For many years, PC gaming towered over its console counterparts. In fact, it can even be argued that the same still applies today. This was largely due to a fine-detailing in graphical presentations and a finesse in controls that a console controller cannot simply compare with. It was the old-school titles such as Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Icewind Dales that made PC gaming the powerhouse it is. However, this is a style of gaming that has long gone with a shift to more realism and action, rather than a good, old-fashioned story. If you miss those days of gaming glory, then fear not, as Paradox Interactive and Obsidian Games’ Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition holds up a release on the Nintendo Switch.
If you’re not aware of the title in question, Pillars of Eternity is a top-down role-playing game that flows along the same veins as the old-school classics such as Balder’s Gate; in fact, you could even say it’s the next in the series in all but name. Backed by over seventy-thousand people, this kickstarter project runs on a similar style to the Infinity Engine, producing an old-school feel that is very welcoming in today’s climate of style over substance. Set within a dark fantasy world that could be lifted straight from the realms of Dungeons and Dragons, you begin life with a travelling caravan that stops to rest as you begin to fall foul of a cursed illness.
It isn’t long before the camp is ambushed and through the events that follow, you soon find yourself stranded in a world of parallel universes, ghostly figures and disturbing visions as you embark on an epic campaign to lift the curse that has befallen you before the onset of madness. It’s only a brief and undetailed account of the story, as the main staple of the game revolves around its compelling narrative. So, with this in mind, I’m not going to give anything away to how this adventure plays out. After all, no-one likes a spoiler. What I will say though, is that this is a game that holds a deep textual meaning that requires a lot of reading and thought, although much of it is fully narrated with impressive scene-setting voice-overs.
A lot of the narrative provides you with choices which will have a bearing on future events and the overall end-game; meaning every action and response has a direct impact on the world around you. However, the story isn’t always directly about you, as the world soon comes alive with tales of terrorised villages, the politics of larger cities and an intrigue of a larger, more sinister plot. Despite it’s lengthy campaign, this is only half the story that the game tells. Side-quests are deliciously rich and form all manner of branches to investigate; filling its world with a life and lore that other games can only dream of. In terms of storytelling and setting, this game feels like a table-top experience with the narrator being the dungeon-master and the NPC’s being everyone else hustled around a very crowded table.
Throughout my play-time with this title, currently approaching 70+ hours at the time of writing, I can only best describe this game as a role-player for the more mature player. It demands a certain amount of respect in everything that it does, from exploring the varied and lush landscapes to the gruelling combat and constant outfitting, gathering of resources and crafting. This also applies to its story that requires a certain level of intelligence for its true investment. Things start off fairly easy, but through progression, the game opens up to a level that can be a bit overwhelming and unforgiving, but with prolonged play, you soon learn to get to grips with everything that this game has to offer.
Every landscape must be explored to the full. However, hidden under a fog of war, all manner of surprises can lie within every nook and cranny. Exploration leads to discovery, which itself leads to a larger world and a bigger picture. The unknowing of what may be revealed is a big draw in the game, as is the need for tactical awareness in any enemy encounters. Combat is fought in real-time. However, there’s a technicality to each encounter; one that rushing into won’t get you very far. As the game progresses, so does your party of varying members; each one housing specific skills and abilities in weapon variations and magical powers. With this in mind, you have the ability to stop-start the action with a pause function that allows you to tactically position each individual member of your party, as well as instruct them to utilise certain abilities or items.
Along with the exploration and story, combat is also a large part of the game. With the ability to pause time, something that you should be thinking of doing regularly, you can flank enemy positions, heal party members, position tanks and use magic in order to get the most of out of your party and its members. As you begin to confront larger foes, the need to pause and order becomes paramount, creating a very stop/start feel to the gameplay. It may be a style that is not to everyone’s taste. However, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Its demanding and gruelling, even on the game’s easy mode, but put in the effort and the game rewards you immensely; until you get to a point that you simply can’t put it down.
From a technical viewpoint, the game runs perfectly on the Switch. Its locations are beautiful and finely detailed, as are the character models which change as you outfit them. Apart from the odd graphical glitch in some of the texts, there’s nothing here that gives the impression of anything broken within the game. However, some of its controls can be a little finicky, especially within the heat of battle. Again, there’s nothing game breaking, it’s just not as refined or accurate as a mouse and keyboard; a lack of touchscreen support for this Switch version is surely a missed opportunity here. Saying that though, once you get used to the controls, they rarely cause any problems. This complete edition also comes bundled with all previously released DLC and updates including The White March: Parts I and II, a raised level cap, new difficulty levels and overhauled options for party AI.
Overall, Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition is an epic game with an epic story on an epic scale. It’s beautiful, deeply engaging and satisfying to play with its thorough narrative, fascinating exploration, lure of finding new items and rewarding combat. It’s a very mature game, not in content, but in all of its mechanics. There are a lot of systems to figure out from outfitting to combat, but stick with it and the rewards are worth every blood, sweat and tear that you put into it. It’s simply fascinating to play and demands a lot from the player, requiring a certain degree of intelligence to master, but once you get it, you can’t escape it. With hours of gameplay, impactful decisions and a whole host of DLC, there’s plenty here to keep you going over the long term. Best of all though, is that on the Switch you now have an old-school PC role-player in all of its gorgeous glory and for that alone, makes this a very worthwhile addition to your library.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Pillars of Eternity Complete Edition Video Game Review
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 9/10
User Review( votes)
Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition brings old-school PC role-playing to the Switch in all of its gorgeous glory.