Pillars of the Earth is a 2D classic adventure following the story of Ken Follet’s novel. The game of developer Daedalic, originally released in 2017 was ported to Switch now in 2023.
Along the 21 chapter you will play in the role of several of the main characters spanning a story over multiple decades around the city of Kingsbridge in the medieval England of the 12th century. The game follows closely the story of the book around the prior of Kingsbridge Philip, Tom Builder who is in charge for building the Kingsbridge cathedral, Jack, who is joining Tom with his mother to go to Kingsbridge after living in the forest as a child and Aliena, daughter of the earl of Shiring. Most of the gameplay is based on dialogues and finding objects at the right places. Occasionally certain side-quests can be done aside following the main story, like helping side-characters. From time to time the game will allow you to make small decisions like how Aliena divide the money to help either prior Philipp or her brother. Those decisions add little to the gameplay however I never felt motivated to repeat a chapter to correct my choices and seeing a different outcome. Some quick time events were also added by the developers, for example when Jack goes to the hunt of a deer you have to press a button in an exact timing window. As I understand the motivation of the developer to add more gameplay elements, those quick time events do not integrate well in the overall game. Still as they appear rarely and are not a big challenge anyway this I only a small minus.
The big strength of the game is anyway its art design, story telling and voice cast. The story of the book is well-told, and the sceneries and character models create a coherent art style. All dialogues are fully covered by excellent voice cast emphasizing the characters’ role and moods. The music is adding to the atmosphere as well with orchestral sounds kicking in in important situations. Unfortunately, small graphic bugs appeared sometimes, like character models were disappearing or flickering. After the original game was released in 2013 on PC such bugs should have been eliminated for the switch port.
Pillars of the Earth is a good example of how famous books can be brought to adventure format. The focus on following the main story is the right approach from my point of view. Important scenes are captures well and the right pacing is kept by switching to a map view for travelling. This is a good decision as on those map views still the story progresses and give more insight to character motivations: The respective character you control on the map talks more about the progress of the story but also his internal fears, feelings and thoughts in the style of a visual novel.
Overall, Pillars of the Earth is a good variant for people who do not like books and like story telling in a more interactive format as for people who read the book already and who want to see how it was brought to the gaming world.
- excellent art design of scenery and characters
- ports the atmosphere of medieval England very well
- character voice cast is outstanding.
- good pacing with dialogue scenes, small cutscenes and travelling on a map
- good sound effects and music contribute to the overall atmosphere
- quick time events do not add a value
- optional side tasks and small decisions do not motivate for a second run
- small glitches in graphics
“The Pillars of the Earth is good example how world-famous novels can be ported into an interactive format. Art-style and especially the voice cast make it an interesting games for those who read the book already and those who are new to Ken Follet’s novel.”
Sources: Screenshots: own screen captures