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Pillars of Eternity

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This article is about the video game. For the 1982 science fiction novel, see The Pillars of Eternity.
Pillars of Eternity
Pillars of Eternity.jpg
Developer(s) Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher(s) Paradox Interactive
Director(s) Josh Sawyer
Producer(s) Brandon Adler
Designer(s) Josh Sawyer
Programmer(s) Adam Brennecke
Artist(s) Robert Nesler
Writer(s) Eric Fenstermaker
Composer(s) Justin Bell
Engine Unity
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
Release date(s) March 26, 2015
Genre(s) Role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player

Pillars of Eternity is a computer role-playing game developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Paradox Interactive. It was released for Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux on March 26, 2015. The game is a spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed game series Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, along with the game Planescape: Torment. Obsidian started a crowd funding campaign for it in September 2012 which raised $4,163,208, at the time the highest funded crowd sourced video game on Kickstarter. The game uses Unity Technologies' Unity engine.

The game takes place in the fantasy world of Eora, mainly inside the nation of Dyrwood. The infants in Dyrwood are plagued by a recent phenomenon in which they become "hollowborn" upon birth, meaning they are born with no soul. During the beginning of the game, the protagonist experiences an awakening of power due to a disastrous supernatural event, discovering they are a "Watcher": a person who can see souls and past lives. The objective of the game is to find out what caused their awakening and how to solve the hollowborn problem.

Pillars of Eternity received critical acclaim upon its release; many critics praised the game for its world and immersive writing, along with the strategic combat, and also said that it is a worthy successor to the games it was inspired by. An expansion pack, Pillars of Eternity: The White March is currently in development; its story involves an old fortress and it will add several features, including a higher level cap and new party members.

Gameplay[edit]

An example of dialogue in the game, depicting the interface.

Pillars of Eternity is a role-playing game that features a party-based real-time-with-pause tactical gameplay, fixed isometric user interface for the game-world with two-dimensional pre-rendered backdrops,[1][2] in a similar vein as its spiritual predecessors Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale series and Planescape: Torment.[3] As the player's characters explore an area map, it is unveiled. There is a fog of war effect on areas the player has already explored and has moved away from.[4] The character classes and game mechanics are similar to Dungeons & Dragons,[5] but are a proprietary system created for the game.[6] The game does not reward experience points for killing enemies, but for completing quests and discovering new areas.[7]

The game starts with a character creation screen where the player can choose items for their playable character, such as their physical appearance, race and creed.[8] The player can choose to play as one of the eleven available classes: fighter, paladin, ranger, wizard, druid, monk, priest, rogue, chanter and cipher.[9] Each of them make the gameplay different; for example, the cipher can use the soul of an enemy in order to attack them,[9] and druids can shapeshift into a beast and cast spells.[10] The protagonist's class can also influence the number of available dialogue options.[11] The player may adventure with up to five other characters out of a total of eight that they can pick up on their travels.[12][13] These are fleshed out characters with unique personalities and appearances.[13] Additionally, the protagonist can hire party members which the player creates in local taverns, but at a monetary cost.[14]

The game has optional side quests that do not advance the main plot, which feature fleshed out supporting characters and multiple outcomes.[8] According to a writer for Digital Spy, most of these are not "fetch quests".[8] During the game, the protagonist can build up a reputation depending on their actions.[15] Non-playable characters will react differently to him or her depending on this, and it can also impact the outcome of certain events in the game.[16] The game features a scouting mode in which the party can sneak, which allows the player to avoid being seen by enemies. During scouting, the party can spot hidden items and traps, which the player can disarm and use against enemies.[17]

Damage from enemies to the player's characters have an impact on an endurance and health pool. While endurance regenerates after combat, health can only be restored by resting. The party can either set up camp, or rest in an inn.[18] If a character in the party have their endurance drained, they are knocked out until the end of combat. If a companion has their health reduced to zero then they become permanently dead.[18]

The player can choose from five skills to beat situations: Stealth, Athletics, Lore, Mechanics and Survival.[19] As the player fights more creatures, then more information is added to their bestiary. This helps the player to find out information about how to attack them effectively.[18] Early in the game, the protagonist will take over a stronghold, that acts as the party's fortress which can be upgraded.[20]

Story[edit]

Setting[edit]

The story takes place in the world of Eora, in a region placed in the southern hemisphere called the Eastern Reach,[21] an area roughly the size of Spain.[22] The Eastern Reach contains several nations, including the Free Palatinate of Dyrwood[23] – a former colony of the mighty Aedyr Empire that won its independence through a revolutionary war[24] – the Vailian Republics – a confederation of sovereign city-states[25] – and the Penitential Regency of Readceras – a quasi-theocratic state ruled by priests of the god Eothas.[25]

Technologically and socially, most of the civilizations in Eora are in what roughly corresponds to the early stages of the Renaissance.[15] Firearms are still a relatively new invention and are quite cumbersome to use, and as a result their use is not very widespread. They have, however, proven quite effective against magic users.[15]

A factor of great conflict all over Eora is the recent scientific discovery that souls are not mere metaphysical abstractions, but quantifiable, measurable objects that can be transferred, stored, or molded. Souls are the basic of magic, as accessing their power is what allows certain people to use it. Souls leave the body upon death, and go through a largely unknown process before reincarnating into a newborn body.[25] Every soul does, however, have embedded memories from their previous lives, and through certain processes a person's soul can be "Awakened", meaning they gain awareness of these past lives.[25] Though the study of souls, called Animancy,[15] is still a young field of science, the implications for society at large has been vast, and lead to rapid advances in technology and caused several rifts and clashes in the different religious communities, which has marked the era as a time of great turmoil.[15]

Characters[edit]

The player character is known as "The Watcher". Several characters can join them on their journey.[7] These include: Edér, a fighter and worshiper of one of the game's gods, Eothas;[7][26] Aloth, a wizard and child of parents who served nobility;[7][27] Durance, a priest and follower of Magran, a goddess of war and fire;[7][28][29] Sagani, a ranger who is on a quest to search for an elder from her village;[7][30] Grieving Mother, a strange cipher who can not normally be fully seen by other people, and has a personal connection to the hollowborn problem;[7][31][32] Pallegina, a paladin who works for the Vailian Republics;[33][34] Kana Rua, a chanter who was sent by his people to recover a book of sacred text;[35][36] and Hiravias, a druid.[37]

Plot[edit]

The player is a foreigner who arrives in Dyrwood.[38] Their caravan is hit by a mysterious storm that kills everyone but them.[7][39] Taking refuge in a cave, they witness some cultists perform a ritual on a machine that can strip souls from their bodies.[40] Exposed to these energies, the player character becomes a Watcher, a person able to read souls.[7] The player character also become Awakened, able to access memories of their past lives.[7][41] This curses them with waking visions and an inability to sleep. In time, the Watcher will go mad from this, so they set out to track down the cultists and reverse the curse.[7]

Dyrwood is cursed by the Hollowborn Plague: children are being born without souls, leaving them unresponsive like vegetables.[42] At a loss to explain the cause, many people blame animancers, the scientists who study and manipulate souls.[7] Investigating the curse, the Watcher discovers that the Hollowborns' souls have in fact been stolen by a cult known as the Leaden Key, led by a priest named Thaos, and that Thaos is framing animancers for the Plague.[43][44][45] This campaign culminates in a riot where animancers are lynched and their college is destroyed.[46]

The Watcher pursues Thaos to Twin Elms, where they finally learn the truth behind Thaos' actions. The gods are synthetic beings created by ancient animancers to serve as a civilizing force for the world.[47][48] Thaos is the last survivor of their order, and his eternal mission is to ensure that nobody ever discovers this secret.[49] To this end, he seeks to discredit and suppress animancy wherever it flourishes. He stole the souls of the Hollowborn to empower the goddess Woedica, who hates animancy and would see it destroyed.[50] Though the other gods have an interest in protecting their secret, they do not want Woedica to dominate them, and so aid the Watcher in confronting Thaos.[50]

The Watcher slays Thaos in his lair.[50] The ending varies depending on the Watcher's choices in the game.[51]

Development[edit]

Pillars of Eternity concept art published during Kickstarter campaign.

Pillars of Eternity was developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Paradox Interactive.[52] The game uses a modified version of the Unity game engine made specifically for Pillars of Eternity.[53][54] The game was directed by Josh Sawyer;[55] also involved in production are Chris Avellone, Tim Cain and Adam Brennecke.[56][57] The audio director of Pillars of Eternity is Justin Bell, who also composed the game.[58] Bell stated he was inspired by the music of Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale when composing the game's music.[59]

On September 10, 2012, Obsidian's webpage began teasing about a brand new game (entitled "Project X"), it initially was a number 4 encircled by an Ouroboros.[60] The next day it was revealed to be a countdown.[61] On September 14, 2012, the Kickstarter campaign went live revealing further details of the project.[62] It completed its 1.1 million dollars objective in just over 24 hours, and the first set of "stretch goals" were announced.[63] Pillars of Eternity surpassed the $1.6 million mark five days after the fund-raising began.[64] It was announced an OS X version of the game would be provided together with a DRM-free option through GOG.com.[64] A Linux version was announced on September 21, 2012.[65] It passed the $2 million mark on September 26, 2012.[66] On October 8, 2012, it was announced that Wasteland 2 would be offered to backers who pledged US$165 (and above).[67] In the last day of the campaign, Pillars of Eternity surpassed Double Fine Adventure as Kickstarter's most-funded videogame at the time.[68]

Feargus Urquhart, Obsidian's CEO, explained why they chose to use a crowd funding model for Pillars of Eternity instead of the traditional developer and publisher arrangement: "What Kickstarter does is let us make a game that is absolutely reminiscent of those great games, since trying to get that funded through a traditional publisher would be next to impossible."[69] In an interview, Josh Sawyer said that being free of the limitations of a publisher would enable them to "delve into more mature subject matter[...] slavery, hostile prejudice (racial, cultural, spiritual, sexual), drug use and trade, and so on will all help flesh out the story".[70] Obsidian was said to be inspired by InXile Entertainment's success of using Kickstarter to fund Wasteland 2.[71] Chris Avellone said during the project's announcement that if the campaign were to succeed, Pillars of Eternity would become a franchise. He also ruled out a possible console port of the game, saying, "Those [console] limitations affect RPG mechanics and content more than players may realize (especially for players who've never played a PC RPG and realize what's been lost over the years), and often doesn't add to the RPG experience."[56] Additionally, he has pledged to write a novella set in the game world.[72]

On October 16, 2012, Pillars of Eternity‍ '​s Kickstarter funding campaign concluded with a total of $3,986,929, becoming the most highly funded video game on the Kickstarter platform at the time. Together with further funds collected via PayPal, its budget rose to $4,163,208.[73] In December 2013, Obsidian announced that the official title for the game would be Pillars of Eternity, dropping the working title Project Eternity.[74][75] They also launched a poll asking backers whether or not they would support further fundraising.[75]

In March 2014, it was announced that Paradox Interactive would publish the game. It was stated that Paradox's role would be taking care of marketing and distribution of the game, while Obsidian still retains the rights to the intellectual property.[76] On March 11, 2015, a preview video of the documentary series, titled Road to Eternity, was released. It has been revealed that the money Obsidian Entertainment raised for the game through its Kickstarter campaign saved it from closure, as it had been suffering from financial problems following its cancellation of a game for the "next-generational consoles" in 2012.[77][78]

Release[edit]

On March 17, 2015, Obsidian confirmed that Pillars of Eternity went gold, indicating it was being prepared for production and release.[79] The game was released for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux on March 26, 2015.[80] Several editions of the game were released, including a Champion Edition which has a campaign almanac, a map of the game, the soundtrack of the game, wallpapers, and ringtones, and a Royal Edition which includes the Champion Edition items along with a strategy guide, concept art, and a novella which was written by Chris Avellone.[81][82]

Expansion packs[edit]

According to Pillars of Eternity‍ '​s lead programmer Adam Brennecke, Obsidian is working on an expansion pack to the game which will be with an area size similar to the Baldur's Gate expansion pack, Tales of the Sword Coast. However, Brennecke said he will not reveal many details about it due to it being early in development.[57][83] The expansion, Pillars of Eternity: The White March, was announced by Obsidian at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015.[84] It will extend the game, raise the level cap, and add new party members and abilities.[84] Its story involves the protagonist entering an old fortress and finding a white forge.[85]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 88%[86]
Metacritic 89/100[87]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 8.5/10[21]
Game Informer 9.25/10[88]
Game Revolution 4.5/5 stars[14]
IGN 9/10[89]
PC Gamer (US) 92/100[7]
The Escapist 5/5 stars[5]

Pillars of Eternity was met with positive reviews upon its release; it is currently listed on Metacritic with a score of 89/100, indicating "generally favorable reviews" according to the site.[87] The Escapist wrote that while it caters to a nostalgic fan base, it is an "excellent" role-playing game on its own merit, and also said that is the best isometric role-playing game to come out "in years".[5] PC Gamer said that Obsidian made their best game thus far with Pillars of Eternity, and also wrote that it is a worthy successor to the games it was inspired by.[7] IGN praised the game, saying that it is a representation of what is good about old school role-playing games.[89] Digital Spy lauded Pillars of Eternity, writing that it is a "masterclass in role-playing game development".[8]

Game Revolution said that Pillars of Eternity‍ '​s combat is "deep and engaging";[14] similarly, Metro wrote that the combat is "highly complex".[2] GameSpot said that the combat is the game's best component, and also gave praise to the battle music.[32] Gameplanet praised the game for its strategic combat and level-based progression.[90] Game Informer noted the combat's customizability in the game, including the ability to change the difficulty and set options for auto-pausing.[88] However, the review criticized the pathfinding in the game.[88]

Pillars of Eternity‍ '​s graphics and artwork were well received. Gameplanet called the art design in the game "excellent".[90] Game Informer said that the game's maps are "thoughtfully crafted", and that the detail on the characters and their equipment is "incredible".[88] Metro noted the game's higher resolution than older isometric games such as Baldur's Gate, saying that it benefits its "gorgeous" artwork.[2] The review also praised the game's lighting and particle effects.[2] The Escapist said that the spell effects in the game are "quite visually impressive" and that the character models are an improvement from traditional isometric games; however, the reviewer said that the backgrounds are not as impressive as "some of the more picturesque older titles".[5] IGN criticized the game's art style, calling it "dated".[89] Gameplanet found the game's voice acting to be "excellent", saying that none of it is over acted.[90] Game Informer echoed this statement, and also wrote that the game's sound and music is "delicate and beautiful".[88]

GameSpot called Pillars of Eternity‍ '​s writing "lovely".[32] Particular praise was given by the reviewer to the character of the Grieving Mother, whose personal story he said was intriguing and "mysterious".[32] Destructoid praised the plot and the world's reactivity to the player, writing, "the main plot is packed with twists and surprises with staggering ramifications for a world players will feel they have become part of."[21] IGN said that characters in the game, both major and minor, have elaborate characterization, but found the fact that only some characters have voice acting to be an annoyance.[89] Eurogamer criticized the game's lack of humor, with the writer of the review saying that he wanted characters in the same vein as Minsc from Baldur's Gate and Morte from Planescape: Torment in Pillars of Eternity to "lighten the mood". The writer further said that he found the quests in the game to be "fairly stock" and the characters "forgettable".[91]

References[edit]

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