There’s a reason why Obsidian is seen as one of the best RPG developers in gaming. While The Outer Worlds stole the show in 2019, other recent releases like Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire have long showcased the veteran studio’s skill in the modern day. Deadfire now has a complete edition, which brings the sequel to consoles complete with its additional content.
Pillars of Eternity II was first released in 2018. The game received rave reviews, and those who played it generally loved its continued use of traditional RPG gameplay alongside the further expansion of wider Pillars of Eternity lore. Although the sequel did well with critics, it didn’t fare so well from a sales perspective, and so this Ultimate Edition is the perfect chance to pick it up – with some caveats.
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The gameplay of Pillars of Eternity II will be familiar to anyone who grew up playing computer RPGs in the 2000s. The title takes its cues from classic isometric RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Fallout, with small, pre-rendered maps visitable within the wider world. Character-driven with a mixture of lengthy and short side-quests, it’s traditional role-playing gameplay at its finest.
Pillars of Eternity II does make a tweak to the pure, Dungeons & Dragons-style adventuring of the first game. Whereas the original saw the player and their companions questing across land, Deadfire adds seafaring alongside the on-land adventuring. This proves to be a good choice, allowing the player to explore the cultures and history of its Eora setting in a varied way, while also giving the title room to breathe from the setting of the first game.
The sequel does a very good job of developing the plot of the first game further, and the machinations of the series’ various gods are out on display. Blending together both careful use of fantasy tropes and clever ways of undermining said well-known arcs, Pillars of Eternity II is a smart, well-written fantasy game. In short, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Obsidian.
From a character perspective Pillars of Eternity II also excels. Returning characters such as Aloth and Eder make a welcome comeback, and continue to have progression despite their well-rounded stories in the first game. The new characters aren’t quite as memorable as those in the first, but still leave their mark, and manage to add some interesting moral debates as the player navigates the various faiths and allegiances of Eora.
Within combat, Pillars of Eternity II offers the player the choice to battle with a ‘real-time’ mode or through pure turn-based combat. This turn-based mode is a decent variation on the C-RPG standard and those that prefer the gameplay of Divinity: Original Sin will find a home here, instead of the more traditional flow of its hybrid play. Breaking up the dungeon crawling are choose-your-own-adventure pathway options, making a return from the first game.
Managing the player’s ship also adds to the experience. Rather than just being a Watcher shaping the world, users also have to keep their crew happy and ensure that the correct crewmember is placed in the right role. This is particularly important in naval combat, providing a nice diversion from the main plot akin to the castle management of the first game.
The main pull of this Ultimate Edition is the inclusion of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire‘s expansions. Beast of Winter is the pick of the bunch, taking the player to the frozen wastes of a large iceberg, while The Forgotten Sanctum adds some extreme challenge for well-travelled end-game players. New players will find that the DLC slots in well to the core game, acting as lengthy side-quests to conquer.
Many console players might find that this is their first foray into Pillars of Eternity II, and Obsidian has done some good work in translating the title from PC. The use of trigger buttons to open menus is intuitive, as is the ability to swap between controlling the party via thumbstick or with the more traditional manner of selecting open spaces in the map. It’s not quite the same as playing it on a home computer, but nonetheless it functions well.
Where Pillars of Eternity II runs into issues on console is from a technical standpoint. Some of this comes in the form of the odd graphical glitch, which isn’t a dealbreaker at all unless players have an aversion to the likes of seeing characters walking on the spot in occasional non-controllable scenes. After all, it doesn’t have an impact on gameplay.
The bigger issue is Pillars of Eternity II‘s lethargic load times. Playing the game on a standard PS4, moving between maps can take a long time, which can be particularly frustrating when moving between floors of a building or through sections of a city. It slows down play considerably, and leads to a serious break in immersion.
That said, if players are willing to take Pillars of Eternity II at its own pace, then they will find a wondrous RPG. Pillars of Eternity II was unjustly overlooked in 2018, and hopefully this rerelease will open the door to new players. Those expecting something as snippy as The Outer Worlds, however, will find something a lot slower, albeit with just as strong writing and care.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Ultimate Edition is available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.
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