Pillars of Eternity preview: to Infinity and beyond

Obsidian Entertainment has a good grasp of what made classic RPGs like Baldur's Gate classics. The studio holds these old-school Infinity Engine games with the highest reverence, which is a huge part of what made them want to start work on what would become Pillars of Eternity. "[Pillars of Eternity] is a fantasy RPG done in a classic style that's inspired by the Infinity Engine games like Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, and Icewind Dale," explained executive producer Adam Brennecke. However, while the game is inspired by these classics, Pillars of Eternity is built on a new engine entirely and one that brings a whole new world to life. The engine can be seen as Brennecke demonstrated one of the game's opening missions, taking place through the hand-crafted world of Eora. A level one wizard traveled alongside a caravan of refugees and found himself in the middle of a brutal conflict. His camp would soon be slaughtered, leaving him to explore the surrounding area that included a nearby dungeon. While the dungeon contained standard combat scenarios, it also featured some of the Dungeons & Dragons type of adventure that should tug at the hearts of classic RPG fans. Party members will have different suggestions on how to tackle the dungeon, which will lead to branching paths and character growth opportunities. NPC characters will lay in wait in the dungeon's depths and certain dialogue options will either calm his nerves or cause him to attack. And the action will all be broken up by the occasional ground puzzle, structured similarly to old-school adventures. Pillars of Eternity will have some of its own unique features, some of which can be seen in the game's combat. Battles will unfold in real-time, but if players need to take a step back and organize their party and their positions, they're welcome to pause the game and think things through. They can take a moment to survey the battlefield, similar to what one would do in a real-time strategy game. Companions can also be given orders that will be carried out upon resuming the game. The game's companions will all display their own unique personalities over the course of the game. Depending on which party members are along for the ride, they'll react to each other, to the current situation, to their surroundings, and in battle with their own specific dialogue. If none of the main companions fit in, players will have the option to walk into the game's Adventurer's Hall and recruit entirely different party members, albeit without any dialogue.

Dungeons look to be a major highlight of Pillars of Eternity

Of course, the party will all be led by the player character, which can be created from scratch in a detailed character creation mode. As mentioned, the character will have a personal arc that will evolve over the course of the game's narrative. Speaking to certain NPCs, answering questions off of branching dialogue choices, and deciding how to tackle dungeons will all factor into the main character's arc and help shape his biography. While Pillars of Eternity will revolve around a main narrative, the character's personal journey will also be one to keep an eye on and should lead to different experiences. Pillars of Eternity will ship with five playable races, with eleven classes among them. There will also be a wild card "godlike" race, which will manifest itself through a divine apperance. Godlike characters will receive certain boosts, but will be ineligible to wear garments/armors or receive any of those stat buffs. I only saw a fraction of what Pillars of Eternity has to offer, as Brennecke noted that the size of the game's world would fall somewhere between the first two Baldur's Gate games. The first world certainly appeared lush and detailed, but it remains to be seen whether the rest of the game's world can maintain that same sense of beauty. Likewise, it'll be interesting to see if character building and dungeons can maintain a sense of variety. The long journey for Pillars of Eternity is on the verge of its conclusion. The long-awaited Kickstarter success story is aiming to release on PC by the end of 2014.