Obsidian is trying to modernise tabletop video game RPGs with Pillars of Eternity 2

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire‘s release is coming up next month. In anticipation of the release, we got to chat to Katrina Garsten, a producer at Obsidian Entertainment about Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity 2 tabletop inspirations.

Speaking with Garsten, her excitement and passion for Pillars of Eternity 2 are palpable.

Garsten clearly has a lot of love for the game and during our conversation, Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity 2 tabletop experience proved to be a driving factor during development.

Pillars of Eternity 2 Tabletop Gaming

When I first played Pillars of Eternity 2I’ll admit, I had never played any RPGs like it. No Icewind Dale, no Baldur’s Gate and no Neverwinter Nights.

I had no idea video games that so accurately recreated the tabletop experience even existed. Having just started my first ever DnD campaign only a few months ago, I was more than a little excited.

I asked Garsten what it was like creating Pillars of Eternity 2 and digital tabletop experiences.

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“It’s great. It’s very nostalgic and a lot of fun because we can try and figure out how to continue adding to this type of infinity engine style game,” Garsten told me.

Adding new features to Pillars of Eternity 2 is something Obsidian was keen to explore.

“It’s a lot of fun for us. We try to figure out what features will improve the game and make the experience even more modernised but still kind of give you that Dungeons and Dragons feel.”

Modern Pen & Paper RPG

Part of what helps Pillars of Eternity 2 modernise tabletop gaming is Obsidian’s approach to the gameplay. Being able to create a brand-new world, new characters and new experiences gives Obsidian even more opportunities to modernise the genre.

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Pillars of Eternity 2 takes place in the Deadfire archipelago. You get around on a ship which you would never find in one of the older games,” Garsten explains.

“It just adds a completely new level of immersion, but it modernises things and takes advantage of the new tech that we have.”

The tech that Obsidian has access to helps to drive immersion. As Pillars of Eternity 2 is a single-player game, there are no other players, nor is there a Dungeon Master.

To compensate, Obsidian developed an intricate companion system for Pillars of Eternity 2.

Pillars of Eternity 2 Tabletop Manners

In Pillars of Eternity 2 tabletop mechanics are replaced with AI and complex systems designed to replicate the feeling of playing with friends.

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According to Garsten “Our companion relationships are incredible. Because every companion has their own likes and dislikes. Depending on how you react to conversations, they can either decide to like you more or dislike you more.

“Or they could even dislike you so much that they’ll leave the party permanently and you won’t be able to get them back,” she adds.

“You really have to think about when you’re making decisions. It’s very much a choose your own adventure, but with that old infinity engine style tribute with some new features.”

Play and play again

One difference between traditional pen & paper RPGs and a video game are the infinite possible outcomes. Video games, regardless of the branching narrative paths and choices, have a finite number of outcomes.

However, in Pillars of Eternity 2, Garsten says it’s possible to have a different experience every time you play. These experiences are tied to the companion system and your decisions in almost every interaction.


“You have to think about how the faction you’re siding with is going to react? How are your companions gonna react? There are a lot of options and every single thing you do will have a different outcome.

“I think if you play the game ten different times, you’re probably going to get a different outcome every single time. You’ll have different members in your party, different factions and different decisions every single time.”

Video game RPGs aren’t likely to fully replace tabletop games. However, with Pillars of Eternity 2, Obsidian is taking strides to modernise tabletop RPGs and improve their video game counterparts.

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If the passion and excitement Garsten has for Pillars of Eternity 2 are indicative of the entire team, Pillars of Eternity 2 is going to be the definitive tabletop video game RPG.

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire will be available for PC on April 3, 2018.

It will be released for PS4, Switch and Xbox One later this year.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevensonhttps://powerup-gaming.com/
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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