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Review: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire (PlayStation 4)By mikem52 At 07.03.2020 09:46

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From the off it's clear that Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is going to be some deep contemplation. Everything here is customisable to the absolute n-th degree. For the uninitiated, the introductory menu screens alone may prove daunting, as they presents the player with all manner of character sheet, graphical, ability trees, and gameplay augments, before anything really gets off the ground. Options can range from anything as small as altering the difficulty for more (or less) challenging enemy scaling, to something that's completely fundamental, like how the battle mechanics operate.

For the more hardened, there's even the trial of iron mode, which wipes your save file if every character in your party dies. It certainly is a lot to take in, and something that, unless already familiar with its tabletop, stat-driven linage, doesn't ease one into the adventure gently at all. One thing all of this does guarantee however is a completely tailored RPG experience, which is no bad thing at all, particularly with players that are more familiar with that kind of deal.

All of these sliders and checkboxes do allude heavily to a PC-centric experience, and initially one can wonder if a console port is appropriate for such an intricate and… click-y experience. Although the attempt here is admirable, it seems the developers struggled to streamline and make it a good fit for consoles. Text can be difficult to see on a TV screen from across a room, even at the largest zoom setting. Tiny inventory icons make managing loot and equipment quite laborious too. Thankfully, one saving grace, for the inner kleptomaniac, is there is no limit to what your party can actually carry. Controller and button layout is often confusing, moreover many systems and functions are obtuse or unexplained, meaning this issue only gets compounded by the also frequent glitches.

One thing that occurred was a problem, whereby the party wouldn't come out of stealth mode, despite pressing the same button that has been used for the first 10 hours of the adventure. It was perplexing to tell if the problem was with some modifier on the input, or the game had simply broken. Most notably - and sinfully - the load times on the PlayStation 4 are appalling. Navigating interiors and large settlements can be especially infuriating. Mercy upon any person that accidentally enters a room that wasn't intended, and then has to return to the initial area that they did want to be in. Doing this, it's no exaggeration to say, can hinder the overall flow upwards of minutes.

It's baffling to imagine what it could be loading too, asset wise, for the '90s, old-school and pre-rendered aesthetic. This does look good, however, and the fidelity is a lot greater than those of the '90s. A lot of attention to detail has gone into crafting the environments, and the world follows an appealing, consistent logic, which is densely populated throughout. High fantasy is the call to order in Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. The god Eothas has arisen, and is wreaking havoc across the Deadfire archipelago, leaving a wake of destruction behind him.

The protagonist's task is to hunt the god down, as well as politicking between the various Deadfire factions along the way. It's a tough task to set a premise for any RPG. It must tread a fine line between motivating you to take on an epic, unforgettable journey, but also not be so restrictive that you can't make up your own fun when deviating from the main path. Particular cognitive dissonance award goes to Fallout 4, when setting the player up for an urgent plot to find a kidnapped son, to only then leave the vault and do anything other than look for him! And so, here the premise is welcomed; simple, and much more effective at getting the story going.

After a deal to return your dead soul to your body in return for tracking down Eothas, you are on your questing way, enlisting a ragtag troupe of characters to helm 'The Defiant;' your vehicle for adventure. It weaves a verbose tale which could be interpreted as being too verbose at times. Again, it's not the friendliest for newcomers, as walls upon walls of text are displayed. All of which there is little context for, even if well versed in the fantasy genre. Talk of characters with multiple, unpronounceable names and… what even is a hollowborn?!

When Pillars of Eternity IISmilieeadfire finally does get off the ground there is a lot more to scratch beyond the surface. Underneath one will find an expansive and compelling world to explore. Main characters are well written, and voice acted throughout, making the aforementioned walls of text far more engaging, particularly further into the journey. Multiple choice dialogue trees also go a long way to aiding immersion, often giving drastically different options, often funny, with payoffs that feel meaningful. This reviewer was able to play his Watcher character as an erudite elf with a handlebar moustache, and never did the dialogue options break that illusion. It was with glee that the option was chosen advising one party member to not respect another travelling companions religion, and then seeing how that would eventually play out.

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Final Score
[i]Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire[/i] is a potentially great RPG, trapped under a less-than-stellar console port. It is mired by a litany of hurdles, that perhaps a more patient player can deal with, but many will really wrestle with this - for them it is advised to seek out [i]PoEII[/i] on a platform that it's design is more inherent. At very least, wait until a patch can fix some glitches, and the egregious loading times, in particular. Someone that can get beyond those inconveniences will discover there is a deep novel-esque adventure to be had. This adventure is full of loot, bounties, ship battles, and engaging fetch quests; all of the usual RPG fare that would keep aficionados happy. The island setting is memorable and full of lyrical, witty writing to be discovered which is great. When it works, it can be immersive and no doubt extensively replayable. It's just a shame that it didn't quite nail the port execution.



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