I think that most backers and especially fresh buyers are unaware of how much has Obsidian accomplished with the funds and the time they had. Let me make a list.
Chiseler of the World
Just look at this map, crafted with love, care, and chocolate cookies:
Here are two pages as free excerpt from the Guidebook Part One (courtesy of Dark Horse Comics), and there is a shorter, but still satisfying Almanac available. Elaborate histories, raging deities, conquests, myths, jokes, -- the lore of Eora, and within it, the Eastern Reaches is as rich as fantasy book sagas, and accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations.
The attention to detail is sometimes astonishing. Just like in The Lord of the Rings, new languages (conlangs) were invented based on real languages, complete with naming conventions and pronunciation rules, and all the major powers in the "civilized" world have proper heraldic signs. Weapons and armor have significant differences and much more historical accuracy than most RPGs.
(The above coat-of-arms were created by forum user KazikluBey, based on heraldic descriptions given by Josh Sawyer).
Crafter of Choices
Selecting a race and a class is typical fare in an RPG. Selecting a background is present in some. Obsidian went even further. Recognizing that races are too big as a cultural unit, they developed various cultures within the world, some single-race, some multiple-race, and added a separate background choice like "slave" or "aristocrat", dependent on culture. Culture even determines the starting equipment, so instead of all fighters starting with the same leather armor and short sword, the starting gear depends on where you came from.
There is an auto-autobiography in the game which records all the important choices you've made for your character, starting with your origins. I always wanted to have a feature like this in an RPG, and I was quite surprised when they announced it recently because this wasn't a Kickstarter promise, just an extra they thought of and wasn't much work to develop. Thank you, Obsidian.
Hoarder of Reactions
But that's just the beginning, literally! By acting in the world you build up dispositions over time like "diplomatic" or "aggressive". You get to define your character via words and actions, instead of static labels. This is separate from the reputation system, which functions as expected. There are a major and minor factions within the game, similar how Fallout: New Vegas handled it, each one tracking a reputation.
In the game, there is reactivity to class, gender, culture, background, skills, attributes, disposition, reputation. In the backer beta, a certain interesting quest resolution was only available to ciphers. That's the wager Obsidian is making, they're willing to write dialogue and quest parts that will only be seen by a small amount of people on their first (and possibly, last) playthrough, because they believe people will appreciate such nuances, even if they see a fraction of them initially. Think of the amount of work that went into the situational reactivity, it's a brave, brave approach.
Breaker of Molds
You might or might not like the PoE ruleset, but it is still a huge body of work. It's doesn't quite have the complexity of Baldur's Gate 2, but it gives you much more than today's big RPG titles. There are a lot of different monsters, conditions, abilities, special attacks, unique equipment, whatnot. I like most aspects of the new systems like the Endurance/Health duality, lessening the need for reloads, the bottomless inventory, the enchantment upgrading, and so on. I particularly like that killing in and itself doesn't give XP, it's especially welcome for Trial of Iron plays, it allows you to choose quest solutions you find the least risky. I'll mention that I'm in the camp that thinks engagement isn't a good mechanic for a real-time game, but I'll just leave it at that.
On another note, special speech options have a different approach than previous RPGs, where a speech skill option was always a winner. The gated options are not necessarily the best, they are simply more expressive, more defined than the regular choices, and they can make the situation better or worse, depending on circumstances. The example given by lead narrative designer Eric Fenstermaker is that if you are [diplomatic] with an ogre, he'll just see you as a wuss, and proceed accordingly with his huge club.
Shaper of Classes
This is my favorite one. Eleven classes total, and they wanted them all to be different, but neither of them mandatory. This alone is a huge design task, but they delivered and nailed it in most cases. You can create your own (silent) companions in the game, you can make choices with traditionally non-choice classes like the fighters, and the grand total is that an astounding variety of party setups are possible. Six priests of Skaen called the Traveling Troublemakers? Go for it, it's playable! A mind-bending cipher with a renaissance shotgun called the blunderbuss? Of course you can!
I always hated DnD paladins and monks because I dislike classes that are "overdefined", there's little room for my imagination and playstyle choices in them. Bards I favored as a concept, not so much in execution. The reimagined paladin as a zealot for various, not necessarily honorable ideals is awesome, this might be the first game where my main is a paladin for one of the playthroughs. Chanter is more like the original Welsh bard (not like the renaissance troubadour of DnD called bard) and other folklore-tellers like the Hungarian regős, and the new monk is cool, too.
Sower of Art
In my book art doesn't equal graphics. Computer graphics is a medium to deliver art. It takes a lot of work to transform graphics into art.
I think most people would agree that the most defining characteristic of Pillars of Eternity at first glance is the visuals, which pay tribute to the Infinity Engine games. This is one area where even the most grumpy grognards say that Obsidian delivered exactly what they promised: painterly 2D backgrounds, isometric camera. I won't go into the details, but lighting and water animations and various other effects are actually using 3D technology. It looks like the glorious 2D art of yore, with some nifty enhancements. Old and tried design aesthetic, new tricks under the sleeve: that's how you modernize old-school favorites.
And there are a lot of backgrounds! The number of "screens" is somewhere halfway between Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 according to the devs.
Nurturer of Music
No words. Listen.
Amazer of Old-School Gamers
In the past I've worked as a software developer, and I have friends who work in the computer games industry. I have a pretty good idea how much work it takes to produce something, and I stand speechless at the amount of work they've done on Pillars of Eternity with the amount of resources they had. It was discussed by Brandon Adler, Josh Sawyer and Adam Brennecke that Obsidian has a lot of expertise in crafting RPGs, and their work pipelines were set up to work as fast as possible before full production started, avoiding blunders of the past. It shows, man, it shows.
Do you remember this? The pre-campaign?
Although there were some mismanaged moments in these past two and a half years, I can honestly that this was the Kickstarter project that I pledged to where I enjoyed the ride the most. So many updates, so many details, so many meaningful discussions (and even more meaningless ones, as usual), so many changes for the good. Here's to more expansions and installments set inside the world of Pillars of Eternity!
A few hours from now on: No sleep for ME!
Edited by Endrosz, 26 March 2015 - 05:29 AM.