Role-playing games have been a big part of the gaming world since Dungeons & Dragons popularized the genre in the 1970s. The evolution of pen and paper RPGs into the more action oriented, first person RPGs of today was a natural one. During that time, gamers have seen Japanese role-playing games, live action RPG’s, and massively multiplayer online games, just to name a few entries.
In 2015, the rpg Pillars of Eternity was released to widespread acclaim. Pillars was a PC game that wore its influences on its sleeve with a real time/pause combat mechanic dependent on dice rolls instead of reflexes. Strategy was more important than spray and pray gunplay and the story was rich and multifaceted instead of a short campaign seemingly tacked onto a multiplayer game.
While the game was a huge hit, critics showered the game with praise, and gamers called it revolutionary, one group was conspicuously silent. Pillars of Eternity was a PC exclusive. Console gamers were unable to play what was being called the “greatest RPG ever.” It would be over two years before this would change. In June of this year, Paradox Interactive announced that Pillars of Eternity along with its expansion would be coming to consoles. How does one of the most cherished CRPGs of all time handle the transition to the PlayStation 4? Does Pillars of Eternity live up to the hype?
Creating your character in an RPG is one of the most important and fun aspects of the game. Class, skills, and, most importantly, a name are just a part of the creation process. Pillars does not give its player the option to have their character look like Hulk Hogan, but the character creator is deep. Almost too deep. Along with choosing your class and skills, but there are also options for race and sub race, which god you follow, what order you are pledged to, and what you believe in. You also choose your background and where you are from. And yes, you also pick a name.
Before the game even begins, it seems overwhelming, and it is. Upon starting, the player learns that their choices mean something and it is clear that each choice matters. This is not a game that gives the illusion of choice and consequence. Instead, what you say, do, and even where you are from makes a difference to the people in the world.
Meaningful choices are not the only area where Pillars excels. The writing is well done and Pillars is filled with amazing characters. The characters can be mysterious, funny, annoying, are multidimensional and have complex motivations. The White March expansion is included in the Complete Edition giving console gamers more potential party members than PC gamers initially have. Much like Witcher 3, Pillars also gives the player interesting side quests that add the gameworld’s allure.
Controls are definitely an issue for console gamers. The port was expertly done and the options menu is as deep as the game. You are able to customize everything form how long it takes tooltips to pop up to how much your companions speak. What may throw console gamers off is the number of menus. On a PC where we expertly navigate between tabs, windows, and different social media pages, this is far less noticeable. On the console, however, it can be difficult to remember which trigger brings up the combat radial, which brings up the character radial, which button is to pause combat, which direction is to slow down gameplay, and so forth. Paradox Interactive made this as intuitive and easy as they possibly could. The picture of the controller layout shown repeatedly during loading screens shows that the developers knew this would be a complex game.
Pillars is not an ugly game, but the graphics will not blow any one away either. Pillars of Eternity is more about character and story than it is about how it looks. Any differences between PC and consoles is negligible. One thing that may throw off console gamers is the lack of camera movement. Pillars is an isometric game that is essentially on a 2D painting. The camera does not spin around since there is nothing to spin around. This can lead to some poor camera angles, especially during combat. The character portraits are also beautifully done, but do tend to become repeats in different color palettes.
Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition is not perfect. The biggest issue with the game is sound. The score can be beautiful. It fits the game perfectly. The battle music is especially good. Unfortunately, it is also sporadic. Music comes in and out for seemingly no reason. Sometimes when a new area loads music will begin only to abruptly end, leaving only ambient sounds. This is fine until the music just starts up again with no apparent cue. Voice acting is also spotty. It definitely is not bad and there are some standouts but it fails to live up to the writing. Writing this good deserves to have better than typical RPG voice acting. This may be more of a comment on the top notch writing than it is on the voice acting, however.
Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition is an excellent game. The story is engrossing, the characters are memorable, and the gameplay is fun. If you already own Pillars and The White March on PC, then there are not enough differences on console to warrant a new purchase. For PlayStation 4 owners though, Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition is a must buy.