Pillars of Eternity: The Pen is Mightier

By Kirill Ilukhin

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Pillars of Eternity

Don’t mind the fact that the text of the original article about Pillars of Eternity was relatively short and too laudatory. The game deserves every word of admiration, but I still wanted to criticise separately some of its elements, which I now can do.

Dialogues. Yes, Pillars of Eternity has a lot of quality text, and the text itself is enough for a couple of novels, but where there is power, there is also weakness. I expected that the element of roleplay will be not only in the gameplay, but will also remain in the dialogues, it is no wonder that the usual “wheel” of modern RPGs has been replaced by a list of answers, as they did in old-school games. That is, you really have to choose from a large number of responses, and scroll down to read them all. I don’t dispute that some of them have a nonlinear potential: towards the end of the game, I laughed at a guard in a dialogue which grew into a fight, and after beating him, the whole settlement was at war with me and I had to fight my way through to the final. But almost always the main storyline dialogues lead to the same conclusion. Want to fight? You’ll get a fight. Don’t want to fight? No, sorry, the fight will still happen, just initiated not by you, but by someone you were talking to.Pillars of Eternity

The illusion of choice – that’s what it’s called. Usually there are only two answers, and for everything else it will display a dialogue where the characters talk about the world around them, or specify the details of the story. But the first two versions of the dialogue are actually the same thing. Yes, the second can change your character’s reputation, make any local community love or hate the hero, but the result will still be the same. Sometimes it gets ridiculous – four choices mean exactly the same thing, and don’t affect reputation, but there aren’t any other options in this dialogue box at all.

Of course, this is not so important, the authors still go all out on side quests and make them fully non-linear with two or three options to resolve the question posed, but the main story is very similar to the concept of the latest Deus Ex: non-linear gameplay with a few passing nonlinear inserts, but linear dialogues, and the final depends entirely on which button you choose at the very, very end. And I would not complain if I hadn’t completed Divinity: Original Sin twice. This is where the story, though it crawled along one line, still changed and twisted, depending on the player’s choice in a particular place. Learned the language of animals? Okay, the local dog will tell you how to find a shortcut and do the job without too much blood. In Pillars of Eternity, alas, dialogues solve nothing, only the performance or non-performance of tasks will affect directly the final text that serves as the ending here and talks about all those who you have helped.

Pillars of Eternity

But perhaps I’m too strict about all of this. Obsidian already were not in the best financial shape and tried to at least make a single RPG of the past. They got it right about 95%, and the dialogues won’t spoil the games for those who notice their uselessness. Yes, it’s unpleasant, yes, it could have been better, but the authors didn’t have the time, or even the possibility to see this element through to the end. Maybe someday they will be able to make the perfect RPG, combining it with the nonlinearity of Alpha Protocol (a failing game of the same studio, which many have unjustly forgotten), but at another time. We must enjoy what we have, and try not to complain. There are, after all, fewer and fewer of such games, supported by large studios.


kirillKirill Ilukhin. Born in 1985 in a land with snowy summers and flooding winters. Games addict from the age of 13, actively voicing opinions about them since 17.

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