January 6, 2012
Playing The Forgotten Sanctum, the last piece of DLC for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, is a bittersweet experience. The DLC may very well be the last time Obsidian Entertainment produces content in the isometric RPG space. Their upcoming game The Outer Worlds returns to a first-person perspective in a similar style to the much loved Fallout: New Vegas from years earlier and with their recent acquisition by Microsoft it is likely their future will be focused on producing first-person RPGs in the AA/AAA space. As sad as that is to contemplate for the generation of players that grew up playing the kind of Infinity Engine games that Pillars of Eternity descends from, they can take solace in knowing that the final piece of DLC for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire goes out with a bang. If Forgotten Sanctum is Obsidian Entertainment hanging up their isometric hat for good at least they can walk away with their heads held high knowing they left on a high note.
The Forgotten Sanctum begins when the archmage Lengrath (you may remember her and her dragons from the White March expansion for Pillars of Eternity 1) visits the players ship as it sails around the Deadfire Archipelago. She warns you of impending doom and asks for aid in finding the archmage Maura who has been looking for a way to stop Eothas (which is the goal of Pillar of Eternity 2's main campaign). Answering Lengrath's call for aid will take players back to the Hall of the Unseen in the south-east corner of the world map. You'll quickly learn that Maura has found the body of a god, thought to have been destroyed ages ago, still alive deep below the Hall of the Unseen.
Lengrath is not the only one looking for Maura however. She is joined, unbidden, by an Archmage named Tayn. The two of them serve as the main quest-givers for The Forgotten Sanctum DLC. Lengrath is stern, pragmatic and a bit cold while Tayn is a silly man with seemingly no regard for common sense. The two are basically polar opposites in terms of personality but they each have their own motivations and will nudge the players towards whichever ends best serve their goals.
Discovering Maura's fate, as well as learning why the body of a god is still alive and what to do with it is up to the player. The game does encourage you to bring along your wizard companion Aloth and your wizard sidekick Fassina. This DLC is all about wizards and the shenanigans they get up to so it is well worth bringing them along in order to hear some of the interesting dialogue and to help you do battle against some of the toughest bosses the game has to offer. The Forgotten Sanctum is end game content so a party of level 20 characters (preferably from a saved game just before the final moments of the main campaign) is advised. There is no level cap increase. Bringing along two wizards did disrupt the party synergy I had developed but in the end a five person party made up of my main character (a Rogue), Eder (a Fighter), Xoti (a Priest) and the two aforementioned wizards was able to overcome the dungeon and its many perils.
The story itself is dark, twisted and gross in the best way possible. The dungeon features a number of interesting mechanics and tough choices. Who you kill or save, where you explore and how you talk to certain characters and creatures all have an affect on the story though all paths lead to the same final showdown. There's new soul-bound gear to acquire, new potions to to use and new spells to master. Which is good because you'll need all the help you can get when facing the dungeons bosses. Be forewarned almost all the major fights in this DLC will hurl TONS of spells or abilities that target Intellect, Resolve and Will. If you are not careful you'll find party members paralysed, mind controlled or terrified constantly. Not too mention the straight up damage being dealt during the boss battles. Potions and spells that buff resistances are a must. I was able to complete the main story and all side quests in around 10 hours on Veteran difficulty with level scaling turned off. Your mileage will vary depending of your settings, character level and party composition.
Whether you purchased The Forgotten Sanctum on its own for $10 or as part of the Season Pass it is worth every dollar. The new gear, potions, and spells you acquire can be carried over into the main campaign. The dungeon is well crafted, the story is engaging and the cast of characters are memorable. The archmage Tayn made me laugh a number of times and it was nice to see the game show a little love for Fassina. Oh and don't forget to bring your pet Nemnok along. He never ceases to entertain. It was a joy to have one last adventure with my party. The DLC offers up some tough challenges and memorable moments. I did not encounter any game breaking bugs or broken quests. The battle with the final boss and the resolution of the Forgotten Sanctum story did feel a bit anticlimactic though. The DLC felt like it could have been a large, proper expansion or even its own game instead of just a short 10 hour dungeon. That said I had a lot of fun and I'm glad the last hurrah for isometric RPGs from Obsidian turned out to be so great.
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