Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire is a direct sequel to the critically acclaimed CRPG Pillars of Eternity. Fans of the classic CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale felt that PoE was a spiritual successor to those games, this being further supported by the fact that members of the development team at Obsidian Entertainment worked on these games at Black Isle Studios. Deadfire is a crowd-funded success riding the nostalgia wave since it was announced last year.
We got a chance to take Deadfire out for a drive (or trip around the lake), and I have to say, I like what I’ve experience thus far from the preview build. While Deadfire carries over a lot of the elements of its predecessor, the big addition is ship combat. The islands of the Deadfire Archipeligo are separated by lots of wet water, making navigation via ship necessary. You’ll be out to sea for a good chunk of time, exploring and charting out some of the islands that are both inhabited and not. But these waters are not tame, as pirates are wandering the high seas looking for plunder and booty. With a nice big ship cruising through these waters, you will not be able to scuttle around undetected – prepare yourself to take these pirates on mast to mast.
Not actual illustration of combat from the game, but this is what it felt like!
Unlike combat on land in Deadfire (technically called real-time with pause), ship combat is turn-based. The interface changes when you jump into the ship combat mode, with an illustrated book taking over your screen as you basically “choose your own pirate adventure”. Your turns will consist of moving, positioning, and attacking, and should you decide to jump on the enemy ship, the combat switches back to your party and the real-time combat system of PoE. Turn-based combat for ship battles works fine, and it can be an inviting change of pace to the gameplay. You will also need to manage your crew, among other things as captain. For fans of the series who might be on the fence about this, I personally welcome it.
Graphically, there are some nice updates to the character models from PoE. My elf rogue was looking pretty good, but if you get too creative, don’t count on being able to match up to the provided character portraits. However, these options could be updated upon release. Wandering around in the build, I noticed the stark contrast from its prequel, environment-wise. There are still beautifully rendered maps and levels, but it was almost jarring to start off in a tropical locale. However, the different islands that I visited vary up the environments, making each island that I explored feel distinct.
Combat hasn’t changed, but now feels more streamlined. First, there are only 5 party members instead of 6. I’m all about a little less management in these games, but some may miss that 6th member. I was provided with a mercenary party for my rogue character to team up with, and they were balanced out builds. Personally, I wonder if any of these mercs will be the actually character party members in the release. Pivoting back to the combat, there are nuances where the party feels a bit more independent when you need to focus on saving a party member like retargeting for casters and improved party AI. Again, I’m all about a little less management, so I’ll be interested to see how this all plays out after many more hours with the release.
So, am I looking forward to Deadfire? Based on this small sample, I am very much looking forward to it. Everything you loved about PoE is in Deadfire, including the robust story and dialogue features that I experienced in this build. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to reviewing Deadfire when it officially releases on April 3rd.