I think Nintendo missed something when they began marketing the Switch as the “hybrid console”. All the adverts for their snazzy dockable hand-held showed off the portability they were no doubt so excited to show off to the world, with footage of people using the handheld Switch in laundromats, aeroplanes and the now-iconic roof-top party and while it’s nice to know that I could whip out Breath of the Wild to entertain myself while the rest of my university residence practices their ability to consume litres of beer in a handful of seconds, that was never the thing that sold me on portability.
I, and I’m sure many people, was most excited to play some really good games…in bed. A sanctuary within a sanctuary, the only thing a good bed is missing is that it’s usually not located in the same room as the big TV and those lame non-hybrid consoles. The possibility of playing some of your most beloved games again becomes even more delicious when you can do it in within the confines of your sheets, thus when Pillars of Eternity – Complete Edition had a surprise Switch announcement a few weeks back, I was considerably frothed under the coal.
I adore Obsidian Games and I think it’s a pity they don’t get held up to the same standard as industry behemoths like Bethesda and Blizzard, often being relegated to take on the equivalent to straight-to-video sequels; We all know how nobody ever talks about Knights of the Old Republic 2 or how Fallout: New Vegas has a far more niche fanbase than Fallout 3 (New Vegas is the best RPG of all time, fight me).
When they have struck out on their own, be it through Kickstarter projects or third-party publishing, their efforts have been truly monumental. South Park: The Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole are two fantastic examples of this and in terms of Kickstarter success-stories (which are few and far between), there aren’t many games like Pillars of Eternity that really show off a developer’s dedication to a genre.
That’s what Pillars of Eternity really is: A love letter to the golden days of Computer Role-Playing Games. Placing an emphasis on character builds, varied dialogue, expansive worlds and a narrative woven with interesting characters and lore, CRPGs are often considered to be relics of the past, relegated to cult-followings to be replaced by the more action-oriented and accessible brand of ARPGs. When it was released back in 2015, Pillars of Eternity was a nostalgic breath of air that both paid homage to the genre that inspired it while also delivering some much-needed updates to a formula that has become stale and trite.
And now you can play it in bed.
Which is basically what I was so excited about when I received my code for PoE. A chance to build my character and embark on an adventure of broken souls and fractured kingdoms while never having to throw the sheets off and for the most part it delivers. The Switch version of Pillars of Eternity is just about as accurate as you’d expect from a fan-favourite port with all the content in the original game being translated handily onto the little device and while I wish I could just end this review here, there are some caveats to this.
See, when reviewing a port of a game that already has such a dedicated fanbase that know the actual content of the game, you need to focus on the handling of the port itself and while some aspects of Pillars of Eternity function really well on the Switch, there are others that are painfully costrained by the system’s hardware.
The worst case of this being the game’s loading screens which are both frequent and time-consuming. The different explorable maps you can traverse all require a loading screen to access and depending on the density of the locations can take upwards of 30 seconds to load each; the worse I had was a loading screen that took longer than a minute to eventually reach its conclusion.
Considering how much of PoE is exploration, back-tracking and re-visiting market places for items the loading screens do begin to add up and become frustrating after a while, especially if you’re someone like me who’s bad at video games and likes to quick load when they’ve royally screwed up. Lord help you if that’s the case. I also think these loading times might also eat into the Switch’s battery life because I’m fairly certain that PoE drained my device faster than any other game I’ve played on it but I couldn’t give you a solid explanation on that.
The other thing I was so interested to see in a Switch port of PoE is just how the often dense and unwieldy menus of CRPG’s was translated onto a format that’s not usually built for excessive micro-managing and after playing through the game I can safely say that the menus…are dense and unwieldy. If these were a pain to click through with a mouse and keyboard you can imagine how frustrating and time consuming it can be to scroll an analogue stick over a menu that often feels a little too small for the screen, especially in handheld mode. Considering how much of this game does require management and a surprising amount of cursor accuracy in combat (especially in congested hallways) the Switch’s analogue sticks don’t often make for an easily navigable experience.
That being said I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy my time with Pillars of Eternity (again) despite the hardware issues. At the core of the game’s Switch version is the same engaging, beautifully written RPG game that people have come to expect from Obsidian. I have ideas for two other character builds I want to try out in the future, even as I write this, but I think I’ll be putting those on hold until something can (hopefully) be dome about the game’s egregious loading times. That being said, if the optimal way to get lost in a fantasy RPG with strong character-building tools and strategic combat is the comfort of your own bed, then consider the Switch version of Pillars of Eternity.
Or play it on a laptop, I’m not the boss of you.
Last Updated: August 28, 2019