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A great game that may be too hot for the Switch to handle.
With the announcement of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire coming day and date to Switch with other consoles, plus the recent reveal that The Outer Worlds is eventually coming to Switch, Obsidian has shown a great deal of faith in the platform. 2015’s Pillars of Eternity received a great deal of critical acclaim, and it adds on to the absolutely insane year the Switch has had for RPGs. However, there are some issues with the Switch port that are certainly patchable, and I would hold off until publisher Versus Evil has confirmed patches are out.
Pillars of Eternity is a 2D RPG with a real-time, paused-based combat system. The story takes place in the country of Drywood, a part of the land of Eora, and your created character quickly becomes a Watcher. In Eroa, Watchers are those who can see souls and talk with the dead, a talent which is put to use as your character tries to find out why the children of Drywood are being born without souls. As you explore Drywood, the mystery of the soulless children is the focus, but there are multiple quests that come up along the way and my solo adventurer eventually became the leader of a party of six. During the course of the game, solving quests will also reward gold and materials that can be used to build up a keep in the center of the map. The level of customization in play is major; the character creator alone took me nearly an hour as I tried to get my character just the way I wanted her. As a part of the creator and with experience, stats can be assigned to particular talents, such as diplomacy and cunning, which unlock different dialogue options in addition to combat techniques.
Pillars makes most actions very clear during the game. There’s quick access to most of the key functions in radial menus, though I did have some difficulty with figuring out how to clean out my inventory (or “stash”) the first time I came across a shop and inadvertently became a thief before I reloaded my save. The text is well sized, even in handheld mode. The Switch version includes the content of two downloadable expansions, and does a good job of integrating them into the main story. If you’re new to computer-style RPGs like I am, this will probably result in a first playthrough of about 60 hours, though veterans can chop about a third of that off.
All of the action is seen from an angled overhead perspective, similar to the upcoming Baldur’s Gate and Planescape Torment games Pillars aims to be the evolution of. When an enemy is encountered, the action pauses to allow for the selection of the target, then the party moves to attack it and auto-attacks continue until something dies. This works in theory, but there were multiple occasions in which I found myself flailing around with a single character because the rest of the team came decoupled from each other. It would probably be easier to sweep over them with the touchscreen in handheld mode, or a mouse on PC, but there’s no support in the Switch version for either one. At least once I get into battle, the game performs well there, aside from one notable issue.
I don’t know if this is a common issue on the other platforms, but in-game text frequently goes haywire. It’s most often seen in the battle box that keeps track of the battle actions, but I’ve seen it happen on loading screens and even in the “Saving” text.
It took about five minutes to encounter the above screens. Despite having the game pre-release, I intentionally held off to see if a day-one patch would resolve it but there was none: as mentioned, publisher Versus Evil is working on a patch that should hopefully prevent the glitches. These text issues are the more frequently occurring technical problem; I did have two hard crashes to home screen in the early part of the game when moving between areas, but I haven’t been able to recreate them.
Pillars of Eternity’s reputation for quality is well deserved. It’s definitely worth checking out, whether on other platforms or when the Switch version is fixed up. For now, the version on Nintendo’s latest is an interesting curiosity with some pretty heavy issues. And it’s not the first time I’ve seen that phrase used in relation to an Obsidian-developed game published by another company.