Pillars of Eternity first graced the world back in March of 2015. It was a breath of fresh air in the old-school RPG genre the likes of Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gate, and Icewind Dale, and to many, an instant classic. Moving into late 2017 the company brought their new RPG onto the console scene with a complete edition for both the Playstation 4, and Xbox One. Met with good reviews, one key feature stood out among the rave to taint the otherwise awesome game itself: controls. Which is why I was rather excited to see Pillars of Eternity come to the Nintendo Switch. The controls could possibly be an issue still, but the Switch has one thing the other two consoles don’t, touch screen. The question is, however, how’s it play?
Pillars of Eternity is a classic top-down RPG. If you’ve played Baldur’s Gate or Neverwinter Nights, you know exactly what to expect: a Dark fantasy inspired story filled with violence and choices that matter. From the start you become afflicted with a curse, becoming a Watcher. Your quest henceforth is to figure a way to lift this curse before you go raving mad. Not only are you set on an epic adventure, but the campaign is also only half of the total content. While the campaign itself is brilliant, the side-quests fill the void and bring life to the world around you. The choices you make have a very real impact on the world around you, whether good or bad, that will reflect the ending depending on your choices.
The control scheme is identical to the one found in both the PS4 and Xbox One. The issues I have with this system is the same that everyone else has had for the PS4 and Xbox One control schemes, it simply doesn’t work for this kind of game. Can you play it? Yes, but there are times when you’re trying to move and it launches you forward into a trap and nearly kills you. It’s not fluid like it’s meant to be on a mouse and keyboard. What’s worse, they ignored the Switch’s ability to support touch screen, a key feature that would seriously have elevated the game to the next level on consoles, making it infinitely easier to control and manage inventory.
To say I wasn’t confused, often, would be an understatement. Numerous times I found myself mashing the wrong button in an attempt to pause/unpause, or even open the correct radial menu. It took quite a while to remember which button did which. One of the features that make playing on a console possible is the auto-cursor thing, where the cursor snaps to nearby objects you can click on. Unfortunately, it snaps to everything, and when objects are close together, make it near impossible to select! Selecting objects in this game sometimes require a delicate, precise cursor. It’s simply not possible with these controls.
While it’s far from unplayable, it’s not ideal. They did a great job, as they did with the other two consoles, at placing the radial menus on the thumbsticks, it’s simply not intuitive enough to make things easy in the least. It’s tolerable, but definitely noticeable, and coming from the PC – a huge letdown.
I never expected to have a performance issue on the Switch. While many new games tend to have issues running in handheld mode, this isn’t a very demanding title. I’ve had no issues with performance at all, and have only had a single crash while in handheld mode. While it did crash, I can’t tell you why, and it only happened once, so could have been my Switch for all I know.
I was very happy with the performance but somewhat depressed at the loading times. Long load times are expected on a platform like the Switch, or any console for that matter when you have a lot of saved games. The longer your list of saved data, the longer the load time, typically. With each auto-save, I feel the creep set in. What started off at a somewhat okay load time of 10 seconds has reached above 30 seconds as of this writing. Over 30 seconds and I don’t keep many saves, over half a minute just to load a single map, it’s a bit much. Those load times get even worse when you’re in handheld mode. Thankfully I keep my Switch docked, but I can see this becoming an issue for gamers on the go.
Thankfully graphics didn’t suffer with the port to the Switch. This is something, again, I expected, as while Pillars of Eternity is a gorgeous game, it doesn’t take a lot of hardware to run. Even still, some games suffer from becoming a port, and sometimes the graphics get washed out a bit. I can honestly say I don’t see a difference between this version and the PC version at all.
Playable, but not perfect
Pillars of Eternity is by no means a perfect game, but I love it nonetheless. I’ve had my share of some very wonky text glitches, but it never detracted from the core gameplay or immersion. There’s a good reason why over 70,000 people backed this game. Pillars of Eternity is a damn good game and the only disappointment of this specific release is the controls. I only wish they had taken advantage of the touch screen capability of the Switch. That said, who doesn’t love the ability to take their favorite game on the go?