Should I be Excited About… Pillars of Eternity
Inspired by Baldurs Gate, will Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity be held in the same light?
Almost two years ago, Obsidian Entertainment took to Kickstarter to ask for support for “Project Eternity”, and the response was overwhelming. They raked in almost 4 times what they asked for resulting in nearly four MILLION dollars. And they quietly got to work.
At E3 this year, they were ready to show the results to press and your intrepid correspondent was onsite ready for a hands-off demo and to be introduced to the game, now re-branded “Pillars of Eternity”.
PoE is best described as an homage to a bygone era of RPG games, which many of us remember nostalgically such as Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. In fact, Obsidian would be quick to acknowledge that they’ve been more than a little inspired by the old Infinity Engine that powered these games – as well they might, since Obsidian Entertainment was formed from people who left Interplay’s Black Isle Studio where much work was undertaken on these titles.
But as much an homage as it may be, Obsidian also wants to ensure that this is an evolution of those games, a new chapter for their legacy and not a rote reproduction of nostalgia. And boy are they putting those Kickstarter dollars to good use.
But let’s first back up a bit for those who aren’t aging curmudgeons who had a penchant for RPGs in the late 90s. What you can expect here is a solid party-based fantasy dungeoneering romp from an isometric point of view. Combat is managed in real-time with a pause option to allow for managing your whole party, and the game includes eleven playable classes, many of which are standard fare with a few new ones left tantalisingly named but unexplained such as the Chanter and Cipher. There’s a huge emphasis on plot and narrative and your choices are going to impact not just the progression of the story but also the world you’re in.
What we have here then is a back-to-basics single player RPG. Actions have consequences, as do dialogue choices and Obsidian showed a rich character reputation system in which the traits you express in dialogue create a personality that people will react to – act tough and people will begin to treat you that way, whilst looking for more diplomatic solutions will also be noticed. It seems like a more nuanced approach to the general morality questions that have polarised RPG games for decades, and a welcome one.
One departure from the norm for this type of game is that PoE adopts an anything-goes approach to weapons, armour and items. Any class can wear anything, so the tradition of Wizards only wearing cloth armour is gone and if you want to set your Paladin up with a bow, go right ahead. Obsidian are likely thinking that this will give players more agency to play the game their way, and increase replayability and it’s likely to be a welcome removal of what were holdover restrictions from classic Dungeons and Dragons.
Pillars of Eternity is certainly shaping up to be something special. The game is pegged by Obsidian as being a similar scale as Baldur’s Gate, which means there’s a huge game being made here, and from a technical point of view, it looks stunning – especially when you add that it’s being made in Unity, with very reasonable system requirements and will ship on Windows, Mac and Linux. I’ve worked with Unity as a developer and played a lot of games made with it and frankly I’ve never seen anything look this good from that engine – throw your preconceived notions out of the window about what a Unity game is.
Obsidian are aiming to have PoE shipped in 2014, and their expectation is that a closed beta for Kickstarter backers will be held in late Summer. If the demo is anything to go by, make sure you are saving up your sick days because you’re going to need them once this hits.
Should you be excited about Pillars of Eternity? Based on what I’ve seen so far, yes you most definitely should.