I’ve played my fair share of point-and-click adventure games, including Chains of Satinav, it’s sequel Memoria and the much adored Deponia series. While they aren’t disappointing games by any means, the genre never quite grew on me, till I played Daedalic’s latest title Pillars of the Earth.
Pillars of the Earth is a point-and-click adventure game based on the novel of the same name by British author Ken Follet, set in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, medieval England. It’s the second major game by Daedalic that features multiple playable characters and it works quite well too. The first was Memoria. Pillars of the Earth primarily follows three characters, Aliena, the daughter of the Earl of Shiring, Jack, who lives with his mother (Ellen) in the forest and Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge.
Pillars of the Earth Review: Plot
The game starts right before the conflict for the throne of England breaks out, and Kingsbridge and it’s surrounding regions get enveloped in the fighting. As all-out war breaks out, the situation turns from bad to worse and the people are pushed to their limits. This is when the core chapters of the game play out. Amidst the poverty, corruption and backstabbing, the player is faced with decisions that tests them morally as well as strategically.
At the beginning, Jack is still a young boy, who lives with his mother Ellen in a forest. Relying on the local wildlife and vegetation, Ellen keeps no contact with the outside world. Then one day, the outcasts run into Tom-builder (and his family), a master mason looking for work. The two groups decide to travel together to Shiring in hope of finding a job for Tom, in return for food and shelter. This is where they first meet Aliena, the daughter of the local Earl. While they run into some hurdles, Tom is eventually successful in getting a job. However, their hardships are far from over as the fighting begins and their real test commences.
Pillars of the Earth covers many themes prevalent in Medieval Europe, the most prominent being the power wielded by the Church. Religion was often used as a tool to control and manipulate the masses. Those who found out about this were silenced one way or another. Even Brother Philip who is a priest, almost looses is faith at some point, firstly because of the abuse of power by the clergy and secondly, due to the intolerable hardships the people have to endure. The other core subject of the game is power and one of it’s primary outcomes…war. It is a glaring example of how even the noblest of people get corrupted by power and those who are supposed to protect the weak, do the exact opposite. All in all, Pillars of the Earth covers many dark and sensitive topics that are not meant for the faint of heart.
Pillars of the Earth Review: Gameplay and Characters
The gameplay is similar to any other Daedalic point and click adventure game, albeit quite straightforward and most of the puzzles are fairly simple. This never really bothered me (mainly cos I suck at puzzles), as the strong narrative kept me immersed. Pillars of the Earth features beautiful, hand painted visuals and a decent soundtrack make for a charming atmosphere.
The most interesting aspect of the game are perhaps the characters. The three leading characters often contradict each other. Aliena often struggles between prioritizing her duties as the lady of Shiring and her own feelings which causes her a lot of distress. Jack and Brother Philip are complete opposites of each other. While one is a man of science and doesn’t pay much heed to superstitions and miracles, the other relies on the scripture for almost every decision of his life. This leads to some trying scenarios for our protagonists, all of who desire the best for the community, only their methods differ vastly. It comes down to the player to choose which path they’re gonna take.
In Pillars of the Earth, at the end of every chapter, the game summarizes your decisions, making player-choice seem like an important facet of the game. But after completing the game multiple times, I came to the conclusion that for the most part it’s just the illusion of choice. The end is always the same, only the paths taken vary slightly. It appears that Daedalic didn’t want to change the novel’s original plot by much and decided to stick to just one main route.
Pillars of the Earth Review: Verdict
If you are new to the genre and have always wanted to try out a point and click adventure game, then Pillars of the Earth is the ideal choice. The puzzles are simple, the narrative is powerful and the characters make a lasting impression. While player choice is basically inconsequential, the game is perfect for a beginner looking for a story-rich game with a strong caste and authentic atmosphere.