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PC Report: Pillars of Eternity

By LDK on Mar 29 2015 12:05 PM in Port reports
PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor LDK. For an up to date account of Pillars of Eternity fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.

Pillars of Eternity is an old-school RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment, a very experienced developer of RPG games. The game is only released on PCs so naturally we are very interested in this title so dive in to find out, how the game performs, looks and controls.

System Requirements


Minimum

  • CPU: Intel Core i3-2100T @ 2.50 GHz / AMD Phenom II X3 B73
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • HDD: 14 GB
  • GPU: ATI Radeon HD 4850 or NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT
  • OS: Microsoft Windows Vista 64-bit, OS X 10.6.3 Leopard 64-bit, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS 64-bit or newer

Recommended

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-2400 @ 3.10 GHz / AMD Phenom II X6 1100T
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • GPU: Radeon HD 7700 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570
The minimum system requirements are very low and Pillars of Eternity should run on vast majority of systems, including systems with integrated GPUs. Required graphics hardware is 7 years old and in mainstream range, but that is expected due the nature of the game. Download size is around 6GB, however the game takes almost 14GB on the harddrive. The only obstacle could be 64-bit operating system as the game is supposedly prone to crashing on 32-bit systems.

Testing has been done on a Windows 7 system with an Intel Core i7-2700k clocked to 4.5GHz, 32 GB RAM and HD 6870 with 1GB of VRAM at the 2560x1600 resolution. The game key was purchased by Andytizer.

Graphics settings



graphics

Pillars of Eternity offers just a small number of usual options in the Graphics settings menu. There are resolution, vertical synchronization, gamma, fullscreen toggle and colorblind mode options. This is understandable due to the nature of the game as the Pillars of Eternity uses prerendered 2D backgrounds and only 3D models are characters, effects and moving objects.

Multi-monitor setups are not directly supported by Pillars of Eternity, but there is a Cage Cursor option for these systems. This toggle restricts mouse movement to the game window. Unfortunately it is also a little bit broken and few times this feature didn't worked at all or restriction was completely off a real game window position. Alt-tab to the desktop and back to the game fixes these issues though.

Resolution works little bit differently we are used to. The higher the resolution is, the more of the map is visible so on very high resolution (4k for example) screens some locations can be seen whole without need of scrolling. GUI in Pillars of Eternity scales on resolution nicely, for example inventory screen takes roughly 80% of screen regardless of resolution. This is a nice solution for very high resolution or DPI screens as some older games with high resolution patches has very small and almost unusable GUIs. There is also a Font Scale slider that affects some of the text windows and tooltips. This slider can be adjusted from 70% to 130%. Full resolution screenshot of resolution comparison here.

resolution

Performance analysis


Unfortunately there will be no benchmarks or lovely graphs for Pillars of Eternity due to the 2D/3D nature of the game and a fact that there are no graphical settings to test. The game on my main system runs between 50 to 80 FPS at 2560x1600 resolution, performance is highly based on how many characters are there on the screen as these are only 3D objects needed rendering. I've noticed slight performance drop the longer the game runs, but restarting game fixes it. Memory footprint is around 1,5GB RAM and fills completely my 1GB VRAM.

I've also tested Pillars of Eternity on my very old system (Core 2 Duo E6750@2,66GHz, 4GB RAM, Radeon HD4850), and the game runs between 45 to 60 FPS at 720p resolution and is perfectly playable.

Andytizer: I have tested this game on an old iMac (Late 2009, Core 2 Duo 3.06GHz, 4GB RAM, GeForce 9400M) on OS X and the game runs around 35 FPS at 720p and is very playable, especially considering this is below the listed minimum system requirements.

Anti-aliasing


Pillars of Eternity uses only MSAA as its anti-aliasing method and is always on by default. This can be a problem on a low-end or integrated graphics cards, fortunately MSAA can be disabled by a console command "msaa 0" without quotes. Console can be opened by a ~ key (key can be set in Controls menu).

Update: The anti-aliasing option has been added to the Graphics option menu in the 1.0.3 patch. There are three options available in a form of s slider with Graphics Quality label, left most position is turning anti-aliasing completely off. Middle and right most options are different strengths of MSAA but I haven't seen any visual difference between those two settings.
I haven't noticed any performance difference on my systems and I haven't noticed any image quality difference at first. Difference became clear after comparing screenshots in an image editor. Anti-aliasing is clearly there, but number of samples is very low or used method is not very good, changing number in msaa command doesn't seem to have any effect.

There is a clear shimmering on a chainmail armors and horizontal line creep (for a lack of better term) on some helmets. This is just nitpicking, but I'd like to see implementation of SSAA only on 3D objects as this would greatly improve image quality and performance impact should not be that severe. Full resolution screenshots: MSAA default, no AA.

Aa comp proper

There is an another issue with anti-aliasing in Pillars of Eternity. If anti-aliasing is forced via graphics driver, the game suffers major image quality loss due to the massive background blur. This can be fixed very easily by disabling anti-aliasing in the drivers.


Controls


controls

There is no mouse setting or controller support in Pillars of Eternity, Controls settings menu offers detailed key binding though. Every major aspect of the game can be assigned to a primary and a secondary key, usage of Alt, Ctrl and Shift combinations is also supported.

Additionally there are many other toggles and settings in the Game and Auto-Pause menus that tweak Pillars of Eternity behavior, difficulty and combat. I've also found some undocumented control features in the game, spells and special abilities can be assigned to otherwise unused keys by hovering mouse cursor over the spell/ability icon and pressing desired key. Every character can also be selected by specific number key and rest of numbers (as there are only six characters) can be assigned to character groups as in any real time strategy by using Ctrl number.

Audio


audio

Pillars of Eternity offers in Audio settings menu sliders for Master, Music, Effects and Voice volume. The game doesn't support surround sound and output is only stereo. Sound mixing seems to be OK most of the times, but few times music started playing rather loudly into the dialog. There is no subtitle options, but every narrated dialog is also captured in log part of the screen. Majority of dialogs are only text based though.

Conclusion


Pillars of Eternity is superb resurrection of long forgotten 2D isometric RPG genre. Technically there are only minor issues and the game performs nicely even on very old systems. Controls are detailed as it should be on a PC platform. I'd like to see more detailed anti-aliasing methods, but otherwise Pillars of Eternity looks and runs very well.

PC Reports are a series of quick first impressions regarding the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor LDK. For an up to date account of Pillars of Eternity fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.


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8 Comments

I should note that currently fullscreen mode is nonfunctional from the menu.  Whether the option is enabled or not, the game runs in borderless windowed mode (though the game will minimize if you alt tab with the option checked.)  Fullscreen mode can only be enabled by enabling OpenGL rendering through the command line.

I think the MSAA and No AA comparisons got reversed, LDK; "No AA" looks significantly less aliased than "MSAA" does.

Thanks for spotting it, labels were indeed switched. It is fixed now.

LDK, in your testing of driver-based AA, did you try using the "Enhance application settings" mode? Unlike the "Override" option, this attempts to 'hook' into the game's AA calls, thus following the game's rules on what needs to be anti-aliased (characters and other 3D objects) and what does not (backgrounds), and replace the detected AA method with the filter and AA method of your choice using the same detected amount of samples as the intercepted AA. (NVIDIA's version of this goes a step further by allowing you to completely override whatever AA method is detected, but still attempts to 'hook' into the game's AA calls for less issues than a pure override.)

I don't have Enhance application settings option (AMD card) so I'm afraid I can't try that. But I've read about blurring problem with forced AA on the tech support forums for Pillars and that's why I've tested it.

I don't have Enhance application settings option (AMD card) so I'm afraid I can't try that. But I've read about blurring problem with forced AA on the tech support forums for Pillars and that's why I've tested it.

If you genuinely don't have that option, that's bizarre. I own a card from the same series of AMD GPUs as yours, and it had an "Enhance application settings" option as well! Here's an example taken from my AMD R9 270:

AMD_EnhanceAppSettings.JPG

 

Also, I'm well aware of the issue (I read the wiki article, nice job BTW!), but everything I found in my personal research pointed to people forcing AA, not attempting to use their GPU control panel's "enhance" option to hook into the game's AA routines.

I really don't have that option in my CCC and I've even updated it from 14.12 Omega to current 15.3 Beta just to try it.

Some AMD features are only available on specific models. This is the case for Virtual Super Resolution (which is also something that doesn't seem like it would need a specific card).

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