Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Ultimate Edition Review- Great RPG Flawed by Tech Issues

Posted February 18, 2020 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment

Publisher: Versus Evil, THQ Nordic

Release date: January 28, 2020

Available on: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (coming soon)

Originally released for PC in 2018, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire continues the tale of the Watcher of Caed Nua that was begun in the 2015 game Pillars of Eternity from developer Obsidian and publisher Paradox Interactive. The first game was billed as a spiritual successor to isometric RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. Now the game comes to current gen consoles in an ultimate edition that includes all previously released DLC.

It’s a well written RPG, with memorable characters and deep lore. While you don’t completely have to have played the first game (you can make choices on key story points early on) it does help to have that continuity. If you own the first game and have completed it you can transfer your character to the second game to continue your story. Choices do matter in the game, and there are plenty of them to make. Do you free a dragon or kill it? Carry out sabotage to gain favor with one faction, or betray them? Choices even extend to your party, as to whom you can forge strong alliances with or even romantic relationships. The game has multiple endings but no New Game +, so it does have replayability built in.

Choices also extend to how you engage in combat in Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. You can choose to engage in Active Time Battles with a pause function to help you make decisions, or you can go with a Turn Based system, which can give you plenty of time to consider your options. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, it’s just a matter of personal preference. Still it’s nice to have the choice and not have to completely rely on the AI of your companions as you did in the first game where it was ATB only.

Leveling up is done through experience points, where you can choose traits, passive and active skills, and what weapons you’re proficient in. Some characters have a choice of only one class to which they belong, but others can have up to two classes of abilities to use (the game recommends using only the single class for newcomers and the multiple class for more seasoned players, but it’s not hard for newbies to pick things up if you at least have experience with other RPGs). It’s a nice system and gives you plenty of ways to customize your characters to fit your own play style.

That customization even extends to your ship, The Defiant, which you use to traverse the seas dividing the various islands in the Deadfire Archipelago. you can upgrade your cannons, hull, and sails, manage your crew, and even choose the types of food and drink they will have to get them through their voyages. Keep the crew happy and they will engage in singing sea shanties. Ignore them, and you could be facing a mutiny.

There are plenty of places to explore in the Deadfire Archipelago outside of the main story line, which can take 40 or more hours to complete (doing everything could take you 70 hours or more). Ship encounters are done in text (as are major story points) where you make choices. You can choose to try and outrun an enemy, or charge and fight. If you board the enemy ship, or they board you, action switches to your chosen mode of battle. the encounters can make for some tense moments, but it’s nice when victory allows you to share extra gold with your crew (thus keeping them loyal and happy).

As I pointed out, main events in the story of you chasing the god Eothas at the behest of the other gods is often told through text accompanied by an illustration rather than a fully rendered cut scene. Much of this is narrated through some decent voice acting (the voice acting overall runs from competent up to very good), and often gives you plenty of decisions to make. How you respond will affect how things unfold going forward, so you can act however cautiously or however rashly you want your character to be. The story is very well done and often compelling, making you want to keep playing to see what comes next.

It’s a good thing that the story is so well done and the characters likeable, because Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is often a technical mess. The game crashed on me three times and just booted me out once to the main menu. Thankfully you can save anywhere and checkpoints are frequent, so these occasions didn’t cause me to lose too much progress. While the game is nice graphically, it does suffer from frame rate slow down at times, even coming to a full stop for a couple of seconds here and there. The worst thing is the load times, as they can be up to a minute and a half long. This wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t hit many of these load screens, but the game has a lot of them. There are points in the game where staring at a load screen occupies more time than actually playing the game. That can really be frustrating, especially if you fall in battle and want to get right back to it to try again. It also ruins the pacing of the game, which can put some players off long play sessions or even off of the game entirely.

In all, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is a great RPG unfortunately wrapped in a technical mess. It’s not unplayable by any means, and the story does reward your patience in the end. It is good that it’s story and characters are strong enough to override the game’s technical issues, and with multiple endings it is a game worth revisiting once the credits have rolled. There is plenty to see and do to get your money’s worth, and it can only be hoped that future patches may help resolve some of the game’s issues (as of this writing the game has been patched three times, but still the loading screen issue remains). It’s a shame that these issues may put some players off, as the game really is a wonderful RPG to play, and if not marred by the tech issues could have been on the best games of the year so far. For those willing to have patience, this is something to check out, especially if you played and enjoyed the first game. For others, I can only hope they at least give it a shot on a sale. The story is worth experiencing, even if it does mean waiting around for it to load.

8/10 stars

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus