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Pillars of Eternity / 04th April 2015

Hey guys, remember Baldur’s gate?! No, I imagine most of you won't. I myself only actually got round to playing it about six months ago, and even then it was Beamdog's Enhanced Edition. But honestly, it’s really, really good. It’s interesting, deep and full of likeable characters which clearly laid the groundwork for games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, but it has aged pretty poorly. Luckily, the kings of these slightly janky but wonderfully interesting RPGs have gone and made a game with the help of Kickstarter. It's called Pillars of Eternity, and it's the best way to get a Baldur's Gate style experience without having to prostrate yourself on the altar of second edition Dungeons and Dragons.
But as is my habit, I'm going to start with the bad. The game is pretty buggy. It has a number of game breaking bugs (at one point I had to delete part of my save file to continue the game). It's an Obsidian game, we all should've seen this coming I suppose, but to their credit, they are working hard on various fixes as we speak. It's also a bit obtuse, while it does have tips for new players, the most frustrating bug I've experienced so far is a glitch where the sound of a tip popping up loops indefinitely until you close the game. Even with these tips it's still very dense and muddy, you can't even realistically come to it with the foreknowledge of Infinity Engine games and know what you're doing as it's a well-balanced but mostly new ruleset.

But persevere and you will learn. It's a game where you feel a touch of pride when you learn how it works, and if you're not really here for that kind of experience then you can lower the difficulty and play it like a modern RPG, one where stats don't matter and you're just here to talk to people or something. It's not going to have massive draw to most people, but everyone should try it just to be sure. If you look past the obscure systems that take a bit of work to learn, and the ‘Obsidian-esque’ bugs, then there's so, so much to love.
Pillars of Eternity is a stunningly beautiful game in places, Infinity Engine games were known for their beautiful pre-rendered environments and Pillars brings that beauty up to the modern standards of graphical fidelity. It's so charming and pretty I barely know how to describe it. The character models - while less detailed, look just like those lovely 2D sprites that Infinity Engine games have always had, they've got a lot of charm too and it suits the game very well. It's a very attractive game in its own way, it's not The Order 1886, but it doesn't want to be, and is something very special.

The problem I'm facing writing this is so much of what's good about the game is a bit unquantifiable. It's smartly written, it's a completely original setting, although obviously it has some fantasy tropes such as Dwarves and Elves (however, interestingly enough, the Dwarves and Elves aren't being treated as sub-humans, as seems to be the trend these days). It has loveable companions who have some genuinely funny banter, and complete with their own stories and backgrounds that are actually interesting to learn about. A big filthy love note to the Baldur's Gates, Icewind Dales, and the pre-3D Fallouts, Pillars is so heartfelt and endearing that if it said; ‘I love you Baldur's gate, will you marry me?’ Then I severely doubt Baldur's Gate would be able to say anything but yes.
It may be tough to learn all those rules and complexities for some, but Pillars’ combat is also a hell of a lot of fun to play with (though I recommend playing on the harder settings at least, if you're into this kind of thing). It's extremely satisfying to win a tough battle by using your brain and the resources your particular party of adventurers brings to the table. It's also enormous and has a mountain of stuff to do. Back when I worked in a game store, we had a regular who obviously liked a lot of game for his money; ‘is it a big game like?’ was always his first question. And good lord Pillars is a big game, it evaporated seventeen hours of my life over the weekend in what felt like a couple of casual play sessions, they should've called it Pillars of Enormity if you ask me. I might have lost my weekend, but screw you, I killed a fucking dragon, and I was a million times more satisfied than Skyrim ever managed to make me feel about dragon murder.

I can't credit this game enough for being an old school PC RPG masterwork, and everyone should give it a few hours of their time, even if they think they won't like it, you never know, it might change your mind. It’s just a shame about all those bugs, and the fact that it’s a bit tough to get into, otherwise I'd have no problem recommending it at full price to everyone. As it stands, Pillars of Eternity is really not for everyone, and it's definitely not for people with plenty of full-time commitments. If you're not sure it's for you, and you're worried about the bugs, then give it a few months, get it in a Steam sale once it's been patched. But please, I implore you, don’t overlook it now and then forget about it later. This is the modern day equivalent of what made those original computer RPGs. The legacy this game carries is the reason games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age exist. It's the child of kings and you should kneel before this prince and kiss its ring.

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