Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part II (PC) Review

By Jordan Hurst 26.03.2016

Review for Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part II on PC

The quality of Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part II is conveyed right in its title. It's an expansion for Pillars of Eternity, so it will have complex, gripping gameplay and an authentic, mature narrative, and it's also the conclusion of the White March saga, so it's destined to be the more exciting but less novel of the pair of expansions. It's fairly obvious that The White March would have been one big release if budget wasn't an issue; the two halves complement each other nicely, making the experience markedly better when played as a whole. Individually enjoyable, but inessential diversions, they each feel like they are missing some pieces.

With the expansion's narrative structure split in two, this instalment is about 75% climax, and this is easily its greatest asset. Rather than messing around with scenes of preparation and mystery regarding a nebulous ancient threat, Part II centres on confrontations with said threat. The result is a plot that is not only more engaging than that of its partner, but also more appropriate within the framework of the main storyline. The enemy here actually feels threatening enough to justify the protagonist taking a massive detour from its quest to deal with them, as opposed to the premise of Part I, which was only informed by idle curiosity and the cursory inclusion of the main plot's antagonists.

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part II on PC

As always, the cerebral, poetic writing allows the story to ascend beyond the quality of most fantasy RPGs, this time by seemingly setting the ending up for a literal deus ex machina and then skilfully subverting that path soon after. On the subject of deities, Pillars of Eternity's excellent world-building always felt a little like wasted effort, particularly where the setting's very important god characters were concerned. While The White March as a whole does a great job of including some of the additional geographies and cultures of Eora in its events, Part II, in particular, fills in some gaps related to the more underdeveloped gods.

The inherent intensity of a plot composed almost entirely of grand finale also leads to some of the best combat encounters in the game, and that includes the base title. The first appearance of the new antagonists - which is announced (at least in the version used for review) by one of them effortlessly kicking a party member across the screen - is the brightest highlight, while the runner-up is a side-quest that culminates in the largest skirmish Pillars of Eternity has to offer. Aside from these individual moments, the remarkable new locations (including a temple built around the bones of a fallen giant) help make the smaller conflicts more interesting, as well.

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part II on PC

Noticeably, however, all of the most exhilarating battles happen either in the first half of the plot, or in side-quests, unbound by linear progression. Indeed, The White March Part II seems to have been further divided between a gameplay-focused introduction and a story-focused resolution. One of the problems with Part I was that its level-scaling feature (necessary since it canonically took place mid-game) didn't seem to account for late-game equipment. This second release seems to have amended that situation, but only for its first few hours. At that point, the player is given a special weapon that's so adept at killing the previously menacing villains that they may as well drop dead as soon as you round the corner. The final boss is a joke, as well, thanks to its pathetic defensive stats.

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part II on PC

These design decisions are unfortunate, but the real fault that softens any recommendation of The White March Part II into only a tentative one is that its well of original ideas was already soaked dry by its predecessor, making it less of an expansion and more of a mission pack. There's some UI streamlining, some useful additional qualities for the Athletics and Survival skills, and some unique stronghold adventures that give unused party members something worthwhile to do, but all of these are merely alterations to existing features. The only truly new features are "knockout injuries" (status effects received upon returning from unconsciousness and removed by resting) and an additional, totally uninteresting controllable character, neither of which are really selling points.

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part II on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

The first part of The White March wasn't exactly a bastion of innovation, so fans who were satisfied with it will certainly enjoy this conclusion, as it is undoubtedly the better of the two halves, regardless of its steps toward stagnation. It's telling that, despite having already put around 100 hours into the first two Pillars of Eternity releases, this one was still thoroughly enthralling enough to sink in another 10-15.

Developer

Obsidian Entertainment

Publisher

Paradox Interactive

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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