Pillars of Eternity (Switch) Review – Portable Tabletop Bliss
Dungeons & Dragons is an incredibly complex, detailed, in-depth and rewarding experience. Getting a group of friends around a table, throwing dice and role-playing for a few hours is some of the best fun you can have. Organising a session of Dungeons & Dragons though, that can be nigh on impossible. Especially as you get older and you and your friends have less time to play thanks to dreaded adult responsibilities.
That’s where games like Pillars of Eternity are a godsend. First released for PC in 2015 after a successful Kickstarter, Obsidian’s RPG is a spiritual successor to the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale franchises.
While both of these series are set within the Dungeons & Dragons universe and use D&D rules, Pillars of Eternity uses its own system. It’s different enough to be interesting and unique, but similar enough that D&D fans will easily understand it.
Pillars of Eternity is also set within its own, brand-new universe; Eora. Everything that fans know and love from fantasy tabletop roleplaying games is present and accounted for. It’s just set somewhere new and streamlined to function as a videogame.
Pillars of Eternity Switch Review
In reviewing Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire on PC, I wrote;
At its core, Pillars of Eternity 2 is an old-school, pen and paper RPG in digital form. Players create their character, class, race etc and decide what type of hero they’ll be.
No matter what you create, you’ll be playing as the Watcher.
The same is true of Pillars of Eternity. Of course, it is, Deadfire is a sequel. However, where Deadfire was Pirates of the Caribbean meets D&D, Pillars of Eternity is straight-up fantasy.
The game takes place in Dyrwood and the player is a foreigner. Having arrived on an invitation, the player and their entire caravan are decimated by a huge storm. Everybody except the player character dies and witnessing a strange cult ritual, the player recognises that they are a Watcher.
In Eora, Watchers are able to view and speak with souls. In the Pillars of Eternity universe, souls travel through Adra when a person dies and are recycled. This way, souls live on over and over again.
Knowing the plot beyond this isn’t necessary and would only be filled with spoilers. It should be noted though that the plot and story are a bit of a slog in Pillars of Eternity. It’s enjoyable, but it’s slow-moving and really slow.
I hope you’re in it for the long haul.
Even if you do find the story a little underwhelming, Pillars of Eternity’s gameplay is awesome. On PC, you simply use the mouse to control your party, select attacks and control everything.
Having already been ported to PS4 and Xbox One, the Switch version of Pillars of Eternity comes fully formed. You control your character(s) with the left stick and can move the camera around the field with the right stick.
You press A to interact with items, doors, characters and the like. You can hold it down to highlight everything interactable and direct your character to the object. You can also use a cursor to click and direct your character that way, but it’s far less userfriendly.
By pressing ZL you access a radial menu that shows your inventory, character, ability to level up etc. From here you can access all of these options and further manage your party. ZR accesses your currently selected character’s combat and abilities.
Like in other versions, the game pauses when you enter a combat scenario. You’re able to select your attacks and abilities from the radial menu, for each character and then unpause to see the results. If things are going poorly, you can hold ZR and the game will pause, allowing you to change tactics.
Like all RPGs, you have an inventory and a stash and you pick up way more stuff than you’ll ever need. You can buy and sell items, repair them and use them to improve others. As you explore you’ll find dozens of side quests and missions and you’ll be constantly bombarded with things to do and places to go.
Honestly, it’s the same great RPG it’s always been, except now, you can take it with you wherever you go.
It might seem like this is the kind of game that wouldn’t be suited to the Switch but that’s just not true. You can play it on your TV if you like, but the small screen actually makes it easier to read and understand since you’re much closer. Playing on TV and sitting back on your couch put you a little too far away and so you feel disconnected from the action.
My one complaint about the Switch screen is that the dialogue box in the bottom right corner is too small. One sentence of text is enough to fill it and you can miss important details in both exploration and combat. It’s a shame.
Performance on Switch is great. Pillars of Eternity looks, sounds and runs perfectly on Nintendo’s handheld console, although a few times some of the text became garbled and unreadable.
It wasn’t frequent but it was annoying when it did happen. Resetting the game would fix the problem but create another.
Loading times in Pillars of Eternity on Switch are quite long. It can get frustrating, waiting for the game to load. Thankfully, once you get through the initial load screen, everything speeds up from there.
Pillars of Eternity on Switch is the completed edition so it also includes both parts of the expansion. Thre’s enough game here to keep players occupied for hundreds of hours and with a huge range of difficulty options, there’s something for everyone.
Pillars of Eternity on Switch is my favourite way to play the game and it’s yet another great reason to own a Switch.
Pillars of Eternity was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game title: Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition
A massive, sprawling, tabletop RPG experience in your hands - 10/10
Incredible storytelling - 9.4/10
Some of the best RPG gameplay available today - 9.8/10
Flawless charaterisation and voice acting - 9/10
Great job porting to Switch - 8.4/10