Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is an RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Versus Evil. It is the sequel to the first Pillars of Eternity and was previously released for PC on May 8, 2018, and then a year and a half later for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game was announced with the launch of a crowdfunding campaign in January 2017, with the game reaching its funding target within a day. The story is a sequel to the first Pillars of Eternity, of which the PS4 version was very well received. Now the question is whether this sequel is as good as its predecessor and whether it can match the PC version.
There’s no problem with the gameplay. Much like Baldur’s Gate back in the day (or the recent remaster) you control your party of characters, either directly or with a ‘mouse’ pointer, as they explore towns and dungeons. You can talk to NPCs, pickpocket them, steal their property, gain quests or attack them if you’re feeling super evil. In dungeons you can stealth around to catch enemies unawares and you have a bar of abilities to use to buff your party or directly attack enemies, in real-time-with-pause or turn based gameplay. Nothing too unusual for fans of the genre.
There’s a lot of complexity up front, every faction trying to undercut its rivals, and you sort of floating in between them all. A very Obsidian setup, and also reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate II and the way it dumps you into the enormous city of Athkatla.
There are two different ways to play, which basically means that you have two games for the price of one. First of all, you have the option to play in real-time, with the option to pause the game during a battle. If that's not your thing, you can also opt for turn-based combat. The story and decision options are of course the same, but it's helpful to pick your favorite. The controls are fairly simple on the PlayStation, although it is likely that this game is easier to play on a PC. For example, characters will be easier to position on the PC, which raises the question whether it is not wiser to purchase the game on that platform.
The exploring and questing is very enjoyable, with new loot making you stronger and your stats (which are fully chosen by you, along with your class and abilities) giving you different ways to approach the environment, allowing you to climb if strong enough or analyse a situation if you’re particularly perceptive, and converse with people. Your party members can pick up some of the slack, providing strength or knowledge if you’re lacking. The gameplay is great and can happily stand alongside Divinity: Original Sin 2 but technically there are some major issues.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is fully narrated by voice actors, which makes immersing in the world easier. The actors did a good job, but the text of your own character is not recorded, which is a bit of a shame. You even chose a voice for the character customization, so it's a bit of a missed opportunity. The dialogues also contain some humor, which led to a sporadic chuckle. Speaking of character customization, this one is out
But there’s this entire Deadfire Archipelago to explore, and very little of it worth exploring. As I said up top, Pillars of Eternity II feels at odds with itself, stuck between wanting to be a smaller, story-driven experience and a larger, more complex world. The end result is an awkward compromise at best. However, it is clearly indicated which skills are useful for the character you are creating. Nevertheless, the game is a bit overwhelming at first, but the go-getter finds a very rewarding experience.