Fistbump for a Fig: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

I posted about Banner Saga 3’s Kickstarter yesterday, a game that involved the return of its developer Stoic Studio to crowdfunding after their efforts to self-fund the second installment didn’t go over well. For some developers, the reasons to return to crowdfunding after an initial success are complicated; but for every example like that, there are many more clear-cut examples. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is the most recent example of the latter.

The first Pillars of Eternity remains one of the biggest gaming-related crowdfunding successes so far, after it, as “Project Eternity,” raised a total of $3,986,794 by the end of its campaign. That was despite only having a $1.1 million initial goal, meaning you can tell it launched during a time when crowdfunding was still hot. But that was also because of the reputation of the developers, as its intended audience remembered the superlative efforts of Obsidian Entertainment in the past. Fate hadn’t been kind to them at the time, as a project of theirs was cancelled by Microsoft, and they had a tough time forming partnerships with other publishers.

Crowdfunding has been good for reviving the dormant isometric western RPG genre, too, which faded when PC gaming previously lost its luster in the early 00s. The fanbase wanted them back after AAA efforts became more streamlined in approach, and knew Obsidian was capable of handling such a title. The combination of those factors explains why it was overwhelmingly successful.

While Pillars of Eternity also sold well beyond its campaign, it’s fine for developers to receive a guarantee that the project they’re developing isn’t fruitless, which is why they’ve returned to crowdfunding for the sequel. But instead of using Kickstarter again, they’re relying on Fig, a crowdfunding service that allows for those among the gaming audience and investors to back projects openly. They’re once again asking for $1.1 million to fund the project.

PoEII’s story will kick off with the return of Eothas, a god of light and rebirth who inhabits a stone beneath the main character’s stronghold, and destroys it during his ascension. This also leaves the protagonist, the same “Watcher” from the previous game, at the brink of death. Their quest will require seeking answers for why this happened, though the eventual tussles with the gods will get worse before they improve. The adventure will span across the Deadfire Archipelago, a vast land comprised of islands that span thousands of miles with lush fields and desolate-but-aesthetically pleasing environments. Like most RPGs, you’ll form a party during the quest, and some characters involved will be familiar faces from the previous installment. Expect it to also live up to its nature as an isometric western RPG by having deep customization options and combat scenarios.

Anyone who’s played or seen the first game in action can see the significant visual leap Obsidian has provided for this game. This is shown through the environmental and special effects, which includes a dynamic weather system capable of unleashing rain and wind at certain times. While it’s unsurprisingly not on par with a AAA effort, it looks impressive for what it is, as demonstrated through the animated GIFs on the page and its pitch video. It shows that the game has been in development for a little over a year. But given how they still need an extra $1.1 million for their initial goal, it shows how expensive it is to even make a smaller project like this one.

It took only 24 hours for the initial goal to be reached, and soar beyond that, which shows how there was significant demand for a sequel. It also shows that charging $30 for the base digital copy was a good idea, though a physical option is also available for $60. As of this writing, it’s currently at $1,622,027, meaning it’s gone far enough to reach two stretch goals despite having slightly under 26 days to go. For the first one, the game will now include the ability to add two subclasses per class, giving players more potential to have all their bases covered by having characters with extensive move sets. They’ll likely balance this so it doesn’t break the game.

The $1.6 million stretch goal was recently reached, which will raise the level cap from 16 to 18, and add a Russian localization. At $1.8 million, Xoti, a monk who wields a sickle and lantern, will be added, alongside a Polish language localization. The latter goal should be reached by the middle of the week, and it’s possible they have more planned. If not, perhaps they want to avoid promising too many stretch goals, to prevent its remaining development period from running into any unintended hitches.

Obsidian plans to release PoEII in the first quarter of 2018, but as I’ve mentioned in many crowdfunding-related posts, these games never release at their originally-planned times. Don’t complain when it slips beyond that timeframe. The first game was explicitly designed to be played with a keyboard and mouse, and didn’t receive console ports because of that. Expect the same to happen here.

PoEII is the first big crowdfunding campaign in a while, and hopefully it’s the start of a trend.

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