We take a look at Deadalic’s adaptation of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, an episodic game for which two out of an eventual three episodes have now been released. Out on consoles and PC, we played both the Steam and Xbox One versions.
When Pillars of the Earth was announced, I immediately got excited. I haven’t actually read the novel itself, but know of its premise and good reputation. My excitement was mainly because development of the game was being handled by Daedalic, one of the giants of the adventure game genre. For a game like Pillars of the Earth, Deadalic also seemed like a better fit than a company like Telltale, as they use a style more suited to film and comic book adaptations.
Jumping on board for the release of the second episode meant I got quite a bit of gameplay in already, as the combined playthrough of the first and second episode put me over the 10 hours’ worth of gameplay mark already – promising when you consider that the final act isn’t out until next year.
This wasn’t the first time I got to play Pillars of the Earth though, as I was able to play a brief demo during Gamescom this past summer as well. What I saw there put my mind at ease too, because the game had been advertised as an “interactive novel” and that had me worried that this was going to be low on traditional gameplay, much like visual novels are. Luckily, Pillars of the Earth is much more like a classic adventure game and less like a visual novel.
The interactive novel portion of the game comes mostly from the excellent storytelling mechanics, as well as the option to choose different paths during your conversations. Since they can seem quite different from one another they feel like they should be impactful, but this doesn’t actually start to feel somewhat true until well into the second act.
Besides these narrative elements and choices, there is also plenty of traditional adventuring in that you’ll have to seek out certain items and persons if you are to progress. Sometimes this can result in mild frustration if you play the game in an objective-driven way, as going straight for the (at the time obvious) next step can require a bit of mindless searching. Taking a more leisurely pace and exploring items, sights and conversations along the way turned out to be a more enjoyable way to play, at least for me.
For Pillars of the Earth, Deadalic returns to a 2D art style that looks beautiful – a bit like the hand drawn cartoons of the 1980s but with a medieval feel to them. Aided by a strong soundtrack, the game does an excellent job at almost literally painting a picture of the world in which the story takes place.
Something’s that’s quite different from most other adventure games is that you’re not just controlling a single protagonist. Much like a novel, you instead switch between characters as the story unfolds and individual stories start to intersect with one another. As a result, the first few story sections of the game serve as an introduction of sorts, easing you into the characters and the grand story that connects everyone.
Quite different from both the Telltale brand of adventures as well as many of the traditional adventures that grace the Steam platform, Pillars of the Earth is already one of the best story-driven adventure games I’ve played in recent years. I can’t wait for the final part of the game to be released next year.