Pillars of Eternity Reviews

The embargo has been lifted and the first reviews for Pillars of Eternity are now out on in the wild for everyone to read. I recommend you keep in mind that review keys were only handed to reviewers last week so some outlets will inevitably publish their own reviews later, but the first impressions seem to be extremely positive.

Eurogamer's Richard Cobbett disliked the game's writing and the lack of design risks, but otherwise recommends the game.

At times it seems like the Dyrwood national pastime is reciting history to every passing stranger, and even when not, this is a very dry, humourless game for the most part. Tastes vary of course, and there's nothing wrong with a stock fantasy setting played straight, but I soon longed for a Minsc or a Morte to lighten the mood and add a spark more humanity to the action. Quests are fairly stock, characters forgettable, and even the longest serving party members made little impact on me. Certainly, despite the Planescape Torment style premise of the soul stuff, this is no Planescape Torment.


In keeping so close to the Baldur's Gate/Infinity Engine template, Pillars of Eternity can't help but inherit a few old flaws, and it would have been nice to see a bit more personality of its own shine through its carefully traditional design and shell. That said, what most stands out is just how well it manages to modernise the experience of playing those games and stand apart from them as an epic adventure in its own right. It's an RPG with design firmly rooted in nostalgia, but one that absolutely doesn't rely on it to be enjoyable today. Instead, it's both a great reminder of why those games worked so well, and a brand new adventure well worth the hours upon hours (upon hours upon hours) that it takes to pick away at its secrets and its world.

PC Gamer has plenty of words of praise for the writing and combat, 92/100.

The story in Pillars of Eternity is told largely through text. Page upon page of superbly written, vivid, descriptive text. There's some voice acting, from companions and in important story quests, but mostly you have to use your imagination. This frees Obsidian to write mountains of text without having to worry about recording dialogue for it all, and the result is a vast amount of detail.

As characters speak, their body language is described, giving you a sense of their personality. Click a magnifying glass icon on certain objects in the world and you're treated to a totally unnecessary, but wonderfully evocative, description of them. Use your Watcher powers on selected NPC's souls and you're treated to expressive 500-word vignettes about their past. I haven't done this much reading, and enjoyed it, in a game since Planescape: Torment.


This is a big, fat, deep adventure that lets you carve your own unique path through a fantasy world that's been brilliantly brought to life with rich, evocative writing. It's a game steeped in a bygone era of computer RPG design, but somehow it doesn't feel archaic. Obsidian have always been bound to other peoples' worlds Fallout, Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, South Park but in creating their own from scratch, they've made not only their best game to date, but one of the best RPGs on PC.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun, scoreless.

Your companions all have specific side-quests attached, as you'd expect. Some are relatively simple, conversation-based, others stretch out across the whole game. All of them involve getting to know them well, and the impact of these relationships is superb. I was concerned this wasn't the case, I should say, for a good length of time. Maybe until halfway through, so possibly 30 hours into the game, I was having a completely wonderful time, but frustrated that I didn't really care about any of the people with me. That really significantly changed, and it became apparent that a lot of this time had been laying foundations for more complicated understanding. But still, it would have been nice to have started caring sooner. (It didn't help that characters who show up later in the game were far more interesting to me.)

By the end, I gave so many damns about their opinions, about how they interpreted events, and what my actions would make them each of them individually think of me. When one in particular disagreed with my gut feeling on a huge matter, I questioned myself at great length.

Issues? There really aren't many. One small detail I'd have liked to have seen would be a more useful map. As you explore you remove fog from new locations, revealed on the maps that pop up with an '˜M'. But they contain very limited information, sometimes only marking districts within towns, and only occasionally labelling particular buildings. This is a larger problem when you've got to return to a specific person as part of a quest, and the quest log fails to mention exactly where it is they're found. By the time you've got 15 side quests, 10 tasks, and two main quest threads on the go, remembering where absolutely everybody is becomes quite a challenge (especially when so many people have similar sounding M-names). Having to read through quest logs to remember mostly does the job, but it would have been nice if they could just be marked on the map, even if it's just an MMO-style '˜!', to remind you there's something to be done there. (And if that makes you SO MAD, it could be switch-off-able like every other aspect of the UI.)

The Escapist praises the amount of choices available and many of the design decisions, 5/5.

The greater story is a bit of a juxtaposition. It appears to be a little "by the numbers" with evil tyrants, religious wars, and a number of setting and story elements pertaining to souls. The characters, writing, and story are solid, as expected given Obsidian's pedigree. However, Pillars of Eternity's commitment to player agency makes it significantly more interesting than the base components. Rarely are situations black and white, and you're rewarded for digging a little deeper, though it makes the final decisions all the more agonizing. This is one game where you'll want a firm idea of how your character would operate or respond.

During these decisions, Pillars of Eternity gives you a ton of options, but many of the more favorable interactions are locked behind skill checks. This ties back into it being worthwhile to have a diverse array of solid stats. Do you have enough Might to intimidate a drunken mob? Is your Intellect high enough to deduce what's really going on? This leads to a great connection with your characters as they are more likely to solve problems in line with how you'd expect them to. Your Barbarian isn't going to diplomatically talk the situation out; you're probably just going to punch someone really hard.

GameWatcher feels the Stronghold is largely unnecessary, but otherwise assigns the title a 9.0/10.

I could write another thousand words on Pillars of Eternity, and be no closer to feeling like I've done this ridiculously huge game justice. I could talk about the clever resting system, which forces you to be very careful about where and when you choose to refresh your party's spells. I could discuss the beautiful descriptive writing, which effortlessly paints a vibrant picture of each of your companions without the need for lengthy animated cutscenes. The companions! Mad monk Durance, likeable, easy-going Eder, hard as nails hunter Sagani. Aloth the wizard, whose particular ailment provides some much-needed comic relief, but who has hidden depths that become clear as your story goes on. I could mention the Stronghold system. which feels a bit superfluous, actually. Or the surprising lack of bugs, which is something I never thought I'd say about an Obsidian game.

All you really need to know though, is this; Pillars of Eternity is a triumph. If you're a backer and a fan of those classic Infinity Engine games, you're in for a real treat, a smart and complex adventure that will keep you entertained and absorbed for possibly the rest of your life, and certainly until the already announced expansion pack comes out. Even those who never got on with those classic games should give it a go, because there's a tonne of smart design choices in here that smooth out the rough edges that might have kept you away before. A superb introduction to a fascinating new fantasy world. Can't wait to see where in the world of Eora we get to go next.

Stevivor, 8.5/10.

Overall, the game is an engaging and deep RPG that will suck up your spare time like all traditional RPGs should. Although I'm not typically a player of this style of RPG, I found myself returning to the game within a few minutes of a frustrating set-back. The world is huge, and the selection of side-quests and additional content to investigate will allow you to log more hours in this game than you would expect. It's easy to see why this game has been in the works for three years, and knowing my luck it'll take that long for me to finish everything it has on offer. Play this game.

Pixel Dynamo, 8.8/10.

Success relies upon tactics and those all important dice rolls. The school of Infinity Engine RPGs that first wormed their way onto computers robbed their combat system from Dungeons and Dragons which uses scores of imaginary dice to calculate the nitty gritty of every encounter. Each character and weapon has a base damage, but the amount of damages it actually causes an enemy (if it even hits them) is decided by a dice roll against another series of attributes (such as Reflex, Deflection, Constitution and Damage Reduction) belonging to the other party. Some attacks hit, some graze (a 50% reduction from a hit) and many, many attacks will miss entirely. The result is encounters which play out radically differently with very similar sets of circumstances. I've encountered groups of undead which upon first attempt have ripped my entire party to shreds with ease and then, with minor tweaks to my strategy, and sometimes no tweaks at all, have been torn asunder by me instead. The idea is to tip, as much as possible, the odds in your favour. No encounter is a surefire win unless you outclass your foe dramatically. Quicksave is your friend in this, and par for the course when playing an old school RPG. PoE is a cruel world to which we're no longer accustomed to but its unforgiving combat landscape is 100% in the spirit of the games which Pillars is commemorating.


I have few complaints to make, none of which tainted my playthrough in a significant way. Pathfinding can sometimes be an issue (as has always been the case with Infinity Engine games), with party members failing to find an obvious route through other characters. Items could also be a messy business, the unlimited stores of your cache becoming full with page after page of cheap items to be sold wholesale at the nearest merchant. Unfortunately merchant pages would then display all of these items in case you wanted to re-buy them, making the process of collection and exchange unnecessarily annoying. Finally, there are a series of difficulty spikes in the early sections of the game which even a vet like myself found difficult to overcome. Though in honesty these are minor dents in PoE's suit of alluringly polished armor that I forgive with ease. Everything promised has been delivered in a labour of love that proves how deserving Obsidian was of such an outpouring of faith.

MMORPG.com complains about simplistic combat but is otherwise very satisfied, 9/10.

I knew what I had to do. I raised my sword. WHIFFED. Again, WHIFF. And again, and again until finally my hits started landing. Between each swing a timing bar would count down for each of us resulting in a game of swing, wait, swing, wait, until finally he dropped dead and I took his feather cap. See, in Pillars, combat has a nasty habit of breaking its own pacing. Thankfully, the later lack of party AI demands that you split your attention and ignore the overt dice-rolling.

Combat also feels slightly simplistic when compared to its fantasy contemporary, Divinity: Original Sin. The two games bear few comparisons when it comes to combat, but Pillars' lack of environmental interaction stands out when so much of the world begs to be touched.


Is Pillars of Eternity the perfect game? No, but it is an incredibly good one. When fans backed the Kickstarter to the tune of nearly four million dollars, they did so on the promise of Obsidian returning to their roots; more than that, that they would return we RPG players to our roots. By taking cues from the past, Pillars of Eternity bears lessons for future developers. Accessibility is fine, but players learn to love depth. Cutscenes are important, but less so than a well-crafted story. And the world itself should be the reason to explore, not the experience from the 100th bandit. Pillars isn't perfect, no, but it may just be a modern classic.

George "SuperBunnyHop" Weidman has published a very positive video review:

As I mentioned earlier there hasn't been a lot of time to complete the game for plenty of reviewers, so there's also a large number of impressions articles available, like this one from PC World:

This might be the first game to utilize Pillars of Eternity's setting, but you wouldn't know it by the amount of world-building and lore that goes on here. Like Wasteland 2, Obsidian proves that world-builders and story-tellers can do some of their best work when freed from the shackles of voice-acting budgets and facial tech that doesn't quite work and "cinematic" camera angles.

This is a book. A book you play. Obsidian's Josh Sawyer was not kidding when he told me that Pillars of Eternity is a game "for people who like to read," and honestly if you played the Infinity Engine games you probably already knew that. But that reading allows for some incredible detail that other games simply can't afford rooms, people, places, quests, everything is imbued with enough lore as to be overwhelming if you try to take it all in. Obsidian's world is an old one, with former civilizations passed into memory and massive ruins left to puzzle over.


I don't want to spoil much more, but the story so far is fantastic. Sure, much of it can reduce down to the age-old "random person saves the world" trope, but it's really the amount of care put into presenting the world that sets Pillars of Eternity apart. It's the way you'll read a random book and then six hours later realize that book was actually intrinsic to a conversation you're having, not necessarily in terms of actual conversation options but just because you have a deeper sense of the world itself.

GameInformer is also working on a review-in-progress. A snippet:

There are any number of things that can go wrong in the latter acts of a role-playing game to spoil the fun. Balance can go off-kilter, story threads can get mishandled, and character upgrades can run out of steam. With those caveats, the first hours spent in Pillars of Eternity have me incredibly impressed. Obsidian's RPG does almost everything I hoped it would do, presenting a compelling world, challenging tactical combat, and numerous opportunities for interesting role-playing interactions.

Pillars of Eternity established a firm foundation with its intuitive and comprehensive role-playing system. The Pillars digital rule system has enough detail and explanation that you could almost lift it out wholesale and run your own tabletop experience using it. Even so, smartly placed tooltips and a gradual introduction of concepts through tutorial boxes makes the game easy to get into, even for players new to party-based tactical RPGs. The system is strongly rooted in the feel of old-school Dungeons & Dragons mechanics, but with the freedom to reshape features where appropriate.

We conclude with another review-in-progress this time from Videogamer.com. The writer has only played 26 hours and doesn't feel like assigning the game a score just yet, but he's clearly positive about his experience so far:

You can't have everything in your party, so everything has to be useful. There are no (dud) classes, nothing feels significantly under or over-powered aside from animal companions, which are a bit crap, and tend to die first. PoE pulls off a deft balancing act; this is most evident when you consider where and when the encounters occur. So far, I have yet to encounter a fight that is too high-level, or too easy, and considering that this is done without level-scaling, it's an impressive feat. You will die a fair bit, but the toughest barneys rarely feel like they're getting the better of you through stats alone. Usually, after a few tweaks to your strategy, you will win the day, and doing so is enormously satisfying.

Satisfying too is the fact that combat doesn't hog your time. As you would expect, the enormous main story is supported (and often expanded upon) by a plethora of sidequests. Most of these you will pick up on your travels, but some are specific to a party member, leading to revelations about their past and yours in the process. Often, fighting will take a back seat to investigation, exploration, and diplomacy. You don't have to kill every ogre you come across, and you don't have to take every quest-giver's word at face value. There's nearly always another side to a story, and it will be left up to you to decide who to believe. From mediating petty disputes to solving murders or infiltrating cults there's plenty to do outside of saving the world, and/or killing the things in it.