Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth – Review

Release Date: 15th August 2017

“Build a beautiful cathedral for me…”

Daedalic Entertainment (Edna & Harvey: The Breakout, Deponia) return with a fantastic new point-and-click adventure game based on the critically acclaimed novel The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (The Century Trilogy, Lie Down With Lions). You might feel like The Pillars of the Earth is directed solely at fans of the Kingsbridge series, but this is absolutely not the case. Despite the fact that it has clearly been based on the book, the level of interaction available in the storyline, and the way it changes depending on your actions means that even people who have never read the book will definitely enjoy the game. The Pillars of the Earth is incredibly compelling, and the characters are extremely likeable. As you progress you will find it difficult to make decisions that affect these characters negatively, even when it is necessary.

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The Pillars of the Earth starts you off very gently with a short tutorial. You will have no difficulty mastering the controls, as they are very similar to most other point-and-click games. Some controls are a little more complex, but there is nothing revolutionary about them. This is not a bad thing, however. Unnecessarily complicating the control system for a point-and-click game (I’m looking at you, Escape From Monkey Island) makes the game less enjoyable, and detracts from your focus on the story. Daedalic Entertainment are veterans of the adventure game genre, and have kept their control system easy to use and understand. This allows you to totally immerse yourself in the complex web of intersecting storylines with ease. Once you have finished the tutorial, which is optional, you are thrown directly into the first portion of the game.

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There are seven chapters in The Pillars of the Earth and it will take you roughly 30-45 minutes to complete each one. Of course, this depends on how much you agonise over the choices you make. You are constantly reminded as you play that these choices do not only affect the current character you are playing. In fact, these choices have very far-reaching effects indeed. You can’t even guarantee you will have time to consider these effects either! Most of the decisions you make in conversation are timed, and letting the timer run out means you remain silent. If you want to do more than stand there like a lemon you need to think on your feet. It would definitely be interesting to see the outcome of the game if you did remain silent for every timed conversation choice, though! You will get an overview of the decisions you made at the end of each chapter too. This increases replay value as you will want to go back and see what effects different choices will have.

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Full motion animation cutscenes in The Pillars of the Earth are quite nicely done in a painted style. These cutscenes tend to tell additional parts of the story that link your characters together in some way. A beautifully illustrated storybook style section handles the rest of the narration. You can sit back and enjoy these fully voice-acted sections, and give your clicking finger a rest! It’s unfortunate that the rest of the animation in the game is not always up to the same standard. In particular you’ll find yourself getting frustrated during long dialogue scenes, despite the interactive element. Much of the time the characters will be doing the same repetitive motion, and for some reason they’re unable to continue their sentence until they’ve completed that action. This leads to a lot of very immersion-breaking pauses while you wait for Brother Milius to salt yet another fish.

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It’s clear that Daedalic Entertainment know how important the audio elements of a game are. With an orchestral soundtrack by the FILMharmonic Orchestra, Prague they transport you completely to 12th Century England. Having the orchestra on board allows the developers to set the mood of each scene perfectly. Whether it’s the sombre atmosphere of a priory or a bustling town marketplace, every element is thoughtfully captured. You will feel your heart melt and even break a little when Ellen sings about the hunter and the lark. There’s only one real problem with the importance that’s been placed on the sound production. At times during crucial moments of dialogue it rises to a crescendo – making the words difficult to hear. If you aren’t playing with subtitles you may miss important points.

Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth is a great addition to the adventure game lineup from Daedalic Entertainment. They have worked extremely hard to do the novel justice, while still making the game enjoyable for players who haven’t read it. You should definitely add it to your collection if you’re a fan of both modern and classic adventure games, and you will absolutely want to play it more than once. Whether you want to explore the alternative dialogue options, or just hunt for all the achievements, it’s well worth a replay. Hand-painted backgrounds and strong attention to detail make the game visually appealing, and every character has their own unique personality. You may empathise with them or despise them, but however you feel the important part is that you connect with them. And once you’ve finished the game you’ll definitely want to read the novel!

Verdict: 7.6 out of 10

We were provided a copy of the game by Daedalic Entertainment for review purposes on Steam.

Written by: Ehryn Strong

When asked to choose my favourite game, my only reply is "LOOK! A THREE HEADED MONKEY!" before I flee to avoid the question. Marvel aficionado, collector of ball-jointed dolls (which are just as creepy as you might expect), and living proof that you don't need to be single or old to be a crazy cat person!

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