Having difficulty playing through Pillars of Eternity? Then don’t fret, I’m here to help. My guide has more hints and tips than you could fit in a bag of holding (maybe a slight exaggeration). If you want to know whether or not Obsidian’s latest RPG is for you (trust me, it is) then check out my Pillars of Eternity review.
Firstly, let’s get this out-of-the-way. Pillars of Eternity is hard – seriously hard. Especially for new players. If you’ve never played any classic RPGs (Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale) then you aren’t going to be accustomed to the play style that’s required to progress in games such as this. But no matter how much help I give you, you will still be challenged; my main aim is to simply make things more manageable for you so you can better enjoy Obsidian’s fantastic game.
If you are familiar with games like this then you’ll already know most of what I’m going to say, so please don’t think I’m being patronizing. However, I thought I knew it all until I actually played the game, so you still might find some of the tips here useful. There were many things I learned during the course of my playthrough, so you might as well read on anyway, just to be safe.
To begin with, it’s important to know a little bit about how to create your character. Many of your choices are fairly self-explanatory – gender, race, and class are all well covered in-game. One thing I did need to research a little for myself were the attributes and how they affect your character. These attributes are might, constitution, dexterity, perception, intellect and resolve.
Might is your character’s physical and spiritual strength, in-game this translates as greater levels of damage, healing and fortitude.
Constitution is your character’s overall health and endurance (their ability to not die). In-game, it gives you greater health, endurance and fortitude.
Dexterity is the combination of your character’s hand-eye coordination, balance and overall grace. This increases your action speed and reflex.
Perception represents your character’s senses and ability to pick up on details. In-game this gives you higher interrupt (the ability to stop an enemy’s actions when you hit them), deflection and reflex.
Intellect represents your character’s logic and reasoning abilities. This translates as higher AoE (area of effect), duration and will.
Resolve represents your character’s internal drive, determination, fearlessness, and the emotional intensity they can project to others. This gives them higher concentration (ability to not be interrupted), deflection and will.
Depending on which class you’re playing as, certain attributes will have more importance than others. These attributes also effect your saving throws – fortitude, reflex, deflection and will – as listed above. Certain attacks target a particular saving throw, so the higher it is, the more likely you are to protect against the attack.
You must gather your party before venturing forth
Now, on to some general advice about your party (sadly not involving birthday cake). You’re going to have to make friends on your adventures. Trust me, you won’t be able to manage the majority of the quests as a solo act. It doesn’t matter if the companions you come across are weird, or you don’t like them, or they smell bad, or they look funny – you’re definitely going to need their help. Try to find people who’ll work well with your character too.
Usually a well-balanced party includes a couple of tanks (Warriors, Barbarians, Monks and Paladins), a couple of high damage dealers (rangers and rogues), an AoE (area of effect) damage dealer (Wizards, Druids and Ciphers) and a dedicated healer (Priest). This basic party layout will ensure that you’re able to deal with almost anything that comes your way.
You can find companions on your travels, or create your own by hiring at the local taverns/inns. The companions that you find on your journeys will have more depth and characterization, which I found immersed me much more, however, if you want a very particular ally (or you don’t like one of the main companions) then it’s sometimes easier to just make your own.
Where you should stand
Now that you have your companions, you need to know how to best use them. Each class will have a particular role in your party and will need to be positioned and used accordingly. If you have your wizard run into a swirling melee they’re probably going to end as a red stain on the bottom of some monster’s foot.
As my main character was a Chanter (basically a fancy name for a Bard), I liked to hang in the middle somewhere. This is so the Fighters in my party could still hear my beautiful dulcet tones while they got beaten up a lot. I rarely got so close to the scrum that I risked being cracked over the head by anything though. That’s the type of heroism I just can’t get behind.
Characters like Fighters, Monks, Paladins and Barbarians are going to want to take the lead in combat. If you’re main character is any of those, then sorry, but you’re going to be getting hit, a lot. Especially if you’re a Monk, although they actually grow more powerful when they get hurt. Wizards, Ciphers, Rangers, Rogues and Priests are the lucky ones who get to stand further back and fire guns, throw spells and sometimes stab people from behind (I’m looking at the Rogues here).
If you’re a Druid then you can fill whichever roll you want. You get some great spells but can also turn into a massive, monstrous animal that can maul a dragon on a good day. I knew I should have gone to Druid school. You can change your party formation using the button at the bottom of the screen and you can even create your own custom formations.
How not to die in combat
Health, endurance and death
All of this advice will mean nothing if you aren’t actually sure how the combat works in this game. I’ll start with the basics and cover the endurance and health mechanic. Basically, your endurance represents your character’s ability to shrug off damage in the short-term – it’s represented by the number and the red colouring on your portrait. When you get hit, your endurance will go down. When your endurance drops to zero your character will be knocked out and no longer have any use in the fight. Thankfully, endurance recovers after every encounter. It can also be restored during a fight using spells and potions (Fighters are lucky enough to have it constantly regenerate).
Your health bar represents how close your character is to dying. It’s represented by the bar at the side of your portrait. If your health drops to zero your character becomes maimed. In this state they have only one health point and take severe penalties to their combat prowess. If a maimed character loses their last health then they die, permanently. On higher difficulties, like expert, there’s no maimed status, your characters just die when they drop to zero health. There isn’t any way to revive party members in Pillars either, so it might be worth loading back if this happens (unless you’re playing Trial of Iron, then they’re pretty much dead).
Tactical time control
During a fight make sure you make use of your ability to manipulate time (cue Doctor Who music). You can either pause the game using the space bar, or you can slow down the game speed using the S key. Both of these techniques are incredibly useful when it comes to progressing in Pillars. However, of the two, I found that pausing was much more vital to success than slowing down the combat speed (which only came in handy in very particular situations). I honestly used the pausing mechanic in every single fight I took part in (even the easy ones), it’s just a great way to take the lay of the battlefield and take your time to decide what you want each party member to be doing. It’s also a handy tip to know that holding the shift key allows you to string actions together – this allows you more tactical control over your party when you’ve paused during a sticky situation.
Another very important mechanic that you’ll need to come to terms with is disengaging. When your character is engaged in melee with an enemy, they will be attacked if they try to pull out of that fight. This free attack has much higher damage and accuracy. This can be devastating as you only usually want to back out of a combat when your losing badly, so this attack can often knock unconscious or even kill a party member. The best way to avoid this is careful maneuvering (making use of the pause and slow time buttons) and party formation, as detailed above. Certain characters, such as rogues, also get abilities that allow them to disengage in safety. Disengaging strikes can also work in your favour though, as your party members will get this free attack if an enemy disengages from them. So try to tie down as many enemies as possible with your frontline party members.
The bestiary is something that’s easy to ignore, but it’s very important. As you kill enemies their bestiary entry will fill up with more and more information – primarily their attributes and defenses. This tells you what kind of attacks you should use to defeat any particular foe, and, is therefore invaluable for efficient combat.
My final point on combat would be to make sure you know how your abilities work. Certain abilities recharge after every encounter (encounter abilities) and others only recharge after resting (rest abilities). Make sure you’re making the most of those encounter abilities in every fight and don’t use your rest abilities until you know for sure that you need them, since you may not have access to them for a while after. Also, for all you friendly-fire mad Wizards out there, make sure your area of effect spells aren’t hitting your own party members. They are just as devastating to friends as they are to foes. While I’m on the topic of Wizards, it’s definitely worth mentioning that firearms are like kryptonite to them. Their arcane veil (a Wizard’s magical body armour) is easily pierced by bullets. Make the most of this by blasting away enemy Wizards and keeping yours safe from any gun-toting maniacs.
Sneakiness and exploration
When you’re out in the wilds make the most of your scouting abilities (by pressing the alt-key or the scouting button at the bottom of the screen). This not only allows you to catch any miscreants or foul beasties unawares, but you’ll also be much more likely to spot any hidden treasures in the near vicinity – when you’re scouting, the treasure areas glow pink. So many times during my playthrough I was able to pick fights on my own terms because I caught the next group of enemies with their pants down (not literally, thankfully). Now don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if you have a few clumsy oafs in your party, you can still make the most of this. My character was woeful at stealth, but so long as you take your time, then you should be able to make it work.
Keep an eye out for camping supplies at all times – whether you find or buy them – you really don’t want to start getting fatigued out in the middle of nowhere and have no way to rest. Your party won’t even be able to take on the simplest fights when they’re tired and grouchy. If all else fails, just make sure you rest at an inn before you head out, they’re great for catching some beauty sleep.
I found it incredibly worthwhile giving my character skills in both lore and mechanics. They definitely seemed to have a great deal of use. If you’d rather not, then try to have someone in your party who does. These are the characters that need to find traps, disarm them and unlock containers and doors. I don’t know about you, but when I come across something that’s locked, I’d rather open it there and then. The keys seem to be hidden in dangerous or hard to reach places without fail. Having a little knowledge of lore is also great for dumbfounding local idiots who try to get one over on you.
And one final point – explore as much as you can. You’re only going to find things that are worth finding if you’re willing to do the leg work. A useful tip if you’re combing over areas you’ve been before, you can use the D key to increase the game speed.
That’s pretty much all the advice I can give you. These are simple tips that helped me progress and finally complete Pillars of Eternity. As I mentioned before, this game is very challenging, but it’s even more rewarding. I can only finish by saying; stay safe, stay smart and never trust an Orlan who asks for a piggyback ride.