Today I’m going to talk about Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire.
I love. This. Game.
I adored the first game, and thought it was amazing. It really made an effort to make your choices matter, all of them from the attributes you created, to your class and your attitude in dealing with people. I was so engrossed in the world that I actually used the in-game note section to serve as an in-character diary during my second play-through, in which I set out my characters backstory, her thoughts on things and how the events affected her. It was all in all, a great game.
Then comes Deadfire. Set five years after the end of the first game, it takes everything that was great about the original and turned it up to eleven. The graphics? Scenery porn; the waves roll like an actual ocean, the cities and maps are all lovingly constructed, and the character models are all unique and interesting in their own right, even NPCs. The mechanics? Again, everything that worked in the original just got made better.
The game has events that are essentially RPG skill challenges, where the format switches to a text-based format where you read what’s happening, and then having you match the skills of your character and their companions against a challenge rating for the event, where you can then pass or fail. And that is a GENIUS move. Not only does it go farther to evoke the tabletop RPG vibe that was part of the original, and something that I personally really enjoyed, but it allows them to do a whole lot more dramatic events that wouldn’t translate well graphically. I set off a trap and nearly got buried alive in a dungeon; one of my companion shad to hold open a stone door long enough for us to get through. Not only would that have looked really goofy translated into the games engine, but it also wouldn’t have been engaging to play, and given the games mechanics, it probably wouldn’t be playable period. Instead, they gave me three pulse-pounding skill-checks where I had figure out an escape, think through who my strongest companion was and see if they were actually strong enough to hold out for all my other party members to get through.
It created tension in a way other RPGs of that style had never managed to for me. This also lets them turn ship-to-ship combat (oh, did I not tell you that you got to sail across the ocean in this game? Well, YOU DO!) to be a unique mix of resource management and turn-based strategy that’s probably my favorite thing in the game.
Furthermore, each class feels and plays distinctly differently, which is good since there are eleven of them. They made a change to the wizard class I don’t really like, but it’s a testament to the game that they took away my hands down favorite, class mechanic, and I totally stopped caring about a half hour after I realized it. They simplified everything combat-related in a way that’s ultimately better for the game, since I particularly don’t play RPGs for the combat, but for the story. And what as story it is. I won’t spoil it, but it is just chock full of interesting, nuanced characters, with factions that have members that actually hold views that differ within the factions. Usually I can decide which faction my character would support fairly easily, but after talking to the leader of the faction I thought she’d be least likely to side with, I realized that it would be genuinely hard for me, and by extension her, to actually pick a side-that’s never happened to me before.
I know that opinions will vary, as they always do with video games, but to me, Pillars of Eternity 2 is the perfect version of itself, and truly elevates itself to a work of art. This game is so lovingly crafted and nuanced and thought, with such obvious love in its every aspect that it’s no wonder the game is a hit. I look forward to losing many more hours of my life to the Deadfire Archipelago; if you don’t see me again for the next few weeks, you know where I am, and you know that I’m happy.
Sophie is on Twitter.
Statement: PopLurker is not owned by a corporation. We are a small collective of writers trying to create content that will make the internet a happier place. When you show our Patreon some love or even just Buy us a Coffee, you’re helping out the little guy who just wants to make your day awesome. Please contribute so we can keep creating hilarious content!