If you’ve played Baldur’s Gate any time in the past decade, chances are you’ve also (whether you knew it or not) played through its 1999 expansion, Tales of the Sword Coast. The two have been packaged together for years now, and for good reason—there’s no reason not to play Tales of the Sword Coast. It’s thirty hours of side content, integrated so seamlessly into the base game it’s hard to tell where Baldur’s Gate ends and Sword Coast begins.
I bring it up because someday, to someone, the new Pillars of Eternity expansion The White March will be the same way. But The White March highlights something weird I’ve noticed about expansions, especially to story-based games—they’re often more interesting to people who’ve yet to play than they are to those who’ve already finished.
Into the mountains
There’s an easy way to talk about The White March Part One, and that’s raw numbers. One new region (The White March) with four main areas (the village of Stalwart, the wilds of Russetwood and Longwatch Falls, and the mysterious dwarven fortress of Durgan’s Battery), two new companions (the rogue Devil of Caroc and the monk Zahua), one lengthy dungeon, and one shorter dungeon, all adding up to about ten hours of content.
All of it is decent. Some of it is good. None of it is essential.
In a perfect world, The White March would be the Tales of the Sword Coast to Pillars of Eternity. You would organically (seamlessly) stumble upon the expansion content while playing through the campaign, once your character hit level 5. Those who’ve already completed Pillars of Eternity though will (like myself) load up their pre-endgame save and mainline everything The White March has to offer.
It’s not ideal. To me it’s a bit like reading a book to completion, and then a few months later the author comes back and says, “I added a new chapter—now there’s a 12A and a 12B before it goes on to Chapter 13.” Except you’re never going to read Chapters 1-11 or 13 again. And taken on its own, The White March Part One isn’t incredibly compelling.
Now, I should be clear in case you didn’t ascertain this from the title, but Obsidian’s only released the first half of The White March so far. Events in the second half may retroactively make Part One a lot more interesting. But if that’s the case, I wish Obsidian would’ve released it as one package instead of two separate halves, because what we have in The White March Part One is a low-stakes, low-reward dungeon crawl padded with some filler quests.
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