I was downright gleeful when I learnt that Avowed—Obsidian’s upcoming first-person fantasy RPG—was set in the Pillars of Eternity world of Eora. If there’s one thing I’m perpetually a bit mad about, it’s that the Pillars games didn’t do much, much better than they did (If there’s a second, it’s that Tyranny somehow managed to do even worse). To my eyes, Avowed is the series’ second shot at mainstream success.
But just because Avowed is returning to the Pillarsverse™ doesn’t mean we’re merely getting those isometric CRPGs in a swanky first-person wrapper. In a recent chat with PC Gamer’s Ted Litchfield, Avowed’s game director Carrie Patel and gameplay director Gabe Paramo mentioned that the new game is going a bit Skyrim with it, leaving behind the Pillars games’ class system in favour of a set of ability trees you can sample from as you level up.
“There’s multiple ability trees,” Paramo told PCG, “it is a classless game. The player will be able to kind of pick and choose their abilities as they level up and progress, and you will be able to respec.” You will choose between different background archetypes at the game’s start, but those “don’t bind the player to particular choices or builds,” said Patel, and instead “provide kind of a starting point for building your character, your headcanon.”
It’s a dramatic but not wholly unexpected shift away from Pillars of Eternity’s crunchy salad of Paladins, Ciphers, Mages, Chanters and so on. I suspect quite a few people will be sad to see them go, but it’s probably the right choice for a first-person RPG that’s aiming to be as accessible as your standard modern Bethesda fare. Then again, I’ve heard that Baldur’s Gate 3 is quite popular even with its classes, stats, and number crunching. Perhaps a Pillars-style class system would get a fairer hearing if it was released today.
Plus, it’s not like all traces of the classes you know and love are being scrubbed from Eora. Somewhere on those ability trees lurks “as many cool abilities [as] made sense to translate from a kind of CRPG top-down perspective into first-person,” said Paramo, “so you’ll just have to wait” to see whether you can run headlong into battle singing songs like Kana Rua did.