Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth is a series of books that sit neatly in my ever growing pile of shame. Everyone has one for just about every medium these days, and I’m no different. Still, when an interpretation of a literary work ends up doing the source material justice, or even manages to surpass it like Steven Spielberg did with Jaws, it’s a good excuse to jump in and enjoy the original author’s story and world.
Daedalic’s upcoming episodic series based on Pillars of the Earth aims to be a faithful and at the same time less than linear version of the novel, with full support from the author. For the slice of gameplay that I got to watch at E3, it certainly looks like it’ll be a beautiful and eventful adventure game. It showed the initial bits of the first episode, with one of the three playable protagonists, Jack, making a living in the woods with the help of his mother. The hunting section involved a limited quick time event, and according to the developer demoing the game, the outcome of the hunt would matter later on. In our case, Jack got a shot off and hit a deer, allowing him to get enough meat to make it through another day.
Eventually, Jack ran into a group that was tied to his own father, who abandoned him at birth and ended unknowingly meeting him at that moment. The demo then shifted to a limited section with some of the other protagonists, but the session was mostly focused on showing off gameplay through Jack’s portion of the game and a few incursions that moved the story through a pretty big map. According to Daedalic, each episode is set to run for about 8 to 10 hours, an impressive running time for the usual adventure game in this format. Then again, taking into account that the first volume of Pillars of the Earth is a brick of a book, it’s not surprising that this initial three-episode run is set to be long.
That’s certainly not a bad thing, because Pillars of the Earth is stupidly gorgeous. Daedalic’s no stranger to hand-drawn animation, with titles like the Deponia and The Whispered World series, and Pillars of the Earth is no exception. I came out extremely impressed by just how beautiful this game animates, giving personality to characters without resorting to dialog or gags. The same goes with the medieval England setting, which is very rarely explored in videogames outside of extremely complex tactical games like Crusader Kings. It’s quite refreshing to get to experience a story set in that moment in history, even though it obviously takes its liberties here and there.
Pillars of the Earth’s first episode is set to come out for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on August 15th, with the rest following shortly thereafter.