E3 2014: Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity

We were invited to take part in the preview of Pillars of Eternity. I was fortunate and grateful to see this game, and I was vaguely aware of the Kickstarter when I heard Obsidian Entertainment was developing something special. For those unfamiliar with Obsidian Entertainment, some of these veteran developers were derived from Black Isle Studios, famously known for the Baldur’s Gate PC series of games that helped make BioWare a household name (at least among RPG players). They recently developed South Park: The Stick of Truth which received much respect in the gaming community (including ours) and is available on STEAM. Prior to this, they were recognized for Neverwinter Nights 2 and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2. Like BioWare, Obsidian Entertainment is recognized for its dedication to quality and narrative. While I’ve had my gripes to the ending-style of either Neverwinter Nights 2 and Knights of the Old Republic 2 for being pure text-based, there was something specific about Pillars of Eternity which makes this text emphasis a strength more than anything!

PoE-RPG04Executive Producer and Programmer Adam Brennecke, gave us the scoop and guided us through a live demonstration of the game. Pillars of Eternity is a fantasy RPG in the tradition of Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, developed using an engine that was inspired by the original Infinity Engine which made the aforementioned titles such a hit. This particular game engine possesses some of the details which pays homage to that engine, like the pulsing selection circles. The pulsing selection circles, people! I don’t know, I was pretty excited about those selection circles. And like all tactical real-time RPGs, it gives players the opportunity to pause and shift tactics in mid-combat.

PoE-RPG03The great thing about the UI design of this game is that the control panel is mostly at the bottom of the window, allowing you to take in the art design and action. Because, I swear, the early Infinity Engine games suffered with being so close to the characters that I could not fully appreciate the game. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved it overall, it’s a preference that was later corrected in later versions like Baldur’s Gate 2 and Icewind Dale 2. Anyway, vast improvements design-wise compared to the Infinity Engine, and this one allows for full 3D. The UI can be customized to your taste, so don’t feel like you’re stuck!

PoE-RPG02In this world of Eora, the demo placed you in the Eastern Reach. You’re traveling with a caravan, setting up camp by some ancient ruins (as if that was ever an amazing idea, but its a great start). There are illustrated moments in the game that offer story and interaction that can’t easily be emulated in the main game setup. In these illustrated moments your disposition/reputation and skills can alter your options available. It possesses a strong “Choose Your Own Adventure” mechanic, expanding on the elements once subtly used in earlier games of this type. To note, the game’s rule system is built from scratch, so this isn’t a Dungeons & Dragons system, but it is reformed, refined and derived from their experiences. If you’re curious, the size of this world is between Baldur’s Gate 1 and the immensity that was Baldur’s Gate 2.

PoE-RPG01At character creation, you have five base races: Human, Aumaua, Dwarf, Elf, and Orlan. With a Godlike template which can augment the prior five races, you’ll get to overlay a template of some of the world’s gods. There are eleven classes: Barbarian, Chanter, Cipher, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Priest, Ranger, Rogue, and Wizard. There are elaborate background options to customize your origin which channel through your adventure, customizing elements of your journey tailored specifically for you (and not just some minor side-quest that offers no major impact). As mentioned in the Kickstarter, you have 8 fully scripted companions available to you on your journey. But if you don’t like your companions’ setup, you have the opportunity to visit the Adventure Hall, where you can create custom characters to fit your gameplay. These custom characters are unscripted and are reminiscent of the custom party you would use in the Icewind Dale games.

I’m not too excited about a lot of games, but for all my research, enjoyment of tabletop RPGs, the work of Obsidian Entertainment, and the nostalgia of these kind of games, I’m really looking forward to this one. Pillars of Eternity will be released later 2014 for Windows PC, Macintosh OS X, and Linux, with distribution via Steam and GOG (DRM-free).

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Jaynesis Ong
Jaynesis Ong 162 posts

He is currently a graphics designer by trade, illustrator for indie games, fashionisto, film production assistant, socialite, sampler of fine music, and taster of various new MMO games. JB likes destructive walks on the beach, visceral plot points, maniacal villains, and collapsing galactic empires.

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