Pillars of Eternity E3 Previews and Video Interview

In case yesterday's first helping of E3 previews for Pillars of Eternity left you somewhat unsatisfied, we've rounded up a few more of them and a video interview with project director J.E. Sawyer. It's also worth noting that these and the game updates will probably be our only source of information for a while longer, given Obsidian doesn't plan to make a video out of the E3 gameplay demo.

Calm Down Tom:

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.

Hardcore Gamer:

Narration and dialogue choices are key factors to Pillars of Eternity as depending on how a situation is approached, the outcome will be different. This all ties into their Disposition Reputation System which tracks just what kind of a person you are. This is represented through minor and major choices when selecting dialogue (Hardcore players can turn off the visual indicators), crafting the protagonist's demeanor. Choosing to be diplomatic, honest, aggressive, or something else will shape what kind of person the protagonist ends up being, even unlocking different pieces of dialogue for given situations.

Combat is a major factor in any RPG, and Pillars of Eternity doesn't skimp. You'll quickly find yourself in a party of up to six, and each class has his or her own distinct abilities. The warrior has defense and knockback strengths, while someone like the rogue is more of a quick and nimble individual. Pillars of Eternity runs on an active system that can be paused at any time to better survey the situation. Through the isometric camera angle, players will be able to give commands to their party members and better plan out a fight.

SevenCut's preview is one of the most detailed pieces I've read so far (of the English ones, at least):

(One thing we knew we did not want to do is...to have markers like a compass with an arrow showing you where the next step with a quest was. It means though that we have to write our journal entries very informatively. We have to tell the player "this is what you're supposed to do." But the player has to find their own way there and use their eyes and think about what they were told to do and figure things out.)

As the two player-controlled characters enter combat, Sawyer points out that both these wizard and rogue classes have been updated from classic Infinity Engine games to give more agency to the player, with wizards gaining more general attack functions outside of spells, and rogues being no longer restricted to simply skill classes only good for picking locks and sneaking around.

Things go south for our heroes, as they return to find their caravan trashed and their friends mostly killed by cultists seeking to protect the nearby ruins. In the dialogue trees surrounding these events, we saw both the player's inventory and their diplomacy stats come into play while trying to save one party member's life, along with a host of other unexplored options during our demo. Sawyer was quick to explain that there's a lot of content players will probably miss thanks to these trees.


The other element the studio wanted to emphasize was the game's story and narrative system. It has a traditional narrative, with a narrator and plenty of dialogue to get the story moving along. However, it also has what Obsidian calls a (scripted interaction system,) where literally a script appears before the player, and he or she must choose what their character will do next, almost akin to a choose your own adventure book. However, it's not entirely that simple. What you can do, both with the scripted interaction system and with the dialogue in-game, depends on the class of your character and what skills they have learned. The game's disposition/reputation system will also affect the choices available in dialogue and in the script interaction.

It truly sounds like you could play several different stories with this game just by changing up your class, your race, and your reputation. I think I squealed with glee out loud during the presentation.


Because Pillars of Eternity is a game being produced on a crowdfunded budget even if that crowdfunding was one of the most successful such projects in history the developers have had to figure out ways to maximize their ability to tell an engaging story without using much in the way of expensive cinematic cut-scenes. One of the rather ingenious solutions to this problem was on display in our demo came in the form of what Sawyer called (scripted interactions.) These are story sequences told through the use of on-screen text descriptions, sounds, and illustrations that will be immediately recognizable to anyone who ever experienced a Fighting Fantasy-style adventure book. Players will be able to read the scenario and pick from a few different actions, some of which will only be available provided the player possesses certain stats or skills.

These descriptive interludes might not seem as flashy or exciting as a big CG sequence, but they struck me as much more than just a cost saving measure. The scripted interaction system fits the classic style of Pillars of Eternity far more than a jarring CG cut-scene would, and as an added bonus the existing overlap between Black Isle fans and Fighting Fantasy fans is likely to be quite high. Out of monetary necessity Pillars of Eternity is having to do without extensive video content or in-game narration, but they're presenting their textual descriptions in such a fun way that it might just turn out to be one of the game's strengths, rather than a shortcoming.


A mysterious purple wind appeared and sapped the souls of every member in the caravan except the three heroes who managed to escape into some ruins. Hoedan was pulled to the ground by some creature, and here I witnessed Pillars' scripted interactions, which work somewhat like a choose-your-own-adventure novel. A hand-drawn image depicted the scene along with some text that described the situation. As a wizard, the option to shoot a magic bolt at the beast to free Hoedan was present, along with the option to leave him to his fate.

The bolt worked, and Hoedan was free, but not before taking a wound. Hoeden wished to stop and rest. Calisca would have none of it and demanded the group push forward. Sawyer informed me if the player rested for Hoedan, Calisca would leave the party for good. No prompts told the player this beforehand. Consequences will play a large role in the game and will be directly related to the player's choices. Careful reading of narrative text gave the clues as to what Calisca would do in such a situation, Sawyer assured me. The party pressed on, but Hoedan would remain wounded until the party could rest.

Gaming Illustrated:

Skill checks can happen for any of the game's five skill sets: Stealth, Athletics, Lore, Mechanics and Survival. In addition to skill checks, characters can utilize the demeanor system when speaking to other characters. Depending on how you choose to interact with other characters, they will treat you different. Other characters remember how you treat them and react accordingly. The demo showed how subtle yet significant these smaller choices will affect players in the full game.

With the caravan gone and threats swarming over the Dyrwood, players head onto Gilded Vale before discovering a cave with a number of ways through. One is a floor puzzle with glowing orange runes, but by circling around the runes, players fight through some minor enemies and find a giant rock wall. Players cab knock down the wall by making the right choices during a scripted moment. If successful, players can avoid a tricky puzzle, but failure will lead to a challenging puzzle.

Finally, here's RPGamer's video interview: