ALL PILLAR, NO FILLER.
Sometimes video games can be birthed from some pretty surprising source material; Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is based off a 16th century Chinese novel and Eternal Sonata being based on the musical works of Frederick Francois Chopin are just a couple that spring to mind, but in hindsight it doesn’t matter where you get your ideas from it only matters where you go from there, what kind of game you can build around the novels, movies and folklores that serve as your inspiration, the justice you can do to it and if you can point the player in the direction in which the game was told to give them something new to delve into. All these boxes find themselves well and truly ticked with bells on when it comes to Interactive Novel ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ developed by point and click veterans Daedalic Entertainment. Based off the 1989 novel by Ken Follet, Pillars of the Earth is a love letter to the determination of the human race and the hardships of Medieval England by giving the book a heartbeat in look, sound and feel and to come from a book that I admittedly had very little knowledge about before playing gave me a good impression after playing through the opening chapters.
Pillars of the Earth begins in the year 1135 and revolves around the paths of three core characters. Phillip – A monk that find himself in the middle of the quarrelling friars of the Kingsbridge Priory before uncovering the details of an oncoming war that his brother wishes to stop by any means, Jack – An outcast who has lived in the forest with his mother his whole life who soon finds the outside world at his feet thanks to Tom Builder, a father and a Stone Mason that dreams to someday build a cathedral and Aliena – An Earl’s Daughter who has fallen from grace thanks to her corrupted father. All of their paths cross effortlessly throughout the first few chapters with each of them do good for their society and grow as people in the process.
Pillars of the Earth offers a very stripped down but at the same time impressively bold look. Its completely 2D aesthetic, the way the characters move and its religious overtones brings me back to the days of the first Broken Sword games but with a wonderfully artistic hand drawn like style. This combined with the timbres and the colours they have used brings an all-out ominous and gloomy atmosphere to the places in which you visit, you can feel the bitter bite of the blistering snow, the delightful colours and lighting of spring and the hardships that the people go through in the 12th century. This is all only amplified by the historically accurate and at times, awe inspiring musical score. All these ingredients come to together to make a pretty awesome sandwich (I know, my analogies are awesome) and it truly shows in the game story telling. At one point during the games prologue, Tom tells his children what goes into building a perfect cathedral, both figuratively and metaphorically as he explains that it needs walls, a roof and a door, a cathedral starts to materialise around them taking away from the perilous forest they are currently sat in with his heavily pregnant wife. The atmosphere and music combine to make for an incredibly heart-warming moment, which gets stripped away when you are dropped straight back into the forest as he exclaims it would bring them hope. Powerful stuff indeed.
Pillars of the Earth is in all essence your standard point and click, item collectathon adventure, however there are times where you well and truly need to use your brain and your own initiative with the inventory you have in order to get the best results there were a couple moments where I found out I could have done more to let things go in my favour a lot easier. Throughout you travels you also receive a number of objectives for each chapter which act like an item you can equip and use to interact with NPC’s and your surroundings to get clues and progress so you can complete the objective, a nice touch and one that makes you explore everything there is to hand. That being said Pillars of the Earth isn’t without its flaws, The character models will flip out side to side when walking them into walls, exits and NPC’s and at one point I did find a game breaking glitch where I couldn’t move, access my inventory or interact and unfortunately had to restart, but thankfully it didn’t happen again throughout my second playthrough. This may strike people a cardinal gaming sin but there was something in me hat wanted to see how the first book played out. The choices you make through the game can differ in severity, with some of them making you feel the weight of England is on your shoulders and other times playing things a little differently will result in the same outcome.