Update: The brand-new Pillars of Eternity 2 for Mac is now available and it’s great.
Funded through a Kickstarter campaign in 2012, Pillars of Eternity promised a return to classic RPGs such as Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. Created by Obsidian Entertainment, an experienced team we had the pleasure of interviewing, the campaign blew past its original funding goal, raising almost $4 million and making it the highest-funded game ever on Kickstarter at the time.
In addition to Mac and Linux ports, stretch goals included the creation of more races, classes, regions, gameplay modes and much more. Released simultaneously on all three platforms on March 2015, the game has garnered praise for delivering exactly what it promised: an old-fashioned RPG with the additional elements and depth a Mature rating allows. Does Pillars of Eternity for Mac live up to this billing? Read on to find out.
Enter Pillars of Eternity
When our fearless leader Ric asked me to review this game, I had some trepidation. You see, I’m not an RPG guy. My friends in high school played D&D but I never got into it. RPGs were never my thing.
But I researched the game, which I had heard of, and it looked and sounded interesting. So I told Ric that while he might want someone with more RPG experience to review it if he wanted me to, I’d do it. A couple of days later I got the code and was off on my first role-playing adventure.
Pillars is set in the world of Eora, in the nation of Dyrwood, and you will get to know it well. Staying true to the genre, you start by building your character: you’ll choose your gender, one of six races, one of eleven classes, assign your attribute points, pick a culture, adjust your appearance and give yourself a name (and your animal companion if you have one). As this might imply, you can spend a lot of time just creating your character.
As the game begins, you are quickly introduced to other companions and learn about the story you’ll be taking part in. There are two main parts, and not surprisingly one is a curse on the land, where children are born without souls and wander the country as “Hollowborn.” In Pillars, the soul is a very real thing, so not having one makes you not completely human. Also, you discover early on that you are a Watcher, who can see other’s souls and past lives. As you might suspect, these two aspects of the story intertwine as you try to unravel the curse and understand your condition.
Obviously, you will have many quests, side quests and tasks as you work your way towards solving these mysteries, which will take you through the land and underneath it. Ultimately, deep underneath it. As you progress you will build up your party, interact with NPCs, decide which side quests and tasks you wish to undertake, and how you want to make your way through the world. As you interact with others, you will build a Reputation, which will affect how others feel about and deal with you. All these standard RPG elements are all done extremely well and help draw you into and further the story.
The depth of the world, story and characters are difficult to overstate, and the amount of work done to build fully realized races and civilizations is impressive. Their histories serve as more than a mere background, and you will do well to read the books and journals you will come across, as well as paying attention to the stories you learn from other’s souls and past lives as a Watcher. Ultimately the story is the thing here, and you will need to know the story to unravel the mysteries.
Gameplay is straightforward and traditional (mostly). Pillars uses a fixed, isometric third-person perspective so you can follow your party throughout the game. You can explore the environments on your own, although pressing the Tab key shows you any interactive elements in the scene. The one tweak to gameplay comes in combat. Combat occurs in real-time, but you can pause it when you like to change weapon sets or give additional orders. As an inexperienced RPG player, I found this extremely helpful, probably vital to my ability to win more difficult battles.
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Pillars of Eternity Performance
Despite relatively low system requirements (see below), Pillars of Eternity looks beautiful, even on my 5-year-old iMac. The settings are detailed, different characters are easily discernible by their appearance and clothing, there are nice volumetric effects, and the graphics serve the story well. Likewise, the sounds and voice acting. The only quibbles I’d have with the dialogue is that sometimes you’ll meet an NPC for the second or third time and be greeted as though it’s the first before the actual dialogue boxes appear; also the stock phrases from your party when you enter different game modes get repetitive. These are small issues that only stand out because everything else about the game is so superior.
The game ran without a hitch on my iMac; load times were relatively fast both for the game itself and between scenes. I experienced no crashes or stuttering as long as my computer wasn’t too busy with other tasks while I played. Another thing I appreciated as an inexperienced RPGer was the ability to save at any point during the game in addition to the regular autosaves. Pillars is single-player only, and there is apparently an expansion pack on the way about which little is known.
This is a fairly easy game to run but if it’s still too demanding for your Mac, you can always try Star Wars: KOTOR 2, another excellent story-driven RPG.
And of course, if you’re looking for other excellent, yet lesser-known RPGs, this article covers a few great cross-platform choices.
PoE Mac System Requirements:
- OS: OS X 10.5 or higher
- CPU: Intel Core i3
- Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 4850 or NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT
- RAM: 4 GB
- Hard Drive: 14 GB available space
Machine used for this test:
- Model: iMac (27-inch, Late 2009)
- OS: OS X 10.10.3
- CPU: 2.8 GHz Intel Quad-Core i7
- Video Card: ATI Radeon HD4850 (512 MB)
- RAM: 8 GB
Obsidian Entertainment is to be commended for delivering exactly what they promised in their Kickstarter. Pillars of Eternity is a classic RPG that harkens back to its roots while providing more than you might expect. Its Mature rating should be noted, as the subject matter may not be suitable for younger players. As someone who’s never played an RPG, I can say that Pillars of Eternity is an RPG for fans of the genre and even for those who aren’t. I can’t wait to give Pillars of Eternity 2 a try!
Also, simultaneous macOS, Linux and Windows release!
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