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In the week since Obsidian Entertainment officially announced Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire and kicked off their crowdfunding campaign, there has been a flurry of updates and developments ranging from story details to new fundraising goals and rewards.
PCGamesN has penned a pair of comprehensive articles that reveal some of the emerging details of Deadfire’s story, setting, characters, and gameplay. The first article, an interview with Obsidian Design Director Josh Sawyer, reveals some of the basics of the game’s storyline – a “personal quest” to go “god-hunting” that leads to a deeper journey to “save your soul” – as well as a look at how Obsidian, wanting to switch from a setting of “temperate forests and meadows” to something a little more varied, came to the decision of setting the sequel in Eora’s Deadfire Archipelago:
A smattering of small volcanic islands far to the south of the Dyrwood. Where Pillars 1 had a Middle Ages European vibe, the Deadfire more closely resembles the southern Pacific island chains of Asia.
“It has more of a Polynesian flavour, overall,” confirms Sawyer. “The climate is much different, the foliage you see is much different.”
The archipelago is in the process of being colonised, however, so you will see familiar faces and races - the humans and dwarves of Old Vailia, plus the Aumaua of Rauatai. Here be monsters, too: out on the ocean to the east, terrible sea creatures cut short any explorative excursions. Not that players are likely to want for space to wander.
“It's a big archipelago,” notes Sawyer. “It’s full of sea monsters, pirates and volcanoes, all sorts of crazy, crazy stuff.”
This variety in the setting of Deadfire is the topic of the second article, which reveals a bit about how Obsidian wanted to shake up the status quo a bit for the second Pillars game while still remaining faithful to the nostalgia and expectations of their fans:
“I've worked on shipped games that were really incredibly bizarre, and that can be very off-putting to a lot of people, so I am trying to be cognisant of people’s comfort zones,” says Sawyer. “Especially with the audience that came to this expecting a very traditional D&D-style RPG.”
In that sense Sawyer and his team are still beholden to the commitment they made way back in the Project Eternity Kickstarter: to build a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale.
“I will say that Forgotten Realms high fantasy is not my first choice for my style of setting,” Sawyer admits. “But I grew up playing in Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms and even Dragonlance. When I first got started in the industry, I was making games in the Forgotten Realms. It’s a setting that I had a lot of fun in, and also we know that our fans have a ton of fun in.
“I think we’ve tried to grow it a little bit, but fundamentally, it’s your traditional high fantasy. There are restrictions on that, but they're restrictions we knew going in.”
And on Tuesday night, Obsidian Entertainment’s Narrative Designer Carrie Patel – one of the writers from the original Pillars game – released some more information about travelling companions in Deadfire, including an anticipated reveal of which characters might be returning from the original game (with some minor spoilers):
Aloth, Pallegina, and Edér will join you, the Watcher, in Deadfire, provided they survived their adventures in the Dyrwood. You'll find, however, that they've changed in the intervening years, and the people they've become depends in large part on how you left them at the end of Pillars of Eternity.
These returning companions will, of course, be supplemented by new additions to the Pillars universe, and the manner in which companions interact with the player is getting plenty of attention from developers, particularly in the role they play in the storyline:
Companions are set to be more tightly integrated with the narrative of Deadfire, so we wanted to bring back those whose personal stories will best tie in with the Watcher's and with the conflict unfolding in the archipelago. And wherever their new journey takes them, it's sure to test, challenge, and change them - and the Watcher - together.
All this talk about the story and setting of Deadfire is exciting, but there is still the nitty and gritty of actually developing the game – and footing the bill for it. On that front, Obsidian has posted several promising updates on Deadfire’s Fig crowdfunding campaign. After surpassing their fundraising goal in the first 24 hours, Obsidian has been pressing on to garner additional funds – and enticing charitable fans with the promise of intriguing stretch goals. At the time of this writing, Obsidian had already amassed enough funds to add sub-classes to Deadfire, to increase the level cap from 16 to 18, and even to add an additional companion who can join your party. If Obsidian hits the $2 million mark – perhaps a fait accompli given the time still left in the campaign – they will institute AI customization akin to the system they created for the White March expansion of the original Pillars of Eternity:
With this addition, you can customize AI behaviors with a visual UI allowing for the fine tuning spell-casting and ability use. For example, the order that an AI casts spells in can be defined and conditional logic can be set for each spell. This gives you the power to preset combat AI for Wizards, Priests, and Ciphers based on a variety of gameplay conditions. We plan on having this feature work for multi-classed characters as well, and we will have more details about the look of the UI very soon.
With seven days of the crowdfunding campaign down and 23 left to go, more updates and stretch goals are sure to be in the works. Obsidian’s Josh Sawyer is already teasing another interesting design update for Thursday, so be sure to look out for more exciting Pillars news.