Contrast that with Baldur's Gate — you had one pool of health, total, and if it reached zero you died. That made parts of the Infinity Engine games a slog, because you'd inevitably have one character with much lower health than the rest of the party. Even if you beat an encounter with your strong characters, you might be forced to reload if your weakest character died and you didn't want to lose that party member. Sorry, wizards.
Pillars of Eternity's change is a small, elegant refinement, and that's basically the feeling I have about the whole game. It's the Infinity Engine game you wanted, but with some smart tweaks that make the whole thing just a bit more playable.
And you'll need that second health reservoir, believe me. This game is still hard as hell. I'm only playing on Normal, and even so I've done my fair share of reloading. The review guide we got from Obsidian straight-up recommended playing on Easy, and I understand why. Pillars is punishing, in the same way Baldur's Gate was — anyone who left Candlekeep and immediately died at the hands of a wolf will know what I mean. I'm just now getting to a point where I feel over-leveled, and I'm thirty hours in and have done most of the side content so far. I can't imagine trying to brute-force the main story straight through.
This might be the first game to utilize Pillars of Eternity's setting, but you wouldn't know it by the amount of world-building and lore that goes on here. Like Wasteland 2, Obsidian proves that world-builders and story-tellers can do some of their best work when freed from the shackles of voice-acting budgets and facial tech that doesn't quite work and "cinematic" camera angles.
This is a book. A book you play. Obsidian's Josh Sawyer was not kidding when he told me that Pillars of Eternity is a game "for people who like to read," and honestly if you played the Infinity Engine games you probably already knew that. But that reading allows for some incredible detail that other games simply can't afford — rooms, people, places, quests, everything is imbued with enough lore as to be overwhelming if you try to take it all in. Obsidian's world is an old one, with former civilizations passed into memory and massive ruins left to puzzle over.
But that doesn't matter a whit to your character, at least to start. You're a colonist, coming to the remote frontier-esque realm of Dyrwood because you've been told all settlers will receive free land. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Turns out Dyrwood needs settlers because nobody can have babies. Or, they can have babies, but every child birthed in the realm lately is "Hollowborn" — a baby without a soul, or without the spark of life that gives it true consciousness. It breathes, it blinks, but it isn't really alive.
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