Review

Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part 1 Review

  • First Released Mar 26, 2015
    released
  • PC

Dead dwarves and bad attitudes.

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With the first part of the White March expansion for Pillars of Eternity, Obsidian Entertainment has a chance to expand upon one of the best RPGs around. Unfortunately, these new adventures are almost indistinguishable from the questing and killing on offer in the main game. This isn’t entirely a bad thing given the game's superb foundation, but while I enjoyed most of my time in this snow-draped environment, something was missing. The setting was new, but I felt like I was finishing off leftover side quests that didn't make the cut the first time around. The saying "been there, done that" came to mind.

Just as Pillars of Eternity is a modernized take on the iconic Baldur’s Gate games, The White March is reminiscent of Icewind Dale, at least when it comes to the frigid, mountainous setting and game's combat-heavy focus. In the White March, your party must head up to the frigid mining town of Stalwart and deal with an ogre infestation so the local residents can return to the Moria-like Durgan’s Battery. Inside lies the fabled White Forge, which is used to make a legendary alloy known as Durgan Steel. Stalwart and Durgan’s Battery are accompanied by Russetwood and Longwatch Falls, but these wildernesses are lackluster, dotted with a few quest locations and encounters--none of which feel inspired. Stalwart itself is quite barren and fails to stand out; there are a few huts, a tavern, a merchant selling equipment, and a handful of citizens offering side quests. It's suitable, but it's nothing Pillars of Eternity veterans haven't seen before.

Durgan’s Battery may be deep underground and haunted by dead dwarves, but those little hairy guys still light up pretty good with the application of a Wall of Flame.
Durgan’s Battery may be deep underground and haunted by dead dwarves, but those little hairy guys still light up pretty good with the application of a Wall of Flame.

The majority of The White March's side quests fall into two camps: defeat a horde of enemies, or retrieve an item. These tasks aren't interesting or original in and of themselves, but you do meet two characters along the way who provide a welcome dose of color and personality: Zahua, a monk with a penchant for psychedelics, and a metal automaton rogue inhabited by the soul of a female serial killer known as the Devil of Caroc. Unfortunately, their participation is minor; Zahua does little aside from adding spacey, drugged conversation to your wanderings, and The Devil's backstory, while fascinating, is only briefly explored. At least the main quest is more interesting, involving a spooky search for a dead dwarf and a trip to the haunted ruins of Durgan’s Battery. Thanks to a great deal of emotional dialogue, along with poignant visuals and audio, these moments stuck with me. Maybe it was the booming of bells and the eerie chanting of fallen dwarf spirits, but for a moment, it felt like I was peering into Pillars of Eternity's version of the afterlife.

Like the original game, the voice acting in The White March is disappointing, with characters speaking in monotones, or with emotion that conflicts with the text on screen. Every character in the game has a bit of a bad attitude, too, which gets a little depressing after a while. Despite the game's retro veneer, the mood is a long way from the bright colors and heroic derring-do of classic tabletop role-playing.

The sudden Alpine Dragon encounter pretty much sums up how spectacularly hard The White March can be, even for higher-level parties.
The sudden Alpine Dragon encounter pretty much sums up how spectacularly hard The White March can be, even for higher-level parties.

On the bright side, party-AI issues have been addressed. Now you can adjust the AI for each character, using aggressive and passive settings. I appreciated this more than the original system, but the battles are often tough enough to demand a steady hand on the wheel at all times. You're occasionally thrown into battles that the game doesn't prepare you for; a group of renegade cultists obliterated me during my first few run-ins with them, and I also spent a couple of hours fighting a gang of undead enemies backed by a group of specters. It's good to be challenged, but the sharp increase in difficulty during these encounters blindsided me. It doesn’t seem right that I could plough through the monsters and undead dwarves in Durgan’s Battery and then get slaughtered by a gang of outlaws or a random assortment of undead during a standard side quest. As a result, it’s probably better to hold off diving into the White March until after you have wrapped up the original campaign. You can scale the difficulty for higher-level parties, as well, so you can still maintain a serious challenge once you hit the game's level cap.

It's easy to sell the first installment of The White March short when comparing it to the main game, because it just feels like more of the same. While that isn't a deal breaker, as the adventures here would have fit almost seamlessly into Pillars of Eternity proper, this first expansion is a little too predictable and a little too rough around the edges. More innovative side quests, a little more work to fill out some of the settings like Stalwart, and a main plot that either tied into the main storyline or offered a noteworthy change of pace could have made this expansion something memorable. Even though it gives you a chance to revisit one of the best RPGs in years, The White March Part 1 ultimately feels like a missed opportunity to expand that greatness into new territory.

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The Good
Some interesting new adventures
Emotionally-charged script
Haunting soundtrack and sound effects
Superb tactical roleplaying and challenging combat
The Bad
Too predictable
Balancing issues
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Pillars of Eternity

About the Author

The frosty setting of The White March made Brett realize what he has to look forward to in just a few months up in Eastern Ontario. All Canada needs to do is add some dwarves.
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julianboxe

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Edited By julianboxe

THE GOOD

Some interesting new adventures

Emotionally-charged script

Haunting soundtrack and sound effects

Superb tactical roleplaying and challenging combat

That is at least an 8 in my book.

If you like the Genre, this is golden.

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maramot

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The reviewer has no idea what he is playing or what he is talking about.

"The saying "been there, done that" came to mind." is something that can only be written if you have been sleepwalking through the base game:

1. TWM contains significant improvements to dungeon design and encounter design. If you've failed to notice them, I can go into more detail.
2. AI is also improved which makes combat less static and more fun, but the review's only comment of this comes in the form of whining "some battles are too hard", Of course that the side encounters will be more difficult than those of the critical path, what do you expect?
3. The addition of immunities to certain enemy types means that the player is now actually expected to think in advance about what weapons he needs to equip his party with. Unless that's considered a "sharp increase in difficulty".

Learn to play before you review.

Good day!

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Gelugon_baat

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@maramot: Oh man, I don't agree with the bits about dungeon designs and encounter designs. The encounters are worse in this one; you get hostile NPCs who are just expressions of the tropes of villains who talk too much when they could just start fighting.

Also, the AI's improved? Really? You don't know that Concelhaut and his minions can be lured out piece-meal from his study, do you?

Furthermore, if you actually had to think about immunities, you are playing the game wrong. There are quite a number of weapons with multiple damage types, and the expansion also introduced powers that inflict Raw damage. You could be using these, and not worry about immunities. Besides, if there are any immunities in the new enemy types, they are obvious - just use fire.

This expansion is "been there, done that". That would be the opinion of anyone that had been playing Western RPGs for decades, Brett Todd being one of them.

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cetaepsilon

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Edited By cetaepsilon

So this is not an expansion but an episode of an expansion. These guys rediscovered their mojo and they waste no time exploiting it.

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MasterTae

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Playing this game is a chore, dont get why people like these types of games. Too much text, little action, and cant get immersed in the adventure cause its from a top view camera. Boring.

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AceBalls

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@MasterTae: Playing MMO's is a chore. Too much micromanagement, repetitive grinding lame action, and immersion that goes right into the depths of an anus. No camera can make that better.

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BuzzLiteBeer

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@MasterTae: Purely matter of preference. I prefer this over JRPGs immensely. I find JRPGs childish with cringe-worthy otaku/anime character design and horribly written stories (with some exceptions such as FF7 and Chrono Trigger). But people still love them and they still get made.

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ArunabhaGoswami

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@MasterTae: Actually for those who like it, it can't get much more immersive than this.

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Diegoh1212

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Edited By Diegoh1212

@MasterTae: Matter of taste. I like it, I play it. You probably like other types of games that I do not.

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ranbla

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@MasterTae: I agree. These type of games were great for their time (like 20 years ago), but that time is past. I couldn't get through much more than an hour of this game before getting tired of it.

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elessarGObonzo

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Edited By elessarGObonzo

@ranbla: i would say the same about horror and shooter games but they are very popular now for some reason. it is just ignorance stating that any genre of game "were great for their time". i imagine you enjoy all the garbage music that is currently popular and would state that anything from 20+ years ago's "time is passed"?

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ranbla

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@elessarGObonzo: Actually, it's personal taste, not ignorance. I must have struck some nerve to cause such a reaction from you. The fact is, I do like older music more than anything current. Some things do weather time well, but video games are in almost all cases not one of those things. I could no more play through the great Baldur's Gate today than I could this game. And by the way, I played Baldur's Gate in it's prime. Perhaps that's why I can't stand all these retro-style games... because I played them when they weren't retro.

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elessarGObonzo

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@ranbla: whether you just can't get your point across to where it makes sense to me or you are just ignorant is hard to tell. there's plenty of 20+ year old shooters, RPGs, every genre of game. just because a genre has been around for any length of time does not mean it is a genre that's "passed it's prime". comparing Baldur's Gate to Pillars of Eternity is like comparing the original Unreal to a new enjoyable first-person shooter. because one has developed much better graphical ability, better gameplay, and more options makes them much different. do you also consider the upcoming 2016 Doom a retro-style game?

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jecomans

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@MasterTae: I'd probably avoid cRPGs then?

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ruthaford_jive

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I like this game, quite a bit. I'll be getting this expansion when the second one comes out. One thing about the voice acting though, is that I believe it takes away from the game. Note to developers, if you're going to make a game like this (BG, IWD, ect...) where you read a ton of text, don't add voice work if you also add descriptions of what the character is doing between dialogue (like Torment). It's fucking jarring to hear voice acting (whether good or not) and then have the voice work skip half a paragraph of description that it doesn't give you time to read, just to spout out what the characters says next. I always have to just turn the voices off to handle this.

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punches4lunches

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Edited By punches4lunches

@ruthaford_jive: I agree, but it's probably what the backers wanted since it's closer to the original and all that jazz.

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Kessel

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@ruthaford_jive: Good point.

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RogerioFM

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@SuppaPHly42 Did you play that?

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SuppaPHly42

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@RogerioFM hey buddy :) not yet i'm going to buy it today i'll let you know what i think

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mrbojangles25

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I really need to go back and give this another try.

It's sad, though, I don't think I have the patience in my any more for games like this, the ol' DnD RPG pen and paper style.

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wrednajasobaka

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@mrbojangles25:

Same here. As great as these games are it's hard to justify spending 40-50 hours on them since there are other things to do in life. I used to be able to pull 2-3 day gaming marathons but these days my body is aching after 2-3 hours.

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GamerOuTLaWzz

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Edited By GamerOuTLaWzz

This reminds me so much of BG2 I cant believe I still havent played it...as a newcomer would this DLC be worth it otherwise?

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RogerioFM

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@gameroutlawzz: I liked the base game a lot, don't plan to get this one though, since it's a mid game content and I do prefer, Mask of the Betrayer or Throne of Baal like expansions.

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Etagloc

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@gameroutlawzz: If you liked BG2, and if you are not one of those mindless (if its new, its bad) drones. I am fairly confident you will enjoy this game.
that the expansion gets a 6 is IMHO because it just feels like a giant sidequest that has little to nothing to do with the main story, its not bad.
I would not have enjoyed this game more (or less) if it had been part of the original content. its just filler.

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esqueejy

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Part 1. I'm of a mind that you should've waited for Part 2 before reviewing The White March.

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punches4lunches

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@esqueejy: If they're selling it to the public, it should probably be reviewed so buyers can better form an opinion.

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RogerioFM

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@esqueejy: Why? They've been reviewing episodes of Telltale games since forever, why make an exception for this game?

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esqueejy

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@RogerioFM: I admittedly haven't finished it yet, but my understanding is that this isn't really an "episode" in the sense that it has a complete story arc to it that ends with some sort of resolution. It's more like the first incomplete part of a whole.

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RogerioFM

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@esqueejy: Well, episode doesn't mean something must have a complete story arc, it's very rare when a Telltale episode closes an arc. Although, I think RockPaperShotgun's review says that this part finishes the major plot points.

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Hurvl

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"All Canada needs to do is add some dwarves" You mean dead dwarves, right, Brett? It wouldn't be the same if the dwarves weren't dead.

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Kessel

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Edited By Kessel

@Hurvl: For long-lived badasses. dwarves and elves always seem to be corpsified by the time the player shows up in most games.

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RogerioFM

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Yeah, I was hyped for this one, but then I found out that it's in the middle of the campaign. I would much rather it was set after the main story, like Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter nights expansions were. I'm not the kind of person who reloads old saves just to play side quests.

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SuppaPHly42

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Edited By SuppaPHly42

@RogerioFM: well i guess its a good thing i have not finished the game yet then. i don't replay to many games either :P

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RogerioFM

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@suppaphly42: Yeah, lucky indeed, I usually prefer either expansions that are not tied to the base game, like Red Dead Redemption expansion or that takes place after the main story, like the ones mentioned. Never played a single Bethesda game because of that. Of course, I don't hold that against the game, I know it's not really a problem all things considered.

Now, something completely different, I"m playing Zombi, very nice game.

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Kessel

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@RogerioFM: Yes!!! Monty Python Reference! +2 likes.

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SuppaPHly42

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Edited By SuppaPHly42

@RogerioFM: ok i'm going down here i think i'm getting dizzy.... :P did you just say you have never played a beth game. o.O

ok so tes 3,4,and 5 don't have an ending so all the dlc can be played whenever. i can't speak about the others as i have not played them

is zombi good i was going to buy a wii-u just for that game but the review gave it a 4.5 so i didn't buy it i have it on my wishlist so when a sale comes along i'll get it

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Pillars of Eternity More Info

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  • First Released Mar 26, 2015
    released
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 4 more
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Pillars of Eternity is an isometric, party-based computer RPG set in a new fantasy world developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
    8.5
    Average Rating301 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Pillars of Eternity
    Developed by:
    Obsidian Entertainment, Red Cerberus, Paradox Arctic
    Published by:
    Paradox Interactive, Versus Evil, Encore Software, Inc.
    Genre(s):
    Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence