The first game in Pillars of Eternity series by Obsidian was released in March 2015 and immediately won over many gamers’ hearts by holding to the traditions of the “old school” while simultaneously taking the best from the more modern CRPGs. We had the chance to try out the long-awaited sequel to the game and see if it has the potential to live up to the prestige of its predecessor.
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire starts the same way as any other self-respecting CRPG: with character creation. And this is the very first time the game will absolutely blow you away. Seemingly simple redactor provides quite a bit of options to play with and ensure that your avatar is as unique as it can be. First thing PoE2 offers is to choose the level of difficulty from five different options: from the easiest called Story to the hardest aptly named Path of the Damned. In addition to the base difficulty, you will have additional toggles that will let you set up gameplay just right for you. Trial of Iron basically re-introduces good old Hardcore mode where a single death leads to the Game Over while Expert Mode will make sure to disable certain helping features to provide absolutely no hand-holding whatsoever. The last but not the least is the option to set up Level Scaling in a variety of ways.
Once you have chosen your character’s gender you get to a point where things start getting more interesting. The game will offer you to choose from one of the six races – Aumaua, Dwarf, Elf, Godlike, Human and Orlan – and make the further choice by picking from a variety of subraces. You can later flesh out your character’s background even more by picking what region they’ve hailed from and what job they held previously, all choices providing characteristics and further affecting gameplay later on.
During the character creation process, PoE2 also lets you choose between a single class (also further modified by picking one out of three sub-classes, each coming with its strengths and weaknesses) or a Multiclass that basically lets your character have two classes at once. For example, choosing Ranger + Cipher makes you a Seer or Mind Hunter. Finally, you get to spend your Attribute Points (the game will be helpfully suggesting what stats are useful for your chosen class and what can be overlooked) and make your first steps in the actual game.
The press beta version of the game started with characters already sitting at level 6 and completely skipped the tutorial. If you thought previous customization options were it, you’re sorely mistaken. Earning levels will grant your characters few more points to spend:
- Active Skills like Stealth, Alchemy or Arcana
- Passive Skills like Diplomacy, Insight or Survival
- Combat Ability Selection
- Every few other levels you also get an extra point that lets you pick additional Weapon Proficiency
The combination of your character’s Active Skills, Passive Skills, Class(es), Race and Gender can frequently open up additional dialogue options. For example, as a Ranger or someone with high Survival passive skill, you can spot something in the wilderness that others would overlook and point it out in the dialogue. Insightful characters can note when their companions are acting fishy or notice inconsistencies in someone’s lie. This system seems like an evolution of the tag system of Divinity 2: Original Sin. Another system that seemed to jump into Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire from another setting is the dictionary. Just like Tyranny, the game introduced a large number of factions, languages, dialects and more in its way of expanding the game world and needed helpful notes to make sure players do not feel lost.
The beta was a bit rough around the edges and due to certain technical problems with it, I was unable to sufficiently test the combat system as the game won’t give me the option to leave the starting friendly hub. But even the couple hours I have spent fighting with the local fauna of Poko Kohara island have really shown me how much I needed that skipped tutorial without even realizing it. The companions’ behavior can be set up according to your wishes (the behavior redactor is insanely deep and can rival that of Dragon Age: Origins), each character has quick slots for items such as grenades or potions. Additionally, each character has multiple “tiers” of spells and abilities and different sets of weaponry that come with its own skills. Add to it all the buffs, debuffs, conditions, injuries, empowerments, resistances to certain types of weapon or magic… The system is incredibly deep even at the first glance (or poke), and I am sure will prove to be only deeper when you actually have a chance to see it for yourself and test it at length.
To sum it up: even the couple hours long slice of the game shows incredible potential and no small amount of love the developers have put into the project. Each system from character creation to combat proved to be much deeper than it initially seemed, filled with nuances and opportunities. With the release on April 3, the team still has time to work out all technical kinks and present the world with the next CRPG classics that follows the best old schools traditions.