So I finally finished Pillars of Eternity. No White March expansion adventures at this point, just the base game. It’s been about 13 months exactly since I had last written about playing the game and my struggles. Were it not for my girlfriend suggesting on a whim that I get back to finishing it, I’m not sure I would have done so for quite awhile... but I’m really, really glad I did.
Spoilers for two of the plot twists at the end of Pillars of Eternity are to follow, and will likely flow to the comments. Tread carefully from here on out, but if you’re still comfortable reading this, I’m really excited to talk about the game.
Alright, last chance, I’m going to start talking about it now, but first, let’s set the mood:
Damn this track is good, and a convenient method of making you have to scroll for the good bits, win-win!
So first, let’s address the elephant in the room, or should I say the Adra Dragon. Good lord this boss fight was HARD. I was only playing on normal difficulty, but she managed to kill five out of my six party members instantly if I approached the fight incorrectly. Only Edér could stand taking the blow (similar to that video artwork actually), so I had to cheese things just a little bit by having him walk up to her spawn locale alone, and then rotating in the rest of the party after the ensuing conversation.
I fought her for a good 14+ attempts last night, with varying degrees of success. Eventually I went to look for a few guides to give me some hints, but they had either long since been patched out of the game, or were just so cheesey that it didn’t feel right against such a grand boss.
So, I endeavored to beat her honestly, with a newfound sense of determination. Eventually, either through skill, luck, or a little bit of both, I managed to hit good timings with her breath attack while Edér was still standing and capable of drawing threat.
Given my character was a Wizard, I had gained the soul-bound scepter Gyrd Háewanes Sténes, which was capable of a 10% chance of casting Dominate on enemies it hit. This proved immensely useful in convincing the accompanying enemy healers to look towards my side of things, even just temporarily.
I started intermixing Ogre summons from Kana to soak up major attacks, essentially acting as Edér’s “crowd-control meatshields” if that makes any sense. I made liberal use of petrify, paralyze, and other such high-level scrolls and potions. (So much so that I actually ran out for later encounters.)
There were many times where the Party AI wound up walking Durance or the Grieving Mother too close to my quarry, resulting in Tail Swipes or Wing Attacks effectively killing the run. I started playing the encounter on the slower speed, and fully turned off any AI for my party. It was just my inputs, ability to multi-task, and timings versus this immensely powerful beast, and eventually, I succeeded.
It felt exhilarating. I can’t remember the last time I fought an encounter in an RPG that was that difficult. For reference, my entire team was at maximum experience (for the base game), with pretty fantastic gear. In essence, there were minimal ways for me to pad the numbers in my favor any further, it just came down to truly understanding the games mechanics. I felt rewarded for having done the fight the honest way, even if the resolution for such an epic tale was rather short.
Speaking of resolution, the primary reason I wanted to talk about Pillars of Eternity today is the games ending, or at least, one of them. For those unfamiliar, I am an unabashed Agnostic Atheist. I do not believe in a God or Gods, yet I’m also comfortable enough in my fleeting mortality to realize I cannot entirely prove Gods don’t exist. That’s why I found the plot-twist in the final moments of the game, that perhaps the Gods aren’t Gods but something else entirely, magnificent.
Video games have dealt with Theology for a long time, and I’m sure they will continue to do so, but I felt like Pillars really nailed the ideas and arguments about questioning the existence of the Gods.
For those who haven’t played the game, and yet are still reading. First off, hi, you big sillies, don’t worry I’m happy you’re here still. The basic idea is that right before you get the to end of the game, you’re tasked with earning the favor of at least one God, as you’ll need their aid in entering the final locale where the game’s antagonist is scheming. See the issue is, you need to jump into a giant pit that is thousands of feet deep. You will surely die, if not for the intervention of one of the Gods. So you naturally read up on them, speak to your party and various NPCs about them, and eventually commune with them directly.
I’ll spare going into extreme detail, but essentially, I ended up earning the favor of all of the available Gods because I wanted to see the entire base game’s content, but I only promised one God I would do their bidding when the final toll came. [Interesting to note, I don’t think you have to promise anything, I’ll have to test that theory later.]
What threw me for a loop though is that right after you’ve taken the time to earn all, or some, of these Gods favor... the game throws you a huge curve-ball. It presents you with a person from your past, long since withering away in solitude, who asks you a simple question: What if they’re not Gods at all?
As a player, you’re given total agency in this conversation. You can outright kill her for heresy, say you still believe in the Gods, say you’re uncertain or doubting, or outright come to the realization that perhaps you’ve been lied to for not only one lifetime, but even during your previous incarnation.
I found this super fascinating. I loved that Obsidian catered to people of all philosophies and walks of life. It was a moment in a game, however trite or contrived as some may see it, that completely and utterly resonated with me. As your character confronts the main villain of the game with a newly found sense of conviction, just as I had against the Adra Dragon, you enter into an either extremely abrupt, or very drawn out, debate about the existence of higher beings. Then, an epic final showdown commences.
When all is said and done, the best part of the entire ordeal, I think, is that the game doesn’t explicitly tell you if your final judgement is right or wrong. It merely poses the question.
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RerTV is a small-time YouTuber and Streamer who enjoys writing #FeelsGoodMan posts about gaming. He strives each day to spread awareness of the positivity gaming can bring to ourselves and society, and hopes you’ll join the conversation. Find him on Twitter: @RerTV.