Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is the sequel to the critically acclaimed RPG title of Obsidian Entertainment, Pillars of Eternity. It offers a unique experience with new features and modern visuals for both RPG veterans and new players. In this Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire review, we will aim to focus on the main features of the game and try to find its place between other titles of the same genre.
Despite being one of the most successful titles of the studio, the first game, Pillars of Eternity, was also a beautifully balanced mixture of old classics (like Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale) and the modern visuals and effects. While sustaining the main gameplay from these classic titles, the studio also improved it with many other additions both visual and aural.
The first title, Pillars of Eternity was released in 2015 with great expectations from RPG fans all around the world. In the end, the studio did a fantastic job and believe me fellas, it is not an easy task to satisfy old FRP – RPG veterans. But Pillars of Eternity did it. It was what we missed so much about modern RPG games. It had the quality writing, story telling, choice making, destiny shaping… whatever you expect from a hardcore RPG game, it had it. And now, three years after the first installment, we have the chance to gaze upon another part of this beautiful jewel.
Note: Before we start talking about the game itself, I would like to inform you guys that this review will only reflect my impressions after playing more than 25 hours. I’m still not at the end nor do I think that I’m even close to it which is a good thing as I will not be able to spoil anything even if I wanted to. However, I will try to update the review after finishing the game if I find it really necessary for the story part.
“You must gather your party before venturing forth.”
Pillars of Eternity titles take place in the unique universe, world of Eora, that was created by Obsidian Entertainment. It was created after a successful Kickstarter campaign. If you are familiar with older classic RPG games (Baldur’s Gate, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale etc.), you will see that there are a couple of similarities between these universes but, at least storywise, they are so minor that the Pillars of Eternity universe feels completely new and unique.
This is why it feels both familiar yet new enough to enjoy all the surprises the game offers. This is one of the best parts about the game and it richens the gameplay too. It looks and feels like the older games, but just like it was explained on Pillars of Eternity Wiki Page, it is also unique in its nature:
“Pillars of Eternity takes the central hero, memorable companions and the epic exploration of Baldur’s Gate, add in the fun, intense combat and dungeon diving of Icewind Dale, and tie it all together with the emotional writing and mature thematic exploration of Planescape: Torment.”
All in all, it would be honest of me to say that the game is really satisfying for classic RPG lovers. But what about the other part of the community? What about a ‘new experience’ ? Well, it also succeeds in offering a unique experience for new players too. Long story short, old veterans and casual RPG players will definitely enjoy it. But for now, let’s leave all these behind and start talking about the game itself and what it offers actually for players.
The Watcher is back!
Spoiler alert! This part of the review contains spoilers for Pillars of Eternity. If you haven’t played it yet, I recommend skipping this part.
After your long journey pursuing a god, Eothas, and killing him, you go back to your castle in Dyrwood, Caed Nua. But something terrible happens. The god, who had taken a form of a human, is now a giant which resided underneath your castle and he killed everyone (including you) and destroyed everything on his awake. Now he is roaming around the world, destroying everything on his path.
You wake up in the In-Between. Berath, the god of death wants you to go back to the world of mortals and chase the god to find out what it wants. At this point, if you have an older save file from the first game, you get a chance to use your old character with all the decisions you made until the end. Or, you can simply create a new character and chose one of the five choices, starting from the good to the bad ending, and play according to the predetermined choices.
At this point, you suddenly experience the freedom of the game if you chose not to accept Berath’s offer and just skip to the credits right away. Yes, the game ends there as you reincarnate as an animal and forget about all the worldly problems. This choice alone represents the beautifully written storytelling fellas. This is how free you will feel during the game.
After the introduction, you wake up in a ship which you will use as you sail in Deadfire, a huge cluster of landmass and network of islands with tons of pirates and other ships. Yes, you guessed it. A new feature allows you to control and manage your own ship.
The newest part of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is this ship management feature. You will spend a lot of time sailing and you will need to manage your ship with crew members, food, water, medicine and repairing tool resources. Your crew has their own identities and skills individually. You can hire them either from specific locations or from inns across the world. In each town, you will find more members to fulfill the needs of your ship. Some of them will have cooking skill while others will be good at navigating or cannons.
Speaking of cannons, you will encounter with many other ships during your travels. Each one of them will require a different approach. Sometimes you will need to use diplomacy to get around, but sometimes the only answer will be the cannonballs. The ship combat system is different from the regular, real-time combat of Pillars of Eternity. In fact, it is much better than a action filled combat if you ask me. But I am a hardcore FRP – RPG fan so consider it as a personal opinion.
The combat system will make you choose between different tactics during the combat phase. It is a turn-based mechanic which will require you to navigate your ship, use your cannons or just rush to the enemy ship to board on it and eliminate them with your regular skills in an on-board combat. It’s all up to you and your preferences.
DM: You see two different ways in front of you. What do you do?
Like I said, the ground combat is almost the same with the first game and even if you haven’t played it, you can still feel comfortable about managing your skills and spells. Let me explain the combat system quickly (note that I will exclude multi-classing just for now as it requires more experience with the game and I haven’t had the chance to see it myself yet).
Each class has its own Power Source which is required for skills and spells. Each skill and spell also require a certain amount of that Power Source. If you play as a rogue, for example, and let’s say you have a total of 5 Guile points (power source of rogues). If one of your skills require two points, you will be able to use it twice along with another skill with one point requirement.
Depending on your gear and your passive skills, you will also have to wait for a while before you can use another skill or attack. With the combination of five different characters maximum in your party, you will need to organize each on of these skills and spells in order to be successful in combat.
There are tons of information about the capabilities of your characters which can be found on the character tab. If you are familiar with the old classics, you will definitely enjoy the complex yet easy to understand combat mechanics of the game.
Another beautiful feature of this game is the special parts where you have to play as if you’re playing a tabletop RPG game. The game transforms into a text based game and lets you choose your way out of specific situations. Navigating in caves, using diplomacy or exploring a neighborhood becomes different and it is just so good.
Steal, bargain or just kill?
Outside of the combat, your characters will have passive skills which will help you to overcome the difficulties in the real world. All the quests will require you to make a choice at some point. Some of them will be important for the story whereas others will reflect your play style. You can steal an important cure from a shady merchant, you can kill him and take it from its body, you can finish an assassination job for him or you can simply pay for the medicine.
The choices are waiting for you to discover them. Depending on your level in the skill which is required for a dialogue choice, you can find different ways to complete any quest available. To be honest, I was pretty impressed to see that I could get that medicine in many different ways. Even when you want to steal it, you can do it differently. The freedom that Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire offers to its players is just astonishing. And I would like to emphasize that I’m not even talking about the main quest. This is just a side quest that you can easily ignore.
However, even though you have the complete freedom about your choices, I can’t say the same about the execution of the main quest. A huge giant walking around the world, destroying everything on his way should be something ‘urgent’ to look at. But it doesn’t feel like that.
Remember Fallout? Where you had you hurry up before your vault runs out of water and everyone dies? You had to hurry, yet it was not the end of the story. You suddenly realized that there were more important things than just a water chip. That’s what I expected from this game but unfortunately it failed.
Looks and sounds familiar, yet different.
When it comes to creating a sequel with older features, I can easily understand that it is not an easy job to offer a unique experience. Especially if you think that the first game was a huge success, one might expect Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire to be only a shallow sequel with a different story. However, it does NOT feel like that.
Even the visuals and sound effects are much better. The first game was already a huge step forward from the classics to the modern games. I loved the fact that Obsidian kept the original looks, sounds and gameplay. However, the best past was the implementation of these to a modern game like Pillars of Eternity. Now when I look at Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, I can easily realize that it is much better.
Visuals are just on point. They do not hurt your eyes or they do not feel awkward. Lighting, shadows, level design… everything about the visuals feel alive. The only problem is the character animations which can be a little weird from time to time if you look closely. But this is not a problem at all when you see the full part of the glass.
Sound effects, musics (oh god the musics!) are just extraordinary! There are tons of old sound effects from the first game but there are other new ones too. The game is almost fully voice acted. I say almost because there are some parts without any voice acting yet it doesn’t feel weird at all. And let me tell you fellas that the voice acting is just perfect. When you start the game and hear the ‘narrator’, you will understand what I’m trying to say.
Pros and Cons of being a Watcher.
Yes, I loved the game. Especially as a hardcore RPG fan, I was pretty impressed by the way that Obsidian improved its title. However, there were a couple of factors which made me a little disappointed about the game.
First of all, the minor flaws on the main story that I’ve mentioned above can be annoying sometimes. I know what Obsidian is capable of and as a huge fan of the studio, I was expecting more from them. This will be the curse of Obsidian for a while to be honest. They made so many successful games that even a single flaw on the story will effect the reception of their every new title. I am not saying the story is bad. What I’m saying is that I am sure that they could’ve done a better job. Yet, it is still an impressive work.
Naval combat is somewhat shallow compared to the ground combat. Yes, the system works perfectly and it is a beautiful implementation of tabletop RPG games to a digital game. However, after a couple of battles, you suddenly realize that the mechanic itself gets something time consuming rather than a different approach. The real on-deck combat becomes easier and faster. And this leads the player to completely skip the naval fight phase. But this can be improved easily with a couple of small tweaks in the future.
Last words of a Watcher.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is the perfect game for both hardcore RPG fans and casual players. With its own unique features and storytelling, it offers a beautiful experience that we missed a lot. If you like RPG games, don’t even hesitate and buy it, believe me, you will not regret it. All in all, the game is just beautiful. It has it’s own problems but they will never make you question your decision of buying it. You will spend hours in it and be amazed whenever you discover a new feature or a new way to complete a quest.
What I can say about the game is just simple: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire aims to take the torch from its predecessor, and wants to take it a couple of steps further. But it ends up being miles away from it, yet it still keeps the most important core elements. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is the perfect balance between the past and the present of RPG games. Even though it has its own problems, it still succeeds in finishing a hard quest: satisfying the player.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire was reviewed using a Steam key provided by the publisher.
- Impressive storytelling
- Beautiful mixture of classic RPG elements and modern technology
- Successful implementation of new features
- Ship management
- Naval exploration and combat
- Good music and sound effects
- Main story can feel unimportant from time to time
- A couple of minor bugs
- Some weird character animations