Pillars of Eternity Interview with Brandon Adler

Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire is already our favourite RPG this year but it seems like there’s still plenty more to come.

We spoke to Brandon Adler, Game Director on Pillars 2, at Gamescom to find out more about upcoming DLC, Seeker, Slayer, Survivor, and The Forgotten Sanctum. We also got some exclusive information on the future of the franchise and more details on quality of life updates coming to the game over the next year.

Why have Obsidian taken a different approach to DLC this time around with PoE 2 receiving a three part season pass compared to the two part saga of The White March in Pillars 1? What was your focus?

BA: We wanted to give a bunch of different adventures for people to go and explore. Archipelago itself is a great background with a lot of different islands and for each one you’ve got a different story and different environments. It’s also a great way to give players a bit of a break so they’re not doing the same stuff over and over. That was important for us.

You’ve recently released Beast of Winter and Seeker, Slayer, Survivor is up next. What can you tell us about the forthcoming expansions and how will they continue to evolve and iterate on PoE 2?

BA: On each of the DLCs, we wanted to explore a different aspect of the game. In the first DLC – Beast of Winter – it was important for us to focus on exploration and puzzle elements. And even digging a little deeper into the lore of things. 

With Seeker, Slayer, Survivor we’re focusing on the combat, trying to explore how far can we take the combat system, and what kind of stuff can we be doing with this. What kind of cool encounters can we be setting up with this? 

And then with The Forgotten Sanctum we’re going to build and provide the best dungeon experience. So it will be very dungeon dive-like and will really appeal to players who love Fort Deadlight, it’s going to have the same kind of feel. A big, cohesive dungeon.

So, we’re just taking what’s already in the game and evolving it to the max.

Talking more about Seeker, Slayer, Survivor. We now know there will be arenas in the content. How will those actually work? Will people be able to revisit those arenas, likening them to challenge rooms?

BA: Yeah, absolutely. One of the main things we’re going to be doing in the DLC is having the player collect artefacts and those artefacts unlock a variety of fights. It might be between 1 to 3 fights per artefact. So you’re going to go through an entire sequence of fights, usually they’re tied together in terms of story. And at the very end you’ll get a big bonus if you decide you want to take on all of the fights.

While those are unlocked, you can actually run through them multiple times. You’re not going to unlock any new loot or anything like that, but they are available for people to go through them as many times as they want. They are an important aspect of the DLC but they’re not the only thing that’s there, though. While it is core to the game – to get through the critical path of the DLC, you are going to have to do a bunch of these fights – but there’s a lot that are like side content which you don’t have to do if you don’t want to. They’re there if you want to go exploring and find all the artefacts.

There has also been some suggestion that Seeker, Slayer, Survivor might have more of a nautical focus with ship-focused combat. Is that the case?

BA: No, we’re not really pushing on that. The base game itself is taking the focus on revamping some of those systems. It was a big point of feedback from our community that they weren’t really necessarily happy with how the nautical combat really played out. So we’re actually revisiting that and Josh is actually heading that up.

While there are some small elements in Seeker, Slayer, Survivor, as in you’re going to be on an island so you can actually sail around, there’s not a real big focus on that. 

Is the aim still to release Seeker, Slayer, Survivor in September?

BA: Currently we’re still aiming for September, though it could slip into October. That said, it would be very early October if it did. 

Are you able to talk to us about The Forgotten Sanctum?

BA: A little bit. We’re not really ready to talk about it too much, but I can give you a little heads-up on some things.

We know it builds on some character choices and we got a bit of a taste of that in Beast of Winter, one big decision in particular. Can we expect a bit more of that in The Forgotten Sanctum? 

BA: I will say – without spoilers – I think the choice at the end of that one is going to be really, really cool. People are going to be digging it.

So, each of the DLCs focuses on one of the Gods. Seeker, Slayer, Survivor is Galawain and Beast of Winter had Rymrgand. The next one I can’t talk about just yet, but it will be one of the gods and will be a bit more mysterious.

What I can really get into is that it is spellcaster focused, so for those who’ve rolled a spellcaster they’re going to have a lot of new things to dig around in, like new spells and things like that. Lots of new equipment for them. As mentioned, we have a big focus on the dungeon-diving aspect and delving overall. That will be a big part of it and how we explore those different spaces. 

There are also Arch Mages in the world and they’re all trying to figure out what do we do with Eothas. There’s this big, gigantic God, tromping around, smashing up everything. They all have different ideas on how to deal with him and so you’re going to be dealing with them in some respects. Like, do you back certain Arch Mages, do you betray certain ones? Do you say ‘screw it’ and do your own thing? That’s some of the choices going to be in there as well, dealing with that.

The description of the DLC suggests that your actions and consequences will be felt all across Deadfire at the end. Does that potentially link up to future additional content / build toward a third game? What is that description meant to convey?

BA: We are planning to have some additional reactivity with the game, even more so than we had with Beast of Winter and planning for Seeker, Slayer, Survivor. We will have more of a direct impact on some of things that deal with Eothas. I can’t get into exactly what that is but that will be there.

Currently we do not have plans for any additional paid DLC after the third one, obviously that would depend on the perception of the content and what we’re doing.

The franchise itself, there’s a lot of different things we want to do with the IP. And it’s not even just isometric games. We really want to support the IP long term in a lot of different ways. For instance, I know Josh was talking about pitching a Final Fantasy tactics type game using the Pillars universe. I know there’s a lot of people at the studio who want to do something in the vein of an Elder Scrolls. So there’s a lot of things we’re kind of exploring for that.

For the third game, we’re still talking about that and seeing what make sense right now.

Will you continue to release free DLC for the game beyond this point? If so, are you able to talk about what that might be?

BA: We just released at the same time as Beast of Winter – what I want to say is the last big announced pack of free DLC – is The Deck of Many Things. But we have a lot of future plans. We want to continue supporting Pillars 2 for a while.

One of the things that Josh is heading up is the God Challenges. We released 2 already, one is the Berath Challenge, where if you’re knocked out for more than six seconds then your character dies. There’s another where you can’t pause the game or put it in slow mode. We have a bunch of challenges lined up, one for each of the gods, for advanced users. Say if you’ve played the game through but want to try it in a different way. You can even stack all of these things as well, so in theory, you could make the game impossible to complete should you want to.

We’re also adding in mega-bosses, and our first mega-boss is one of the hardest fights in the entire game. I’ve seen a few of them in action at the studio where we’ve actually had the bosses fight each other as we figured that would be fun. They’re pretty frickin’ crazy so I think people are going to enjoy fighting those things. 

We are also making a bunch of quality of life improvements. For instance, users have said ‘Hey, the enchanting system is kind of confusing and I’m not really sure how some of this stuff works’, so we’re revamping that. Just for ease of use and communication. So there’s a lot of stuff over the course of the next year we’re adding into the game. Just like with Pillars 1, people really appreciated we made the additional effort to put a lot of quality of life stuff afterwards and we’re going to be doing a lot of that as well.

That’s great news and I guess that feeds into the console releases you’ve got coming up as well.

BA: Right. I think those are towards the end of the year? Like Christmas time is when we’re aiming for that.

We’ve also just announced Switch, so it’s coming to that as well as PS4 and Xbox One. It should control pretty similar to how the Pillars 1 console version did. So if you’re familiar with that, it will control in much the same way and feel pretty similar. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and answer our questions. We look forward to the future of Pillars of Eternity.

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