GDC 2018: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Overview

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is an action role-playing game that harkens back to renowned titles such as Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate. With a wide of range of customization, a huge world to explore, ample replayability, and diverse tactics, the game is shaping up to provide a comprehensive role-playing experience. We had a chance to sit down with Chris Parker of Obsidian Entertainment and experience one of the game’s quests. According to Parker, Pillars of Eternity is “focused on beauty, exploration, character growth, narrative, and strategic combat,” and the sequel provides a “much bigger world” and a more grandiose experience. While Deadfire has a few bonuses for veterans of the first, Obsidian Entertainment has ensured that newcomers can still have a marvelous time. ConFreaks & Geeks had an excellent time chatting with Parker, and we are excited to talk about our experience with Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire.

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire predominantly features islands, which gives players plenty of opportunities to explore. By traveling on a ship around the Deadfire Archipelago, players will encounter cities, towns, and mysterious dungeons. The ship and its crew are customizable, and players can sail around on a huge world map. We learned that all of the game’s content is hand-crafted, and the team strived to make everything look beautiful with a substantial sense of verticality. We asked if the game emphasizes islands for any particular reason. By doing so, the team wanted to provide options about where to go. Islands “would feel a lot different” compared to the first game’s “traditional European setting.”

Whether players are in combat or exploring areas, Deadfire provides a staggering variety of choices. One example is how players can tackle dilemmas in multiple ways. We witnessed a daunting quest to infiltrate Fort Deadlight in order to engage the notorious pirate Benwith. One potential option is approaching it head-on, which can be unwise given the pirate-controlled island’s sheer artillery. Instead, we snuck into the fort using the pirates’ colors at night. The next challenge is actually getting Benwith out of his quarters. Achieving goals requires engaging in dialogue with other characters and picking a way to proceed, and we decided to create a ruckus by attempting to steal his ship. We attempted to pickpocket guards for a jail cell key to free helper characters, but we got caught and had to engage in combat instead. Even when we engaged Benwith himself, we had the choice to engage in combat or attempt a more non-lethal solution instead. While the first Pillars faithfully represented ‘90s RPGs like Icewind Dale, Deadfire expands on the sense of reactivity and depth of systems that the team really wanted to achieve.

Naturally, the game provides plenty of choices for character customization and party composition as well. The player character’s appearance, race, class, and sub-class can be freely chosen. As a result, players can create all sorts of builds. One favorite staff build is a Wizard-Rogue hybrid that can cast defensive spells and then run up to enemies to inflict damage directly. With eleven different classes, six races, and different abilities, the options can become mind boggling. The game also features companions who are all integrated into the game’s lore with their own stories and quests. Players’ choices impact their characters’ affinity with specific factions, and it will take many playthroughs to experience all of the game’s content.

We also got to take a look at some of the game’s interesting mechanics. While combat is real-time, Deadfire allows players to slow down the action. Adjusting the speed allows players to give orders at their own pace, and players can also pause the action if necessary. Players can empower any ability to boost its effectiveness, which adds a “second level of strategic play.” The game’s AI is rather customizable, and players can even create scripts to fine tune their behavior. Another touch is that the game highlights any choice made available from decisions made in the first game. However, the team strived not to “hinder the player’s experience” and “really did not want someone who didn’t play Pillars 1 to feel uncomfortable playing Pillars 2.” Anyone who did not play the first game can pick from a different number of starting points, and the team wanted to “make the process as easy as possible.”

With a fantastic emphasis on player agency, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is shaping up to be a comprehensive roleplaying experience. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire was released on Steam on May 8th, 2018. Its Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One versions are slated for release later this year.

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