Beast of Winter has high expectations following the RPG of the year, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire.
And while Beast of Winter certainly follows the hallmarks of what made the base game great with blistering blizzards and quippy one-liners, it’s also a piece of content that falls a bit short.
Did it leave you a bit … cold?
I see what you did there and you’re not funny, so stop it! Although, actually, it kind of did. And it’s got nothing to do with story because that’s pretty good.
Beast of Winter all begins with an invitation to the religious village of Harbingers Watch from Vatnir, a Priest Godlike – who can later become a companion in your party if you so wish. Harbingers Watch is actually set upon an iceberg and is being preserved by the frosty White Void as a portal to the Beyond is close by. But this has also given a gateway to a ferocious dragon, known as the messenger, who regularly slaughters the villagers in a bizarre ritual.
Perceived as the famed ‘Duskspeaker’, The Watcher is prophesized as the one to restore order and balance. And when it soon becomes clear things cannot stay as they are in Harbingers Watch, The Watcher’s penchant for leaving lots of death and destruction behind them certainly makes it seem as if they’re the champion for the job.
Beast of Winter definitely starts out with a bang as you confront the dragon, but it’s in learning more about what’s happening in Harbingers Watch and beyond that actually makes Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire’s first DLC most interesting. Indeed, there’s some varied puzzle solving to suit individual sections in the game – though to discuss it is quite spoilerific – and players will have an excellent amount of choice available to them throughout, but also learn a lot more about notable characters and their histories.
For example, selecting your party is as important as anything else because individual characters you’ve met in Deadfire will either have more or less to say about their surroundings based on their past, class and race.
Dialogue choices can also lead to some witty back and forth exchanges, but equally, put you in a difficult position that can completely change the outcome of the situation you find yourself in. This variety in content absolutely lends itself to another run through with different characters as you’re almost guaranteed a new experience each time around.
Thing is, the puzzle solving isn’t especially taxing. Which is fine because it means you get back to the quality writing quicker, but the overall content actually felt uncharacteristically short for a DLC. I breezed through Beast of Winter in one short sitting and actually found it all ended quite abruptly. To make matters worse, while I collected a lot of equipment and items, most of what I had equipped coming onto the island stayed with me when I left it.
True, the story reaches a natural conclusion and shouldn’t be prolonged for the sake of it, and admittedly there’s a side quest or two to play through, but they don’t really fill things out too much. Considering the size and scope of Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, I found the DLC quite measly in comparison.
What is here has been packed, though. The Watcher’s continued relationship with the gods, the frozen expanses, giving more of a backstory to events in Deadfire Archipelago, all while adding a new multiclass character. But despite some awesome battles, there’s not too many memorable moments here, or, at least, anything on par with / better than moments from the base game.
But Beast of Winter is an absolutely fine piece of DLC. It made me chuckle a few times, I really enjoyed the major battles and the game looks as stunning as ever. Most importantly, I was gripped from beginning to end.
I was just very surprised by how sudden and abruptly it all ended and how little my characters got to benefit from the new items. While the stakes are higher than normal, Beast of Winter just felt like a slightly longer quest that had been added to my journal rather than a new expansion. It was very nice to revisit Deadfire for an afternoon, it’s just a shame that there wasn’t much to digest at the end of it.
+ Epic-scale battles with larger than life foes
+ Interesting and effective new character
+ A well-told story which provides intriguing insight into lore and offers surprising choices
+ Beautiful designs and landscapes
+ Nice content variety ensures different playthroughs with different characters
– Over very quickly
– Didn’t find much equipment to replace what I already had
– Character models sometimes just disappear and occassional frame rate issues
– Content ends quite abruptly
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Beast of Winter
7 out of 10
Tested on PC
Code provided by the publisher