With Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, the direct sequel to Obsidian Entertainment's return to the classic CRPG genre, the scope of its fantasy-adventure expands on all aspects of its storytelling and gameplay. Developed with the help of community feedback, it allowed the team to keep their ear to the ground as they refined their follow-up. During PAX East 2018, we had the chance to chat with game director Josh Sawyer about their development process, while also getting a taste of what's to come in the exploring the new locales of Deadfire.
Set directly after the first game, which ended with the player character known as The Watcher amassing an army and vast resources to make their mark on the world of Eora--for better or for worse. While returning players can carry over their save file and pick up where things left off, Deadfire's story will also work as a solid entryway into the series. Sometime after the events of the first game, your stronghold is left in ruins after a new force makes its presence known. After reuniting with the party, you'll acquire a ship and set sail to explore new lands in the Deadfire archipelago to attain the strength to counter the new threat.
"We've done a very good job at listening to the feedback from backers, when it comes to both from a mechanical perspective and also from a narrative and storytelling perspective," said Sawyer. "We got a lot of feedback from the first game that the main hook wasn't very compelling, so we've tried to make the critical path much clearer to players in this game. We've also raised the stakes a great deal. The scale and the scope of this game is much more epic and more grand. We wanted the feeling of this game to be something going from Baldur's Gate 1 to Baldur's Gate II."
Much like the original, Pillars of Eternity II sticks with its roots as a CRPG title, allowing you to sink your teeth into the game's rich storytelling and RPG systems. Deadfire introduces a number of new characters and settings to overarching saga, while also adding in many more conflicts for you to deal with. One big theme in Deadfire is the issue of colonialism, with many of the islands natives in strife due to the encroaching presence of the empires from the mainlands--and how your own presence may make things worse. And in familiar CRPG fashion, you'll end up having to make some tough decisions that can impact the fates of particular factions trying to co-habit a space--resulting in a series of events that will transpire in ways you least expect.
In addition to the improved craft in storytelling, there's also some upgrades to the existing gameplay systems. The Watcher will now be able to adopt two classes and grow them simultaneously. For instance, by choosing both the Monk and Cipher classes--focusing on both close-range melee and stun magic--you can combine a class's individual strengths to create some truly exciting skill sets that complement their unique abilities. Moreover, the trip on the high-seas now brings a newfound level of exploration and storytelling. While on your ship, you may encounter enemies and other events, which takes place in the new ship-battle system. Of course, it takes a large crew to run a seaworthy ship, and you'll have to keep morale high in order to make your trek through Eora's oceans run effectively.
The original Pillars of Eternity showed that there was still great potential in the kinds of stories CRPG games can tell, while also offering some deeply satisfying role-playing game systems. With Deadfire's May 8 release fast approaching, the upcoming CRPG will launch first on PC, with its release on consoles sometime after. Obsidian's follow-up to one of the strongest RPG titles in years aims to raise the stakes for its exciting adventure on the high-seas.