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Ken Follett’s The Pillars Of The Earth

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 1 - 2017

Videogame adaptation of classic literature.

 
Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth started life as a book, one of those things that are published on a material known as paper. Published in 1989, it is a mighty work of historical fiction centered around the building of a cathedral in 12th century England, and the lives of a few key figures involved.

 
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Now, it also happens to be a point and click adventure game from Daedalic Entertainment. If you happen to enjoy your point and click adventures filled with dragons, zombies or small talking furballs, then chances are that the much more serious tale that is told in The Pillars of the Earth will not be for you. However, if you want to get swept up in tale containing politics, religion, war and the struggle of the common man, all set in a small fictional 12th century town, then prepare to get lost in this beautiful game.

 
Daedalic have taken a leaf from the Telltale playbook for The Pillars of the Earth, presenting the game in an episodic format. Although players will purchase the full game from the outset, it is in fact split into three separate parts. The first part is now available to play, while the following two parts will be presented to the player once they have done. The episodic format has proved popular with the point and click fans, allowing a story to be enjoyed over an extended period, rather than being consumed all at once.

 
And The Pillars of the Earth is a story that benefits from the episodic format. This is a narrative driven game which is very light on gameplay, much preferring to leave the player to sink into the story itself. As such, it demands concentration of the player, an investment of time, and no distraction.

 
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Players will find themselves controlling key characters in the story as their paths run alongside each other and sometimes cross. Life was pretty grim back in the 12th century, and this comes through in the game from the very beginning. The backdrop of building the fictional Kingsbridge Cathedral is surrounded by political intrigue, religious corruption, the threat of war and the struggle of poverty. As you can imagine, the story can be described best as being “heavy”.

 
But the story is the key component of the game. The gameplay that moves this story along is very light, and will mostly involve players moving the currently controlled character around and finding the next action or conversation to progress. All available interactions on the screen can be highlighted with the press of a button, emphasizing the games focus on the story rather than any challenge. There are no brain thumping puzzles to be found in the game, so there is nothing really to slow the progress.

 
The conversations are more involved, with players given choices as to how they converse with others in the game. This can obviously lead to some variation in the story, but at the end of the day The Pillars of the Earth is very faithful to the original text and I can’t see that the choices a player makes will have any impact on the overall game.

 
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Daedalic really have displayed mastery of the medium with the visuals in The Pillars of the Earth. The animation on top of hand painted backgrounds works incredibly well to set the overall feel of the game, giving it a mature cartoon style. Sometimes the animations can be a little janky, but the backgrounds really are among some of the best I have seen in a videogame, which is pretty impressive given the subject matter lacks any fantastical pop that would make them stand out. The soundtrack is of an equally high level, framing each scene perfectly, and even the voice acting comes across well, although the pacing sometimes feels a little off.

 
Mechanically, there are a few issues with the gameplay, although this can all be fixed down the line through patches. Sometimes it can be difficult to get the character into the right position to trigger something, and the occasional glitch managed to break the immersion. But there was nothing catastrophic, rather minor annoyances that can be quickly forgotten.

 
The main problem with The Pillars of the Earth is the story itself. You could describe it as a “grown up” tale, but that would suggest that players who enjoy stories about Zombies or Raccoons with guns are not grown up. It is a mature tale that moves along slowly and takes effort to invest in. As such, I feel that many players will be turned away from the game without giving it a fair chance.

 
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Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth is a very different type of point and click adventure, one that leaves fantasy and fancy by the side of a rain-soaked mud path. There is no denying that the game is very well made, and the story is certainly one that is worthy of the acclaim it has received. But unless you have already read the book, or have a passing interest in historical fiction, The Pillars of the Earth will be a hard sell. For a first episode, the plot moves slowly but gives depth to the characters and setting. Invest the time and the fate of the characters, and of the cathedral itself, will be enough to leave the player waiting for the next episode.

 

 ★★★★★★★½☆☆ 



 

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