I have been privy to many visual or interactive novels in my time and I have to say The Pillars of the Earth is one of the most well done of the genre that I have ever experienced. Before I start gushing about this game too much, let me tell you a little bit about its journey to the Xbox One and PS4 consoles. If the title of the game sounds familiar it is due to the fact that the game is based on Ken Follett’s novel of the same title. Daedalic Entertainment parsed down the novel and put it back together so that they could share with us their vision of the novel while still making it a fun and addicting game. When you buy the first “book” of the game you get to play through seven separate chapters through the eyes of three different characters. For those who have read the novel, you will find some differences in the narrative and story, Daedalic had to make some changes so that the game could be interactive and have choices. If they hadn’t done that we would just be watching a very well put together cartoon. After playing through this, I cannot wait for the next chapters and I will find myself a copy of the novel, I want to see where my decisions strayed from the author’s words.
The story obviously follows that of the novel. 12th Century England is the setting for this tale and it is a time of uncertainty and fear. King Henry is dead and lots of politics are at play right now to get the rightful heir to the throne. During all this strife one fictional town, Kingsbridge suddenly becomes an important player in all these politics. A young monk just elected prior, Phillip, has a brother that pokes his nose into the war and seeks to figure out how to stop it. This draws the eyes of powerful people who do not want to see the proper heir to the throne found. I don’t want to spoil any more than I have to because seeing the twists and turns of this story is one of the best things about this game. This world, the troubles that are befalling our main characters and how they triumph through them is what kept me playing this game long into the night. I cannot wait to see how this all ties up in the next two books.
The art style of The Pillars of the Earth is simply amazing. I don’t know if anyone remembers the old animated Hobbit and Return of the King movies they played on television in the 80’s, but this art style is very reminiscent of that style. Not only was I taken down memory lane as I watched the cut-scenes, I made new amazing memories in this new world that I had never known existed. Every character has been carefully detailed and not even the NPC’s are alike; that amazed me quite a bit, they could have been lazy and made all the background monks look similar, but they chose not to and that made the world even deeper in my opinion. The voice overs are spectacular as well, these actors did not just phone it in, they cared about their character and the lines they were delivering, which makes the player care even more. Even the musical score brought me chills as it played in the background. The FILMharmonic Orchestra, Prague did a great job putting a musical feel to this game, it is a beautiful soundtrack. The whole feel of this game to me is the movie that wins the Oscar but that no one went to see, which can be pretty sad. Everyone should take a good look at this title, even though it does get slow at points due to the fact it is an interactive novel, it is worth your time.
This is an interactive novel, but it still has some controls to learn, and one quick time event to master. Left Thumbstick is walk and if you want to walk faster, which you will you need to hold down Right Trigger. You get prompted to do certain things as you explore this world when you get to interactive objects you can press X to have a thought about the object, A is interact with the object and Y is use an object on an object or person. To bring up the object you may need to use you use the Right Thumbstick which brings up a menu wheel and you choose the proper object from there. If you get stuck in the game and don’t know what you need to do you can press the Left Trigger and that will highlight objects and people of importance in the room that you can interact with and hopefully continue to move your story forward. What you have to get good at is a timed quick time event that pops up during very important action scenes, basically, you have to press A when a ball is in a green area as it moves left to right. Not a very difficult quick time event, but if you mess it up things can go awry.
Regardless of what type of gamer you are you should not pass up this title. I get that it may not be as faced paced as some gamers like, but man does the story pack a wallop. This game could be a nice break from all the Call of Duty rehashes or Dark Souls deaths, it will calm your mind and make you think pretty hard about each decision you have to make. This game would also impress a TellTale Games fan, the decisions may not be as dark or graphic as The Walking Dead, but man they are still difficult decisions that affect the entire world, not just Atlanta. I hope that this review gets you to download this game, it truly is a masterpiece and should be played by as many people as possible. I fear that it will be lost in the glut of cloned games that sully the shelves of stores. This game needs to succeed so that developers will take more chances with different types of games, and not get stuck in the rut that they are in now.
An Xbox One Review Copy of The Pillars of the Earth was provided by Daedalic Entertainment for the purpose of this Review