Pillars of Eternity is proof that role-playing games can be engaging and challenging no matter the player, and embrace complexity in storytelling and gameplay without sacrificing a wider audience. The game boasts a rich cast of characters, myriad upgrade options and engrossing, story-filled missions.

The world of Eora is inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, but has enough twists to feel distinct and memorable. Souls regenerate on an endless wheel of reincarnation, slowly eroding with the passage of generations. Some individuals can read these souls, and others manipulate them, but when children begin to be born without souls, trouble is afoot. It's up to your personalized hero to uncover the truth.

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Storytelling is the paramount concern. Central party members are unusual variations on established archetypes, from an Inuit-inspired dwarven ranger to a wizard with multiple personalities. Books and journals illustrate a painstaking attention to detail for the world's lore.

Lengthy conversations and observations read almost like a visual novel, painting a picture with words that will leave text-skippers missing out on the bulk of the nuance.

Combat is customizable, with numerous difficulty settings and options to cater the pause-and-play action to your preferences. Learning the best use of each character's abilities and deploying into the tactically varied battlefields is rewarding. Unlike many recent genre staples, you can't rely on artificial intelligence to save the day -- especially with the danger of friendly fire. Constant, careful control of every party member is essential.

Gamers who have been waiting for a deep, true role-playing epic are virtually guaranteed to fall in love with Pillars of Eternity. Game maker Obsidian should have no shortage of fans cheering for another installment.

RATING M for Mature
PLOT Trouble brews when souls are born without a soul.
DETAILS PC, $44.99-$89.99
BOTTOM LINE Role playing done with character.