Pillars of Eternity Beta Previews

A pair of new beta-based previews for Obsidian Entertainment's Pillars of Eternity have surfaced, and I think you'll agree with me that we'd prefer that neither of them goes unnoticed.

Eurogamer is the first source:

Compared to the box-ticking that passes for character creation in some modern RPGs, your gateway to Pillars of Eternity does a good job of teasing the potential depths of the full game. For now, the beta boosts you to Level 5 so you have a healthy stock of skill points to distribute, and drops you in with no introduction and a full party of four additional characters.

There's a relatively small slice of the world to explore, centred around the village of Dyrford. It's here that Eternity's visual charms are best illustrated. This is a very nice looking game, with finely detailed backgrounds that offer just enough ambient animation to be enchanting. From the rustic town square to the flickering fire-lit interior of the obligatory inn, it really makes the most of its top-down view to create a welcoming and engaging world.

The lore is rich, but organically introduced through conversation. The writing is good enough that you quickly pick up on the unique hopes and fears of the town - not least that their children are Hollowborn, the meaning of which you piece together but is quite clearly not a good thing - and there are also some more obvious quest givers to get you started. Guards from the royal House Harond are searching for a missing noblewoman, an ogre has been stealing a farmer's pigs and a mercenary called Medreth needs help in drawing out an alleged mass killer of children.

Each plot thread leads you to explore the regions neighbouring Dyrford, and it's here that you'll definitely encounter combat. The maps are small, and you're hemmed in by scenery that dictates your route through the area, so there's no real way to avoid the many aggressive creatures that are placed in your path.

And PCGamesN is the second, with two editors weighing in:

Jeremy: At first, I felt like I was back on the Sword Coast. Baldur's Gate might have been named after its singular metropolis, but it was really about the wilderness. Combat difficulty had something to do with it, but in BioWare's first game it felt as if you were cast adrift in the forest with just a couple of health potions and a price on your head. Eternity by night feels much the same - especially with the deafening chorus of crickets all around.

That ambience throws those relatively safe spaces, the hamlets, into sharp relief. Yellow warmth floods from the windows of Dryford's sole inn, and the reassuring stench of tanned leather blankets everything.

Or so the flavour text assures us, anyway. Eternity is infused with quiet literary touches, like the inn painting that turns out to be a crass political cartoon depicting two bitter enemies snogging. Dryford is a layered place - literally, as it turns out. Its denizens have small town concerns, but at least a couple unravel in conspiratorial fashion. How did you find it?

Fraser: Perhaps it was my misspent youth reading old D&D source books and ridiculous R. A. Salvatore novels that ensured I'd feel completely at home in the Sword Coast, but despite the similarities, the world of Pillars of Eternity felt. fresh is the wrong word because this is a world with so much history, but very different. New to me, even though the world is old.

You mentioned the Dryford Inn, and god do I love that place. One of the first things I did was strike up a conversation with a local storyteller, and for the next 10 minutes I gave him my full attention as he spoke of civil wars, rural strife, horrible lords and ladies - and all this lore was just for one crappy little backwater.

By the time I stepped up to the bar to get pissed and find a room, my noggin was filled to the brim with places, people and words that I'd never heard before. And even when something sounds familiar, that doesn't mean it is. You might recognise the name of a species of monster, but until you face them - or even chat to them - you don't really know what they're like in this world. This is a convenient segue into combat, because you get into quite a few scraps with monsters - and other things - in Pillars of Eternity. How did you get on with the violent side of things?