‘Pillars of Eternity’ is a worthy throwback

It seems as if the computer role-play game, or cRPG, genre is having a renaissance. Games like “Wasteland 2” and “Divinity: Original Sin” were released last year to critical acclaim and very high sales, and more cRPGs like “Torment: Tides of Numenera” are on the way. However, Obsidian appears to have trumped them all with the release of “Pillars of Eternity,” a return to the old days of “Baldur’s Gate” and “Icewind Dale” that feels like one of the best Western RPGs in years.

You are a traveler journeying to the small town of Gilded Vale. Your cart is ambushed by wild forest folk, and after escaping in a cave, you witness an incredible magical event that gives you the power to peer into other people’s souls. Now, you must venture on a journey to discover what the meaning behind these events is.

The game is beautifully written, and for a very good reason: “Pillars” is penned by RPG veteran Chris Avellone, who also wrote classic narratives for games like “Planescape: Torment” and “Fallout 2.” While he’s been involved in recent cRPGs as well, his work feels particularly potent here. The world of “Pillars” is fascinating, filled with interesting characters, conflicts and imagination. It’s a fantasy world that feels familiar and fresh all at once.

The combat hearkens back to “Baldur’s Gate,” and at times it feels straight-lifted from it. However, the developers of “Pillars” simplified many elements and made the system much easier to understand, so the game is a fantastic starting point for those wanting to get into the genre. This doesn’t mean that the game isn’t complex or difficult — far from it. But it has a much more forgiving difficulty curve than cRPGs of the past.

The game’s graphical art style is another reference to games like “Baldur’s Gate.” Characters and monsters are drawn with the simplistic Unity engine, but every background and landscape is pre-rendered, just like the old days. There are moments where the game looks absolutely stunning; it’s hard not to realize just how good this technique made games look back in the day.

Adding on top of all this is a lovely musical score, orchestrated with love and care. While it doesn’t have the most memorable tunes out there, they certainly make the world feel even richer than it already is.

“Pillars of Eternity” looks, feels and sounds beautiful. It’s games like “Pillars” that remind RPG fans why they love the genre so much. Regardless of whether you’re new to cRPGs, or you’ve been playing them since the ’80s, “Pillars” is a must-play.