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The Pillars of the Earth

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Release Date: Aug. 15, 2017

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PC Review - 'The Pillars of the Earth' Book Two - Sowing the Wind

by Andreas Salmen on Jan. 18, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

The Pillars of the Earth is a 2-D point-and-click adventure video game adaptation based on Ken Follett's best-selling novel.

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Episodic content seems to be the go-to formula for adventure games these days, especially those that rely on a good story. What Telltale Games started years ago has been picked up by Daedalic, a German developer of predominantly classic point-and-click adventures. Its latest project, The Pillars of the Earth game, is comprised of several episodes, or books, to build a continuous storyline.

Unlike Telltale Games' titles, The Pillars of the Earth can only be purchased as a whole, although it's released in intervals. The first book, From the Ashes, was released in August 2017, and it was a well-made visual novel that combined several known mechanics from classic adventures with choice-driven visual novel elements. However, the immediate impact of our choices wasn't clear yet, so we're curious to see how they impact Book Two: Sowing the Wind

While From the Ashes took its time introducing the main characters and the initial conflict, Sowing the Winds changes the pace and connects them to a more cohesive storyline. The first entry was a bit overwhelming since the characters were all over the place, making it difficult to keep track of all the names and events. This is less of a problem in the second book, but the lack of a "Previously, in Book One" refresher made it tough to jump back into the game and remember the names and relations of the characters we visited about four months ago. Sowing the Wind takes us back in time so we see Aliena and Richard, the children of the forcibly removed Earl of Shiring, coming to grips with losing everything and being held captive by a violent maniac, William Hamleigh, who will remind "Game of Thrones" of Ramsay Bolton.

After Aliena and Richard flee their ordeal and eventually join the remaining cast of characters, the story feels more streamlined. Sowing the Wind connects them in a satisfying way, with some relationships featured more prominently than others. The overarching storylines from the beginning remain largely untouched, and the plot has its share of twists and turns, as fans of the book may know. The story is told in an engaging way, but Sowing the Wind has significant pacing problems. The beginning and end are full of excitement, decisions, and touching moments, but the mundane middle segment overstays its welcome.

Another issue is the sense of time. The game jumps through time without much indication or providing an idea of the impact. It's is evident that time has passed and some documents state the year, but it happens so quickly. The end of the story practically batters you with events, which stands in stark contrast to the slow proceedings beforehand. The story is worth your time, but gameplay-wise, I started to question the concept more than I had back in August.

While the combination of a visual novel and point-and-click adventure worked fairly well in Book One, which featured frequent changes of scenery to introduce the characters and the story, the longer and quieter moments in Sowing the Wind suffer under the lack of a real challenge.

Most of the point-and-click portions aren't too long, but when there aren't any major story elements to push the narrative forward, they fall surprisingly flat. It looks and feels like a classic Adventure, but it lacks puzzles. There are tasks to accomplish, but they usually entail grabbing an item and using it in a specific interaction or handing it to another character. It feels like we're playing the messenger, and there is no sense of challenge. Overall, it's a step in the right direction, but I'd love to see story-driven games take more of a gamble and entrust their players with more advanced interactions. Compared to the likes of Telltale Games, there is more to the game than just story and dialogue events.

Of course, those are heavily featured as well. Dialogue and story are well written and adapted from the original and well played by their voice actors. When we don't click our way through environments, we occasionally travel to other cities, which is done in a text-based adventure style, similar to the Sorcery! games or 80 Days. The game is giving us a choice in dialogues and travel, and they seem to impact the story and character relationships, but the impact isn't overwhelming … yet.

The major twists are generated by the original script which you do not impact as much as you'd like. It'll be interesting to see how the third book will handle things, but we have to wait a couple of months to see that for ourselves. What's available is a strong story, characters who are easy to like or hate, and a distinct tale that involves some minor decision-making. Be prepared for your choices to not immediately alter the story in drastic ways. If you're fine with that, there is plenty to like in Sowing the Wind. Based on the preview of the final segment, Book Three, it may change the pace of the story yet again, which may lead the game in another exciting direction.

Visually, the game still looks fantastic. It's an interactive painting come to life in all respects. It's not without flaws, with many players experiencing save game issues on Steam. Thankfully, we didn't encounter those issues, except for a few weird audio glitches that were resolved by restarting the game once in a while. Sowing the Wind will take approximately three to four hours to complete, and it is mostly a captivating ride.

The Pillars of the Earth: Book Two – Sowing the Wind has exciting twists and turns, and it showcases great character development for some protagonists. However, it stumbles when it comes to pacing and the overall gameplay concept. This episode's engaging and interactive story has us hoping that everything is leading up to a promising finale.

Score: 8.0/10

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