Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Review
Following the hugely successful Project Eternity Kickstarter campaign, the development team at Obsidian Entertainment once again hopes to thrust players into the RPG worlds of yesteryear with the release of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. As the RPG genre continues to grow and evolve into more action orientated experiences, is there still space for the nostalgic approach to the RPG environment, or is Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire an unwanted relic of days gone by?
Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire Review
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire builds on its predecessor in every way imaginable. An isometric turn-based RPG inspired by the roots of the genre combines itself with the versatile nature of the modern RPG. Those that played the original will see their loyalty and passion rewarded within moments. A deep and customized history feature accompanies an impressive character creation system with as many classes as there are hairstyles (at least it felt that way). However, this is not your character’s first rodeo. Whether you import a save file, pick a ready-to-go history or create your own, many of the decisions made in your past venture carry weight and impact even in this new world of exploration.
The original Pillars of Eternity tested your moral compass with choice after choice. From the death of a stranger to the fate of the world, Obsidian Entertainment pulled no punches and delivered a true system of choice and consequence. That system continues, literally, in Pillars of Eternity II with the choices made in the past game continuing to influence the characters, story, and events in the new one. Combined with the abundance of new choices and impacting decisions promises to offer a unique and catered experience to nearly every single player.
Many of the standout features from the original return bigger and better than ever. Graphically, the game is gorgeous. The new water effects compliment the open ocean exploration, while the gentle swaying of bushes and trees creates for an entirely different aesthetic deep in the jungle areas. New features help to extinguish some of the more fires of frustration set by its predecessor, with multiple new options aimed at speeding up and streamlining simple processes such as menu navigation and exploration.
Where Pillars of Eternity II differs mostly from the original is the introduction of your own ship. Very early in the story, you are given a vessel and a ragtag crew with which to manage it. There are nearly no limitations on exploration, meaning you can spend 10-15 hours just fighting other ships and discovering uncharted islands – which you get to name yourself. The game has four times as many ships as the disappointingly mundane Sea of Thieves, and each offers a vast array of customization options and upgrades. Furthermore, crew members can be recruited from towns and side quests, or discovered stranded on distant islands. Whether it’s a new companion, a new crew member, or some great new equipment, exploration in Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is, at its pinnacle, rewarding and exciting from the first chest to the very last.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire’s real trump card is its combat. A combination of real-time and turn-based strategy combat, players are free to manipulate the action in real-time or pause the action to better select strategies and abilities. My initial experience with the combat system was a frustrating one. The game wastes little time in throwing tutorial-type boxes at you, explaining many mechanics of the deep and complex combat system but exposing players to this in such a fast a furious fashion leaves a lot of room for error. For the first 5-10 hours, I was able to get by purely on numbers, choosing my battles carefully and making sure I took out healers and other support characters first. However, it wasn’t long before a more skilled approach was required, and I’m not ashamed to admit, I fell at this hurdle many times.
There are a plethora of mechanics to learn, inspirational buffs, debuffs, action delays, cast time, and five different types of defensive stat. It is a system that could easily devour a players will to proceed, but if you can push through that barrier, a gloriously strategic and rewarding combat system awaits. What began is an exhausting and frustrating experience on the field of battle flourished into one of its best designed features, with enough depth and complexity to ensure each and every battle is as exciting as the last. Those that have yet to sample the isometric styled RPGs of the late 90s may feel unfamiliar and confused with the environment of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, but passion to push through will reveal a true gem of strategic combat.
Outside of the more challenging aspects of the game, Pillars of Eternity II is supported by a stellar story and excellent voice acting throughout. While it often didn’t feel as fleshed out and as dark as the original, taking a different direction does not detract from the overall experience whatsoever.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is not for everyone. The web of intertwining features and mechanics are as deep as they are complicated, but for those looking for more from their RPGs – more character, more wonder, more life – Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is a fantastic homage to the true roots of the RPG genre.