Reviews// Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth

Posted 28 Sep 2017 16:18 by
As a big fan of point and click style adventure games I am ashamed to say that I was unaware of Daedalic Entertainment's attempt at adapting Ken Follet's 1989 historical fiction novel The Pillars of the Earth.

Adventure games have come a long way over the last 5-10 years. A genre once seemingly consigned to history has been reinvigorated by games in Telltale's various franchises and more recently Dontnod Entertainment's fantastic Life is Strange.

More recently, developers have taken the format of choice-based storytelling and modernised it, removing elements that were always irritating, such as searching screens for obscure items, bizarre puzzles and frustrating 'logic.' These games are extremely streamlined when compared to their PC counterparts of the 1990s.

Daedalic Entertainment has taken a slightly different approach with its adaptation of The Pillars of the Earth. Some of the choices the devs have made are perhaps inevitable because the overall story is, if you will excuse the pun, set in stone. Although the player can make decisions at various points throughout the game, I rarely felt that these decisions had a significant impact on the development of the story.

In addition, navigation in the game shares more in common with the LucasArts and Sierra games of the past than its more streamlined contemporaries. Nevertheless, none of these aspects should prove too much of a barrier to enjoyment should the story engage the player.

The Pillars of the Earth takes place in 12th century England with most of the 'action' occurring in the fictional village/town of Kingsbridge. The game is not yet complete as currently only this first part is available, with the second coming later this year and a final entry due for release next year. In part one the player controls three separate characters over seven chapters of the book, making decisions and influencing the development of the plot as a new cathedral is constructed in Kingsbridge.

Of these three characters, one is an engineer who is obsessed with the technical side of cathedral construction, his dialogue mostly focussing on reasons for architectural decisions with little consideration for the religious reasons for cathedral design.

Aside from this 'builder', in other chapters the player controls a young boy who has spent the majority of his life living in the woods with his mother who has been exiled from the city for some unknown reason. Although less directly involved in plot development than other characters, the boy's contribution is significant as he tips the balance of power at key points through his unseen actions.

The final playable character is a monk who arrives in Kingsbridge following the death of the cathedral's Prior. Of all three characters the monk engages most directly with the political game that is being played out in the background by the different factions who all stand to either gain or lose from the construction of the cathedral.
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