Pillars of Eternity Gameplay Footage, Previews and Interviews

We have rounded up some more coverage for Pillars of Eternity, courtesy of Obsidian's recent PR blitz, which included the first gameplay footage for the title, based on the beginning/tutorial segment of the game.


By and large, Sawyer and company feel confident in their ability to create a successful RPG and satisfy their rabid fans. Infinity Engine RPGs, after all, are squarely in their wheelhouse. And Sawyer says he never really got tired of making them, even if he did occasionally tire of making them on short schedules.

Their veteran sensibilities are apparent in Pillars of Eternity's construction. No longer based on BioWare's old Infinity Engine, Obsidian has opted to adopt the Unity Engine, which has become a common standard for smaller studios and independent developers alike. They also know their limitations, so you won't see any expensive cutscenes in Pillars of Eternity. Instead, Obsidian has created Choose You Own Adventure-style sequences rendered in still images, giving Pillars of Eternity the distinct flavor of an 1980s-era PC RPG.

It wouldn't really be fair to say that Obsidian is cutting corners with Pillars of Eternity, though. The spell effects are exciting and kinetic ("We've learned not to skimp on the spell effects," Sawyer says) and the depth is certainly there. During their demo, Obsidian offers a guided tour of their character creation mode, which includes multiple races and up to 11 classes. Parties will consist of up to six members, and it will be possible to create generics if the pre-built companions prove unsatisfactory. It won't be possible to date them, though.<br<
"We decided we couldn't do a good, robust romantic system. They're very sensititve. It's very easy to do romances badly," Sawyer says. "So we decided to take them off the table."

Strategy Informer:

The sheer number of dialogue options is impressive, and refreshingly none of them are simple 'win buttons'. You might be the most intimidating person in the world, but if you threaten the wrong person at the wrong time you're going to get yourself in very hot water. (Just because you see that you qualify for something, like 'Oh I have a high intellect or a high might', that doesn't mean that it's going to be a good choice,) Sawyer points out. (In some of our other RPG's that's become the 'win button'. Not so in this.) To illustrate his point Adler decides to try and intimidate an enemy chief backed up by basically his entire warband. It doesn't go very well.

Which leads us nicely into combat. It certainly looks solid, although without getting my hands on the game directly it's hard to tell too much. It's real-time with pause, in classic isometric CRPG tradition, the interface is crisp and clean, animations and effects are impressive and protracted battles just look great against those hand-drawn backgrounds. Playing a front-line fighter or barbarian seems to be much more entertaining in Pillars of Eternity than it ever was in Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale there's a much greater variety of actions and skills to play with, which means you're not just forced to simply stand there belting away with a greatsword.

Melee classes will also feel very different from each other, down to their basic moves in battle. Barbarians, for example, get several tricks that fighters don't; they're much more manoeuvrable for one, with a combat charge move that can let them close right in on an unlucky wizard much faster than a regular fighter could, and they love taking on large groups of enemies. (Those numbers there came up because you're doing AOE damage,) Sawyer points out as our bearded hero minces another poor Glanfathan into quarters with his dual axes. (Whenever you get a big group of enemies bunched up, that's when the barbarian shines. They don't necessarily do as much damage to a single target, but when you get a group they can hit all of them, which is very handy.)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun chatted with project director J.E. Sawyer:

RPS: In terms of resources, the 2d artwork in a game like Pillars must be hugely time-consuming. Even the scripted conversation and decision sequences are illustrated. How much unique artwork have you created?

Sawyer: A lot (laughs)!

RPS: How does it compare in size to the Infinity Engine games? Have you been able to go as big as you wanted?

Sawyer: Yeah, we're as big as we wanted. The smallest of the Infinity Engine games was Icewind Dale, which had around 80 maps, and the largest was Baldur's Gate II, which had over 200 maps. We're at about 150. But even Icewind Dale was a pretty big game. I feel like we have a nice amount of big city stuff, cool wildernesses and nice dungeons. It's a good mix of those types of environment, with plenty to explore.


RPS: In terms of telling a story within a new setting, how much work does the player's personal narrative have to in order to function as an introduction to the world as well?

Sawyer: Part of the reason you pick your background is so that it's clear you're from a different place. Your character is a newcomer as well. So interacting with characters, you learn about the conflict within the area which is the thread you follow and the history of the region as well. We avoid exposition as much as possible.

I'm a big believer in having characters conveying expositional things in terms of their own personality and situation. It helps to draw players into their lives and also does the work in communicating the plot.

RPS: With so many familiar tropes a word I hate how do you ensure that players feel like strangers in a strange land?

Sawyer: We set up circumstances like the last scene you saw. You come across something that you can't really make sense of. It's like the end of a chapter where you go.whaaaat? And then you turn the page and the next chapter is following a completely different character!

We want players to see the robed figures chanting and make assumptions about what they're doing. Not too uncommon in a fantasy game, right? And they're waving their arms, which is the kind of thing these guys tend to do. But then there's a huge machine and it's drawing in the winds, which you saw pulling peoples' souls out earlier. So that's all connected but what does it all mean? And what is it your role?

As did PC World:

Does character creation happen after the opening text scrawl?

JS: Yeah, it happens after the text scrawl. It gives you the context. The background of the character creation screen is actually where you're standing in the opening scene.


JS: You can manage everyone's inventory from the same screen. Normally in combat you can't access your inventory but you can access your weapon sets.

Right now it's unpaused while you're in the menu, but I think we're probably going to have it paused in the menu.

Inventory is just slots. This is actually more slots than characters will typically have. Characters will usually start off with eight. You also have the stash. The stash, you can look at and put things into when you're not resting, but you can only get things out when you're resting or at a store. The way we handle a lot of this stuff is...the idea is your characters have a limited number of slots to carry things, but we don't want people to...it's not fun to...

Make this person carry all the arrows

JS: ...Rearrange weapons. Take a trip out of the dungeon and come back in. Whatever. When you're at a tabletop playing D&D with someone you can say, "Hey DM, uh, we make two trips to carry out all the gold," and he can go "Uh, cool, nothing happens." Whereas in this game or the Infinity Engine games you'd have to walk in, pick everything up again. So that's what the stash is for. The stash, you put it in a bag but you can't take anything out until you rest.

While PC Games N brings word that Obsidian would hope to fund a sequel with the money made from the sales of the game, rather than with another Kickstarter campaign:

(What I would like, and this is true of any independent developer, is for this title and the expansion to be successful enough that we don't have to go back to Kickstarter to make the sequel,) Sawyer told PCGamesN.


While (very rewarding), Sawyer said it was (hard to describe) just how gruelling the Kickstarter process is.

(It's 30 straight days of campaigning,) he explained. (It's rough. You're constantly talking to the fans, you're constantly thinking of new stretch goals, you're constantly generating new content.

(That process is something I could never look forward to but the overall result of it can be very effective. I wouldn't shy away from using it in the future if I thought here's an idea for a game that a publisher's not going to touch.)

IGN asked about KOTOR 3 and a new Fallout, as usual:

"Personally, I think there are some interesting things that could happen with Fallout in an MMO environment. There are some folks who kind of cobbled together all the Fallout 2 resources into kind of a makeshift MMO, made by fans. It was pretty cool but insane. It's like if you take all of the most brutal aspects of Ultima Online and multiply them by five, you have that game. So I think there's interesting potential for an online version of Fallout."

And finally, PC Gamer interviewed J.E. Sawyer as part of their PC Gamer Show, which also includes a showcase of the excellent Divinity: Original Sin and some discussion on what is and isn't an RPG. The interview segment concerning Pillars of Eternity (which also includes some gameplay snippets) starts at 26:16: