Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Review

When Pillars of Eternity released in 2015, it quickly became the pillar of the strategic, top-down RPG scene. It took the D&D-style gameplay of classics such as Baldur’s Gate and made it less clunky and more enjoyable; less like hard work, yet deeper and more satisfying to get lost in. Thankfully, Obsidian Entertainment saw fit to create a sequel – this time it’s a swashbuckling, seafaring adventure set within the same universe as the first title. What great timing to release a nautical themed game, when everyone’s losing their minds of Sea of Thieves still.

So what is Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire? Well it’s a party-based RPG where you’ll lead and manage a group of adventurers across land and sea, in search of better gear, more spells and possibly a few quests. This addition to the PoE series adds in ships as opposed to the old castle of Caed Nua – a mobile base of sorts, where you can engage in ship-to-ship combat as well as managing crew and trading goods.

First up, the graphics are great. The series stays true to classic D&D-style isometric games with a dark fantasy feel, yet bringing a sense of wonderment and exploration. Deadfire is no exception – in fact I feel that they may have improved on the graphics of the first Pillars of Eternity game; including more detail on 3D-rendered characters and crisp, mesmerising water animations. The world of Deadfire is suitably pirate-like, with lush tropical islands, creaky wooden ships and dark sea fortress dungeons. The artwork is masterful in Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, showing that so much love has been poured into this game by Obsidian Entertainment – a lesson to all the developers who leave games half-finished. Clearly newcomers to the series may be put off by the lack of Cryengine graphics, but the art style of Pillars of Eternity is resplendent in nostalgic glory – harking back to the D&D pen-and-paper days of old.

Gameplay in Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire is solid. For newcomers it might feel overwhelming at first, but tool-tip pop ups and mini tutorial guides will soon have you delving into all sorts of sticky situations – equipping you with the knowledge to get yourself out again. Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire also begins by letting you import your old save from the first game, or choosing how you would have dealt with things (if you never played it). This is cool because the end of the previous game will impact how second game plays out and the choices you can make.

Dialogues are a big part of any RPG and Deadfire is no exception. All dialogue choices feel unique and there is always a sense of dilemma over which response you will pick – some will unlock new avenues and quests for you to pursue, yet one poorly-judged slip of the tongue could see you missing out on useful items or info. Every choice in this game will have you thinking and wondering “what if I’d have…?” This is where a large chunk of fun comes from in the game, especially if you’re playing in the rogue-like mode where once you die, that’s it. Choices have consequences which is something sorely lacking in the modern gaming industry.

Without dishing out any spoilers for the first Pillars of Eternity title, Deadfire sees you chasing a deluded god across the Deadfire region – trying to save the world from imminent destruction. This makes for an interesting marriage of the pirate theme and fantasy lore of the Pillars of Eternity universe. The land feels rich and lived-in, despite the fact that you can’t stroll from one end of the map to the other. Deadfire brings back the world map which is essentially several locations that you fast travel between – except this time you can come across useful cargo or run into pirates along the way. It all adds to the choices and consequences

Right from the second you get to the main menu, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire hits you with a beautifully orchestrated soundtrack. It’s almost Lord of The Rings-esque – sucking you into the world and making you feel like an adventurer. If you’re sailing on your ship you can be sure of a heroic fanfare, if you’re skulking about in a cave, accent sounds and the whistling of the wind will all add to the atmosphere and tension of the game. Deadfire also has some great voice acting, with quest-givers being fully voiced and passers-by often coming out with random statements about your party. I even had one party member call someone a “tentacled tit sucker”, which kinda felt wrong but maybe a little bit right too?

For the most-part, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire runs smoothly on my mid-range system. Sadly however, it seems to bottleneck in and around battle scenes, despite the fact that the game pauses when combat begins. I also noticed that load times between areas were quite long, which is disappointing for a game with a largely isometric graphical style. There isn’t much in the way of graphical options to rectify this, so hopefully Obsidian will patch things up to make the game more stable on mid-low end PCs. If not, you miss out on vital moments in combat where you can get the drop on your enemy.

So far, I’ve had my hands on the game for two days and I’ve already sunk 9 hours into it. Admittedly not as much as some pro gamers, but for a normal person that’s quite a lot. Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire is a fantastic addition to the series and is one I’m certainly looking forward to getting stuck into. New features such as ship combat are welcome changes, providing ample reason to stay in Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire’s vast and deadly land. Whilst quite pricey at £32.99 in the UK, Deadfire is definitely worth the money and will keep you dungeon-crawling for hours on end – maybe even enough to invest in the season-pass too.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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