Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Once more we dive into the crowd-funded return to classic role playing with the second expansion to Obsidian Entertainment’s Pillars of Eternity. Laying it all out up front, I’m not afraid to say, The White March: Part Two is quite possibly (or at least almost) exactly what I could have asked for out of a follow-up to Part One.
This last boost of adventures is set directly after wrapping the events of the first expansion. Your character has travelled back to the Dyrwood, but now a vision warns of a forgotten army that will lay waste to all you just finished saving, then spread into the lands you're trying to save. That’s where this story begins.
Building on what was introduced in the original game, and first chapter of this DLC, the gameplay is still fantastic to experience. Deep, technical, real-time-with-pause roleplaying; a quality, lore-heavy narrative; and plenty of missions, tasks, bounties, and places to explore. The difference this time round is that the end of the core missions felt like solid, satisfying conclusions to the side-tales that are being told.
Due to how high a level my characters already were, and my not opting to play with the difficulty of the enemies increased (a returning option from Part One), completing all the content for this DLC added another fun-filled 12-16 hours to my total game time. And, as was the situation with The White March: Part One, Part Two takes place before entering the final hours of the main campaign.
Again, no spoilers, but for those who have already played and finished the core campaign, or read my Pillars of Eternity review, you’ll remember there’s no continuation after you complete the game. When the “Pre-End Game Save” appears, that’s your cue to stop with the main campaign, and start on the DLC. Oh, and be sure to double check places you’ve already been for any ramifications you might need to tend to before wrapping the mystery of the Hollowborn.
So, what changes did this expansion, and the 3.0 update that released alongside it for all Pillars of Eternity players, bring? Well, the first thing I noticed when jumping back into my save, was when I rested the party, the Survival skill now allowed me to change what stats were temporarily given a resting boost - that’s when I really understood that these guys just love making little iterations to their game to make it better. That change wasn’t the only little tweak that was made, but it was certainly one of the more instantly noticeable ones.
The White March: Part Two certainly added some massive, lore-shaking events that left me thirsty for more.
A level cap increase to 16, making you even more powerful; the ability to recruit an all-new 11th party member; a new Story Mode that lets players blitz through the campaign; a few new Stronghold features; the ability to play all of Act 3 (of the main campaign) with enemy level scaling on - and many, many more improvements to the overall gameplay have been added, too.
Personally, I’m quite a fan of the Stronghold additions. I liked visitors turning up asking for assistance, and having their quests be mini, narrative-heavy adventures for you to send your holed-up party members on, where the rewards seemed to be based on how well you paired the party member with the quest.
One really cool side quest has your claim on Caed Nua (your Stronghold) challenged. I liked how it began - it seemed simple enough, but the rate at which it escalated was awesome! I managed to complete the overall quest quite quickly because of how much I had already done, but the way it wrapped left me as giddy as a school-girl on prom night - I really do love the way Pillars of Eternity handles it’s worn parchment, pick-an-option events, of which we’re once again treated to a number.
The ranging scale, difficulty, and how many options are afforded to you in handling all the different objectives thrown your way in this game, and this DLC, are so much fun. I’ve said it in these Pillars reviews before, but they really do leave me feeling like I’m having a personal table-top role-playing experience.
Not only does this DLC bring to the game a fun side story taking place up in the snow-capped mountains of The White March, but, like Part One’s incredibly challenging Cragholdt Bluffs area, Part Two introduces another new area that manages to continue the story told at the Bluffs - so be sure to fully explore, and complete the missions that take place there.
The story of The White March may not have much bearing on the events that unfold during the final hours, but the conclusions to all that new content has no doubt left paths for events to unfold in future Pillars of Eternity expansions, and sequels - provided we get them.
Was everything perfect? No - I still don’t have my love options, there were a few glitches here and there, and sometimes the difficulty spikes drastically (even for a max level party), but The White March: Part Two certainly added some massive, lore-shaking events that left me thirsty for more.
Obsidian Entertainment have managed to have the ante upped, and I feel the entire story told throughout Parts One and Two place The White March on a higher pedestal than most expansions, especially these days. This DLC is more than worth the asking price.