Pillars of Eternity was an outstanding return to the golden age of cRPGs—so good that we gave it a score of 92 in our review. We have high hopes for the sequel, not least because this is the first time Obsidian Entertainment has ever been able to revisit a world for a second time. Judging by the fact that its Fig crowdfunding campaign has already raised double the initial goal, it's a world many players are excited to revisit. "I always thought it would be awesome to have our own world to tell stories in," Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart tells me. "Now we can finally do that."
For the full reveal on everything Deadfire, you'll need to pick up next month's issue of PC Gamer. For now, let's take a look at some of the biggest changes shaking up the world of Eora.
What do an archipelago and a 600-foot-tall god have in common?
The punchline to that joke isn't yet clear, but what we do know that Pillars of Eternity 2 starts off with a bang. You treat with actual gods in the first game, I was curious how Deadfire could ever expand the scope of the story. Note: story spoilers for the very start of Pillars 2 follow.
When director Josh Sawyer told me the "stakes definitely get higher," I didn't think he meant literally. But then he tells me that Pillars of Eternity 2 opens with a 600-foot-tall statue obliterating your fortress in Caed Nua. See, it turns out the dead god Eothas isn't so dead after all, and the massive statue hiding under Caed Nua happens to be the perfect vessel. "He animates it," Sawyer explains, "destroying your entire castle and killing almost everyone in it. You are left on the brink of death and discover that your fate is tied to Eothas. You need to pursue him and find out what he's up to as he marches off into the sea toward the Deadfire Archipelago."
"To save your soul, you must track down the wayward god and demand answers—answers which could throw mortals and the gods themselves into chaos."
Leaving the temperate forests of the Dyrwood behind, players sail to the Deadfire—a land unlike anything seen in Pillars of Eternity. "People know of it as an untamed land that is filled with pirates, sea monsters, and storms," Sawyer says. "When we made Pillars of Eternity, we were trying to make something that felt like the Sword Coast or the Dalelands [locations from the Forgotten Realms]. Something that felt very traditional—Mediterranean or central European. But we wanted to go in a different direction for Pillars 2."
While Sawyer was hesitant to give specifics, he did say that Pillars of Eternity 2 is "roughly the size" of Pillars of Eternity.
You can carry over your character from the first game
Being in such a foreign land as the Deadfire, I imagine it'll be a small comfort to be able to play your familiar character once again. While Sawyer tells me not every decision from Pillars of Eternity will have an influence, some of the bigger decisions will have consequences that reach beyond the sea. Most importantly is that a few party members like Edér will return for a second round of adventuring—that is if you didn't kill them back in the Dyrwood. "If you did, you have to live with it," Sawyer laughs. Fortunately, you will be able to alter decisions with a new save, letting you experiment and see how consequences from Pillars of Eternity carry over.
The party size will be reduced to five, combat is overhauled
For long-time fans of Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, dropping the party size down a member might seem like heresy. But Sawyer and Urquhart aren't going to let tradition get in the way of making a better game. "We had talked about it going all the way back to Pillars of Eternity," Sawyer confesses. "But doing that to a spiritual successor of games that almost always had six party members didn't seem like a good idea."
But Pillars of Eternity 2 isn't just content to bow to tradition for tradition's sake. "[Having five party members] makes a significant difference in how easily you can process what's going on on-screen," Sawyer says. "As the party size grows, the number of combatants also grows. So with five party members, it feels just a little bit easier to manage."
That dramatic change is part of a larger overhaul to the combat that includes entirely revamped classes, slower pacing, fewer encounters, and a less-overwhelming status affliction system. Obsidian is also working to make party AI smarter, so that players who don't favor micromanaging can trust them not to do something stupid in combat.
Dynamic weather systems create more reactive environments
One of the biggest changes to Pillars of Eternity 2 is also one of the more subtle. Further blurring the line between 3D characters and 2D backdrops, a dynamic weather system will bring the Deadfire to life in all its tumultuous fury. "The Deadfire Archipelago is this tempestuous wild land of violent storms, it seemed kind of weird to not have systems to maximize that influence," Sawyer says.
Violent winds will bend trees, ruffle clothing, and stir up objects in the environment while heavy rains soak the land. Dynamic water will push boats and debris around and waves will crash against the shore. Even gunshots impact the environment with bursts of air that will billow cloaks or disturb nearby objects. Sawyer says this will help make each scene feel more organic and less like a screenshot—a common criticism from the first game.
Characters will have schedules governed by a day/night system
Nothing breaks that storytelling immersion quite like characters who stand in a single spot hour after hour waiting to be spoken to. Sawyer tells me Pillars of Eternity 2 will have an NPC scheduling system that changes depending on the time of day. But this isn't just about making the Deadfire feel more alive, it's about making it more interesting. "It gives us opportunities to make quests resolve in different ways based on how and when you approach them," Sawyer says. "It's more than people going to work and coming home. Guards might switch to other routines at a certain time which gives you an opportunity to do something in a way that you couldn't do normally."
It is coming in March of 2018 after a beta
Like the return to crowdfunding, Obsidian will also push Pillars of Eternity 2 through a beta program to help gather feedback and test the game before it launches in March of 2018. While Obsidian is confident that Pillars of Eternity 2 won't need as many post-launch fixes as the first game did, the feedback from beta is just too valuable to skip. "Sometimes people can be really harsh, but it's better to hear it when it's in a beta phase than when it comes out."
"We never underestimate our own ability to screw up," Urquhart chuckles.
That's all we know for now, but I'm eager to find out what Eothas hopes to find in the Deadfire Archipelago and why he needs a 600-foot statue to find it. For more details, be sure to check out the full interview in next month's edition of the magazine.