So, here we have Pillars of Eternity: The hugely funded kickstarter game that promised a return to the RPG glory days of the Infinity Engine, bringing on many of the same creative developers from those glory days as well. Kickstarter is an interesting beast, as it both allows for otherwise impossible ideas to sprout while also filling supporters with the dread that these very dreams and hopes could be crushed by a promise broken. Which is exactly why it’s so damned refreshing to see that Pillars of Eternity turned out to be one project that actually fully delivered on what was promised.

The story takes place within the Dyrwood, a colonial nation established by a distant empire, attracting many who wish to settle the relatively untamed lands. You find yourself traveling with a caravan transporting many such prospective settlers, but things quickly turn sour as things tend to do. After surviving a monstrous magical storm known as a biawac, you wake to discover you suddenly keep having visions or memories of things you’ve never done, you can see the memories of others, and can even converse with the dead. You soon find that the promised land of milk and honey is quickly falling to despair as an affliction known as the Legacy sows panic, fear, and paranoia among the locals, and so your journey begins to discover what has happened to you, as well as the nature and cause of this Legacy.


The game prefers to take a slower approach to story, steadily dipping you into the world and the fiction that supports and surrounds it. As your character is an outsider, you aren’t expected to know anything about the region, and so it’s perfectly natural to discover it for the first time as you play, learning about the Legacy and the culture within the Dyrwood.

The game’s writing is fantastic, and the voice acting hits the ball out of the park. The opening scenes set the tone perfectly, and are perfectly reminiscent of an expert game master orating the opening scenes of a new tabletop roleplaying campaign for his players. This is definitely an experience that expects you to read and sit through and read or listen to lot of text for full effect. In fact, there are quite a few nice comparisons to written story telling in general. People you interact with will speak to you, fully voice acted, but the text is interlaced with unvoiced descriptions detailing their body language as they speak. It’s enjoyable, and it adds another layer of narrative depth.

Visually, the game is impressive not for technical fidelity, but for its dedication in recreating the visual look and feel of the classic Infinity Engine games. The camera remains locked into a single perspective, only allowing zooming, and the environments adopt the more classic “flat map” illustrative style rather than actual three dimensional environments. For those who played games such as Baldur’s Gate, Planescape: Torment, or Icewind Dale, you will feel immediately at home. It’s actually a bit surprising how familiar it is when the game first starts off and you are first introduced to how the game looks and feels, but it’s a good surprise, like meeting a cherished childhood friend you’ve not seen in years.

The manner in which the game functions is reminiscent of the classics as well, though it’s also one of the places where the game has looked to differentiate itself from its older relatives the most. Combat in Pillars is a mixture of Real time and turn based, in that while it acts out in real time, you can pause the game at any time to issue orders to the adventurers you control. Considering the imposing challenge presented by the default, or even easy difficulty setting, this will be used near constantly.


You often need to make split decisions, reacting to how and who the enemy chooses to engage, as while many will be happy to throw themselves into your front line, many will instead prioritise your squishy ranged characters in the back and run around to fight them instead. To make matters worse, attempting to move away from enemies engaged with you allows them to get an automatic hit on the fleeing adventurer, making engagements involving a character you’d rather not be stuck in the middle of the fight far more precarious.

Activated combat abilities are broadly split into two types, encounter abilities and rest abilities. The former recharge after each combat, but only have a certain amount of uses within each combat encounter. The latter only recharge after each time your party rests. As the majority of actions are rest abilities, one always needs to consider how and when they are used so as not to use them up too quickly.


As for being the target of attacks and abilities, health is managed in an interesting way. There is an additional layer of survivability, called Endurance. In combat, damage dealt to you reduces your Endurance, with only small bits of that damage carrying over to your health. This is tracked by your characters’ portraits slowly filling with a red bar, representing damage to Endurance. Should a character lose all their Endurance they collapse, but should you win that combat encounter they will stand up again soon afterward, albeit with a chunk of their health lost.

Should a character lose all their health in combat, they still rise up after the fight is concluded, but they are maimed. While maimed, they suffer extreme penalties, and any further damage they take kills them outright, and permanently so. Importantly, the vast majority of restorative effects only affect Endurance, and even those that do affect Health do so minimally. Additionally, as characters continue to explore they will slowly become fatigued. The more fatigued a character becomes, the larger the penalties they suffer for it. The only way to fully recover health damage and fatigue is to rest.

Which is to say, rest is a rather important mechanic. The need to rest prevents you from simply barraging though entire missions without pause, and it’s a constant drain on the group’s momentum, particularly as it’s the only way to heal health damage. To help manage this, you can carry camping supplies to allow the party to rest when needed, but you are limited in how many you can carry at any one time. Alternatively you can rest at an inn, and while this does cost you, it can also provide the group with bonuses to your stats depending on how much you choose to spend.


As you play you’ll eventually gain access to a Keep, which you can spend money upgrading to provide a safe and free place to rest, with additional bonuses to your stats depending on which upgrades have been completed. The keep also collects tax from the world and deposits it into your own pocket, though the amount you get depends how much bandits leave you. The keep itself may also attract unwanted attention, and as such one will be investing in defences and hirelings to protect from any incursion. These upgrades take several in-game days to complete, though you can easily manage every aspect of your keep remotely, regardless of where you are in the game. Additionally, as you find more characters to put into your party, those that you don’t use can be assigned to certain quests that may pop up, allowing them to gain experience and grow your renown.

The keep also has a darker aspect to it, specifically in the caverns below. A large and long multi-staged dungeon lies waiting, each stage progressively more difficult than the one before, with something sinister awaiting at the very bottom. This is definitely a task you take on piecemeal over the course of the whole game, as the difficulty between floors spikes quickly and often surprisingly. The keep is certainly not the only place with hidden mysteries, as Pillars does a fantastic job of stuffing hidden wonders all over the place, though these can often turn out to be a very nasty mob of creatures hiding in a certain spot on the map which catch you unprepared.

While exploring the world, certain encounters shift to a book styled visual narrative in which you can choose from various choices how to act in response to the information given.


The result isn’t binary either, there’s number crunching going on behind the scenes based on your characters’ stats, and the narrative told to you based on your decisions differs depending on how you or your characters fare depending on their characteristics. It’s a great bit of storytelling that also serves to build tension, as choices can often have immediate dire consequences.

One other thing the game does very well is character reputation. How your main character is perceived by others is based entirely on conversation options you choose. Choose the caring options and your reputation will paint you as a kind person, and people interact with will keep that in mind. This can both reveal hidden conversation options or even quests with people you may meet, or simply lock them away if you simply aren’t the type of person the quest requires. Additionally, there are no specific social characteristics to worry about as your standard characteristics alone, such as Perception or Might, will unlock otherwise hidden conversation options. These aren’t automatically superior to your normal choices, however, and can cause more trouble if selected without thought, but they do always help build your reputation. That said, it’s never entirely clear exactly how your conversation choices affect your reputation, and it’s a very slow, steady, and subtle process that builds up the larger perception the world has of you, even one you may not realise you’re building. It’s a great way to build the story around your character in a meaningful way, and it’s a delight to see how those choices affect your adventures farther down the line.



Last Updated: April 9, 2015

Pillars of Eternity
Pillars of Eternity is a wondrous return to form, the latest and greatest from a recent move to revisit RPG classics. It's certainly the best RPG experience I’ve had for many years, and a massive part of that is how it approaches its story telling. If you enjoyed the Infinity engine games, you will have an absolutely fantastic time with Pillars of Eternity. It's a huge reminder of all the things I never knew I sorely missed from the roleplaying genre.
Pillars of Eternity was reviewed on PC
89 / 100


  1. SargonTheBatpandaOfAkkad

    April 9, 2015 at 13:03

    It’s been on my wishlist for a while now and looks so so so so so bloody good. Can’t wait till I can get it.
    Great review!


  2. Umar

    April 9, 2015 at 13:06

    Awesome review…this looks gloriously old-school. The Keep dungeons sounds like Chalice Dungeons in Bloodborne. Is it mostly to challenge players or does it have an actual story purpose?


    • Sir Faulty

      April 9, 2015 at 15:42

      It’s purpose is two fold – to challenge the gamer but it also adds to the story because early on when you discover the dungeons under the keep you are granted with two quest lines that span most of the entirety of the dungeon.

      It gets significantly challenging the further into these dungeons you proceed. I am currently on level 7 of the dungeon but when I first discovered Od Nua (the name of the dungeon) below Cad Nuea (your stronghold keep) I fell down a bloody pit and landed up confronting a drake and his 50 000 elite minions. Needless to say I got my ass handed to me. Took some more world exploring to have any sort of chance of defeating them.


  3. RinceThis

    April 9, 2015 at 13:18

    Which is exactly it’s so damned refreshing

    Awesome review Danialsan!


  4. Gareth L (That eXCheez Guy)

    April 9, 2015 at 13:20



  5. Ryanza

    April 9, 2015 at 13:31

    I like Pillars of Eternity. It’s DRM-free at Retail = Steam.

    Don’t Support DRM.


    • Sir Faulty

      April 9, 2015 at 15:44

      There is nothing wrong with owning the Steam version. I prefer it anyway because I can share my screenshots and videos of the game with my Steam friends.


      • Gareth L (That eXCheez Guy)

        April 9, 2015 at 15:59

        Steam abused Ryanza when he was a little ‘un. It’s the only logicial reason that I can fathom for his hatred and constant protest of Steam.

        Steam allows me to always keep my games in one place, easily have them updated and allow chat within the environment. Internet is commonplace, and Google has already seen us all naked.


        • Ryanza

          April 9, 2015 at 16:56

          Don’t use my name with shit.


      • Ryanza

        April 9, 2015 at 16:55

        If you like Steam then you should buy games off Steam. Steam has no place in retail. Turning retail, which is meant for all, into Steam, Origin, Uplay, is wrong.


        • Sir Faulty

          April 9, 2015 at 18:08

          You can bitch and moan and all you want but it’s the future and will be the future of consoles too next generation. Your brick and mortar, whether you like it or not, will be a thing of the past. Either you embrace or you find yourself another hobby. It’s really quite simple as that.


          • Ryanza

            April 9, 2015 at 19:08

            Forced to accept. lol. The future in your words is to lay down like a bitch and have a internet plug stuck up your ass, willingly.

            These Steam people amazes me. They can’t just accept buying games from Steam. They want Steam on everything.

            This future you speak of, we not there. We not even close to it. But if you say nothing and do nothing, then you will just be the bitch who is told and forced to comply with big corporations, your God, Steam. Don’t be a slave to corporate greed and control. But it sounds like you are happy to be that slave and speak out for your masters.

          • Ryanza

            April 9, 2015 at 19:26

            Just to add on this future this guy is talking about. Steam has taken over PC games in retail. But Steam is not going to be the future.

            EA left Steam – the evil bastards.
            Ubisoft left Steam – the evil bastards.
            This was when Steam people speak out.

            The future.
            Warner Bros has plans to set up their own DRM client. Bye bye Batman off Steam.
            All major publishers will be setting up their own DRM clients. That’s your Steam future. So the Steam you hold as God now, in the future a lot of the games will not be sold through Steam. That’s your future. Sounds like Steam will be the brick and mortar store of the future.

            You hold my views of no DRM at retail as shit but you are blinded about your Steam future.
            Retail is for all. Take that away, doesn’t mean Steam will be for all. It means that Steam will lose all. It means games will be bought at different places. Kiss your one library goodbye.

            Steam, Origin, Uplay, Social Club, Warner Bro, Blizzard, ect, will be the new brick and mortar shops. Sounds like you will be fighting your own damn Steam problems in the future, with the same damn words I use. lol.

            Don’t Support DRM. We need to stop this shit from getting out of control. Don’t live in your Steam bubble. That bubble will be popped. And you will be left dreaming about Half Life 3.

          • Sir Faulty

            April 9, 2015 at 19:41

            TL; DR

            You seem to post the same shit on every single article I read. Please go back to your little box because your rhetoric is getting tiresome.

            You are the kind of person where everything everyone does is a conspiracy. Fine by me. Live in that world. I couldn’t care two figs to be honest.

            And for the record I am quite happy to support whatever client is out there as long as they offer me a good game to play. And I will continue to support them with my money, the money I work hard to earn and nothing you and your cronies say or do is going to persuade me not too.

            And now I am done talking with you for good!

          • Ryanza

            April 9, 2015 at 19:50

            You forgot to like your own comment.

          • Ryanza

            April 9, 2015 at 20:01

            The Witcher 3 is being released at retail without DRM.
            The Witcher 3 is being released on Steam.
            The Witcher 3 is being released on Origin.
            The Witcher 3 is being released on PS4 at retail. No DRM.
            The Witcher 3 is being released on PSN.
            The Witcher 3 is being released on Xbox One at retail. No DRM.
            The Witcher 3 is being released on Xbox Live.
            The Witcher 3 is being released on No DRM.
            Not sure about Uplay.

            That is how games should be released. Now one will have a problem. But it seems your prefect world is, The Witcher 3 at retail comes with a GOG code and The Witcher 3 is released on Ya. Not a prefect way to launch a game.

            The way The Witcher 3 is being launched is how all games should be launched. So because of that, I am a pirate? interesting. We see a way for all gamers to have access to buying games and you see that only internet users can be allowed to buy games. The Witcher 3 without DRM, anyone can buy it. I guess that makes us pirates.

  6. Timmy_The_Good_Troll

    April 9, 2015 at 13:36

    Yay, Been waiting for this review for a long time to make comments. I never played Baldurs Gate or IceWind Dale, but I love this game. The only problem I have is the difficulty. I am playing on Hard mode, and it is incredibly easy. I think that is the games biggest flaw. I could play on ‘Path of the Damned” but then I have to start from the beginning.
    Would you like to comment on this Daniel?
    I mean once you know a couple of rpg basics eg melee, range, AoE, Dot etc you really find the combat a breeze even on “Hard Mode”
    I do love the story, characters etc, I just think they have got the RPG combat a bit out of balance.


    • VinTaco

      April 9, 2015 at 13:48

      I am finding normal really challenging personally.


      • Timmy_The_Good_Troll

        April 9, 2015 at 13:50

        Ok, once I got my party to 5 members which was fairly quickly it has become very easy. I mean this is basically a turn based game (thats how you should be playing it!), So I think they need to make you think more and be smarter with tactics.


      • schitsophrenic-toothbrush

        April 9, 2015 at 15:35

        Yeah the game is definitely a challenge. Use your wizard/s for crowd control. *hint* slicken works really well. Let your druid do mass damage.


  7. Sir Faulty

    April 9, 2015 at 14:13

    Been literally consumed with this game since it launched (I am about 70hrs in now and close to the end which is somewhat disheartening). I am a 38 year old guy with very limited time to game but Pillars had me gripped by the balls for eight hours straight in one session. I can’t remember when a game last did that to me that I could loose countless hours to it without even noticing them pass me by.

    Pillars is utterly fantastic and hands down my favorite game of the year thus far. It will take something particularly mighty to knock it off my GOTY perch for this year.


  8. Johann

    April 9, 2015 at 14:25

    This game is awesome, 46 hours in and I think I’m almost done but I’m going to do the dungeon below the Keep first before finishing up.

    Next one I’m looking forward to is Torment: Tides of Numenaria. Also the same lead designer that worked on PoE and they even got the guy who wrote the music for PS: Torment to do the music for Tides of Numenaria.

    And they said RPG games like these are dead, hah


    • schitsophrenic-toothbrush

      April 9, 2015 at 15:36

      I hear you man, love this game.


  9. schitsophrenic-toothbrush

    April 9, 2015 at 15:33

    I love this game!!!


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