Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire (PC) Review

By Ofisil 08.05.2018

Review for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire on PC

For something that's basically a love letter to Baldur's Gate made in 2015, the crowd-funded Pillars of Eternity, was surprisingly successful, with people left and right praising this old-school, yet modern, modern yet old-school RPG for its excellent writing, plot, role-playing-friendly gameplay, and deeply tactical, party-based combat. Flawless? No, but, like Tyranny, it was a perfect reflection of the developer's level of professionalism, passion, and respect towards its craft, which is probably why its sequel, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, reached its Kickstarter goal (and then some) in a matter of hours(!) Thankfully, this isn't the original with just a seafaring coat of paint over it, but an improvement in almost every possible way.

Those who weren't "there" since the beginning can have fun with Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, but this was clearly made for those who've beaten the original. It even starts with a section where one can create a custom "history," or import a Pillars of Eternity save file to handle all that. In other words: if you haven't played that, do so, and if you have… well, shiver me timbers, why the Davy Jones' locker are ye scurvy dogs readin' a review instead of playin'? Yup, as expected, this ditches the more traditional fantasy setting, for a more… "Arrr!" one.

Why the change? Well, it seems that Eothas, the God of Light himself, has emerged from under the castle of the Watcher (a person who can "read" souls, amongst others), killing him/her in the process, right before heading to the distant, tropic waters of the Deadfire archipelago. Tasked by the rest of Eora's pantheon to follow his very, very large steps, the resurrected protagonist will have to commandeer a ship, trim the sails, and roam the seas, in order to do so. The big question, however, is this: will the story be as interesting as it used to.

Pillars of Eternity’s was a world ravaged by a curse that led to most newborns being empty, soulless vessels, with numerous factions blaming each other for that, and, as it turns out, with the gods themselves being entangled in all this, with their very nature offering a fascinating, and thought-provoking twist. Compared to all that, Deadfire is “just” a hunt for a rogue deity, with little mystery on offer besides understanding what his goal is, or what the rest of the gods (who aren’t mysterious, vague concepts anymore) want to do with him… and you.

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire on PC

While the premise might initially sound just decent, the story is actually great, mainly due to Obsidian's world-building skills, which manage to shine through, no matter the setting. Besides the plot, Deadfire, much like the Eastern Reach, is an engrossing, stunningly fleshed out microcosm that will make most players forget about the main mission, as learning all about it turns out to be equally entertaining, especially since now you'll feel like a stranger in a strange land; an explorer, rather than someone treading on relatively familiar territory.

Needless to say, of course, that the bulk of the experience mostly revolves around engaging in conversation, or reading vast amounts of lore. Moreover, despite the existence of dragons, undead monsters, magic, and all the expected fantasy goodies, these are just the window dressing for some much more "adult" themes, such as colonialism and the exploitation of native populations, the social ramifications of strict caste systems, religious fundamentalism, as well as the theme of morality itself - this is a pure RPG, after all, with choice being at the forefront.

As for the gods themselves, while it was great when they were less active, and, as such, more subtle and enigmatic, their stronger presence turns out to be a blessing rather than a curse, as it provides an awesome, Greek mythology sort of tension to it all, with the player feeling scared, weak, and even angry when interacting with them. Finally, and while still on the subject of theme, those who were afraid that this would be too pirate-y for its own sake (as yours truly did) can stop being so, because this gracefully avoids becoming Pirates of the Caribbean.

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire on PC

So, in conclusion, the plot is still great, and the atmosphere doesn't lose its charm from the shift in location. …But now it's time to talk about the improvements, because this is really just that; Pillars of Eternity, but with tons of big and small upgrades, with the first of which being none other but the graphic quality. Those who hate top-down isometric CRPGs won't be converted by this, but, oh, dear Berath, does this look good, with the new, and far better lighting effects really helping the much more detailed backgrounds stand out.

There are numerous changes here and there, from UI and gameplay settings, to engine tweaks, but these won't be discussed in great detail - just know that they are actual improvements, and not simple, unimportant additions. The really big changes, however, are right there on your party of adventurers. It's now possible to mix-and-match classes, and if that wasn't enough to raise the replay value sky-high, one can also choose a specialisation and further customise a hero, with these supplying a strong advantage, with the cost of an equally strong penalty.

Non-combat skills also make a return, and are much better handled this time around. For starters, they been divided into smaller categories, therefore, 'Stealth' no longer encompasses both the ability to walk unseen, and pickpocket, and 'Lore' is split between 'History,' 'Religion,' 'Metaphysics,' etc. Even better? Via Party Assists, companions can contribute to the main character's skillset, whereas most of their skills would end up being useless in the first instalment. Thankfully, the battlefield has also had its fair share of changes.

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire on PC

The omission of endurance, the decrease of the party size by one, and other, smaller changes and additions, may alienate some, yet the combat has been surprisingly streamlined due to all this, with some examples being the fact that skill use regenerates after battles instead of requiring to rest, how spell casters can retarget their firework display, or how it’s possible to fully customise companion AI if not really fond of micromanagement. Just be sure to change the difficulty setting accordingly, because this is generally aimed at genre veterans.

Concerning the addition of ships, their management turns out to be a completely separate game of its own… which is exactly why not everyone will like this part. Bad? Far from it! From handling the crew or the provisions, ammo, and upgrades, to simply sailing the seas, this is a welcome, if only somewhat half-baked addition. Take the slightly boring, Ship-vs-Ship, text-based battles, for instance: they are fine and all, but not as exciting as approaching an enemy vessel, and doing some traditional, mano a mano (or aumana a aumana) sword fighting.

As for the role-playing aspect, it's the part were Deafire is really on… err, fire, with numerous ways to approach missions and character interactions, with stats and abilities having an even bigger impact than before, and with companions being far more active in conversations, not to mention that they can approve or disapprove your actions depending on their beliefs. As for the length of this adventure, the main route is (as promised) a tad shorter, and with a decent decrease in filler battles, but, be prepared to spend hundreds of hours doing side-quests.... lucky you!

Screenshot for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is a lesson in sequel creation. Instead of making some slight alterations, or simply changing the setting, this smooths all the rough edges of the first game, while keeping the plot, writing, and role-playing aspect in top form. While not without flaws, and although the seafaring business is not equally awesome as the rest of the experience, this is, without a single doubt one of the best Dungeons & Dragons-inspired RPGs of the year. Kudos in spades Obsidian Entertainment!

Developer

Obsidian Entertainment

Publisher

Versus Evil

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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