by Derk Bil
previewed on PC
As if there’s not enough content in Pillars of Eternity already, Obsidian found it necessary to add even more. And they have a point, of course – you can never have enough Pillars. Josh Sawyer and Adam Brennecke showed us Pillars of Eternity: The White March – Part I which is - as the name suggests - obviously not the last expansion fans can expect.
The expansion's content will be not be available in the early stages of the game. The challenges will be much tougher than a starting party could possibly deal with so it will unlock around one-third of the way into a typical playthrough. You see your first glimpse of the new content during a visit at your stronghold, Caed Nua, from where you can head out to the town of Stalwart.
It's a fresh area, in multiple senses of the word. It is both new and perhaps it’s even a bit nippy. The area was designed to be something of an homage to Icewind Dale and Stalwart is surrounded by tundra and snow-filled maps. The locals will appeal to you to reopen an ancient dwarven stronghold called Durgan’s Battery which is the home of the legendary White Forge. It was abandoned about a century ago and is the key to creating top-quality magical armor and weaponry. Small wonder that the town wants it reopened.
The White March adds two more companions to the already very decent selection in the base game. To me, the more interesting one is the monk, Zahua, who will make quite the entrance. You discover him sitting inside of a barrel of fish while meditating on existentialism and world affairs and, unsurprisingly, high as a kite. He is a front-line melee expert who reminds me of a cross between Doc Brown and your average MMA fighter and his banter is all over the place.
The second character is a little more ominous and comes in the shape of a rogue who is called the Devil of Caric. The Devil is in fact a construct, a new race if you will. He is constructed from the soul of a killer, put into a metal body and essentially looks like a big suit of walking armor. The twist here is that, since the Devil is in fact armor, she can’t really wear any. Instead you get to customize and enchant her body, which is a lot less creepy than it sounds.
The expansion also adds some new features to the existing formula. One such feature is individual stealth. Where originally the entire party would go into stealth mode, it’s now possible so keep characters in stealth individually, even during combat. This allows for a more interesting way to resolve fights than just rushing headlong into the baddies.
Range and accuracy indicators have received an overhaul and you will now be able to see the exact range and effect of your spells and attacks. This comes in handy if you want to find the sweet spot for a stealthy backstabbing action that heralds the beginning of your surprise attack. Last, but not least, we can expect some significant improvements to the AI of party members, pets and enemies. For the first two, you can adjust the individual behavior in combat which potentially brings down the player’s workload during combat by a small margin.
The White March – Part I will be available in a few weeks time and it promises to be a beautiful new addition to Pillars of Eternity. Better yet, the overall improvements will be made available to everyone, even if you do not buy the expansion.