Pillars of Eternity - Complete Edition Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC and Microsoft Xbox One
Released back in March 2015 Pillars of Eternity was a great success on PC, sitting proudly as one of the greatest PC games of that year and still gathering new players now with its multiple expansions. Pillars of Eternity is another Kickstarter success story, developed by Obsidian and a love letter to RPGs of old, a spiritual successor to Baldurs Gate and the Icewind Dale series, we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the game on release awarding it a very healthy nine of out ten
As with many games of this type, the developers have taken note from Divinity: Original Sin, Path of Exile and Torment: Tides of Numenera and have attempted to bring this very PC focused RPG to the current generation of consoles. Sales figures never seem to match the noise generated when these games are announced as coming to console, but if you are someone who spends their day in front of a PC, having access to such fantastic titles from your sofa is a dream come true. Utilising the Unity engine, the core elements Pillars of Eternity needs to get right in porting to console are firstly controller support (with good quality mapping of controls) and secondly performance. A word-heavy, strategic combat adventure like Pillars of Eternity needs to slightly tweak itself to cater for what is in the most part, a very different audience.
For a full breakdown of the story, gameplay and the various systems that make up this huge adventure, please check out our coverage of the original PC version. Pillars of Eternity is a strange beast on console. A stellar RPG being ported across to console is traditionally initially greeted positively but all too often not purchased in any great numbers on release - see Torment: Tides of Numenera as a recent example.
So how does this fantastic throwback to the good old days RPG fare on console, namely PS4 in this case? It’s not perfect but overall, not bad at all as it turns out. Controller mapping is really well done for the most part but there is perhaps just a little too much for a pad to handle really well. However there isn’t anything here which detracts from what is a fantastic old school RPG experience. The core controls effectively utilise two large radial dials which are used to cover almost every menu or function for your entire party within the game. Right trigger gives you all the character abilities along with the chance to chat with each selected hero, whilst Left trigger is chock full of items from inventory, map, stronghold options (your base which can be upgraded), journal and more. To be fair to the developers, it’s a difficult task to move across all of the intricacies of such an old school Baldur’s Gate-like RPG to a console pad but in this case the use of modals and the pad’s analogue sticks and triggers to navigate around is absolutely useable if not spectacular - it does the job and at no point will you rue the fact that you are playing a classic on a sofa. As a frame of reference for console players, if you have played Dragon Age Origins when it was first released on PS3 or Xbox 360 then that will give you a solid idea of how Pillars of Eternity handles, albeit this has a little bit more going on to juggle at any given time. The only real negative here isn’t so much a fault of the control systems employed on console but more of a general problem with the combat within the game, specifically that you end up feeling like you simply choose an enemy to attack and your whole crew piles in, making your core involvement amount to pressing the trigger, choosing a special move and watching the outcome. Even though you can be a little more strategic should you choose, it’s a little fiddly and after many hours with the game the battles can feel very much like simple action affairs.
A few other elements used to navigate the game and its systems have been introduced on console and make this version a tad more user friendly. The analogue stick being utilised to walk your party around each area is absolutely great and married with the ability to engage “Fast Mode” makes traversing the world quick and painless. To go along with this as you slay enemies or simply scour the world for lore and loot, the game does a really nice job of avoiding an age old RPG on console mistake having multiple items within close proximity and having to individually activate them to pick up. Many an RPG has been ported across to console, Diablo 3 for example, and even the most popular looter shooters like Borderlands and The Division have those awkward moments which see you trying to line up your character to pick up a certain piece of gear but you can’t quite get it right, thus causing mild annoyance that it’s so difficult to just pick up the thing you really want to collect. Pillars of Eternity on console groups together fallen foes or lootable areas so it’s simply one item on the floor to approach and as you try to pick it up, the entire suite of what has dropped is easily available for the player to select. This speeds up looting in a big way and as Pillars is a slow game at the best of times, this is most welcomed.
Graphically Pillars of Eternity may irk some console gamers as it’s not much of a looker. For the graphics lovers out there, this isn’t going to set your world alight. The game suffers from having the Unity logo appear when it boots up and sadly whilst there are a handful of good-looking Unity games, most are prone to looking poor and being positively janky. Pillars isn’t a huge breakaway from this stereotype but this complete edition does a slightly improved job in the looks department. Sadly to add to console users’ woes the dreaded performance problem rears its ugly head once again. At first when you begin your epic fifty-hours-plus adventure the load times are acceptable, clocking in at a varying ten to thirty seconds in length when entering a building or an area. However in time as your progress and in turn your save file increases, these loading times stretch more and more, sometimes running into minutes, which is dangerously close to a loading time that will see some reaching for their phone or quickly changing the channel while they wait. It’s in this that Pillars of Eternity on console has its biggest problem - people will forgive basic graphics for superb writing and a voyage worth taking, but what often pushes people to their limits is wasting lots of time on loading screens.
The core of the game is the narrative and the storytelling is absolutely fantastic throughout. As mentioned previously Pillars of Eternity succeeds not in its graphical prowess or with visceral action-packed combat, it succeeds through fantastic writing, consistently surprising interactions with NPCs and the unpredictable nature of character responses to you and your band of heroes. There is a lot of meat on these bones as well, with epic quest lines, multiple squad character options, so many quests, gear, levelling, magic and more making Pillars of Eternity one of those games that absolutely delivers on the bang for your buck front, giving the player at least fifty hours of content not including the DLC.
Pillars of Eternity on console is not without its issues, namely the long loading times the deeper you delve, however, for any armchair gamer that doesn’t play on a PC anymore it’s arguably one of the best written RPGs of a generation and with this new complete edition it’s a no brainer.