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Pillars Of Eternity: Aspiring To CPRG Greatness And Falling Short

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Pillars Of Eternity is a game I've put 90 hours into across the last month-and-a-half. Rookie numbers compared to some of you, but for me that's a huge commitment. At its best, Pillars Of Eternity is an enthralling RPG experience that gets its hook deep into you, one I played for 7 hours straight on my days off. At its worst, it feels bloated with unnecessary hampering to the main story and inconsequential regarding the choices you make.

One of the things I most looked forward to in Pillars was the additional dialogue options—and it didn't disappoint there. The reputation system is engaging at first. But it becomes apparent that really, the extent of your reputation is characters mentioning every so often they've heard you're cruel, or honest. For me, I had an additional motive – my Pale Elf character, Raydruhl, was a Gold Pact Knight which meant he was loyal to money. I was warned going against the reputations associated with such a character would hurt me.

But it didn't.

There are quests that have many potential resolutions. And others that feel like they shoehorn you into the same outcome no matter what. As a game that had a good mix of text and voiced dialogue, however, I was hoping the world felt more reactionary to my choices.

None is the worse offender than Act II, where no matter what you decide on Animancy, or whether you can convince the Duc to side with you or not, he's assasinated and the entire city of Defiance Bay sinks into chaos. You don't even find out the "outcome" until the ending slides.

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Still, when you do get choices, black-and-white is a gross overexaggeration of what happens. Many times, these are gray choices with compelling arguments to be made for every outcome. Those were my favorites.

Combat was . . . combat. I'm a bit foreign to real time with pause, and I generally am of the camp that turn-based works better just because there's so much to juggle. It isn't bad—but I debated cranking it down to easy and powering through the more difficult encounters more than once (though I didn't).

In contrast to most of the opinions I see online, I enjoyed the beginning of the game the most. Gilded Vale was probably my favorite setting in the entire game (though The White March DLC easily equaled the heights of the game for me.) Defiance Bay opened strong but devolved into a stagnant course of busywork with random quests, and Twin Elms didn't last long enough for me to form much of an opinion one way or the other.

The characters and writing range from mediocre to great, at times. The story isn't anything special but I found the care that the world was treated with to be engrossing to the point where I read a fair bit of the in-game notes and books. Companions aren't near Bioware-level, but the stronger written ones (Hiravias, Aloth, Eder) are both layered and nuanced in how they reveal themselves over the course of the game, all coming with their own respective backgrounds and companion quests where you can influence them.

Pillars Of Eternity harkens back to the heights of CRPG. Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, the old Fallout games. Yet as someone who never experienced any of them, I found myself drawing more comparisons to Dragon Age: Origins and my time with Wasteland 2.

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Though Pillars doesn't extend beyond Origins (which was lightning in a bottle, the longer I reflect on it—and also a fantastic bridge for RPG fans to try out the CPRG genre). But it's certainly better than Wasteland 2, which I bailed on after 20 hours, and I enjoyed it enough to finish the DLC all the way through.

It's got rough edges and a bloated story. The combat grinds on you for a while. Yet, I kept coming back for more. And I'm glad I saw it through. I have my issues with it—but the ending slides gave me the reactivity I craved from the game itself, and I found myself content and happy as the credits rolled.



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