Gather round children. Let me tell you a story. A long, slow story.
Patience is not my thing. Partly that is true in my life in general but more realistically this applies to my gaming habits. I can’t grind in a game. If a game requires too much grinding without any payoffs I cannot play it and this means I have missed many games of age: WOW, Runescape, and more recent games such as The Division and For Honor.
For those of you with patience for these sorts of things, then The Pillars of the Earth is definitely the game for you. If you can forge through there is wonderful story tapping on many human qualities: Our political corruptions, our desire to discover ourselves and our reliance of religion for security of mind. This first episode teases a much more wondrous story for those who can stomach the drip-feed it is given to you through.
Based on the novel of the same name by Ken Follett, the story is told between two of the book’s characters and their intertwining tales. The first of which is Phillip, a welsh abbey prior who travels to the local priory to meet an old friend, and unwittingly starts a large war between two settlements. The second is Jack, an isolated child who grew up off grid with his mother, and is hostile to the outside world.
These two plots all revolve around the larger story. King Henry I has died without an heir, and his nephew and daughter are feuding over who should be the new heir. While this political turmoil exists, it is more overarching, and the story is very commonly focused down on to each character and how their stories overlap. These multiple layers of overlapping mean that the story is intriguing and packed with emotion helped along by wonderful voice acting, even if the welsh Phillip sounds nothing like a Welshman.
But behind the amazing story and quite stunning visuals is still the overlying problem of the game being slow. The story itself moves at the pace of a snail on Valium and happily forgoes tension for more short-term drama. But that isn’t the only thing slow about this game. The visual fidelity means any point where the game loads means the game grinds down to a halt, even with my fairly powerful PC loading screens still faded to and from black. For slower PCs the game loads every time a new scene plays which is often. On its own this would not be too bad. But in a game with a slow-paced story constant loading means that the game becomes even slower and the aforementioned snail on Valium suddenly starts seeming quite quick.
As much as it kills me, I’m hooked on The Pillars of the Earth’s story. There are two more episodes and if they build a story as well and fill it full of great characters I’ll definitely play it, as much as it tests my patience.
I can wholly recommend The Pillars of the Earth. I’m scoring it an 8, but it comes with the caveat that the slow pace is gonna put off a lot of people. If you have the patience of a saint, then this is definitely for you. But if your patience is short then this will be a coin toss on whether the story outweighs the pace.