as i understand more about the system

      • mactier says:

        Same here about the character creation process. It was trial and error to find a mixture between being a capable independent unit as well as in support and as good as possible in all the character and dialogue stuff (which somewhat luckily, but also trickily is crossed over with anything else).

    • Blackcompany says:

      You did better than me. I backed it, and then somewhere between the time I backed it, and the time I received it, the way I looked at games and gaming changed. Significantly.

      Enough so that I installed it, created a character or what have you, and launched the game.

      Then I saw, “You have diarrhea. Go collect berries to make a potion.”

      Nope. Done here. Uninstalled it and never looked back. I mean…go collect berries? REALLY? Its not quite kill ten rats, but it might as well be.

      PoE is the video game equivalent of one of those overly complicated-for-the-sake-of-it Fantasy sagas whose authors think they are twice as clever as they really are. Its probably pretty good…if you can get through the 50 page Prologue required to build the world and the background and the lore it takes just to make the story work in the first place.

      Unfortunately…I’m one of those people who, when they open up a sample of a fantasy novel, if I see the word “Prologue” where Chapter 1 ought to be, I just close it and delete it. I already know where its headed and Ive walked down that road a 100 times. No need to go down it again, and PoE made me feel exactly this way again.

      • Skandranon says:

        That seems…odd. It’s basically a two minute long tutorial.

        And you don’t even have to do it. You can murder everyone in the area instead, the game will cheerfully call you a psychopath and then you moove on.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It wasn’t the greatest combat design I’ve seen, but I managed to deal with it enough to finish the game. Didn’t buy the DLC though, because it just wasn’t THAT good.

      There were some odd design decisions that didn’t work well, like the “sticky” engagement mechanic, and the way they changed how stealth worked, very different from the classic D&D invisible stealth mode. Also they padded out the game with low-level mook encounters when traveling, and that got old.

      I know people complained about all that, so maybe it will be improved in the new one. I want to read some reviews on this one before jumping into it.

      • MikoSquiz says:

        I thought the combat was mostly fine, one exception being the oldest D&D CRPG pitfall, clerics with 200 abilities ready to go at all times. There’s such a thing as giving the player too many options. In general, too, there were always 40-odd different things you could do at any time, which usually leads to an unsatisfying routine of use this ability, have this guy go here, use that ability, repeat for every battle.

        My biggest problem with the game was that there was too much of everything. Hundreds of pages of text, with that lovely “more words = better” mentality on display, a fresh half-dozen combats around every single corner, just in general a portion of two hundred meatballs and 100lb of mashed potato dumped into a big trough. Here, have a spoon.

        I’d love to see this kind of effort put to first making the game system, then making a dozen smaller stories. Especially if the developer is dreadfully keen to dump a huge amount of lore, so they don’t have to do it through an irrelevant eighty-paragraph Captain Exposition conversation with every character you meet and giant blocks of text about geography when you’re just trying to build a hot-headed ranger who specializes in dual wielding.

        • Rizlar says:

          Wasn’t that what Tyranny was supposed to be, a short game with high replayability and lots of different branches to the story? But then they couldn’t resist turning it into a good ol’ fashioned fifty+ hour monstrosity. :P

          Personally I have no problem with the amount of text in PoE. It’s the best part! And if not in the mood I’m absolutely fine with leaving dialogue options unexplored/walking straight past people you can click on/leaving books unopened on the shelf. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  5. Clarksworth says:

    Maybe I’m unusual, but I’ve always dreaded city segments in RPG’s. So much of it boils down to “walk to all the places and click through all the dialogue with all of the people”. And deal with weird pathing issues and bizarre stair mazes, and loading screens, and quests where you need to find some NPC and talk to them again, even though the quest text suggests nothing of the sort, or worse, (like in The Witcher 1), quests that don’t advance until you do something unrelated.

    Also: the most pointless-feeling side quests are always in the city. Always. If there’s a quest to click on ten chickens, or to get annoyed by some drunken trickster for XP: it’ll be in a city.

    And PoE’s city was one of the worst of these in recent memory. (Although, overall, I really dug PoE, I could not wait to click on enough people to get out of the city.) From the video, it seems like the “Gamebook” style adventures might help relieve some of the tedium.

    The original Torment did better. Since dialogue was the point of the game. But even there, I remember a fair bit of aimless wandering around buildings trying to find whoever I hadn’t clicked on to make the story go again.

    For my taste, Tyranny managed to make the city-like locations small enough, that you don’t get too bogged down in them, and the choices you make in them consequential enough to hold my attention.

    • Coretex says:

      I feel similarly but I think it is a result of player efficiency exacerbated by the game design.

      When we end up in a city there are naturally many people and thus many quests. Even if people send you away from the city for things it makes sense to collect all of the quests before heading out to do them. Thus the walking about and clicking on folks.

      I don’t know what they can do to resolve it when the natural alternative (chained quests) just means a lot of back and forth to the city which would be just as tiresome. Or have a small section of the city represent the whole, which leaves the city feeling unexplored and underdeveloped.

  6. Coretex says:

    I really enjoyed PoE and I am looking forward to PoE2. What I want most from this sequel is better music. Playing BG and BG2 there is brilliant impactful music most of the way through, and the moments with naught but wildlife sounds are the more powerful because of them. I can hum the menu music even now and used to sit on the main menu before character creation just to hear to the end.

    In contrast PoE music seemed too gentle and soft, even the track in the video above (which was a common track in the game). More tracks with more emotion in them would elevate the game to Nostalgia tier BG2 for me and I hope they give the sound track plenty of attention this time around.

  7. BewareTheJabberwock says:

    To me, the original PoE was the best game I’d played in ages. I was very quick to back the Fig-starter for Deadfire (and I signed up for the future DLC, as well). The White March expansions were great, adding, basically, more content. And the Foundry, which was great, without making your characters overpowered (altho I admit I didn’t take on any of the new companions nor quite finish all the bits of part 2, where normally I’m a completionist on these things).
    And so many people complain about the combat, but I found it fairly intuitive, interesting, and challenging — oft times too hard. But one thing I liked was that you can’t just charge thru each dungeon to the finish, then move on. You have to go elsewhere and do other things (that aren’t grinding, for the most part) and come back later. The Endless Paths are a perfect example.
    Quite looking forward to Deadfire. It has boats.

    • GuyNice says:

      I’ll echo your praise for PoE. The original was vastly improved by patches and the DLC. If you consider yourself at all a fan of cRPG’s and bounced off the original around launch, I heartily recommend giving it another go. Whether you get the expansions or not (you should if you get back into the game, as they are wonderful), the patching has improved the game immensely in many areas, such as extensive character balancing, encounter redesign/removal, bug fixing, experience curve rebalancing, etc. It really is a vastly improved experience, and the best cRPG ever made for my money (infinity engine, NWN1&2, D:OS veteran).

      With the way PoE2 is shaping up, I couldn’t be more excited to play it.

      • Someoldguy says:

        The one thing I hope they handle better is charm and domination. They are such an immense pain in the arse in PoE because the engine treats your spell touched companions as enemies.

  8. kins.akd says:

    I’ve been wondering if I’d should give Pillars of Eternity a go, but I’m not sure if it’d be my kind of game. I mean, I love fantasy, and long stories in those worlds and all, but mostly in books, so it’s just the gameplay I’m unsure about.
    Would you guys recommend this to someone who’s never played an rpg before, not even pen-and-paper? I’ve played Diablo, though, if it counts for something…
    Is the “fighting” part too complex?

    • Someoldguy says:

      Diablo is a single person ‘Action’ RPG so it’s not really a good measure of whether you’d enjoy a full-party RPG in the more traditional style. The only way to find out is to try it, or one of the classic Infinity engine games it harks back to – Baldur’s Gate 1/2, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale 1/2 that have mostly had enhanced editions released in recent years to deal with higher modern screen resolutions and improve the interface.

      Combat is a big part of the game and except in the simplest encounters you will be pausing and issuing orders every few seconds. You may find this comfortable or frustratingly tedious.

      • kins.akd says:

        Yes, I was thinking as much. But as long as you can pause mid-fight then I think I’ll give it a go – I didn’t want to be managing five characters real-time and stressing out about it, I basically want to play a good story. We’ll see =)