Pillars of Eternity: The White March – Part I is, as you can probably tell from the name, a PC expansion. It's a proper expansion, too. Obsidian are keen to make a sizeable RPG addition that fits neatly into the main game with new areas and a brand new story. At Gamescom last week, Pillars of Eternity director Josh Sawyer gave us an exclusive run-down of the expansion's story. Read on to learn why you're in The White March, and who you'll be meeting along the way.
The expansion becomes available about a third of the way into the game, after you take control of Caed Nua. Your steward contacts you with a request for help from the village of Stalwart in The White March. The village has fallen on hard times. The solution, as the townspeople see it, is to open Durgan's Battery—an old dwarven stronghold that's been abandoned for around 100 years. Durgan's Battery is home to the White Forge, which for a time was used to create legendary armour and weapons out of Durgan's Steel. Magic, perhaps, or expert craftsmanship—it doesn't matter. The secrets of the White Forge where lost when the stronghold mysteriously closed.
For Stalwart, this is an opportunity. They hope to restart The White Forge, and get rich from selling the quality equipment it can make. This is where the ogres come in. When you enter the village, it's under attack. The ogre's matron has had visions showing what will happen if Durgan's Battery is reopened, and plans to destroy Stalwart to stop this from happening. You, as the player, are going to reopen the forge—ogres or not. "You don't have to kill them," Sawyer says, "but you do have to confront them."
The mayor also sends you to an eccentric inventor on the outskirts of town. He's an expert on souls, and will help you open Durgan's Battery. Much of the expansion deals with the mystery of this stronghold. It fell suddenly silent, and the sightings of nearby ghosts and spirits suggest something tragic happened to everyone inside. The new areas and sidequests will add context to The White March and the Battery, but the true story won't unfold until you journey inside.
The inventor also introduces you to one of the expansion's two new companions. She's called the Devil of Caric, and she's a rogue bronze Construct. As a human, she performed a series of revenge killings against those she thinks harmed her and her family. "Even after she was put into her metal body, she's not done with her quest for revenge," says Sawyer. "She's a very dark and focused character."
The second character, Zahua, is less intense. He's a monk from the country of Ixamitl, who ended up in The White March by accident. He's older, calmer, and more philosophical—and also a big fan of drugs. He's not entirely sure what's real and what's not. Sawyer says that, while Zahua's story will begin in The White March, Part I, his full quest won't kick off until Part II.
As well as the main story, The White March, Part I will feature a series of sidequests designed specifically for the highest level players. Crägholdt Bluffs is a new stronghold, owned by a someone who—like you—took control of their new home without authorisation. "Fans of some of the tougher battles in Baldur's Gate 2 will like the content that they see inside Crägholdt Bluffs' dungeon," says Sawyer. "Without spoiling what's in there, it's a very powerful individual."
Sawyer also reveals that there's a dragon located somewhere in The White March. It's a difficult fight, specifically designed for levels 12 and above. Sawyer claims that it's, so far, proved more challenging than either the Sky Dragon or the Adra Dragon from the main game. "Maybe too challenging, but we're still working on it," he says. "It's a pretty fun fight."
Finally, bounties will return. "They're optional, but people really liked them," Sawyer says of the main game's bounty system. Again, the expansion's bounties are designed specifically for high-level parties.
For Sawyer, one of the crucial things about The White March, Part I's story is that it won't end in a cliffhanger. "It's like, 'okay, this is now done,'" he says. "Shortly after that, something else happens that's a consequence of [Part I]. That's Part II. It still takes place in The White March, and it's a continuation of that storyline, but we don't have quests that start in the first one that end in the second.
"Let's say someone just wants to buy part one. That's fine. You can play all the quests and there are not going to be any cliffhangers, or shit where you get half of what you expect and have to get the second part if you want to finish it. Of course, you will finish the overall storyline if you get Part II, but it's not necessarily. It stands alone as a single expansion."