Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Review – A Pirate’s Treasure

Pillars of Eternity was great when first released. It showed everyone that even these timeless classics still had what it took to provide an exciting, action-packed adventure. Pillars of Eternity was a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape Torment and many other RPGs from yesteryear.

Developers Obsidian Entertainment aimed to create a new RPG that played and looked just like classic RPGs of the 90s. The visuals where stunning and presented in a classic isometric view. The setting was a wondrous high-fantasy world full of adventure with funny, memorable characters to fight alongside. The soundtrack was enchanting and soothing and the combat was real-time tactical which meant brains and brawn were needed to emerge victoriously. Pillars of Eternity was universally praised by all who critiqued it. From the brilliant writing, the stunning visual style, the wonderful sound design and exciting gameplay, Pillars of Eternity highlighted how the aforementioned classics were able to influence so many other titles for years to come. For many, the adventure into the world of Pillars of Eternity was just the beginning.

Sure enough developers Obsidian Entertainment and publishers Verses Evil are now more than eager to welcome back fans of the first game. Gather your strength Watcher, it’s time to venture through the lands of Eora and decide the fate of all who reside there, with Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire.

After your first perilous and death-defying journey, you retire peacefully to your stronghold. However, the god Ethos who has slumbered under your castle has awoken as a giant Golem, killing everything in his path and destroying your castle, with you still inside. Luckily your reputation as the famed Watcher precedes you. Thus the gods have given you a second chance and have entrusted you with the task of tracking Ethos down to put a stop to whatever he has planned.

The game plays like its predecessor and like the RPGs that it pays tribute to. You begin by creating a character confirming gender, race, and class. You choose a brand new history to begin your quest or you can import your character from PoE 1 and continue the path of your first hero, where the choices made in the first game affects what happens here. This includes your class, alignment, which party members you recruited and what decisions you made.

You’ll then enter the world of Eora to venture forth and determine the fate of the world. Those who are familiar with RPGs will know what to expect, as this game stays true to its influences. You’ll traverse through the gameworld which is now a tropical archipelago rather than a western country, completing quests, recruit companions, and fight an entire array of fantasy adversaries all to rid the world of evil and save the day. You click on the isometric map to move through that landscape talking to NPCs who will give you information and quests.

As you progress you’ll level up yourself and your party members, learning new spells, distributing skill-points and acquiring new equipment to face even tougher enemies. PoE 2 also features a crafting system when given you’ve acquired the correct ingredients, will allow you access to unique items to aid you on your journey. You can even craft specialized items to enhance your weapons and armor.

The real-time tactical combat will require you to engage in combat with both skill and wits. The game pauses before an engagement and here you’ll decide who moves where who and what to attack, what spells and items to use and an overview of the battlefield. Once you decide on what to do you can un-pause, sit back and enjoy the show. You can continue controlling your characters in real-time, should you feel the urge to get stuck in yourself. You can even script your companion’s AI and they’ll respond accordingly to whatever commands you have given them. Battles are brutal, frantic and very fun to take part in. Enemies are usually much stronger so they will put up an immense fight.

There is complete anarchy happening on screen with the clashing of weapons, the shattering of armor, the thunderous crash and booms of spells, it’s an absolute marvel to behold and getting stuck in the thick of it will have you gripping the edge of the seat and whooping in jubilation as you strike another foe down and emerge triumphantly.

PoE 2 also includes seafaring, as you and your companions have a ship to act as your base of operations and your means of travel. You’ll need to hire crew members to maintain the ship and some crew members are best suited to certain tasks than others. Arguments may break out among the crew and it’s down to you how you would like to resolve any disputes the crew might have. You can upgrade ship’s cannons, hull, helm, anchor, and sails. If you’ve got enough money you can even buy a brand new ship. You’ll also engage in battles with other ships and their crews. Unlike party-based combat, ship combat is played out in a turn-based fashion, with hand-drawn illustrations to present what’s happening. You choose options given to you and see how that plays out before choosing the next course of action. The skill level of your crew and the status of your ship will determine if you and your crew emerge victoriously or take a one way trip to Davey Jones’ Locker.

The game will take you through an epic fantasy story full of wonder, romance, and danger. The choices you make within the game will greatly impact how the rest of the game plays out. The decisions you make during quests, how you fight, and your relationship with your companions and how your story will ultimately end. Like the classic RPGs, the gameplay is centered on choice and consequence. Depending on your playstyle you’ll emerge at the end of your journey as a hero, or as the pure embodiment of evil.

Everything visually and auditory in this game is absolutely breathtaking. The maps are hand painted to make it look like the RPGs this pays homage to. It looks truly picturesque, like a beautiful painting come to life in front of your eyes. The animations, the effects, the environments, the character models, the detail level, everything is presented beautifully.

The soundtrack is enchanting and uplifting, adding a deeper sense of beauty and wonder to this already captivating fantasy world and giving you a warm feeling that all the music tracks were made for you and not just for the game. The ambiance, the battle sounds, the ocean waves, the sounds of people going about their business, all of it just fills you with this idea that the action and excitement never ends and there is life everywhere you go in PoE 2.

PoE 2 is considerably larger than its predecessor and its jam-packed full of content that will make your adventure a very long and fun one. Side quests, crafting, intense combat ship combat, befriending and romancing companions, it’s all here just waiting for you to come in and complete it all. When you’re done with the main campaign and the DLC, play it again using a different character with a different class and make different choices from your first playthrough and see different outcomes. Go back and play PoE 1 with a brand new character, make different decisions there and see how your decisions in the first game affect the world in PoE 2. The replay value is almost limitless and your adventures through the wondrous lands of Eora will never be the same each time you play.

It’s hard to fault this game. It has everything a RPG veteran could dream of. PoE 2 feels like it’s been stripped straight from the 90s to show all pretenders how role-playing is done. Something that could be expanded on is the ship combat, as there doesn’t seem to be much emphasis on that as the rest of the game. There aren’t that many upgrades for your ship and the number encounters with other ships is rather inconsistent. Some players may just forgo ship combat altogether and just ram the enemy ship to begin the real-time party combat. Also keep in mind that like 90s RPGs, the learning curve for this game is rather steep and you need to be careful while building your class, picking your fights and how you interact with your companions. It’s nowhere near as difficult as Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale are but the game still requires you to think with a tactical and steady mindset.

Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire literally is a miracle of a RPG, as it really does have it all. It’s got a massive world with deep, interesting lore, it looks and sounds glorious and there is great opportunity to play out a different adventure with each replay. Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire truly does justice the classics that inspired an entire genre for years to come and is an astounding RPG in its own right. This game has shown how to present fantastical worlds, how to write fun, memorable characters and how to make the gameplay deep and exciting. If you’re ready for your next adventure in the world of Eora or if you are a first-time adventurer in this strange and beautiful realm, then get Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, raise the anchor and set sail for an adventure you’ll never forget.

This review was based on a digital review copy of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire for PC provided by Obsidian Entertainment.

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