(TL;DR provided but it is a lengthy rant)
So I just finished Pillars of Eternity for the first time. Had the game a long time just never really got around to playing it all the way through until now.
And well… I have some thoughts about it. Specifically about the whole deal at the end of the game. Now, my big issue might be a bit on the semantics side but after finishing the game I just can’t stop thinking and being somewhat bugged by the whole “The god’s aren’t real!” thing.
Because… they are? The gods are man made, but they are very much real, so the insistence on this point and the characters' shock and gasp at it falls extremely flat since it seems to fly on the face of the entire game and world it takes place in.
The gods are real…
Give boons and blessings real.
Consistently speak with their followers and the player real.
Possess a farmer and conquer a nation real.
Apocalypse level army of devastator golems real.
PLUCK A MOON OUT OF THE SKY REAL.
You walk on the bones of one! You wield his hammer, you can piss them off, you can do quests and receive blessings from them, one of them revives one of your enemies as a vengeful revenant! One of them orchestrates the entirety of the game's conflict!!!
In the world of Eora where the gods are verifiable, measurable and tangible Iovara’s rants come across like a sovereign citizen claiming to not recognize the authority of the government over her as a cop drags her out of her car. She can point at her binder full of common law photocopies and blog posts but that really doesn’t stop the taser and handcuffs…
You can say the law sucks and you don’t agree with it, but, denying its existence doesn't really make you immune to its consequences on the real world outside of your beliefs, feel me?
The fact you think the founding fathers were all slavers and **** and you hate the cops doesn’t stop the IRS from tossing your ass in jail if you don’t file your paperwork in time.
There are more than a few things I feel don’t mesh well with this at all, and it feels like the game stops to “make a point” which works in a vacuum without taking into account the rest of the world it has spent time building. Hell, does Eora even have a creation myth? I didn’t read every single one of the in game books but I read a lot and I don’t remember one with a creation myth or a mention of one in them. If there were one then you have something to disprove, a clear lie, but, at best the idea is that the “lie” of the gods is that they were created by kith… but does that change much?
The Leaden Key is hellbound on keeping the nature of the gods secret… and yet the endgame requires that the actual plot of them you have to stop is the Hollowborn. Even to the actual plot of the actual game the nature of the gods being made by the engwithan seems tangential, inconsequential, so, the characters “OH MY NO WAAAY IT’S ALL A LIE!” response seems… very odd.
Follow me on this: Imagine you are a common citizen of the world of Eora, a smith, not the best but serviceable. Everyday before going to work you say a prayer to Abydon and when stuck or frustrated think of his teachings to continue your work. One day, a very convincing elf comes by your village telling you the gods were created by the Engwithen. You might be shocked, you might feel tricked… but what does that change? Would you stop praying to him? Dedicating your work to him? He has blessed your crafts before, he still does. You weren’t a cleric, you didn’t even have a shrine to him… Would you stop? What really changes? You don’t need to follow his dogma, or obey his instructions, did you follow Abydon because you were consequences if you didn’t or because he aligned with what the path you had already taken in life and stands for what you believe in? And does his origin really change his presence in your life and work?
In monotheistic and rather dogmatic religions like the abrahamic religions most people follow on the real world (more on this later) the rules and beliefs and law the world must follow are clearly established and dictated by scripture in a rigid single line… in the world of Eora, much like most polytheistic pagan religion, every god has a different sphere and if anything lack that structure, each god has different values they stand for, even more so than in some pagan religions in real life since in the game the gods have their verifiable different viewpoints and seem to not mind too much you waiting on the council of other gods other than them!
The arguments near the end of the game seem to go along the lines of “you don’t need the gods to guide you, they aren’t real, people can create their own beliefs and structure without their oversight” and Thaos argues back “People need the gods to not be savages!” The thing is, none of these arguments make sense IN THE WORLD OF THE GAME. They seem to be arguments made IRL in response to real life religion and it’s arguments but Eora isn’t earth and Eothas isn’t Allah.
1- You don’t need the gods to guide you even if you believe they’re real. Several of the characters in the game don’t even debate religion at all or admit they just act along with life without asking the bigger questions. Eder said his parents said “you get one god” but this is straight up a lie, Hiravias was a follower and blessed by Galawain and he changed to Wael as he fit more his views on the world without a single consequence. Verifiable in actual game evidence that characters follow gods due to them aligning to their own views rather than dogma or obligation, Galawain even blessed Hiravias and didn’t part the sky and smite him when he abandoned him for another god.
2- The gods are very much extremely real.
3- People do follow their own beliefs without the gods' involvement despite knowing they exist. Zahua, Grieving Mother, Kana Rua and Pallegina all argue good and bad, philosophy and belief without bringing up the gods in any of their discussions on their views on the world.
4- People are and aren’t savages with and without the gods' involvement. The Glanfathans are the most faithful and express both extremes actively.
The arguments made in Sun in Shadow for and against the gods seem to consider a world of abrahamic dogma rather than a polytheistic world with fallible gods. In the Egyptian myth gods **** up, grow old, get dementia and die. Did that mean the Egyptians did not believe in them? No, and the Egyptians didn’t have tangible evidence of the gods' direct, measurable, factual involvement.
Hell the game even goes “would the saint war happen without Eothas!?” like it’s a big gotcha of faith causing war… Would Readceras invade Dyrwood without religion involved?
That’s a good argument that would probably hold a bit of water if Readceras didn’t actually do that in the game without the gods' instruction… Even if you think the Iron Flail only acted due to the Eyeless (gods involved, Ondra messing up) the credits make it clear other groups form Readceras still continued to try and invade the Dyrwood… at no god’s instruction. And if you point out “if you temper Abydon there’s peace!” At that point you are arguing the gods' involvement STOPS war!
See what I mean? The game seems to be of two minds of this whole divine influence. If anything you can point out the brutality of the Inquisition, the horrors of the Leaden Key… and then just figure that’s Woedica’s doing. Hell the gods are capable of individual thinking, to the point they deposed Woedica, Abydon and Ondra opposed each other actively and despite the Leaden Keys posture on animancy three of the gods actively say “yeah animancy good, knock yourself out” knowing it might lead to uncovering their creation or even creating more of them or deposing them because those are their beliefs! It seems to me that the game near the end tries to paint the nature of the gods as this big consequential lie that changes everything, but, even after knowing the gods were man made Wael and Skaen pop up in front of you seeming to not care if you know… because hey… THEY STILL ARE GODS.
Iovara makes a point of saying the gods were inspired by ideals and are dedicated, volatile and dangerous… yes? but that’s how many real life polytheistic religions work in Greek, Pre-hispanic, Egyptian, Pollinesian and all of these different religions the gods are fallible and often blind to things outside their own sphere. This again, seems to be the game taking a point that only works in the context of “gods as perfect infallible beings” that only exists in real life due to monetheistic modern religions, and seems to exist nowhere in the world of Eora. None of the followers of the gods seem to see the gods as perfect, jus tperfect for them.
Moreover, there isn’t really a creation myth or structure around the origin of the worlds or the god’s creation of man in place. Death, re-incarnation, souls, are all verifiable elements of the world. Whoever made Berath the fact is she can revive you or guide your reincarnation whether you think she exists or not. If the information of the gods being made by the Engwithen became well known at worst I can see doubt and chaos, at best, the Glanfathan feel vindicated since they were right in the builders being some sort of holy people and their machines being sacred. But I can’t see the irreversible shaking up that the game implied Iovara was causing if the gods continue to not only be tangibly real but still care to their sphere of influence, if you know Hylea is real and answers prayers, even if she came out of a can, if your wife is going through a tough pregnancy would you refuse to pray for her because she's “fake” or would you take what help you can in a hard and possibly horrible time? Especially since, like is established, this help is very much REAL.
If you want to get poetic about it, it could even be a thing of people seeing the Engwithen sacrificing themselves to BECOME the gods since that is pretty much what happened. Like just go: “The Engwithen, seeing a void in the heavens, the world and it’s people left adrift without gods to answer their prayers, united their souls in sacrifice, joining their hopes, their fears, their beliefs, their sorrows and joys to birth gods from the very essence to assure that henceforth no people would feel as lost as they did” that’s a baller creation myth, I’d pray to those dudes.
TL;DR: Iovara is dumb as rocks should really have not had as a consecuential a movement as the game seems to tell us she did and everyone in the game acting like the revelations of the god’s birth is more than trivia seems to ring hollow…. lol hollow… birth… Do you get it!?
(P.S.: Eothas should really be the god of recklessness and lack of foresight. If what he wanted was to stop Woedica’s plot, how hard is it to go “Hear me, Eothas, a god: I was made by an Engwithen machine, we all were. Woedica, who we all agree sucks, is plotting to steal souls in Dyrwood by using these machines, I can show you which one’s and where, you can debate it with me if you want, you can even ask the other gods, they wont like me saying this but like her and her bull**** less, trust me.” For the god of good and redemption Eothas seemed to act rashly and with little thought, if anything, Magran seems to realize she ****ed up getting involved, and Eothas granted Woedica more power by ignoring the god’s non-involvement and forcing the other’s hand. With how the other gods act during the council of the stars I can’t help but feel they would have rather help glow-head stop the machines than let Woedica get away with her bull****, at which point I just gotta guess Eothas acts without much foresight or care fo the other god’s opinion or kith’s wellbeing…the saint’s war seemed to have done more bad than good in general and I can’t help but see this as evidence of Eothas being reckless and kinda dumb in general. I mean, would Magran be forced to bomb him if he just went “Woedica is going to steal the souls of a ton of your followers, I just told them about it” rather than marching down there with an army?... not very forward thinking, you should have run that one by Abydon)
ALSO: I have yet to play Deadfire, I want to, if any of this is elaborated on in that game just say so rather than spoil it. I imagine it’s possible some of this stuff is more elaborated on in that game.