When Obsidian announced to the world that they were working on an isometric RPG with a Forgotten Realms-y setting and old school D&D style rules, what a lot of people heard was “here’s Baldurs Gate 3.” But while Pillars of Eternity does include a few nods to the long-cancelled Project Jefferson, or “The Black Hound” as it was known internally, Black Isle and Obsidian developer Josh Sawyer says neither project was actually concieved as a Baldur’s Gate threequel.
In a recent interview, Sawyer (who also discussed the setting for Pillars of Eternity 2) told me the original, cancelled Black Hound was only linked to the Baldur’s Gate brand through contractual obligations Interplay held at the time.
“To be honest, when we were working on Jefferson – The Black Hound was its informal name – it became Baldur’s Gate III because Interplay had the Baldur’s Gate license and needed to use either Icewind Dale or Baldur’s Gate in the title of any game they were making.”
It did share similarities, Sawyer continues, such as its AD&D rule set and Forgotten Realms settings, “but it wasn’t really meant to be a continuation of those games.”
But what about the idea of Pillars of Eternity being a spiritual Baldur’s Gate threequel – are there any specific elements the Black Isle veterans at Obsidian carried over to Pillars?
“There are some mechanical things that we carried over,” he tells me. “For example, the reputation system that tracks different personality types and has people react differently to the certain personality that you gave your character, that was something that we initially conceived for Jefferson.
“Obviously the name of the inn in the first town being The Black Hound is not a coincidence, but I would say that almost all the other stuff we wound up putting in the game was a whole cloth. I mean, I shouldn’t say whole cloth because it draws inspiration from the Forgotten Realms and lots of other games. But the story is very different from what we were doing with Baldur’s Gate III. And really none of the characters came over. It was its own thing, although obviously we tried to evoke the feeling of the Forgotten Realms, and the Dalelands, specifically.”
It’s a good time to be an isometric CRPG fan – Pillars of Eternity’s first expansion, The White March part one, is out now.