Review: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC/Mac

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (39.63 GB)
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Publisher: Versus Evil
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Original MSRP: $59.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: M
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Pillars of Eternity 2 is the kind of role-playing game that wants you to work for it. If you have been playing RPGs on PC, then you might be familiar with this type of experience. I grew up with the Forgotten Realms Gold Box series and, of course, the highly praised Baldur’s Gate games. And even that doesn’t totally prepare you for the level of detail that Pillars 2 puts into the experience.

In my old fantasy RPGs, I could get from point A to B on a ship by just – well – pointing the ship in a direction and getting there. In Pillars 2, you’d better make sure your ship is stocked with food and repair tools, or your crew might starve, and your trip will not go so well.

That’s not to say that this is a frustrating game. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the level of attention this game contains, because this type of depth is not really for everyone. But if you want to feel like every aspect of travel and battle is something that needs to be considered with attention to strategy and planning, then Pillars is an excellent foray into what I consider a ‘deep RPG’.

Narratively, Pillars offers an extremely vast an open storyline, spanning a gigantic world, a wide ocean, promising dangers and treasure to those daring to venture out.

Those more accustomed to visually stimulating representations of the journey might be turned off a bit by Pillars’ interpretation of travel. While you are in a dungeon or town, you will see your entire crew walking along side you, much as we are accustomed to seeing in modern RPGs. Pillars takes a different approach for how it represents traveling between cities. Instead of an open world, where you navigate every tree in a dense forest and climb a majestic mountain range. Pillars shows a token of your main character as it moves between major locations. If there are areas of interest, you can select them and be treated to a small narrative, often getting the choice of actions to take in the situation.

While this might be a turn off for some gamers more accustomed to visually experiencing the travel (and honestly, I wouldn’t blame you if you were), this method will resonate well with those of you who enjoy reading books in addition to gaming. A lot of effort was taken to making the written aspect of this game excel. Dialogue and descriptions are written with serious attention to detail, and if you allow it to take over, there are a lot of holes your mind will fit in that even the graphics engine can’t fill.

Combat is handled in a turn-based manner, with character positioning being crucial to success. This is very much the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, and a close cousin to Divinity: Original Sin. Depending on your difficulty setting, the combat will either be a semi breeze, or take every strategic fiber you have to win.

But as mentioned before, survival isn’t only limited to combat success. Traveling across the land or sea can also take its toll on your crew, never mind that you have to hire a crew in the first place.

If you have the patience and appreciation for the deeper aspects of a role-playing game, then you will feel like every treasure is earned in Pillars of Eternity 2.

Visuals:
Beautifully pre-rendered backdrops are seamlessly mixed with real-time characters. And while I often tried to rotate the camera, only to realize that such actions are impossible with static backdrops, the visuals were so filled with life that I quickly forgot about my instinct for changing the vantage point.

Narratives unfold in storybook fashion with some stylized illustrations of the action. Again, this was a choice, and one that older gamers will appreciate.

It took some time to get accustomed to the busy menu system, but it is a clean presentation that rewards some study and persistence and becomes a second nature component.

Audio:
Music was exemplary in the previous game and the same is true here. Dialogue is also at the utmost high level of quality, with some brilliant talent lending their vocals to the very dynamic characters that join you on the journey.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Pillars of Eternity 2 is a very particular and exquisite role-playing game. It expects some extra work on your part for tasks that other games just breeze over (like traveling from one point to another), but it rewards your efforts with a strong narrative, some fantastic loot, and a giant world to discover. Without a doubt, if your library has included games like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, then this gem is a no brainer.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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