Obsidian’s excellent Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire has finally made it onto consoles with an ultimate edition of the original game that also includes the post-release DLC content. We played it on an Xbox One X for this review.
It’s safe to say that Obsidian’s had a stellar last few years. After Pillars II, they also released The Outer Worlds last year, which was one of our personal favorites of 2019. It’s no surprise that Microsoft acquired them as part of the Xbox Game Studios, and we’re curious to see how Grounded will turn out later this year. First up though is the conversion of Pillar of Eternity II: Deadfire for consoles – bringing a genre to the Xbox One that is traditionally considered to be challenging in terms of adapting a game’s controls and performance.
Content-wise, the Ultimate Edition of the game obviously includes the base game, which we reviewed back when it first came out. In addition, the console versions also come with all of the post-release content, which includes the Seeker, Slayer, Survivor pack and the Beasts of Winter and Forgotten Sanctum expansions. They’re all seamlessly integrated into the main game, though you can’t access content until your party hits a certain level. The first one is mostly focused on combat challenges for you and your party as you battle a series of foes to unlock rewards. While there’s a narrative to follow as well, the other two major expansions lend themselves better to the kind of storytelling that Obsidian does so well, with The Forgotten Sanctum being our favorite of the bunch.
Beasts of Winter isn’t far behind though, and sees you traveling to the cold southern region of Deadfire. Reminding us a little of Norse mythology, it is a tale of gods and monsters, with a few impressive confrontations along the way. The Forgotten Sanctum is more deeply rooted in fantasy, with a large role for wizards and magic and a narrative that is steeped in mystery. With all the DLC content included, Pillars II becomes an experience that will last you over 50 hours even when rushing, with 80 being a more realistic estimate.
Obviously that is a bit of a break from the norm when it comes to console gaming, but RPGs like this are a bit of a rarity outside of PC gaming and it’s great that we now have the opportunity to play one of the best examples of the genre on an Xbox as well. The conversion doesn’t come without a few drawbacks though, but they’re ones you (sadly) expect when a game like this transitions to a console and a gamepad. Selecting your entire party is easily done with a mouse, but on a console you’re required to use a combination of button presses that makes it feel more convoluted and less free-flowing, especially in the thick of battle. I suppose this isn’t something that can be easily helped, but it’s noticeable if you’re used to playing the game on a PC.
The loss of keyboard and mouse controls can also be felt elsewhere, but the revamped menu style (with the use of a ring-shaped menu) does fit the gamepad controller well and you can also map several abilities at once to a toolbar you can access with your left trigger button. It feels like a bit of hassle at first, but over time I became comfortable enough with the controls to enjoy my time in Deadfire without any serious frustrations.
I expect that, despite this being the ‘ultimate edition’, we’ll still see a patch or two coming our way in the upcoming weeks. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire on consoles features a few minor glitches (like loot objects not rendering on screen) as well as fairly long load times. While the latter might be an inescapable side effect of the game running on console hardware, I expect the smaller glitches to be fixed and will keep my fingers crossed for load time optimizations. After all, this is one of the best RPGs you can get on any system, and although the PC version is the superior one this one gets awfully close. Let’s see if it gets even closer.