Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire PC Preview

Taking to the seas, Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire aims for a mixture of familiarity and freshness.

By Woozie, Posted 20 Feb 2018

2015’s Pillars Of Eternity was everything those nostalgic for Infinity Engine titles could have wanted. It also proved that Obsidian Entertainment can handle an IP of their own, while creating a rich world that begs to be explored. Three years and a Fig campaign later, Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire has players discovering a new part of Eora, in the Deadfire Archipelago’s jungles, deserts, dungeons and seas. There’s a certain sense of exoticism to these new locations, which also benefit from graphical improvements. Particularly noticeable when it comes to lighting, the places the Watcher must explore look more vibrant. One of the islands that could be visited in the preview build, introduced the Huana as a new, tribal culture. Their society is based around a caste system where being at the bottom may involve starving when food is not readily available.

Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire, Image, News

This doesn’t mean that it’s without dissidents and dilemmas. The tribe’s leader was open to allowing outsiders to settle the island in hopes of newfound prosperity, while their priestess treats them reluctantly, as in the past they sought to conquer or take advantage of the Huana. The player is, naturally, the one who can sway things in one direction or the other. The characters on the island had personality that was backed up by good writing. Different cultures use certain expressions during dialogue which continues to have the highlighted text that brings up a small window which further explains important or unique elements of the discussion. If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. However, while familiar, this small slice of the Deadfire Archipelago had a lot of freshness to it.

The number of available party members has been reduced to five, sitting in between the original Pillars of Eternity’s six and Tyranny’s four characters. Controlling them individually during combat still requires attention, planning and use of the pause button. For those who prefer to rely on the AI, the customization system didn’t run anywhere.  Actions and priorities can be tinkered with either through presets or detailed customization. In Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, the other party member’s skills are taken into account in discussions and certain Choose Your Own Adventure-style encounters. While the latter usually involve selecting a specific party member to complete a certain action, it’s nice to actually be able to have your historian help when the situation requires it and not just sit there. On top of that, certain conversation options now require a combination of skills or backgrounds.

Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire, Image, Preview

When creating characters, players can choose between single class and multiclass, the downside of the latter being the inability to reach top level skills as quickly, if at all. There is enough choice, as each class has its own spells and role, alongside different resource types. Abilities are now organized in an ability tree and divided between passive and active ones. The choice of a place of origin, background and subclasses which include bonuses and penalties (Ascendant Ciphers, for example, are stronger when at full focus but weaker otherwise) are still there and do play a role in the way certain conversations pan out, as do skills like Mechanics, Survival, Streetwise and the likes. Adding to that, characters can be proficient in a few of the many weapon types on offer. This gives access to a modal ability that can be toggled on and off. These modal abilities come with an advantage and a drawback like attacks having a slight area of effect at the cost of damage, doing more damage at the cost of deflection and so on.

Combat has also seen graphical improvements, having smoother animations alongside better detailed character models. It even feels a bit faster than in the past. That’s not to say that it’s shifted its focus, as pausing is still required and carefully handling your limited spell casts is essential. One thing added in Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire is the ability to retarget spells and abilities. After an ability has begun being cast, it can be retargeted should its targets react and make themselves immune or move out of the area of effect. This comes in handy especially when longer cast spells run the risk of missing their targets. As usual, characters have their spells and abilities limited by either their class resource (of which there are different types, some gained while attacking, others having a set amount during a combat encounter) or tier. These can apply either on a per encounter, or per rest basis. Instead of relying on a universal resource of camping supplies, resting now relies on actual food. In order to heal injuries and/or gain bonuses, food items need to be given to each character while resting. Different food gives different bonuses. Characters can also make use of the Empower ability, which refills half of their expended resources or empowers a spell. Two of these can be cast by each character before needing to rest, while also being limited to one per encounter.

Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire, Image, Preview, PC

Since there’s lots of sailing to be done in between locations, Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire lets you command a ship. Naturally, to run a ship you need a crew. Crew members fulfill different roles, like gunners or navigators, while exceling at certain jobs over others. Food and drink are required to keep their morale high, otherwise they’ll perform badly or even resort to mutiny. Wages and resources are spent every day to maintain the crew, regardless if you’re sailing or traversing land with your party. Different ships will be available, each having specific hull layouts that can be customized by changing cannons, sails, color palettes and even the ships’ name. As a captain it’s not just sailing you’ll do as, sometimes, you’ll cross paths with other ships, which might lead to combat.

Until you get in boarding range, ship combat happens in text form, with captains taking turns to enact decisions. The more experienced the captain, the more choices they can make. The ships’ relative position to each other is shown by an icon at the bottom of the screen. Cannons have different hit chances depending on their type and range. As most crews will take more than a turn to reload weapons, ship combat involves a certain degree of planning.  Crew can be lost in battle and can incur injuries. It definitely has a place, given the setting, and its absence would be conspicuous, however, if these encounters end up happening too frequently, I could see them running the risk of becoming a bit dry.

Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire, Image, Preview, PC

Based on the preview build, Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire feels familiar but also fresh. Its freshness is mostly imparted by the new locations and potential cultures to discover, alongside the naval combat. The ship acts as a mobile base and might add more dynamicity compared to the stronghold of Caed Nua in the original. The rest of the changes and additions are subtler ones that give extra color to already established systems. In short, I’m eagerly waiting to see the full extent of what the Deadfire Archipelago has to offer when the game releases at the beginning of April.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Versus Evil
Developer(s): Obsidian Entertainment
Genres: cRPG
Themes: Fantasy
Release Date: 2018

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