I have an enormous amount of respect for the people who port clicky-clicky mouse-and-keyboard games to gamepad controls for console. When a game is designed for PC first, it often includes massive assumptions not only about how the player will navigate the UI, but about how the player will relate to the gameworld. For example, searching for hotspots to click on, adventure-game style, is something you do with a mouse, and a mouse only— it’s nearly impossible to make that fun on gamepad. (Some might say it’s nearly impossible with a mouse, too.)
I’ve only played it for a few minutes, but Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition— today’s announced Pillars of Eternity port to XBO and PS4— does a really good job of turning its incredibly dense mouse-oriented UI into something parseable with joysticks. The inventory in particular was a surprising pleasure to navigate— it separates the controls that swap screen region/UI “bucket” from the controls that swap between individual items in that region or bucket. Pillars has giant inventory grids, but they’re not too intimidating with these controls.
I played about the first half of Pillars on PC, and I’m still pretty familiar with the opening quest. Obsidian’s reps at E3 let me play through the first couple chunks of that quest using the controller, and I found the combat, conversation, and world-navigation controls pretty easy to pick up, too. Some elements of battle control still involve a cursor. For example, I used a cursor to target specific enemies with my characters’ abilities. Swapping between characters is simple, and both the battle ability selection overlay and the general menu overlay use radial selection interfaces, similar to ability-selection in console versions of old Mass Effect games and the radial menus in Diablo 3’s console port. It seems like a lot of developers turn to radial menus when they try making dense menus navigable on one screen with gamepad controls.
My only complaint? I had a little trouble getting my character to interact with world hotspots like points of interest and lootable crates, but a button to highlight all the hotspots onscreen made it pretty easy to solve my problems without much fuss.
Pillars is a game with, famously, a crapton of ultra-detailed onscreen text, including very wordy conversations and somewhat purple-prose vision sequences where the protagonist peers into infodumps about random NPCs’ pasts. The readability of all this text was one of the first things I looked for when I started playing the demo, and I was pretty satisfied with what I saw. I was a decent distance from the television I played on, and I could have been slightly further and still read everything clearly.
This Complete Edition will contain all the released DLC for the game— which, from a cursory examination of Steam, means that it will include The White March parts I and II. On Steam, these go together for $29.98 USD, on top of the game’s $44.95 base price. Complete Edition will contain all this stuff for $49.99 USD, which comes out to savings of about $25— pretty good!
It’s enough savings that if you own both a PC and a console and you’re definitely planning on playing this game in the near future, I’d probably recommend lookinginto the console version. The controls I experienced at E3 were good enough that although I prefer mouse controls for games like this one, I wouldn’t necesarrily recommend shelling out $25 just to get those mouse controls. (Of course, I’m suspending final judgement for the reviews.)
Although we didn’t review original Pillars here at Zam Dot Com– we didn’t exist at the time it came out— we can tell you that the game was generally well-received at release and is certainly a good way to spend your time, particularly if you’re homesick for old-school Baldur’s-Gate-type experiences.
Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition is “coming soon” to PS4 and XBO.