I promised a while ago that I’m going to start writing some guides for various games. While this article is not truly a guide, it does offer some tips and tricks and exposes game mechanics that are not really that well explained in the game.
Here are a few things you should know about Pillars of Eternity before venturing into the wonderful world of Eora:
Specialize your character
The attributes can only be allocated at character creation. Levels won’t provide any new points to increase the attributes for a character so choose carefully. Attributes, like many other stats, can be increased through gear, but that can hardly compensate for a poorly created character. While a well balanced character (jack of all trades) might do fine in many situations, there are some moments in the game when being properly specialized intro a role will make the difference and this becomes more important on higher difficulty levels.
Pillars of Eternity has a tone of dialogues and choices based on dialogues. Spending some points in Intellect or Resolve will open up many more dialogue options throughout the game.
Save as often as possible
This is for those that haven’t played many Obsidian Entertainment games before or RPGs with a complex system of dialogues and choices. Save as often as possible and not only by using the quicksave option. The game has a lot of bugs and got released with at least four game breaking bugs and many other annoying ones. While the patch 1.03 got released this week and fixes many of the problems, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Keep in mind that with the increasing number of save files, the loading screens become slower and slower. I recommend backing up the older saves and then deleting them from the game’s folder. If you play on Steam you have to disable Steam’s cloud or the moved files will get replaced from the cloud.
Don’t take every fight
There are many types of enemies in this game and their difficulty differs a lot. While the difficulty increases progressively with the advancement in story and exploration, there are many groups of enemies that are quite strong at the moment when they are met for the first time. The game is non-linear and there is always something else that can be done, it is not necessary to fight an enemy so powerful from the beginning, there is always the option to return when the party is stronger.
A good example of this kind of difficulty is the Temple of Eothas, just at the beginning of the game. The second level of the temple is filled with Shadows which are an extremely annoying and quite challenging type of enemy, which could be difficult to defeat at the start even on lower difficulty levels.
Pillars of Eternity is focused on dialogues and choices which open up a lot of options even when it comes to fighting. Many fights can be avoided through dialogue, the enemies might require some convincing, but it can be done.
Recruit an adventurer
The beginning of Chapter One can be a little tricky, especially if you can’t find in time all the recruitable companions in the areas around Gilded Vale (or you don’t want to recruit the characters you found). Depending on what sort of character you have made, there is a high chance that the party setup you have is not optimal for many of the fights ahead. To solve this problem recruit an adventurer from an Inn (there is one in Gilded Vale). Adventurers can be assigned any class you want and can be fully customized, making them a viable option to fix the lacking of a tank or a healer.
Scouting (Alt by default) is a multifunctional game mechanic that should be used by everyone. While using it the party goes in stealth mode and the detection of the party is based on the individual Stealth skill of each character, this is why it is better to go ahead and scout for enemies with the character that has the highest Stealth skill. But spotting enemies is not everything you can do with the Scouting mechanic. While in Scouting mode, based on the Mechanics skill the party can detect dangerous traps and all kind of secrets.
Scouting mode is an extremely important part of the game that can save your characters’ life in many ways and also provide them some useful loot and even shortcuts for the road ahead. But beware, being detected by the enemies while sneaking around with one character will get the entire party out of stealth.
The maximum number of party members in this game is six and depending on the composition of the party and play style different formations should be used to ensure the proper positioning of each character when engaging enemies or when being ambushed. In case the pre-existing formations don’t go well with your play style and tactics, there is an option to create custom formations and position the characters in your party the way you want.
The engagement system is tricky!
The engagement system in this game does have some advantages in combat, but sometimes it can work against your own party. Tanks don’t allow friends or foes to pass by them when they are in combat. While with one tank, even in a narrower space this might not be a problem, when playing with two tanks this can be hell.
The game kind of pushes the necessity of two tanks for many of the fights, especially on higher difficulties as the number of enemies per group increases considerably. A good strategy to engage is to place the party into a narrow space (tunnel) or in a choke point (door) and engage the enemies ahead with an AoE spell by one of the casters in the party. While the caster can easily move through the space between the two tanks while out of combat, in combat he cannot slide behind them through the same spot because of the engagement mechanics. Keep this in mind, it will save your ranged characters life.
Pause, pause, pause…
Pillars of Eternity has a real time combat with a pausing system almost identical to games like Icewind Dale or Baldur’s Gate. The combat system is quite complex and requires a lot of planning and good tactics on any difficulty level. There is little to no chance to faceroll the fights, at least not in the first 30% of the game, so thoroughly preparing the party for the enemies ahead and constantly giving your characters orders is the way to victory.
Pause plays a key role in beating this game, even if there is an option to auto-attack in the menu, the characters won’t do more than use their standard attacks but none of their special abilities or spells. This is intended because an AI would make a mess considering the complexity of the spells and the fact that the game has friendly fire. The characters have to be carefully controlled and given orders all the time during a fight, from repositioning, to target selection and handling the abilities or spell used by each character. Pause is your friend during this combat, because nobody is that fast to execute so many commands in real time (not even a Korean). Abuse the Pause feature for every move and for every action, that’s why it is in the game and that’s how Pillars of Eternity and games alike are supposed to be played.
Area of Effect spells
Don’t venture forth without at least one character with a lot of AoE damage. From the existent classes in Pillars of Eternity, the Wizard and the Druid have the strongest AoE spells. The combination of the two classes can be devastating on large group of enemies and there are many encounters in the game when this is much AoE power is necessary (the number of enemies in a group increases with difficulty level). Even if powerful and fun, AoE spells should not be used recklessly as the game has friendly fire by default.
Experience and Bestiary
Gaining experience works a little different in Pillars of Eternity compared to conventional RPGs. In this game you are awarded experience for killing an enemy as long as you don’t know enough about that enemy. There is a progression system which allows the player to discover the strengths and weaknesses for each type of enemy by killing more of their kind. While still completing the progression for a type of enemy, the party will receive experience from killing them.
Mostly, experience is gained through quests and discovering new areas, so the fact that enemies don’t provide experience after a while is not a problem.
Bestiary (Journal – Cyclopedia) stores the information gathered from each type of enemy killed. Reading the information stored in the Bestiary can make future fights easier, as the types of damage in the game are not effective against all enemies.
The character’s inventory is extremely limited and there is a lot to loot in this game. While it is not obvious for everyone in the beginning, there is a stash that can store a huge amount of items of all types (including quest items). Via an option in the menu (softcore option!), the stash can be accessed at any time in the game without restrictions related to the location of your party.
Stats from items
The gear is extremely important to make characters stronger as in any other RPG. But there is one important mechanic that should be taken into consideration when selecting the gear for a character. Stats from items do not stack!
If a character has an item with + 5 Reflex and + 10 Reflex, the higher value will suppress the lower value, meaning that the character will receive only + 10 Reflex. This is why most of the gear that has decent and varied stats should be stored in the Stash and not sold to the vendor, there will come a time when the characters might have a lot of suppressed Stats and changing some of the current pieces of gear with older ones might win a few extra Stat points.
Going through the same areas over and over again while completing quests might get a little tedious and repetitive, but do not worry, there is a feature that can help with this: Double Speed (D). Double Speed makes the world move twice as fast and your character will go from one place to another in no time. But be careful, as the world moves at the same pace with the party, if an area has enemies it might be harder to avoid them. The speed will go back to normal when combat starts.
There is a counterpart to Double Speed: Half Speed (S), which reduces the world speed by half. This option can be used in combat and is extremely useful for planning your moves in real time.
There are loads of spells and abilities in this game. A Wizard has at maximum level 24 different spells to use plus some abilities. Using keybinds is an efficient way of accessing the most used abilities and spells. To keybind an ability just mouseover its icon and press the key that you want to designate to that ability. Except the numbers and some letters, most of the keys are available to use for keybinding.
Pillars of Eternity is a niche RPG with a steep learning curve and it is not that friendly to the players newer to this kind of games. I covered in this article some of the most important mechanics and many tips and tricks that should be helpful when venturing into this game. Many of the things mentioned above are not so well detailed in the game and knowing them makes the gameplay a lot smoother.