Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 29.08.2017

Review for Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition on Xbox One

A soldier whose name nobody remembers, a fearless warrior trying to escape a dark past. Or maybe she's just a bored noble acting out the part of a mercenary. Whatever the case, her life was quickly turned upside-down, when her caravan was wiped out by an otherworldly storm. During her escape, she inadvertently witnessed a horrifying ritual. Cultists were sacrificing their souls to power a machine of unknown origin. Though it's worth questioning why this is happening, other, more pressing concerns have become readily apparent. The exposure to energies beyond understanding has…awakened something inside of the survivor. Now she is the Watcher, one who reads souls. With this newfound power, she just might save the Dyrwood, if she doesn't lose her mind first.

Let's start off this review by addressing the elephant in the room: the controls. Much like the Infinity Engine titles that inspired it, Pillars of Eternity was originally designed for the mouse and keyboard. Between the unparalleled versatility and the slick user interface, even the most complex actions are exceedingly easy to carry out. Needless to say, fans had every reason to be sceptical of the console ports. Without the necessary work, a task as simple as moving around could turn out to be extremely frustrating.

Thankfully, those worries can be put to rest. Paragon Interactive has developed a perfectly suitable control scheme for this massive RPG. At first, it can be a little finicky. Various menus, such as the inventory, are accessed via holding down the right trigger, while moving the analogue stick to the desired selection. Spells and other commands require the left trigger to be held down. This aspect of the control scheme is liable to be the most troublesome, but it becomes second nature after a while. Outside of combat, movement is handled superbly. All the player has to do to control their party is move the left stick in the desired direction. During an encounter, the left stick becomes a cursor, allowing for point-and-click commands. The LB and RB buttons select specific party members. Suspicious objects are clearly pointed out, whenever the group gets close to them.

Navigating the menus themselves is a stress free process as well. All of the functions are clearly labelled, so the player knows exactly what buttons to press. Tooltip popups relay all of the appropriate information, so time isn't wasted wondering how X item compares to Y item, or the meaning behind a specific stat. Early on, a handful of tutorials will helpfully guide newcomers through the basics. Anything that might be of interest to them is readily accessible via button prompts. Also, it helps that the developer didn't go out of their way to redesign or "dumb down" the interface. The experience is comparable to the PC version, just with modified controls.

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition on Xbox One

As far as concerns the rest of the game, there's still plenty to discuss. Unquestionably, Pillars of Eternity is a worthwhile venture for RPG fans, particularly those who cut their teeth on Baldur's Gate and its ilk. The Dyrwood is absolutely huge. Each location has more than enough quests to solve and monsters to slay. The average playthrough can last well over sixty hours, and that's not counting the sizable expansion content. Eora is rich with lore and culture. Impactful events are thoroughly documented, and all of the NPCs have their own perspectives to share. Reading about this fully-realized world is almost as engrossing as shaping it directly.

Furthermore, seemingly every decision the main character makes carries at least some weight. Their reputation is determined not by whether they rescue kittens or set fire to senior citizens, but rather the manner in which they conduct themselves. When a hero pushes others around, or draws their sword at the slightest provocation, they become known for their aggression. Conversely, their diplomacy tends to be recognized, if they put forth the effort to resolve conflicts with words. The main character's background can also have an effect on how they approach situations. These aspects of the game not only result in better immersion, but are helpful in building a believable protagonist. A little nuance can go a long way.

Over the course of the Watcher's travels, they're bound to meet and recruit various warriors. These unique individuals have their own background and personality, as well as interesting questlines. Everyone is exceptionally well-written. Their stories are presented with a lot of depth, and change slightly depending on the main character's responses. A couple, such as the enigmatic Grieving Mother, are simply brilliant. Extended conversations will also reveal much of Eora's world and its many diverse inhabitants.

Admittedly, this relentless deluge of information can also be overwhelming. In Obsidian's previous games, the lore was easier to digest, simply because there was more of a familiarity with the source material. For example, most everyone knows about Star Wars, the Jedi, and the Force. In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Obsidian was able to use that cursory knowledge to create a decidedly different take on the subject. They had an opportunity to play with expectations, and took full advantage of it.

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition on Xbox One

Though Pillars of Eternity has basis in the realm of fantasy, there aren't any expectations to subvert. On the surface, it somewhat resembles AD&D, though steeped in an era that evokes the Renaissance. Anyway, it's sometimes hard to tell when and where this RPG deviates from the norm. This makes for a more traditional adventure than one would expect. This isn't so much a complaint as it is an observation. Less patient gamers searching for the "Ah-ha!" moment that pulls the rug out from under them might be a tad annoyed. Considering that a sequel is in the works, it's better to appreciate the slow burn method of storytelling that this entry employs. What's there is really fantastic, so be sure to take the time to soak it all in.

One of the fundamental aspects of a role-playing game is party building. The right combination of classes, the proper gear, certain skills and spells; all of these elements in tandem lend the genre a fantastic sense of progression. The feeling of happening across an exceptionally powerful weapon is just amazing. Unfortunately, those moments are too few and far between here. While there is no shortage of equipment, there's rarely an appreciable difference. Everything is usually only slightly better than what's currently equipped. It's either +1 to damage here or maybe a slight boost in defence over there. Legendary "game changer" armaments are just a little too rare.

On the bright side, most pieces of gear can be enhanced to extend their usefulness. Materials as well as the coin needed for customizations are easy to come across. Therefore, it's worth taking a moment to ensure everyone's weaponry is at 110%. One of the more useful enhancements is kith slayer, which boosts accuracy and damage when fighting kith. "Kith" is the word used to describe all of the civilized races, which also represents the bulk of the enemies the party will face.

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition on Xbox One

As one would expect, given its heritage, this game employs a real-time-with-pauses battle system. Each party member has AI patterns that are determined by their skillset. A mage, for example, can focus on being a DPS machine, or rely almost entirely on crowd control spells. It's a good idea to choose abilities that complement one another. At any moment, the player also has the option to pause the action, in order to issue commands. This is all but required in order to survive the harder difficulties. It can be difficult to mitigate the chaos of battle. Healing opportunities are few and far between, and party members getting knocked out will happen surprisingly often. At least they recover quickly after a battle has been won, which keeps the pacing from grinding to a halt.

This brings up another neat aspect of this game: the manner in which camping is handled. One of the pains of revisiting Baldur's Gate is in the constant need for rest. Spells have to recharge, and party members certainly can't be left to die. The party getting ambushed by monsters, while trying to catch a nap, is also a nuisance. Rather than fuss around with all of that nonsense, a limitation is placed on camping supplies. The player can't abuse the system, but they're guaranteed to be well rested for the next several battles. It's also worth pointing out that spells tend to have a limited number of uses per encounter. This is a simple yet ingenious method for cutting down on necessary rests.

Though the console version is a pleasant surprise when it comes to controls, there are a couple issues that must be addressed. The load times are poor. Transitions from one area to the next are common, and always accompanied by a lengthy wait. Even an abandoned house can take a shockingly long time to load. The game runs at 30 fps, but struggles under a myriad of circumstances. The drops are especially apparent during large scale skirmishes, such as The Battle of Yenwood Field. Thankfully, these technical problems don't bury an otherwise incredible RPG.

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

When it comes to writing and storytelling, Pillars of Eternity is a class act. Obsidian had complete freedom to pursue their vision, and it shows in the impressively-constructed world and excellent characterization. Every side-quest, no matter how minor, has at least some significance in the development of the protagonist. Again, it takes time to adjust to the controls, but they work very well. Players can comfortably lean back, relax, and micromanage when necessary. However, the mediocre frame rate and long load times mar the experience. Still, fans of the genre will appreciate this fantastic game.

Developer

Obsidian Entertainment

Publisher

Paradox Interactive

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

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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