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E3 2014: Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity strives to be another classic PC RPG

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If you’ve been waiting forever for another installment in the Baldur’s Gate series, then Obsidian Entertainment’s crowd funded Pillars of Eternity should help fill the (eternal) void.

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Pillars of Eternity is an RPG (role-playing game) and spiritual successor to classic PC games such as Baldur’s Gate and its siblings Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, Planescape: Torment, and others.

Unlike those games however, Pillars of Eternity is not based upon the Dungeons and Dragons license from Wizards of the Coast.

“Getting away from the Dungeons & Dragons license was hard because we had to make everything from scratch, but at the same time it was very liberating for us creatively.”
Brandon Adler, Producer, Pillars of Eternity
[MC]

An old hand at classic RPGs

Obsidian is a well-established and experienced hand in the RPG genre, having developed such notable titles as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Neverwinter Nights 2, Fallout: New Vegas, and even Southpark: The Stick of Truth.

Like its inspirations, Pillars of Eternity is built upon huge areas, detailed stories—and let’s be honest here—lots of reading. But it’s high-quality reading and arguably among the best written interactive fiction you’re likely to find in any PC RPG. Obsidian has a well-earned reputation for excellence in this genre, and Pillars of Eternity is building upon their extensive experience in a medium they have long mastered.

So as you might expect, Pillars of Eternity will feature the same deep, expansive story and turn-based RPG combat (using the spacebar to pause the action and issue orders) of its ancestors. Conversations with NPCs (non-player characters) present numerous options for diplomacy, intimidation, etc. depending on your character’s skills. In addition, your choices and interaction with party members are important, and some of them may leave your company if you tick them off enough.

You can expect quests and side quests associated with your compatriots as well, and probably no shortage of side quests (in general) waiting to be discovered. [-4369E]

The E3 demo was fairly light-- just 10-15 minutes of game play showing of the very familiar elements of the genre and the medium. The PC and a couple cohort mercenaries accompany a caravan through Deerwood, discover some ruins, and are attacked by barbarians. Eventually a trip into the ruins is called for. "Ruins are always good," I say enthusiastically, expecting cool monsters and loads of loot.

"Ruins are bad, bad places," Brandon informs me with a smile.

Choose your own adventure

A game element unique to Pillars of Eternity (as compared to its inspirations anyway) is something Brandon called ‘Scripted Interactions’, which is essentially a ‘choose your own adventure’ style sequence. In these sequences you read through a series of narrative panels and make choices – such as “Attack the dragon” vs. “Run away! Run away!” vs “Cast magic missile at the darkness!” (or maybe “Lightning Bolt! Lightning Bolt!” to name a few possibilities).

Pillars of Eternity also has an interesting ‘camping’ system in which you must collect or buy camping supplies in order to actually set up a camp. To me this sounds like a touch that may delight the more hard core but annoy the more casually minded.

A few other basic takeaways and features for Pillars of Eternity include:

  • 11 different classes: Barbarian, Chanter, Cipher, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Priest, Ranger, Rogue and Wizard.
  • 6 different races (Human, Aumaua, Dwarf, Elf, Godlike and Orlan)
  • The game is bigger than Baldur’s Gate (the first game).
  • The game is based on a highly modified and customized Unity Engine.

One unfortunate revelation is that because the Unity Engine used to create Pillars of Eternity has been highly customized by Obsidian, the game itself will *not* be modder-friendly, nor will mod tools be released with the game. Probably not a big deal to most of us, but still a bit disappointing—mod communities can often contribute significantly extended value for games that support them.

If you’re ‘old-school’ and nostalgia plays in your favor, or you just like the medium (deep RPG and story with a lot of choices and reading), then Pillars of Eternity should be a perfect fit for you.

Pillars of Eternity will be published by Paradox Interactive. No formal release date has been announced, although according to Obsidian’s Web site you can expect it in 2014.

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