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With Pillars II, Obsidian knocked another one out of the park

Posted by warreni, in game review 23 March 2019 · 6946 views

RPG isometric pirates gods talking swords sequels

Yes, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire IS trying to kill you. Scratch that. It already did. Hm. . . spoiler alert? In the first few seconds of PoE II, you die. But. . . you get better (that was a fairly unsubtle Princess Bride reference, for anyone who's counting). This is Obsidian's novel way of allowing you to rejigger your character while still having the ability to retain your choices from the previous game. You can create a character exactly like the one you took through PoE or a new character. 101 hours in, I can't remember who I took through the first game, but it wasn't a fire-haired, ill-tempered lesbian dwarven barbarian. It's an interesting approach.


It seems that that empty adra statue that was buried under Caed Nua in the first game that was intended for [redacted Pillars of Eternity spoiler] suddenly gets inhabited by Eder's god Eothas, who decides that this is as good a time as any for a walkabout. Erupting from underneath the keep has the unfortunate side effect of killing the previous occupants, including you. Fortunately for you, the god of death has other plans for you. . . .


I've opined in general terms previously about how the systems Obsidian developed for the first game were refined and enhanced in this game, and that's generally true--except for wizard magic. Magic in general is more useful in Deadfire because spells are now available on a per-encounter rather than a per-rest basis. For priests and druids this means that the character can cast any spell that he or she knows as many times as spell uses are available for the given spell level. For wizards, it also means that--except that the spell has to be in the wizard's currently-equipped grimoire. Unlike in the previous game, you cannot change the spells listed in a grimoire, and, as you might expect, you can't "hot-swap" grimoires. This means there are weird restrictions on the combinations of spells accessible to a wizard at any point in time.


Resting is better too. Camping supplies are no more, so there is no need to carefully hoard them in case you run into a surprise tough fight around the next corner. You can rest almost anywhere, but you will have to collect and hold onto various foodstuffs if you want to heal your party's wounds while resting. Food is plentiful and cheap in the Deadfire so that's not a problem.


Previous experience in Eora is helpful but not mandatory for this installment. After the dramatic events in the game's prologue, you find yourself transported by ship to the Deadfire Archipelago (hence the name of the game), chasing after the giant green god wreaking havoc for mysterious reasons. The change in locations from the Dyrwood is partly Obsidian's way of exploring other parts of the world that it only sketched out in the first game, but it's mostly an excuse to make a pirate game RPG. Ironically, the pirate aspect of the game is one of its more disappointing aspects. The game has sailing vessels with upgradeable bits (hulls, sails, lanterns, wheel) and a variety of cannons with different types of ammunition (conventional balls for hull damage, grapeshot for crew damage, and chainshot for sail damage), and it encourages you to engage in naval combat. The problem is that it's not generally all that worthwhile. Attacking a vessel will net you a small amount of coin, some supplies like food and drink, a few bits of (not especially rare or useful) arms and armor, and that's it--there's no recruiting crew or adding the captured vessel to your fleet. About one-third of the way through the game, I felt like i was perilously close to running out of money, so I decided to go full pirate and raid as many vessels as I could to rapidly accumulate wealth. Well, that's a bit like sending a $20 to Peter Popoff in the expectation that you will be "blessed onehundredfold." I gave up after my fourth pointless attack.


So it's not a pirate game--not really--but it's still a pretty damn good RPG.


If you did play the first game, you'll see a few familiar faces. Eder joins you early on, and you'll soon meet Aloth again. Pallegina is recruitable later in the game, but if you enjoyed adventuring with Kana Rua in the original, he only makes a cameo here. The new companions have some interesting backstories, but their personal quests vary in complexity and appeal. You have Serafen the orlan cipher (yes, ciphers are still a bit of a peculiar class), Xoti the human Gaun-obsessed priestess, Maia the Rauataian assassin, and Tekehu the Huana watershaper. The game also introduces the seemingly-pointless "sidekicks." These are recruitable NPCs who can appear in your party, but do not have questlines and have minimal interactions with your actual companions. These are basically souped-up adventurers, but these also appear in the game.


The story follows your quest to sort out what the giant adra Eothas is up to, with heavy prompting from the other god-entities. Taking its cue from the first game with its complex ethical and metaphysical themes, but ratcheting things up like a true sequel, the game ultimately has you deciding the fate of the afterlife. Along the way, you will decide the (somewhat less epic) outcome of the struggle for dominance of the Archipelago amongst the factions of pirates, native settlers, and recent "invaders" who have arrived in an effort to gain control of the land or its resources, specifically luminous adra.


The game's three DLCs take a deeper dive into the motives and personalities of three of the world's gods, Rymrgand (Beast of Winter), Galawain (Seeker, Slayer, Survivor), and Wael (The Forgotten Sanctum). Of the three, I liked the Galawain DLC the least--it's very combat-focussed. However, they are all well-written and worth the time. I would encourage you to pick up the season pass if your have any interest in the game. As with PoE, you will have to play through the DLC content before you complete the final quest in the game because once the game ends, there is no option to continue.


The isometric graphics are what you would expect, the sound design and voice-acting are universally good, and it was a bug-free experience. There can be some surprisingly-long loading times between areas. The soundtrack is excellent, and some of those sea shanties will get stuck in your head.


On the whole, it's a terrific game, and another home run by Obsidian, which is on a roll in this department. These games have me looking forward to their next release, The Outer Worlds, and I'm hoping that the studio's acquisition by Microsoft will provide it the sort of nurturing support that will allow it to develop many more well-crafted games of this ilk for years to come. (Hey, I'm an optimist sometimes.)

Playing this right now and I really like it a lot. It's like a super in depth version of the first Dragon Age. Games like this are very hard to find. 

Playing this right now and I really like it a lot. It's like a super in depth version of the first Dragon Age. Games like this are very hard to find. 

Glad you're enjoying it.  8-)

How is the combat difficulty? I found some of the battles in the first one to be frustratingly difficult.

How is the combat difficulty? I found some of the battles in the first one to be frustratingly difficult.

There are optional "mega boss" battles scattered around the map that are ludicrously difficult. As I said, though, they're optional and you can ignore them.


None of the endgame bosses are too tough if you have a fully-levelled party. The game gives you plenty of opportunities to gain experience levels as you travel. I left a lot of points on the table because I did plenty of content after having levelled up to 20. If you have the season pass, you could probably easily level up to 25 (if there were no level cap). I tried taking on Neriscyrlas (the boss dragon in Beast of Winter) at level 17, and I got my ass handed to me several times. With a party full of 20s, it was not too difficult and I took him out on the first try. 


Note that when you start a new game, there is a toggle for level scaling. If you don't want a constant challenge (and some people do), turn it off. 

Thanks for the detailed response. May give this a try if/when I finsih Sekiro. I try to alternate rpgs with other stuff.

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