Bloodborne beneath Pillars of Eternity

Maybe if they didn't chain themselves to that pillar they would have gotten something to eat.

Maybe if they didn’t chain themselves to that pillar they would have gotten something to eat.

Updates have been slow for two main reasons — Bloodborne and Pillars of Eternity. I’ve been diving deeply into both in the past weeks and have been really enjoying my time with them. Being a big fan of From Software’s Souls series since Demon’s, I had a ton of fun with Bloodborne and am still going at it even after finding one of the endings, seeing if I missed anything and essentially cleaning up as many loose ends before I tackle the challenge of NG+ and eventually (maybe) get to the ending I missed out on.

Pillars, though, is what I’ve jumped into right after (even though I have Type-0 waiting on the sidelines, too) having sampled a bit of it before going back to Bloodborne. Now that I can take a breather from all of that gothic body wrecking, it’s time to get back into what a friend called “Baldur’s Gate 3”.

I’m still in the middle of playing it and I’m really enjoying what Obsidian has done. Full disclosure: I’m also a backer. Though there are one or two things that feel a bit rough around the edges.

1) Pillars of Voyeurism

Your character has the ability to “see into souls” once you reach a (very early) point in the story. That essentially means clicking on an NPC with a colored nameplate and reaching into their soul to snag a memory from their past. How this translates into the game is that it creates a nice showcase for some creative vignettes. I’m all for story, and reading a few of these has been really enjoyable. But it would also be nice if my character in the game also got something out of it, too.

Is it improving their innate gifts in some way? Maybe give me a lead on a new adventure? Can I expose the murderer laughing it up with patrons at a tavern? The answer is, unfortunately, no, at least outside of the campaign-based ones.

Once I took it upon myself to attack someone with a particularly nasty past and the whole bar turned on me. Makes sense — they didn’t see what I did. Yet it would have been nice to have been able to do more with these special NPCs than to simply “reach into” their souls or do nothing about an NPC my character and their party could have really wanted to do something about…and perhaps have found more adventure in that direction to boot. Maybe eventually?

2) This stronghold of mine

Having a stronghold is fun. Nice place, big walls, needs a project or two to get it back up to “nice looking”, but it also does one or two things that are a little strange and not well explained. After building the Main Hall, you occasionally get “adventures” which you can assign party members that aren’t adventuring with you to. These aren’t interactive adventures, just side options where a character will be unavailable for a specific number of turns.

What constitutes a turn isn’t entirely clear, only that according to a loading screen blurb, as you “adventure”, these turns will eventually cycle. At first, I thought that meant as time passed. But it actually turns out that turns are based on checking off actions pertaining to actual quests in your journal (main, side, etc..). The idea is that you need to “do” things to move certain events along at the keep which includes taxes collected.

Wait, taxes? I was surprised to start getting these (it’s probably mentioned in the manual, but I just dove right in and haven’t really stopped — the in-game tooltips are really helpful). Your keep will eventually collect taxes which provides a nice chunk of change for your party. But who exactly are these taxes being taken from and are they really okay with that? If I was told in-game, I didn’t get the memo. Talking to some of the locals in Dyrwood, I get the feeling that they’d rather punch me in the face than kneel to a new lord they don’t know from a stump in the mud. I’m not sure. It’s nice to get them, though, from whoever my subjects are.

What’s a little odd is that tax collection also seems turn-based…likely to deflect players looking to farm funds by traveling back and forth between points on the map to make the clock go by faster if it were calendar based instead.

On one hand, that does make sense — the more you “do” as an active participant in the game, the better (technically) your holdings should do even if what you do has nothing to…um…do with them directly. Part me wouldn’t have minded seeing revenues decline over time if that’s all I did — walking around the wilderness — as outside threats crippled production elsewhere. Basing it on turns, though, makes for a weird schedule where I could technically get a series of windfalls in a few weeks depending on how often I ran through quests.

Sometimes unsavory people will even visit my stronghold, like wanted criminals. Who let them into the front gate is beyond me, but as long as they hang around, your stronghold suffers penalties to its prestige and security, both of which effect certain things (such as whether other “guests” can make it to your stronghold).

Eder knows what's up.

Eder knows what’s up.

Like the NPC soul stories above, I can’t really do anything with the criminals in my keep, either, which is bizarre. I even have a dungeon where I can throw them into, but I don’t have the option to do that. I can kill them with my party and no one blinks an eyelid when I do that instead of paying them off to leave. And as far as I can tell, there’s no consequence to doing just that other than making me the worst dinner host in the region.

These are just minor gripes so far and like I said, I’m still in the middle of playing it. Combat is pretty solid and is giving me a few Baldur’s Gate flashbacks all the same. Micromanaging my party is still entertaining stuff, especially when I try and pull enemies into bottlenecks or turn enough of them against each other to manipulate the flow of battle back into my advantage when out in the open. I’m tooling around with a Cipher as my main and I’m really enjoying the class.

There are a number of other things that I really enjoy about the game, too, such as Justin Bell’s work with the music and how the battle theme feels as if it flows along with each epic fight to its more quiet moments when out in the wilderness. The extras like the Almanac and world compendium that were included because of my backer tier are also really great reads. Good, strong debut of a new world by Obsidian. Now if you’ll kindly excuse me, Od Nua’s waiting. Time to go adventuring.

Edited (4.18.2015): Now that I’ve had a lot more time to dive into combat, one thing that’s a little nagging is that certain spells can’t be pre-emptively launched against targets. Or at least, that’s how it seemed in one encounter late in the game. So if I wanted to throw “Ringleader” (a cipher ‘spell’ that dominates one target and charms everyone within range) at a group of enemies that I can see and who haven’t noticed me yet, I can’t. I guess Divinity: Original Sin really spoiled me on that point.

One other thing that was odd was in defending my keep from mercenaries. I had my hirelings on one side and the enemy on the other, but somehow, my hirelings turned against me? Not sure how that happened. Maybe I should have offered better benefits. I replayed the battle two more times and for some reason, they eventually end up attacking me. No biggie, just…really unusual.

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