Thanks to the folks at VS Evil, I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time with Pillars of Eternity II this week, and so far I have liked what I’ve seen a lot. Find out why in the video review just here, or keep reading for the extended Pillars of Eternity II console review here, which goes into a little more depth.
After releasing previously way back in 2018, The Ultimate Edition for Pillars or Eternity II Deadfire recently released on console, bringing with it not only all released DLC packs, but also the inclusion of a turn based strategy mode. Without much experience of the Pillars of Eternity franchise, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it, but the title was far away from the Diablo or Path of Exile style real time isometric adventures which I’ve grown used to.
The traditional Pillard of Eternity combat system is still present in this one, and works really well to give a fairly fluid experience, with good granular control voer battle speeds as well as a full pause which you’ll need to use liberally in order to keep up with the action.
Pillars of Eternity seems fully rooted within Tabletop RPG terrority, and as a fan of D&D, Pathfinder, and both the Elite Dangerous and Sea of Thieves RPGs I’ve been pleasantly surpised to find that it pushes even further this way with the offering of a fully turn based combat option. Being a newcomer to the series I’ve found the true turn based mode to be a lot easier to get to grips with, and while I’ve spent considerable time with both modes, it’s this one which has truly captured my heart.
One thing that did come as a little surprise was the fact that you are unable to flit between these at all in game, and once you’ve set off on adventure and chosen your traditional or turn based mode, it’s impossible to deviate from that at all without starting a whole new adventure. This has come as a little bit of a disappointment, but overall with the quality of PoE II on console, it’s more of a minor annoyance than anything else.
The title offers an in depth character creation, including character import from other adventures, or a complete rebuild from the ground up. Within this option, you can choose from a number of preset “good” “fair” or “bad” types, which auto set and detail the actions you took (or would have taken) throughout the first game. As well as this you can take more granular control over the options to truly tailor your character to your chosen path.
Going further with character creation, you have full control over the character, including a species class and subclass, role class and subclass, country of origin which all include their own sub areas, weapon specialisations and initial stat control as well. If you’re anything like me, this is going to take you some time to set up the character just how you like them, before we even look at approaching aesthetic customisation as well. After creating your Watcher, and with a decent run down of actions thanks to Basil Exposition, even a complete newcomer to the series should be prepared to sink into a pretty all inclusive narrative.
Parent’s Eye View
Pillars of Eternity II Deadfire Ultimate Edition is rated by PEGI at 16 and by the ESRB as a Mature 17+. It’s not immediately clear from the outset why this is, as initial combat doesn’t
always give the full picture, and the title does include a fair amount of gore with bloody explosions. While the isometric view keeps this a little away from your face it is certainly a point to consider.
Another thing which didn’t immediately crop up from my playthroughs was language within the title. For the first few hours there was nothing noticable within the dialogue within the options I followed, however after a little while, I found some hard hitting language at all levels, and fairly frequently from one particular character.
Lastly for PoE II there are sexual themes within the title, often quite heavily stated throughout the dialogue. As well as this in a very small number of places there is some outright nudity to find as well.
The Run Down
Visuals – Good: Deadfire originally released around 2 years ago. While there have been some boosts to visuals, along with the all inclusive DLC, the visuals are understandably not as polished as some, but are still pretty good. One thing which lets this down is the inability to rotate the camera. With the isometric gameplay traditionally utilising 2D backgrounds I get why you can’t, but after growing used to it in so many titles of late the absense of camera rotation is remarkably noticable.
Audio – Great: The classical themes throughout the title are brilliant, and this is another one which I’m happy to just have on in the background for the soundtrack. Forged in a lord of the rings style they compliment the gameplay and story well, bringing an immersive experience which makes you feel a part of the action. In addition to the music and effects, a good number of characters are voiced within the dialogue to a good standard, something which I wasn’t entirely expecting.
Narrative – Good: The Deadfire Ultimate Edition really does bring that Tabletop RPG feeling home to consoles here, and as a huge nerd myself that’s been great to see. As a part of this of course, narrative is really at the forefront of the title, and with many conversation threads and actions available depending on your different stats and backgrounds, as well as a brilliant story, the narrative elements really feel like a core part of the title, rather than somthing which was bolted on.
Replay – Great: It doesn’t have multiplayer, but those who do want to get the most out of the title will feel themselves drawn back in over a number of playthroughs. With wildly varied strategies depending on classes and party formation, as well as the new turn based mode being a must try for fans of the franchise, I’ve felt a strong pull back into PoE II.
Overall the Pixel Bandits dice roll for this one is a Grab It. There are some elements which mean that it’s not a Natural 20, but it’s almost as far from a Natural 1 as you can get without getting a critical hit. The visuals are a little lacking in a small number of areas, and I’d really like the ability to change between real time and turn based modes on the fly instead of having to start a whole new adventure. The only thing which has truly grated on me at all is the loading time here on Xbox One, with movement between areas or into and out of buildings taking between 30 seconds and a minute or so.
The long load times do lend themselves to a less immersive experience overall, which is a bit of a shame as when you’re “in game” I’ve not really found much which has put me off the title at all. With those aside though, and the first two are pretty easy to set aside, there are some great things within Pillars of Eternity II Deadfite Ultimate Edition which mean it’s definitely one I’d recommend for anybody with the slightest enjoyment of Tabletop RPGs
Firstly of course, the Ultimate Edition comes with the new Turn Based mode, which is my absolute favourite, but it also brings all DLC for the title, alongside quality of life patches and improvements over the last couple of years. It also includes varied difficulty options, so it is perfectly accessible for those who are just here for a good story, all the way through to those sadists who want to feel utterly helpless all the time. With complex and strategic battles both in real time with malleable speeds, or strict turn based, tacticians among us will have a lot of fun finding new ways to approach battles.