Pillars of Eternity 2 (Console) Review – Something for Everyone
Playing Pillars of Eternity 2 again on console was an experience I’ve waited ages for. After playing the original release on PC and Pillars of Eternity on Switch, I was very keen to see how the sequel would translate. Unfortunately, as the Switch release of Pillars of Eternity 2 doesn’t have a release date yet, I opted to play on PS4. Without the added benefit of the Switch’s portability, I’m less excited by the console version of Pillars of Eternity 2 but that’s only in comparison to the handheld.
Being able to play these games on the go is incredible and is my preferred way to play. However, being able to play an RPG of this calibre while sitting on my couch is fairly awesome. Using a DualShock 4 to control the game isn’t as smooth or intuitive as using a mouse and it does take a while to get used to. Once it clicks though, it all becomes second nature.
You can control your character or party directly, or opt to use point and click controls. I opted for a combination of both in order to interact with objects and make my way through the world as smoothly and easily as possible.
Other than the controls, this version only differs from the PC original by being bundled with all released content. That even includes all updates and changes made by Obsidian. This means when you start the game you can choose to play in Real-time with pause or turn-based.
Once you’ve started a game, you can’t switch between play styles though, so you might want to give them both a try and just stick with whichever one you prefer.
While the controls aren’t perfect, they work well enough so I can’t complain about them. My one complaint is about load times. As you transition from scene to scene, it can take quite a while for the game to load. It’s a shame as it really slows down what’s already a fairly glacially paced title. Hopefully, a future update can address this.
As for the rest of the game. My original review of the PC version below says it all. Pillars of Eternity 2 on console is a winner and if you love pen and paper RPGs and haven’t played this one on PC, then do yourself a favour and get it on console. It’s easily the best RPG of this generation.
Original Review Follows
When I previewed Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire I called it ” an amazing experience for RPG fans.” After spending more than 100-hours with the final build, I’m confident that I didn’t heap enough praise on it before.
Pillars of Eternity 2 is an incredible video game and Obsidian has delivered one of the most confident and complete packages ever. The Deadfire is absolutely enormous and exploring every corner reveals a litany of quests, adventures, treasure hunts and more.
Everything about Pillars of Eternity 2 has been polished to a bright sheen. Combat, conversations, exploration, writing and the voice acting are all standout achievements for the game. Once I’d started, I was unable to stop. If you like RPGs, it’ll likely happen to you too.
Pillars of Eternity 2 Review
If you’ve been following Pillars of Eternity 2, you’ll know that the sequel is set in an all-new area of Eora; Deadfire. This region is all tropical, all ocean and all pirate. Imagine Pirates of the Carribean meets Dungeons and Dragons and you’ll be on the right track.
Pillars of Eternity 2 has its own distinct and unique character and flavour though. It’s not just Dungeons and Dragons with boats. It’s so much more.
The writers at Obsidian must have pages and pages of lore that they refer to. There are multiple races, languages, religions and more in the world of Eora and Obsidian is consistent in its depictions of each.
Not once does a member of a certain faction of race act differently than they should, or you’d expect. And by the end of the game, I totally understand most of the different words and slang expressions used by characters in-game.
I felt like a tourist at first, but after so many hours, I felt right at home.
Class is in Session
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. If you’ve played the first Pillars of Eternity you can import your save to bring your decisions with you.
No matter what you create, you’ll be playing as the Watcher. Tasked by the goddess of death Berath with finding and defeating the god Eothas, you find yourself in the Deadfire. Eothas is tracking pillars of Adra and absorbing the souls of the dead to make himself stronger.
The lore in Pillars of Eternity 2 is dense, but basically, when people die in Eora their souls return through the Adra and they live again. By absorbing their souls, these people can never return and Eothas is making himself stronger every time.
Obviously, your main task is very important, end-of-the-world type stuff, but there’s so much to get distracted by, that you can’t be blamed for going off the beaten path a little. It’s also spectacular when you companion Eder comments on your seeming lack of haste.
It also helps that Matt Mercer voices Eder brilliantly.
Everything you do in Pillars of Eternity 2 is governed by your stats. However you created or rolled for the pros, your character, that’s how you’re going to be playing the game.
If you wanted to play stealthily but put all your stats into the wrong skill, you’re going to be really bad at sneaking. Same goes for fighting, magic and, well, everything, like I said.
However, being an RPG, you’re never alone in Pillars of Eternity 2. Your loyal crew will be with you always and you’re able to have a party of five characters. Six if you’re a ranger and have a pet. Which I obviously did. He’s a wolf and his name is Kit.
With a total of five characters, you’re able to easily overcome most circumstances and thankfully Obsidian has given you tonnes of options at every turn. You can lie your way through a situation, or just kill everyone instead.
You can use bluff and bluster to intimidate those in your way or charm them with your intelligence and knowledge. It’s the perfect choose your own adventure and if you make liberal usage of the quick save button you can go back and try again if you don’t like the outcome. Something I did on many occasions.
Hope you like reading
Seriously, I do hope you like reading, because you will be doing a lot of it. Sure, every line of dialogue is voiced and almost all of them are done really well, but there’s still a lot to read and take in.
I found myself skimming some text a few times and later I was lost. It wasn’t until I re-read what I’d skimmed that I realised I wasn’t actually sure of what I was supposed to be doing.
That’s mostly okay in Pillars of Eternity 2, though there are a few times when you need to be quite exact with what you’re doing or you won’t be able to progress.
Just remember to read. And why wouldn’t you? Every piece of text, every item description, every in-game book, all of it is wonderful and only helps to fill out the already very generously proportioned lore of Eora.
Aside from reading, the bulk of what you’ll be doing in Pillars of Eternity 2 is talking. Having conversations is the cornerstone of any pen and paper RPG and this one is no exception. Most quests can be finished just by talking, though there are times when the sword is mightier than the mouth.
And that’s when you get into Pillars of Eternity 2’s real-time with pause combat.
Plan, Wait, Fight
Combat in Pillars of Eternity 2 is semi-turn-based but can be played totally in real-time. Whenever combat begins the game pauses itself automatically. This is where you’re able to plan your attacks and direct each of your party members.
Obsidian has said that combat in Pillars of Eternity 2 is about staggering your enemies and knocking them down. It couldn’t be truer.
I found the best way to win fights was to use abilities to blind or paralyse enemies before going in for the big hits and chopping them in half. When I previewed the game I wasn’t skilled enough to control all five party members at once and I never did get the hang of it, but the AI is good enough that it was never a problem.
I did dabble with the party programming a little, but I found that the changes I made caused my party to perform worse, so I just left it up to the standard AI. The system is incredibly deep and complex, but I didn’t have the time to dedicate or the innate skill to make it work for me.
Despite my gushing, I did find that ship-to-ship combat was a bit of a lame duck. I understood the concept and knew what to do, but every time I’d simply ram the other ship and use standard combat to win because it was much faster and a lot more fun.
PoE and DnD
Chances are that if you’re reading this you’ve already started playing Pillars of Eternity 2 or you’re about to start. This review won’t do anything to convince you as you need no convincing, but I implore you, get your friends to play this game.
In a market flooded with first and third-person-shooters, games that play it safe and game after game after game that could be a reskinned version of the one before, Pillars of Eternity 2 is a big, beautiful breath of fresh air.
It features one of the most fully fleshed out worlds I’ve seen in fiction and offers so much content that it could have easily been split into multiple chapters. I honestly can’t recommend Pillars of Eternity 2 enough, but I’ll leave you with an anecdote that will hopefully demonstrate just how much I like it.
When I first started playing for this review, I’d made it through about 25-30 hours. I’d gotten a significant way through the campaign and had levelled up my characters to a place where I was tearing through most encounters.
I felt strong and unstoppable and I knew Eothas was going to lose.
Then, the game updated and my save file stopped working. All of that time and work was gone. I couldn’t get it back no matter what I tried and I didn’t know what I was going to do. My playthrough was exactly as I wanted it. Every decision, every battle, they’d all played out just how I wanted them to.
The idea of starting all over again was a daunting one and not something I was looking forward to. But I did it and I only felt annoyed throughout the unskippable opening cutscene. After that, it was all pure enjoyment all over again.
How many games can corrupt your save file after 30-hours and still be good enough for you to start over again right away?
One that I know of, Pillars of Eternity 2.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Ultimate Edition was reviewed on PC and PS4 using a digital copy provided by the publisher.
Game title: Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Ultimate Edition
Deep, engaging role-playing - 9.5/10
Nearly endless content - 8/10
Brilliant writing, voice acting and music - 9/10
The best digital tabletop experience around - 10/10
Pirate Goodness - 9.5/10