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I write this for clossure, as after weeks of travelling through the Dyrwood and the White March, I feel the need to put my jorney into words.

 

It was more than two years ago when I first played Pillars of Eternity. After having discovered the great predecessors not that long before, I was deeply anticipating a CRPG experience like this, and when PoE finally came out, it was an instant buy. While having fun with the vanilla game it felt like something was missing. It had minor flaws, some bugs and overall the combat did not feel very satisfying. After beating Thaos I felt like it had been to easy of a journey, without any remarkable fights in it. That's why I struggled a bit when this year the Xbox One version came out. A CRPG on consoles? With controller? How would that even work? Pretty damn good, the reviewers said. So I said to myself: 'What the heck, you had fun the first time around and you havn't played the Add Ons yet. It should be entertaining for one playtrough and even if you're not falling in love with it, you're supporting the developers who make the kind of game you love.'

 

I'm pleased to say that often our expectations arn't met, and sometimes that is a good thing.

 

The fights weren't that hard in vanilla, so I figured this time around I will play it on Path of the Damned. Sounds fun, I thought. Sounds like a challenge, I thought. When I created my character, a Darcozi Paladin named Erec, it took me about half an hour. Reading through builds, thinking about his backstory and other RP issues, which was fun and made me reflect on my first playtrough. But memories really came back when I walked around the encampment near Cilant Lis with Calisca. I already knew how this was going to end, didn't I? I knew she and Heodan would die, after I had a traumatizing interaction with the Glanfathans and bested the small dungeon. I also remember the feeling of shock back then. This cautious curiosity, the feel that everything could happen. And I remembered that as the game progressed, this sensation would slowly vanish. No more surprising events took place, no more sudden deaths of beloved companions, no acts of treachery (other than occasionally an enemy casting 'Wispers of Treason'). Another thing that had me disappointed, and so the first few hours I had some mixed feelings about this.

 

When I entered Gilded Vale I remembered the many side quests in here and also that the best battles were at the beginning of the game, where I didn't feel overpowered. I feel like it took weeks - which it probably did in ingame time - to clear out the Temple of Eothas with an evergrowing party. I knew I was going to go full custom this time around, as the original companions did not really stick with me, but money was scarce in the beginning. Slowly progressing through the temple of Eothas, one step at a time, was great for RP reasons. While my character was learning about the politics of the Dyrwood, the mystery of Waidwens legacy and the threat of Lord Raedric, he did what he was trained to do - clearing out dark dungeons that were swarmed with monsters.

 

My party of six grew stronger and stronger, equipped with the finest loot the shades in Eothas temple had to offer, and we started wandering off a bit. One quest here, another quest there and soon I found myself in front of Raedrics hold. Untill that moment fights weren't really that challenging with a fresh party. Untill I hit that throne room, of course. Raedric kicked my ass. His wizards and paladins and priests and whatnot completely slaughtered me. But no, not completely. It wasn't the type of "Oh, I get it, I need to gain a level or two and come back". I actually landed some hits and maybe if I would just kill of that wizard a tad faster ... so I tried again and again, each time a litle closer, untill finally I laid hands on that shiny sword called 'Justice'. I thought about making my Paladin a shield bearer before, but eh, what the heck - let's make a Carsomyr wielding badass!

 

From now on the game totally had me sucked in! As my party gathered itself and ventured forth, it came across some minor fights, some challenging fights and even some fights that seemed impossible at first. I conquered Caed Nua, set foot into the first levels of Od Nua (only to be chased out by stun-applying Xaurips!) and ended up in Defiance Bay. Ah, I remembered that one. It had a really good feel to it. Nice subquests, many different areas - almost felt like back home in Baldurs Gate! The fights got even better there. I fought the shades and ghosts in the Light Tower, and boy, they always have been a pain in the arse! 'What does the bestiary say about them. Hm, weak to fire? My druid has this nice fire weapon spell - and didn't I get some gloves with the exact same effect from the Crucible Knight quest?' The fight that seemed impossible at first became surprisingly easy, thanks to one single spell applied at the right time. This is what I loved about BG, and finally I had the feeling that PoE managed to finally inherent this himself.

 

Sometime inbetween clearing out Catacombs, battling the Leaden Key cultists and investigating on a sudden undead crisis in Heritage Hill, a messenger approached me, demanding my immediate attendance in Caed Nua. 'Hm, I remember those. Some minor cutscene where I can either save or execute some stranger. Not really engaging, but the next time I'm back home I'll check it out!' When I arrived there I was called into the cort of Defiance Bay, some matters of succesion concering my well earned keep. 'Seems to be a minor quest. Hm, I actually DON'T remember this one ... but I mean the game has a LOT of side quests, so you can't remember them all, amarite?' When I entered The Charren Barrel later on because this Chancellor Warrin needed to see me again I thought: 'Strange place to meet up. I really do not remember this.' How could I remember it? The quest didn't exist back then! So I was pretty surprissed when that elven captain entered the tavern, a look of anticipating violence in her face. 'I mean, come on, I didn't even rest yet!' The fight was close, one of my characters was already near death, the wizard was almost out of spells - sure I could've simply reloaded the autosave from when I entered, but sometimes we have to set ourselves little challenges.

 

My fighter Torus was slain that day, may the gods lead him unto a better life! For RP reasons it was nice to have one of my characters dying, it added some feeling of danger, and from there on I swore to not reload again if a party member dies but the fight is still won. I'm glad I did so and you will soon see why. With Torus dead my party was lacking a damage class and I went for a dwarven barbarian this time. Called him Tjalf and made him look like a tiny viking. Little did I know back then, that in the not so far future this brave warrior would have to wield the mythical weapon of his ancestors in order to avoid a possible global threat ...

 

The quest went on and my whole party was hungry for revenge! Lord Gathbin had messed with the wrong fellas, and we were definitely about to teach him that lesson. The whole narrative had me convinced that a battle was soon to take place, and that I did not have the time for huge preparations. Neither had I hired Korgrak, nor beaten the Iron Flail. I quickly finished the Crucible Knights quests (boy oh boy, those Forged Knights were tough!) and hoped to at least get some help from those guys, hired some mercanaries and then the epic battle of Yenwood unfolded. I did not know what to expect. The sequence at the beginning indicated I was far outnumbered. My mercs were slain by the Bleak Walkers, my Knights didn't do much good. So it was up to my own party! To battle! For Torus!

 

The battle had me alternating hope and despair from the very beginning to the end. They were many, but they lacked qualitiy. My mage dealt a great deal of damage to their back line. 'Ha, are you kidding me Gathbin? Is that all you have to offer?' But his henchmen kept coming and coming, while the fine lord himself stayed out of harms reach. 'Those Bleak Walkers just wont go down. Those bowmen in the back are a minor, but constant threat. And how the hell did I not see that priest over there?' One charactet went down, then another, then my own priest. I thought for sure I was going to lose. My wizard only had a few minor spells left, but remembering BG, they could make a huge difference. I blinded the enemy, cast slicken and with a little help from Lady Luck I was able to beat the remaining foes. Imagine my joy when I send my Paladin Erec after the fleeing Lord Gathbin. I'm sure you all know that joy when he finally goes down! 'We could've been friends, man!'

 

After the battle of Yenwood I felt like the king of the world. Again, it was not so much the hardness of the battle inself, but the self imposed challenge. I did not prepare my party in any way and with the help of potions, meals and scrolls it would have been a lot more decisive - but a lot less fun! Those kind of preparations would soon be needed though, as I progressed deeper into the story and the Endless Paths of Od Nua alike.

 

Chapter 3 had me a little confused. My original plan was to beat the game until the point of no return right before Thaos and than start the White March. You know, like a picky eater. Save the real treats till the end! But upscaled Chapter 3 was not really doable for my party back than, even though I managed to get kinda far into it. Once I even trapped myself in the Frost-Hewn Breach! The final fight was pretty tough for me back then, I was badly wounded with several party members near death - and I idiotaclly overwrote all my recent saves!!! What a thrill it was to sneak out of there. This instance taught me though that I would need to return later with a stronger group, so I ventured north into the White March.

 

The White March started out pretty iritating to me. It was upscaled but I cut through those Ogres like a hot knife through butter. I'm till convinced there is an issue with their level upscaling on Xbox, as the rest of the Add On was not that easy. And again the game confronted me with those lovely interactive sequences that I felt were missing in the main part of the game. Even though some of them seemed to had no bigger effect on the world, they still added immersivenes. How cool was it when my druid cast a spell that protected me from the flames in the burning house?

 

Exploring the White Marches was aweseome. The mystery of Durgans Battery felt like right out of a Tolkien novel, I could hear deep dwarven voices humming in the background as I approached this long forgotten home of Tjalfs kin. Remember Tjalf? The dwarven Barbarian I hired after Torus death? Yeah, turns out his ancestors used to live in this place. To me, fantasy is perfect when it leaves room for your own fantasy. And boy, was it fitting. When he finally returned to the White Forge with a dire look of shattered remembrance on his face, I could hear him whisper the song of Durin (or the song of Durgan, both pretty awesome!) and it sent shivers down my spine.

 

It was astonishing to look back at my jorney even at that point. All those adventures we had, the friends we lost (by that time in the game I lost another dear Ranger and her pet companion and a singer who, to be honest, I never grew fond with). But it all paled in comparision to the threats still ahead! I hadn't slain a single dragon yet. There were some rumors about a strong band of mercanries and an archmage they were after. And another enemy awoke from his slumber when I left the White March with a wrong sense of security.

 

The dragons were eating me up at first. Their breath wiped my party, their friends stunned my party. I had to reload and reload again and again, till I was getting frustrated. I tried each one of them before finally beating one of them, saying to myself, that if not the last one, than this one must be the easiest of them. I can't say if it was the easiest, but the first dragon I managed to defeat was the sky dragon in the temple of Hylea. Scrolls of paralization prooved to be the key, simultaneously cast by both my mage and priest. After that I took on the alpine dragon, but resorted to a different kind of strategy. After he got confused and took care of those annoying ghosts, my party took cover behind the ice blights and unloaded arrow after arrow and bolt after bolt on the ancient beast. The hardest dragon turned out to be the Adra Dragon. His army of Xaurips and Adragan were the least of my problems, as this beast actually turned out to be immune against paralyze. So maybe for the first time I took advantage of the fact myself, that this game offers about a douzen of different stun effects, and using Gaze of the Adragan (ha! fight fire with fire!) and the earthclaw druid spell this beast was slain in no time again. What a feeling it was to have beaten three mighty foes like that on PotD! I know some of you are really superb at this game, but to me, who's in many ways still a newbie to this game, it felt kinda satisfying.

 

I felt like I was getting closer and closer to the end as I beat Concelhaut and progressed through the early quests of White March Part 2. I lost another dear party member at the elevator in Durgans Battery due to my stupid decisions (I told him to hold on! Why didn't I try to save him myself?!) and my Paladin Erec tried to drown his sorrow in drugs, developing a serious Svef addiction. It was nice though that I could at least loot his gear when I returned to the lower floor again ... urm, I mean when I could rescue his body and give him a proper burial. WM2 had some of the best fights in regard to creativity. Suddenly beeing surrounded by foes on the elevator, each party member was on his own until they could regroup. The giant spore in the lumincent cave was a bit of a challenge at first and I had to "think around the corner" hehe.

 

By that time I hit level 16 and I felt this is the right time for endgame content, so I abandend the White March again and went after Llengrath, finished the higher bounties and again felt like a king when none of those gave me any real headache. So when I returned to finish the WM2, again I was having expectations that proofed to be false. I thought if I beat a total of four dragons (I dont count Llengraths drake) and two archmages, what else could the game throw at me? Many say that Llengrath is the hardest fight in the game and I did it on my second try! But this little bugger is only a moth compared to the monks from the Abbey of the Fallen Moon. Yep, to me those guys were the hardest of the hardest. But eventually, with a little help from Mr. Cheese, I managed to reach Ondras altar and talk to the godess behind the reappearance of the eyeless.

 

She told me that in order to destroy them I had to reforge Abydons hammer, and who else was better suited to wear this mighty weapon than the durganbased dwarf namend Tjalf? When we finally beat the kraken and reached the crystal, we all knew that one of us had to sacrifice himself. It was only fitting that Tjalf, wielder of the mighty hammer, kin of the Durganfolk, worshipper of Abyndon would carry this burden. When I selected his name in the interactive sequence, a single tear ran down my cheek. I knew those kind of sequences could end up with one of your party members dying, and the WM2 was especially cruel in that regard. I expected none less of the final interaction. When the walls of the cave collapsed, when rocks the size of a dragons head fell from the ceiling, when the caverns filled with water, when my party escaped using Calacaths Frozen Rake to solidify the ice and finally got out of there I was crying out loud when yet another of my expecations wasn't met ... out of the thin ice broke a sturdy dwarf, heavily wounded but alive. 'You ever seen a duck that couldn't swim? Quack, quack!' 

 

The rest of the game was a sheer formality. At least Thaos managed to beat me once, as I didn't quite understand his transforming into the statues of Woedica. When I destroyed them first the second time around he had nowhere to hide, and beeing struck down by Concelhauts Hammer of Awesomeness, my party didn't sweat finishing him off. I sent the souls back to the children they belonged to, as promised to Hylea. The ending sequences rolled and reminded me yet again of all the good deeds I did (and the companions I didn't pay any attention to). My journey, for now, was over. 

 

When I bought Pillars of Eternity about a month ago, I was expecting an entertaining roleplay experience but didn't think it would suck me in that much. Every winter I restart the Baldurs Gate saga, it has become kind of a ritual for me. From now on, Pillars of Eternity will definetly be a part of that.

 

Tl;dr: Thanks to everyone involved in this masterpiece, thanks for developing it and thanks for further polishing it after release. Thanks to the community, without your tips I would not have gotten far :)

 

 

 

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