Review – Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire is an absolute must for fans of the roleplaying game genre. Pillars of Eternity provides players with an emotionally complex narrative journey that many of us have missed from more recent AAA role playing game titles. Players are thrown into a story of a hero who has nearly everything to an angered God and must follow in the deranged God’s footsteps through the ocean by taking command of a ship and finding a loyal crew. Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire offers players an easily accessible role-playing experience that can please the countless different playstyles of the genre; whether you are the type of player that likes to leave behind a trail of blood or the player that feels the need to rescue every distressed NPC.
For those of us who prefer a diplomatic playthrough, Obsidian has expanded on the typical persuasion check mechanic that many of use are used to in other RPG titles. Most games only ask that you level up one or two skills to increase your character’s persuasive charm, but in Pillars of Eternity 2 there are nine skills that by affect your character’s persuasion talent. This means that players may not be able to persuade every single character they come across without some hacks since they only have so many skill points to spent.
Of course, diplomacy can’t solve every problem in the game, but that only adds to the exciting roleplay element of the game. While other game may let you play the perfect hero who can always unite good and evil, Pillars of Eternity forces you to make decisions that may not please every party. In some cases, your decisions may even displease members of your party to the point that they turn against you. During my first playthrough I was betrayed by my companion and had to fight against her to complete an optional side quest I had picked up. Had I ignored that side quest or made a few different choices, I would never have fought and killed her on my character’s journey, and that’s the best part of Pillars of Eternity. Every choice you make matters and can have a serious impact on the game.
While many games claim to make use of player choice, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire is the first game I’ve played that truly perfects it. Popular RPG games like Skyrim, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Fallout 4 didn’t provide nearly as much choice as Pillars of Eternity 2. From the very beginning of the game I was overwhelmed by the amount of options I was given just to create my character. The creation process starts with the player choosing from 6 unique races that go beyond the mainstream dwarf, elf, and human options. You can choose to be a tiny cat-monkey-dwarf hybrid or you even a giant fiery demon God creature. All of the races are even broken down into multiple subraces which can drastically alter your physical trait options. After you’re set on your race, you must then pick what class(es) you want to play. What’s new in Pillars of Eternity 2 is the ability to choose any 2 classes which is a feature I desperately wanted in the first game since I can never choose between Druid and Ranger (If I can’t turn into a giant wolf and fight alongside my wolf pet then what is the point?). Fortunately, that’s a problem of the past! Obsidian even went through the extra effort of giving each class combination its own class name.
Now that you’ve chosen your race and class you would think that you’re ready to create your character’s look and get started on your epic journey, wouldn’t you? Well my friend, Obsidian doesn’t think you’re ready for that just yet. First you must pick your subclass, attributes, culture, and background which will all influence your character’s journey, allowing you to unlock new dialogue options in the game. While the character customization is very elaborate in Pillars of Eternity, it does leave me wanting more options when it comes to my characters appearance. There aren’t a lot of face options and most of the hair models are okay at best. Fortunately, the character model is so small it shouldn’t bother most people (unless your turn on the game’s Big Head Mode. Yikes).
The very start of the game is a touch painful. Your character is dropped on some ethereal purple brick road the only lets you walk at a snail’s pace while your make your way through the intro to the story. Since Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire is a direct sequel to the first gaming involving the same protagonist, Obsidian allows players to input their choices from the first game. Fortunately for those of us who didn’t play or beat the first game, Obsidian provided us with multiple pre-designed saves that we can use to create different starting worlds for our game (and yes, there preset world lovingly named “Everything Bad” for those of you who want to roleplay a chaotic evil maniac who kills everyone and everything).
Pillars of Eternity 2 has a huge emphasis on player choice and roleplay, so you best be prepared for a lot of reading. Full disclosure, I did skip a lot of the reading during some of the very lore heavy conversations because my eyes just couldn’t handle it after a while. So, for those of you who hate reading with a passion you should avoid Pillars of Eternity 2. But if you are the type of person who loves absorbing every piece of lore then you’ll be happy to know that Pillars of Eternity 2 has a complex world that has its own developed history and culture.
There are a few different gameplay styles that are utilized in Pillars of Eternity 2 which helps to separate it from other RPGs. Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire follows the same isometric style of classic RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and the early Fallout games (both of which Obsidian Entertainment had a hand in making). The graphics didn’t feel quite as polished as other recent isometric RPGs such as Divinity: Original Sin 2; but it’s still a vast improvement from early isometric titles. While in the isometric world, the player can talk to NPCs and interact with chests as is typical in this genre. Now where the gameplay separates itself from other RPGs is that some of the game plays like an interactive book. Some parts of the game take the character out of the isometric world and turn the game into what is essentially a pick your own adventure book. During these parts of the game, the player is shown a page in book that describes an event that the player must react to, whether it be an angry mob in the village or a sea monster attacking your ship at sea. It’s a unique form of storytelling that I haven’t seen utilized in many other RPGs and I think it helps Pillars of Eternity 2 separate itself from other RPGs by creating its own unique narrative style. Pillars of Eternity 2 basically plays like a game of Dungeons and Dragons where most of your time is spent designing your character and their backstory and thinking about how they will interact with the world. Pillars of Eternity 2 gives players the tools to create a unique character that can range anywhere from a Mary Sue that gets along with everyone to a Hell spawn that just wants the world to burn.
Of course, no RPG is complete without a fun set of wacky companions to help you along your adventure. A few of the companions in Pillars of Eternity 2 are recurring characters from the first game, but if you haven’t played the first game you can learn most of their backstory from their dialogue. Another new feature in this game is the ability to romance some of your companions, but before you get your pants unzipped just know that there are no awkward sex scenes a la Dragon Age: Origins from what I can tell. While I enjoyed most of the companions and found them to be a useful part of my team, they aren’t necessary for the game and you can choose to play it entirely solo. Or if you like you can even create a party of a bunch of your own characters, assuming your character has enough spare coins. I myself had a party of 5 lesbian rangers and their wolf companions. Although I wouldn’t advise this since it made my screen a little cluttered during combat.
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire offers two combat systems in the game. The first one centers around man-on-man combat in the isometric world whenever the play is traversing through dungeons or just pissing off villagers. The combat here takes place in real time with the player have the option to pause the fight or even fast forward/slow down the combat speed. I personally had mine set to max speed throughout the entire game since I’m not very good at combat, so I just follow the hit and pray method. But for people who enjoy complex battle tactics and such, there are a lot of auto-pause settings for people who prefer a slower more turn-based combat system. The second combat style is used for naval combat and follows the same interactive novel format previously mentioned. Naval combat plays out like turn-based game with the player and their enemy taking commanding their crew. The player does have the option to ignore this combat in the game if they choose to simply ram their ship into their opponent and take the fight on deck.
With so many different gameplay and combat options, it feels like Obsidian is trying their best to make an RPG that can appeal to fans of old and new RPGs alike. I myself have rallied almost 100 hours of gameplay in my first play through and I already have my next 2 playthrough mapped out. Plus, Obsidian is set to release the Beast of Winter expansion pack on August 2nd which will add a new adventure to the game. With that in mind would strongly suggest getting the game now so you can beat it in time for the expansion.
Very beautiful portrait and map designs. 3D models could use some polish and some better hair options.
With so many different choices in every aspect of the game I feel like I could play this game 100 times and still enjoy it.
Needs more sea shanties.
Fun Factor: 9.0
Even after 100 hours of gameplay I’m still enjoying my 2nd and 3rd playthroughs.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Reviewed on PC.
Pillars of Eternity II : Deadfire is available now on PC (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, And Nintendo Switch later this year.