Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part I Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Paradox Interactive
Developer:Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date:2015-08-25
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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Introduction

Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part I is the first DLC for Pillars of Eternity, Obsidian Entertainment's homage to the Infinity Engine classics of yesteryear -- that is, Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment.  The DLC includes new enemies to battle, new companions to recruit, new quests to complete, new maps to explore, new equipment to wear, and more, and it works as a nice 10- to 15-hour addition to the main game.

The Story

The White March Part I triggers during Act II of the main campaign, when you learn that you've received a message from the mayor of Stalwart Village in the White March to the north.  However, when you travel to the village, you discover that the place is being attacked by ogres and wolves -- a hint perhaps that you weren't invited for your diplomacy skills.

When you're finally able to speak with the mayor, she tells you that her village and the White March in general have dwindled in importance over the last 200 years, ever since the doors of Durgan's Battery mysteriously closed, and the dwarves who lived there disappeared.  The Battery was where Durgan Steel was crafted, and the mayor will speculate that if you can figure out how to enter the Battery and get the White Forge inside running again, then people will once again flock to Stalwart Village to purchase whatever version of Durgan Steel the villagers can create.

So can you save the village?  Can you breach the walls of the Battery?  Those are your goals in the DLC, and the characters and storylines support them pretty well.  Better yet, even though this DLC is only Part I, the story comes to an acceptable conclusion.  You're not left hanging like you often see in multi-part movies these days, and you're even given some hints about things to come, so you have some reasons to anticipate Part 2, which is scheduled for release in January.

New Content

The White March Part I contains a little bit of everything.  Let me start with the new maps.  There are 11 of them, and they split time between showing the wintry climes of the White March and setting the stage for the ruined and abandoned -- of dwarves anyway -- halls of Durgan's Battery.  As was the case in the main game, the new maps are detailed and well-constructed, and they give you room so you can maneuver your party around during battles.

There are also over 20 new quests.  Many of them give you options for how to solve them.  They're also more complicated than simple fetch or assassination quests.  For example, in Stalwart Village a layabout asks you to steal some wine from the local inn.  If you accept this quest and retrieve the bottle (which only requires you to disarm some traps), then things go sideways when you hand it over, and that leads to a humorous second stage where you have to do something else.

Along with the quests, there are also numerous new environmental interactions, but they're much more complicated than the interactions from the main game.  As an example, after defeating the ogres in Stalwart Village, you learn that a house is on fire and that two people are trapped inside.  To rescue them, you have to go through a "choose your own adventure" sequence, filled with checks on your attributes, spells, and equipment.  So if you have enough Perception, then you can detect a dangerous passageway; if you have a Prybar, then you can move a beam out of the way; if you have the spell Winter Wind, then you can put some flames out; and so forth.  The only downside to the interactions is that they have minimal effect on the world.  If you rescue the two people from the burning house, then they don't give you a reward, and they don't play much of a role during the rest of the DLC, so it doesn't really matter if you notice the house at all.

The DLC also adds two new companions -- a rogue and a monk -- which makes sense since those classes weren't covered by any companions in the main game (and if Part 2 contains a barbarian, then the companions will be complete).  The rogue is a construct who loves killing -- but who is sort of a sad reminder of how fun HK-47 was in the KOTOR games.  The monk kept making me think of Johnny Depp's Tonto in The Lone Ranger, and he didn't fit in with anything going on.  That is, I didn't really care for the new companions.  Only the rogue adds anything to the game storywise (since she has ties to Stalwart Village), but her quest isn't exactly fulfilling, and she's annoying because she has to wear heavy armor, which is less than optimal for DPS characters.  But luckily, as was the case in the main game, you don't have to use any of the companions.  You can just build your own.