by Derk Bil
previewed on PC
Combat takes place in “pausible real time”. With difficultly levels ranging from easy to ‘Path of the Damned’ - the level obviously designed for masochists wanting a ‘proper’ challenge - hitting that pause button to manage your spells and actions is an absolute necessity. And then picture the ‘Trial of Iron’ mode where a single save game gets deleted when your party dies and ‘Expert Mode’ in which the game is almost literally thrown back into the late 90’s to get stripped of the modern day ‘ease of use’ features.
Remember how constitution affected both health and stamina? Initially, damage taken will be taxing to both your stamina and your health. Stamina is basically your short-term health and its level will go up gradually while you’re not fighting. Your health bar, however, requires rest to replenish and you better keep an eye on it. The first time it happens, running out of health points will maim that character. Running out a second time will outright kill that character, with no option to resurrect - he’s out for good.
For our fight, we helped out Rumbold the Pig Farmer with his Ogre problem. Korgrak the Ogre had taken up residence in the caves nearby had been picking off Rumbold’s pigs at regular intervals. Apparently Ogres are quite fond of bacon too. The pig farmer pleads for our assistance, and as any self-respecting adventurer would, we offered it willingly. We headed over to the cave, had ourselves some skirmishes along the way with a variety of beetles and spiders, rested up a bit, and then faced Korgrak.
In Pillars of Eternity, Ogres are equally brutal and intelligent. So we could have tried to reason with the gigantic pig eater but opted to kill him instead. A hair-raising battle ensued from which we emerged victoriously. We headed back to town, triumphantly waving the Ogre’s severed head around, quite to the admiration of the townsfolk. Rumbold offered us a hefty sum of coins for our efforts, which we could have taken but we chose to let him keep the money and truly feel like the heroes we were. This gave us a more benevolent reputation which - like so many things in Pillars - is a double-edged sword. People liked us, but on the other hand it may lead people into thinking we are a chump, trying to take advantage of your good nature.
Not Rumbold. We were given a piglet which followed us around. It is purely cosmetic, but walking around with a piglet does add more flavor to the game. Other pets such as cats, dogs and spiders will also be available and each has cute little animations and makes funny little pet sounds.
Tools and loot
Loot will be plentiful but since it is unlikely that spiders, beetles and wolves walk around with robes, scrolls and giant two-handers, they won’t be dropping anything man-made. Instead, they will drop animal parts which can be used for crafting potions, food and scrolls or as materials for enchantments.
The latter comes in handy when increasing the effectiveness of your gear. You can add new properties to mundane items or further enhance unique items. The selection of enchantments will be extensive, even in the current build there’s a terrific long list of stuff you can do. There are currently no limitations in which modifications can be used, but the team is considering to restrict them based on player level.
As you encounter hostile creatures, your cyclopedia will add more and more entries. Depending on your Lore score and the frequency at which you encounter each creature, the pages will become more detailed. This information includes strengths and weaknesses so that you can effectively adjust your strategy.
No doubt nostalgia is having its wicked ways with me - it has been a while since anyone made a game like this, on a scale like this - but I found the designs, atmosphere and feel of Pillars of Eternity simply astonishing. The interface remains true to the Infinity Engine classics but still manages to feel modern. Pillars of Eternity leaves no doubt that the original artists behind legendary games such as Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale are pulling all the strings. Having witnessed the game in action has made me giddy in anticipation.