Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition Review

It was about 10 minutes after creating my character in Pillars of Eternity that I dropped my controller and sent Joe the following text:

Holy shit; this is Baldur’s Gate on my PS4!

His response of course was predictable: he asked me how I didn’t know that already. Touché.

Well, the reason that I didn’t know much about Pillars of Eternity (PoE) is because I don’t have a PC capable of gaming. There were plenty of similar titles that I wasn’t keen on learning about since I wasn’t going to be able to play them – Divinity: Original Sin comes to mind. Then, when Divinity made its way to PS4, I was thrilled! Similarly, when I found out that PoE would be making its console debut towards the end of the summer, I knew I was in for a treat. It turns out, I was correct!

For the uninitiated, PoE was originally released on PC back in March of 2015 after being Kickstarted successfully. It’s no surprise that PoE feels like returning to the Sword Coast after so many years since it was developed by Obsidian Entertainment – which was founded by several Black Isle greats such as Feargus Urquhart and Chris Avellone. Fast forward two years and PoE enjoys an 89 on Metacritic and is has been ported to PS4 and Xbox One. While the PC version was unanimously praised for it’s highly-complex game systems and its nostalgic feel, some were concerned that the console counterparts would not feel quite as good given the lack of mouse and keyboard. I’m happy to report that PoE controls wonderfully with my Dualshock 4. Which is a good thing, because…

…you’re going to be spending 70 hours or more exploring PoE’s fantasy world and absorbing its stories. During that time, you will meet hundreds of unique and interesting characters, read what must be several thousand lines of text – some of which is voice-acted, and quite well at that – and engage in hundreds of encounters against difficult adversaries. That last bit I’d like to expand upon. PoE is difficult. It doesn’t shy away from that either; rather, it revels in it’s ability to push your party’s abilities to the limits. That’s on normal difficulty. Luckily, with the turn-based combat, if you’re paying attention and leveling up your party appropriately, you won’t have too much trouble, just enough to keep you wondering if you’re going to make it!

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The most difficult thing for some players, however, may be the amount of reading that PoE expects the player to do. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love a good book. The amount of detail presented through text in PoE is fantastic. I found myself totally absorbed while playing and some of the time I felt like I was experiencing a novel as much as a game! However, gaming parents beware: this game will not only ask you for 70 hours of your time, but it will ask you for your full attention during most of those hours. While it’s true that you could explore some of the world maps with your party while wrangling children or listening to a podcast, you’d have to be prepared to stop at any moment upon encountering one of many characters who may require your party’s assistance, at which time you must be ready to read a minor novella before venturing off to fulfill the request.

Throughout your questing, your party will level up, and believe me when I say that this can be no simple matter! Talents, spells, abilities, and primary attributes, oh my! To the ravenous RPG fanatic, it’s enough to make your mouth water. For the faint of heart, well, there were sometimes that – I’ll admit – I sort of sped through my party’s level-ups and was still able to work through encounters. So, while I’m sure that at higher difficulties it is crucial to map out character progression… it’s not necessary on normal or lesser difficulties.

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Technically, PoE isn’t going to knock any socks off… unless you’re coming straight off one of the many games of yore that utilize the Infinity Engine. In that case you’ll be in for a visual treat! That isn’t to say that PoE is ugly by any stretch of the imagination, but graphical prowess is not the key reason to pick up this title. Sound design – when it works – is good and furthers the immersion of the player. I say “when it works” because there were times where a music track would cut out suddenly, especially during loading screens. Perhaps this is a PS4-specific issue, and it can certainly be patched after release.

Speaking of loading screens – ugh, the loading screens. Often, I would sit and scroll through my Twitter feed and still have a few seconds to wait for the game to load the next area. This was especially the case when loading a save or transitioning areas. Load times weren’t quite as painful when entering structures or caves. Again: this is probably due to the nature of the PS4 more than the game, but it’s noticeable and irritating. Even still, it didn’t quell my enjoyment of the game; I mention it here to make you aware.

Pillars of Eternity is a special game. As I mentioned in the beginning, diving into PoE felt like I was a kid again exploring the Sword Coast. These experiences on console can be done, but only if the work of the developers is supported. If you’re into isometric RPG’s and have been waiting to play this: wait no longer. Pillars of Eternity is worth all the attention that it will demand from you.

Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition can be picked up on PS4 or Xbox One for $49.99. Also available on Steam for $44.99.

Will you be picking up Pillars of Eternity? Tell us your thoughts on this title in the comments below!

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