Having reached its initial crowd-funding goal in record time, it would be fair to say that lots of people are excited for Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire. Its predecessor was both a critical and commercial success, and we got a chance to chat with its director, Josh Sawyer, about one of the biggest new features coming to the RPG sequel: a customizable boat stronghold that will serve as your mobile base throughout the game.
“When we looked the strongholds from Pillars, lots of people were disappointed by them,” said Sawyer during our phone interview.. “They didn’t really integrate with the story very well.” Due to the setting of Deadfire (which is a huge archipelago) it just didn’t make sense to him or the team to try and root players on a single land mass, when the game takes place across a bunch of different land masses separated by water.
Players will initially sail on a sloop-type ship crafted from the trees of Dyrwood, a location in the original game. Named “The Defiant,” this starting ship is capable and unique-looking, but several more specialized ships will be earnable as well.
“The Defiant isn’t the fastest, it doesn’t have the biggest guns, it’s just a good middle of the road option,” Sawyer told me. Different boats will be upgradeable with different sails, helms, hulls, captain’s quarters, and more.
One particularly neat upgrade is the on-board menagerie. Players were limited to one pet in Pillars of Eternity, but with the menagerie, you’ll be able to house lots of critters who will call your ship home. While Sawyer admits the benefit is “mostly cosmetic,” it’s a good example of how the team is addressing community feedback in Deadfire – even where little things are concerned.
Probably the most interesting new gameplay possibilities come in the form of ship-to-ship encounters though. Sawyer was quick to mention that there aren’t any turn-based tactical ship battles, scripted interactions will allow you to deal with other vessels in a variety of ways. For instance, if you spot a pirate ship a long ways out, you might switch sails in an attempt to trick them into thinking you’re a fellow pirate. Pretty sneaky!
If you can’t escape or fend other ships off, however, the two ships grapple and their respective crews will actually engage in a big inter-ship brawl, complete with enemies and allies leaping from deck to deck, which sounds pretty terrific in theory.
All told, Deadfire’s mobile, sea-bound strongholds are meant to facilitate the exploration of a world that sounds much larger and more fully realized than in the original. Sawyer, who helped design Infinity Engine classics like the Icewind Dale series, likened exploration in Deadfire to that of Fallout 1 and 2, where you pick a direction and go, rather than choosing between disjointed locales on a map –- an exciting prospect if, like me, you enjoy heading to places you have no business being in yet, just to see what you can get away with.
Vincent Ingenito is IGN’s foremost fighting game nerd. Follow him on Twitter and help him sort out his Street Fighter 5 character crisis.