Disclaimer the first: In the interest of learning how to write on my own, I'm doing slightly less editing on the article. So expect more terrible writing.
Disclaimer the second: I haven't yet finished the game. Somewhere along the line I lost my will to play, and just recently got the feeling back.
I'll open this up by saying that I like this game quite a bit. It's not perfect, it's not a "ten out of ten"(whatever that means) and it's not for everyone, but to me, it's pretty cool. I figured that I would talk a bit about some of the things I like about the game. So expect some spoilers, and as I said in the disclaimer, I haven't finished the game, yet. This gives me an incomplete picture of the game as a whole, but I will probably write more conclusively when I do finish it. But for now, let's get some thing I think is cool about Pillars of Eternity(Part one).
A lived in world, and the liars that live there
One thing that strikes pretty much any player who starts this game is that it doesn't really throw any punches in the world building department. You're confronted with terms, names, places and even some slang in the very first conversation. The game doesn't really bother to explain to much to the player, instead trusting the player to seek information out themselves. I mean, it's not like there aren't places you can find information, it's just that the game doesn't front-load exposition and explanation. There is however an in-game encyclopaedia, and most inhabitants in the world are able to answer simple questions.
What sets the dialogue apart, for me, is probably the wording and the sentence construction. Not being tied up with voice-actors tends to let the writers focus more on writing well and not writing on budget. This makes it so that very few lines feel forced or rehearsed, like they do in many other CRPGs. When you're playing Skyrim, if you ask someone a question, you will most likely get a very straight response. And like most CRPGs, the dialogue will be very exposition heavy, so that no player will be kept in the dark(and probably to capitalize as much on voice-acting as possible). Even the lowest of dirt farmers knows the location of the cave you're looking for, and probably know the state(and make) of the ruin inside the cave as well. It's quite different in Pillars. When you need information, you might have to seek out places where said information might exist. Like, if you're looking for something that has to do with religion, going to one of the many churches in Pillars might be more fruitful than asking the town drunk. Now I might be a bit harsh against Skyrim, but I do get the feeling that in Pillars, much greater care has been taken whit the script and the actors.
A thing that both demonstrates the care that has been put into the text and the lived in quality of the world is the fact that not all NPCs have the same viewpoint on everything. Some simply have different views on events, some have been told different facts and some even outright lie. It's not the overtly telegraphed lie that you usually find in games, it's lies that have some base in reality, lies that have intent and it's lies that are actually meant to deceive the player, not just act like "gotcha"-moments. It really brings the world together when you're being hustled by some priest because you didn't bother to read up on the finer points of said priests religion.
A non-intrusive morality system
Pictured above is my character sheet from the game. On the right side of the screen there is a "reputations" portion. This serves both as reputation and morality-system. Certain dialogue-options(and character actions) unlock reputations, that in turn open up new dialogue-options. While it's not a morality-system on paper, it does serve as one in many ways. Paladins have to follow certain reputations lest they face the consequences. Certain things are locked out from players who don't have a certain reputation. So, in practice, to me, it's a morality-system.
One really nice part about this system is that it is up to the player on how much they want to see of it. By default, you only find out about your reputations after the fact, but there is an option that displays reputation changes in the dialogue as it happens.
A small note on companions
I've waffled on for quite a bit about just the dialogue and story of the game. I see it as one of the greatest strengths of the game. The story and characters are complex and well-written(there are some not-so-good parts, but in my mind, they good out-weights the bad), and to provide some example of this, I'm going to talk about one of the side characters. Again, beware of small spoilers.
Meet Durance, a priest of Magran who serves as your main healer in the game. At first glance he is dirty, ragged, foul-mouthed and all around pretty despicable. He is also quite insane, or at least he puts up such a façade. He stays this way for most of the game, but when you start to peel off the layers of insanity, pride, anger and dirt, you find a downright pathetic and broken man.
See, back in the day, he did a really bad thing, for a cause he(and many) deemed necessary(and "good") and with the (supposed) blessing of his goddess. The problem: After said thing happened, his goddess stopped answering his calls. He was left alone, without even knowing truly what he did wrong. This broke him completely. Being a man dedicated to his goddess he lost the one thing that kept him going for such a long time. This event made him what he is in the game, and it's a pretty good story. It's not a happy story, but it is believable. You see the consequences of his actions, and the toll it has taken on him. While this serves as weak justification for him, it does humanize an otherwise pretty "terrible" person.
More to come later, when I've finished the game. but for now, thanks for reading.