Pillars of Eternity Gameplay Footage, Previews

It looks like Obsidian has been doing another press push for Pillars of Eternity, and without a doubt the highlight for people who have been following the game through the Kickstarter updates is the Quick Look they've done with the Giant Bomb folks, which shows 25 minutes of gameplay including character creation (they actually made 2 characters for the Quick Look, as they finished the demo before the 25 minutes clocked out), some combat, inventory management and puzzle solving. In case you're at work and can't look at the video, I can only says that it doesn't stray very far from the Infinity Engine formula, and looks and sounds very familiar.

Incidentally, this very kind of familiarity worries GameSpot's Kevin Van Ord, who feels Obsidian is staying perhaps too close to the game's spiritual predecessors in his preview:

As I watched Obsidian play Pillars of Eternity, it was hard not to shake the concern that stayed with me throughout the demo: that this was not a game standing on the shoulders of giants, but one relying on slavish devotion. It didn't help that I had just played the excellent Divinity: Original Sin earlier that day, an RPG that uses its inspirations as a springboard rather than as a mold, and in the process establishes an identity that makes it an important step in RPG evolution. Divinity uses old mechanics to say something new. Does Pillars of Eternity use old mechanics to say something old? And if so, is that necessarily a bad thing?

Pillars of Eternity project director Josh Sawyer doesn't think so. We chatted a bit about the Baldur's Gate legacy, and the ways Obsidian plans to differentiate their game from its forebears. And for Sawyer, a big part of that is rethinking how classes function. "I worked on all the Icewind Dale games," says Sawyer, "and I've seen how people play them. And a lot of things I look at and I think, a lot of things were really fun, really enjoyable to do. But there are certain aspects of them that are not superfun, or could be more enjoyable. And so that's a lot of what we look at. We don't have to do it the same way that it's always been done, we can change the formula a little bit. For example, one of the party members that you get is Heodan, and he's a rogue, and rogues are the most offensively powerful weapon-based characters. That's a change from second- and third-edition D&D, where they are mostly skill-based. But we did that because if you made a rogue, we wanted you to feel like this character is very good at a certain style of combat. We want every class to feel like it's important and valuable in its own way."

The demo included Pillars of Eternity's character creation, which allowed me to get a good look at the game's classes in addition to its fantasy races. Eora is an original world, and while some of its races are familiar enough, a few of them captured my imagination. I'm accustomed to Humans, Dwarfs, and Elves, but I am not sure what Pillars' Aumaua race may be like, or how I would feel should I meet an Orlan in a dark alley. Though Obsidian chose to play as a Human, Sawyer did show show me a character of the Godlike race, which the game says is viewed "with fear and wonder" due to the Godlike's "unusual nature" and inability to reproduce. (I have no word on how the Godlike are actually created, though I am sure such a ritual involves plenty of magic.) The Godlike I saw looked to be wearing a tall, pointed headpiece made of tendons and cartilage, though Sawyer affirmed that this was no headpiece, but rather a part of the Godlikes' anatomy.

Oh, but why must I be such a boring human on this mundane, magic-less planet?

IGN also has some gameplay footage and a write-up, and seems overall less worried about the game's pronounced Infinity Engine-style:

As cool as battles are in Pillars of Eternity, the most impressive gameplay feature lies in the dizzying amount of choices players can make throughout their campaign. Every action causes a reaction in Pillars of Eternity, and every choice results in consequences that could affect party members long into the game.

For example, no sooner does our party return to the caravan then we find ourselves in a hostage situation. Now we must decide what to do via a number of dialogue options, each of which is influenced by a specific personality type. Answers can range anywhere from honest to passionate to diplomatic, and how our Barbarian answers will determine the fate of the poor hostage.

Given our choice of class, our hero has a high (mighty) option, though Sawyer warns me that the answer with the highest number of points doesn't mean it's the ideal choice. We choose it anyway, and sure enough, by trying to strong-arm our way out of the hostage negotiation we end up picking a fight. (Interestingly enough, one dialogue option is locked out, as our Barbarian doesn't have the right attributes to unlock it. Sawyer explains that if we were to create a new character with the right attributes, the option would unlock and we could see events play out differently.)

Battle ensues, and yet another decision needs to be made: do we throw a weapon to help the hostage escape an enemy, or do we leave him to his own devices? Both decisions will have an impact going forward, but in the end we decide to throw our Barbarian's pike to free the victim. The result is that we've gained a new party member, but have lost one of our Barbarian's two weapons. This is a great example of choices having long-term consequences, because until we find another weapon to replace the pike, our Barbarian is at a disadvantage.

The Sixth Axis:

(As you make those choices,) Josh explained, (you're just slightly incrementing your presence on that scale as a person of that type. So passionate, and passionate doesn't actually come up that often, but it's when you're really like, '˜Please! C'mon, just do it!' You're just exhorting people like, '˜You gotta believe me!' So you get a reputation as a person who has a lot of cares.

(Some people think that's great, that you're really passionate and really driven, and other people are like, '˜Dude, you gotta chill out. You're really hyper and crazy.' And that's the idea, that each of those reps can be interpreted in a different way.)

With ten fairly distinct personality types, the various effects of character design and the branching nature of the story, I wondered how it is that every option is catered for and managed. Josh replied that (There's a person on the team who we call the Karma Police, and their job is to make sure there are enough options of any given personality type and enough reactions to each type throughout the game. We have done stuff like this in a lot of our games, so it's really just building on our previous experience with it.

(The way I talk about the system with the narrative designers is to say not to try and force options of every type in every conversation. I tell them to just look at the conversation, look at the circumstance the player is in and then think about the things that players would naturally want to do, and then map personalities to them.)


Everything about Pillars of Eternity seems to be hitting on the classic experience you would expect from an isometric view-RPG from the late '90s. There is an extensive character customization system that allows you to choose from races such as the traditional elf, dwarf, and human variety, but there is also a cone-headed race called the Godlike and several others unique to Pillars that change things up a bit. You'll gather loot, outfit your party with abilities and gear, and battle enemies using the game's active combat system.

The story is guided by player decisions, giving you the option to do things like sacrifice your main weapon by throwing it into an enemy's chest, or let that enemy eviscerate one of your companions. Every decision seems to have a consequence. Some can have massive repercussions that cause you to lose a party member for good, while others aren't quite as serious. One decision made in the demo left an AI-controlled rogue character injured and basically useless in battle because the player decided to escape a pursuing enemy rather than rest and risk capture. Pillars definitely maintains the look and feel of the old RPG (which is totally awesome), and the interesting storytelling elements and choices already have me intrigued. It feels a bit strange to welcome the '90s back with open arms, but how can I not?

Finally, Digital Spy is all about the backers beta:

"We decided very early on we won't use the critical path for this," project lead Josh Sawyer told Digital Spy.

"It's not going to have any of the story companions, because that's a big part of the story for people, is meeting those companions and experimenting with them.

"It's mostly for people to get a feel of just how the game plays overall, goofing around with the classes, the mechanics, combat, journals - it's up to them to try and play and mess around with it and see what doesn't really work, or if we aren't communicating things clearly."