Review – Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition (Switch)

Pillars of Eternity is an isometric real-time with pause classical role-playing game, developed as a spiritual successor to the legendary Baldur’s Gate. If that sentence didn’t send you screaming, and you’re a Switch owner who’s had little other than Skyrim to satiate your RPG thirst, you’re in luck. While Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition has some issues, mainly with controls, it’s otherwise a very well done port that bundles every piece of content ever released for the game.

Pillars of Eternity

It looks like a mess, but the game does a good job slowly working you up to managing a third party. Plus, slow mode makes everything far more manageable.

For those of you who’ve never heard of it before, Pillars of Eternity is a homage to the old-school Infinity Engine RPGs. You run around with a party of up to six people exploring, completing quests, and doing general RPG things with an isometric perspective. Combat is real-time, but with the option to pause so you can carefully plan out your attack and order your party around with complete control. The plot was interesting and extremely well-written, even if it was a bit long in the tooth. It also had a serious issue with separating itself from competition, frequently feeling a bit too much like what had come before with little of it’s own identity (a failing it’s sequel more than fixed). Still, it was an extremely solid return for the genre, even more so on the Switch, which has zero other options to choose from anyway.

Pillars of Eternity

The solution to the near unreadable text for the other console versions was to zoom it in all the way. It worked at least.

Normally, the first thing to talk about when it comes to Switch ports is what was sacrificed to get it to run. However, Pillars looks and runs exactly like its brethren, perhaps even a little bit better in some instances. It’s hardly surprising given how undemanding the game is, but Switch ports have disappointed us before. The biggest issues are occasional frame stuttering and longer than necessary loading times, both of which are a result of the Unity Engine and are the same across all platforms. I did find that loading times were just a bit faster than my PC copy. Given how many loading screens are present in the game, it will save quite a bit of time.

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At least you can review the controls while you wait.

When it was originally announced that a hardcore RPG experience like Pillars was heading to consoles, everyone’s first worry was about the controls. While the end result wasn’t as horrifying as some imagined, it was far from optimal. Sadly, though it does feel slightly smoother and easier to navigate, it’s the same general control scheme as everything else and comes with the same drawbacks. Navigating through menus and abilities is actually pretty smooth, thanks to the smart radial menu design. Switching from character to character, movement, even giving orders in the middle of combat, all works reasonably well. It takes longer than on PC, but not to an unplayable degree. In Slow-Mode it’s even fully playable in real time, like a smarter Diablo. The hardest part is when you’re trying to select something on the map and the game keeps snapping the cursor to the item/person next to what you think you’re aiming at. It’s not a constant issue, but it’s way more frequent than it should be. Most annoyingly, there is absolutely no touchscreen support. That would have made it a must-buy, as touch controls are perfect for games like this.

Pillars of Eternity

One of the best parts is still the storybook “choose your own adventure”-style events. It really allowed a deeper role-playing beyond clicking on some things and killing other stuff.

One last thing to take into account is that this is an Obsidian game, which means bugs. When Pillars was originally released, it was a much more big free experience compared to their previous games, but still had a few nasty launch issues. Same with the console launch. This Switch port is no exception, with a few minor visual glitches, a single crash during my playthrough, and one nasty game-breaking bug that disabled every ranged attack and ability in the game. Every action that wasn’t a standard melee attack simply didn’t activate, making the game very, very hard. Fortunately, a simple restart fixed it, and I wasn’t able to repeat it nor did I run into it again, but it was definitely annoying until I figured out the solution. It’s understandable in a game of this size on a brand new platform, but that doesn’t mean it’s fun.

Pillars of Eternity was a fun game that didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Something about being released two months before Witcher 3 didn’t help, but it was enough to turn into a promising RPG franchise. While this Switch port has a few hiccups, mostly due to the game itself rather than the Switch hardware, it is an enjoyable way to play the game. Hopefully, they can take the lessons learned here for the upcoming Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire port, most notably adding in touchscreen controls, which would make the game in their own.

Graphics: 8.0

It runs and looks fine on the Switch, and while the hand-drawn backgrounds look fantastic, they clash with the much less impressive 3D models.

Gameplay: 8.0

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Some specifics and certain mechanics have been tweaked or altered, but it plays just like any other Infinity Engine game.

Sound: 6.5

What voice acting there is ranges from well-done to mediocre. Music fits the game, but it’s hardly memorable.

Fun Factor: 7.5

When the game works, it’s great. Controls take some getting used to, but get the job done.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition is available now on PC, Xbox One, PS4 and will be available August 8th for Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition was provided by the publisher.

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