We had the unexpected pleasure of having Pillars of Eternity showcased to us by two heroes of the role-playing genre, Josh Sawyer and Adam Brennecke. Longtime admirer of their work, I lost my ability to speak, though only for a short while. This was Gamescom and we had a schedule to keep - no time to waste on speechlessness!
Playable races in Pillars include Humans, Dwarfs, Elves, Aumaua, Orlan and Godlike. The first three need no explanation - they’re the bread and butter of most fantasy role-playing games. The Aumaua are a tall, intimidating semi-aquatic race of humanoids. The Orlan are no taller than dwarves - but less bulky - and sport feral features like piercing eyes, two-toned skin and large furry ears. The Godlike sprout horns and have either been blessed or cursed by the gods. The Godlike come in four different sub races: moon, fire, nature and death. You can choose the parentage of godlike characters from the other races.
Josh and Adam started the demonstration off by choosing a Paladin as their main character out of a list that sports illustrious classes such as Cipher, Wizard, Chanter and Monk. Paladins each belong to an order. By choosing which order you belong to, you automatically choose a number of personality traits that the order stands for. When you role-play closely in accordance to those traits, you will gain additional benefits but making decisions that go against them will incur penalties. They won’t be as harsh as in classic D&D games like Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate where you would actually - lose - abilities by going against your characters alignment, but they will be felt nonetheless.
Assigning your character stats, you start with minimum stats for all attributes and then drop additional points to the ones you would like to boost. Things work a little differently from what you might expect. The Might attribute, for example, will not only increase both physical and magical damage done, but also the amount of healing a character can do. Constitution boosts stamina as well as health points. Intellect not only affects the strength and duration of your spells, but also the area of effect and high Resolve makes it harder for others to interrupt your actions.
You also get to choose your character’s culture and background. While the latter is merely there for role-playing purposes and on rare occasions affect your conversations, Culture has a slightly bigger impact. You character could be tweaked slightly, maybe by adding an attribute here or there or awarding you an innate proficiency. It also determines the look of the gear you have on you, which can of course be further customized later on. Adam’s customizations led to a fiery-haired Fire Godlike Paladin, belonging to the Darcozzi Paladini order, who he named Sassy.
Our first order of business was visiting an Inn. Pillar’s Kickstarter campaign gave high-end backers the opportunity to buy inns and the barkeep in this particular inn was named after one of them. Apart from food and drinks and pestering the barkeep for gossip and information inns have a few more interesting uses. You can hire henchmen and rent posh rooms that add useful, temporary character bonuses that last until the next time you rest. This should motivate players to return to town a little more often, especially since getting around is fairly easy. Fast-travel gets you to your destination 8 hour away instantly, but time will progress normally for everyone else.
There is plenty to explore in the game. Most areas will be very visible on the map, but a few will need some prying around. We stumbled upon the remainders of a statue which - would - have given us access to a hidden dungeon but we lacked the skills to get it to work. Our starter town, Dyrford, is built upon the ruins of an old city. Subsequently there will be a dungeon below to explore as well.