Pillars of Eternity was one of those Kickstarter love stories.
In 2012 it was an early success story when it raised over four million, the game was successfully made and released, rewarding its funders by being an awesome game that exceeded everyone’s expectations. Not being a CRPG fan I approached it with caution on Steam, and found myself absolutely adoring this gem, so given the opportunity to check it out on Switch, I was extremely excited.
Pillars of Eternity optimizes the CRPG genre, with the classic isometric view as you move your characters around exploring and fighting. As you explore the maps you remove the fog of war uncovering enemies, treasures, and lore alike in the best possible ways. Combat is exactly what you’re picturing, as you move your party around with a selection of character classes you use their attacks from an attack wheel. One thing that isn’t new but I’m glad to see is the use of pauses during battle.
The battles can get out of hand quickly, but these pauses are what makes it your strategic choice that alerts you succeed or fail.
One thing I hated about the game was the camera and character movement being totally independent. On a PC this doesn’t feel so bad as you have mouse and keyboard at your disposal, but even then, I used some trickery to map the buttons for both to the same keys.
I couldn’t find any way to do this in the Switch port and found it drove me insane constantly moving the camera away from my characters. This is something that absolutely should have been optimized for console, and after many hours of annoyance I decided to stop playing on Switch as I would rather remember the game for the amazing time, I had on PC years ago.
What Pillars of Eternity does best is writing.
You create your own character for the protagonist and choose things like their race which has an impact on their perks, but also how NPCs react to you in the world. The story kicks off with your character travelling via caravan to the village in Dyrwood when the travelers caravan gets hit by a storm. Alone your character is witness to souls being stripped from bodies giving them the ability to read souls and see visions of past lives.
The plot goes bonkers as she discovers that a cult is stealing souls causing people to be born without them causing them to be in a vegetative state. Your protagonist investigates to find a whole mess with gods and the like. The story is decent but what is extraordinary is how much time and effort has been put into crafting the world. NPCs with short to little stories all feel like they are the kind that would warrant them being a major character. In most games, when you get a lot of story for a character the presumption is that they will be important to the plot, but some you find dead later, never to be mentioned again. Added to player choices having significant impacts on the story, I can’t even comprehend how much work the team put into writing the game let alone somehow turning that into a game afterwards.
Fortunately, one thing that more games are doing well, is the game itself runs well on the Switch’s hardware. Unfortunately, it isn’t as good looking as other versions of the game of course, and loading screens felt longer than I would have liked. However, considering the size of the game, I am blown away with how well it ran on the Switch’s hardware.
At the end of the day this is far from the best way to play Pillars of Eternity, but it is still such a damn amazing game.
If you don’t have access to a PC then it is well worth grabbing this package on Switch, but it is rare that I will say this, if you can play on PC then definitely choose that first if you can.
Released: August 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Obsidian Entertainment