Last year’s Pillars of Eternity was extremely well received – a classic PC rpg developed by veterans of the genre which stayed true to what games like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale had done before. A few months after the game came out, we reviewed part 1 of the expansion, The White March – and this week sees the release of the concluding part to that story, which as far as we know rounds off the complete Pillars of Eternity experience.
For those not familiar with The White March, there are a few things worth pointing out. First off, it’s not a traditional expansion in the sense where an extra chapter is added on the end of the game – sort of an epilogue, if you will. The events that take place in The White March actually play out alongside the events in the base game, and you’ll have to travel back if you’ve already completed the main campaign. Play through a new game from the start, and The White March will just seem like a seamless experience that looks like it’s always been there.
Another important note is that the changes that come with The White March are (in part) integrated into the base game as well. Alongside the new quests, characters and foes at your disposal, there is also a major patch included – one that is also rolled out to player who didn’t buy The White March. This happened with the release of Part 1, and Part 2 is no different. Major changes this time include plenty of rebalancing, but also a number of bug fixes. A updated patch was released just in time for the game’s release, but we did still encounter a few non game-breaking bugs like characters briefly getting stuck – which will no doubt be fixed soon.
Remember how The White March didn’t pick up where the story in Pillars of Eternity left off? Part 2 also doesn’t pick up where part 1 left off, but rather jumps forward in time before kicking off the story once more. If you’ve played Part 1, then you’ll no doubt remember the abandoned dwarven civilization and their mines. In Part 2, it’s been a while since you re-started the mines, and the change has brought prosperity to the region – as well as intrigue and tension. On top of that, an ominous threat also looms over the area.
Without giving too much away about the narrative, it’s safe to say that the experience is as diverse as you want to make it. The team at Obsidian has, aside from the optimizations and tweaks mentioned above, added a ton of content beyond the main quest that The White March expansion introduces to the game. These side quests are essential for fans of the game, since they combine many different elements of what made Pillars of Eternity such a good game. From the writing to the characters and the diverse locations and enemies, none of these side missions are simple fetch quests. In fact, I’d also recommend newcomers take the time to explore these quests, but they’ll also have the main game’s story to worry about and be more tempted to skip a side quest here or there.
Although there is a somewhat fixed end to this chapter of the game, there are many ways in which you can experience it. We’ve mentioned side quests, but your choice of party members and companions can drastically alter how you approach battles. You might even make different choices, and avoid battles wherever you can and opt for a more stealthy approach. This isn’t just a matter of player choices either – it’s also good level design at work. The White March doesn’t make Pillars of Eternity perfect though, as the interface can become overwhelming.
The amount of spells and attacks available to you can be rather daunting, and can turn a battle into a frantic click-fest with you searching for that one spell you think you need – only to have to do it again if it turns out it didn’t work against a particular enemy. The alternative is to stick with a few basic attacks and spells you’re comfortable with, but that feels like you’re not getting the full experience either.
Still, these – along with the bugs mentioned – are relatively minor issues that don’t detract the player from having fun and playing through a wonderfully rich story. If you haven’t played Pillars of Eternity yet then your patience has been rewarded, because The White March turns the experience into one of the best classic rpgs of all time. If you’ve already played the game it still feels a bit strange to go back to a previously “missing piece” in the middle, but you shouldn’t let that stop you.