The GWJ Adventure Game Club - Game 4: Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth

Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth (2017)


Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth is a point-and-click adventure video game developed and published by German studio Daedalic Entertainment. It is based on the Ken Follett award-winning novel of the same name (first printed in 1989).

You can find the wikipedia page here, though the usual warning for spoilers should apply. How Long to Beat estimates about 15 hours to completion.
Available on Microsoft Windows, Liinus, macOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and iOS.
At the time of writing, and for those of us on PC, it is cheapest on Game Billet, sitting at 10€28 (though I don't know the site well, so take that with a grain of salt).

Please be mindful of your fellow goodjers and spoiler any discussion of plot points. Have fun, everyone!

You can find the main thread over this way. We'll be playing Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth in February 2019, with an extra month behind for stragglers. Enjoy, everyone!

Nice. A game from my pile.

15 hours to beat so I won’t be able to leave this game until the last weekend. I’m well motivated to play it though.

Oh, I completely missed that this went on. I'm really excited about this, however. I read the book a while ago, and just read the second book this past year. It'd be fun to play this with a group of people.

I may jump in since I’m wrapping up my current game and just got this in one of these random Humble Bundles that seemed too cheap to pass up despite my better judgment (8 days remaining by the way). We’ll see if it can break my recent string of impatience with this style of adventure games.

Oooooh, good call, that's pretty cheap! Thanks for the heads up, Gewy!

Started on this today. It moves a bit slow, literally, but enjoying it. Had forgotten more things from the story than I thought.

I read this novel ages ago, and I'm a big fan of Daedalic, so I'm for sure in. I just want to clear a couple other games I'm halfway through before I start this one. Gotta keep an eye out for a good deal on console! (I'm disappointed that that Humble Bundle was Steam-only.)

I am also enjoying it- more than I expected, considering the last adventure games like this I played were Memoria and Chains of Satinav, which were good, but I nonetheless didn't have much fun with them. I suspect it's because the puzzle elements of Pillars are pretty close to nonexistent. It seems more like a Telltale game, with a focus on the story over puzzle-solving and exploration, albeit with a more traditional, less cinematic perspective. I do admire hand drawn backgrounds, so that's actually a plus. I can overlook the primitive character animations.

I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read the book, but I did watch the miniseries (Bishop Waleran is Al Swearengen!) a few years ago, so the plot seems fairly familiar. I think I might actually be enjoying it even more if I went in completely blind.

I expected it to be more Telltale-like than it was. It still seems like a classic adventure puzzle game at heart, just with very light puzzles (a good thing imo). It doesn't seem like you can change the story substantially, which is not surprising.
Thought the art was good, but yeah, I also like that style.

I've seen the mini series, which I really liked, and tried to read the book, but never got through. Found it boring, maybe because I knew the story - and yet, that didn't hold back the game much.
I think my issue is Follet. Read his 1900's series a few years ago, which I enjoyed, mostly because I like reading about history. But ugh, I really dont like his writing.
Might have to give it another try now. There is also the sequel after all.

Might also have to try more Daedalic games. I only think have played Memoria, which was quite good. But haven't heard too much good about some of their other games.

Count me in.

I started it up last night and am going in completely blind, having not read the book or seen anything else related before.

I'm not really far enough in yet to form an option apart from "wow, people say game of thrones is grim and brutal".

I've played a lot of games in my time, so it's quite possible there's someone I'm forgetting. But right now I can't think of a game villain I've despised more than William Hamleigh.

Having read the book and seen the series, I 300% agree with you, Gewy.

I can't seem to get into the setting

karmajay wrote:

I can't seem to get into the setting :(

Me too, I put a an hour or two in over the weekend but it just didn't capture me.

Started up last night intending to just get through the intro sequence and go to bed, but quickly lost an hour due to being immediately sucked in. Not sure exactly what it is that's working for me but this is right up my alley so far.

Finished this last night. Overall, it was a pleasant experience. Some parts dragged, but generally it never took too long for the pacing to speed up for me. The very beginning, when Philip first arrives in Kingsbridge may be the slowest part in fact, so it may be worth trying to plow through if you like this kind of game in general. I'll probably check out some similar games in the future, which is a bit surprising, since I had thought I'd lost my patience for this particular type of adventure game.... Not so, it seems.

I liked the setting in the way that I also enjoy the Assassin's Creed games. Historical inaccuracies aside, they put me in the shoes of someone living in a different time period and I enjoy imagining the details of what it'd be like. They also inspire me to spend a bunch of time on Wikipedia actually learning some things about history.

Some random thoughts:

Favorite character- either Philip or Aliena. Honorable mention to Ellen though.

Favorite part-


When Aliena is traipsing across continental Europe trying to find Jack. I thought this was well done and succeeded in conveying just how daunting travel was in the period.

The ending-


They did successfully fake me out. I have vague familiarity with the source material but never read the book so I wasn't really sure how it ends. Plus there are enough deviations... Well, I thought with the ending trial they had added one of these typical, and often annoying, game events where all these tiny decisions you made throughout the game somehow result in one of two final outcomes. Like how Leliana became a ruthless Divine instead of diplomatic at the end of my Dragon Age Inquisition playthrough because I didn't butt in and prevent her from executing a traitor at the very beginning of the game 100 hours earlier when I really had no idea what was going (shakes fist "damn it!").

Anyway, I briefly thought I had actually gotten Philip killed. So... good job Daedalic.



He actually seemed like an overall good guy to me. Seem to think this is different from the book/miniseries.

Still can't think of a game villain I have a more visceral dislike for than William. And this is even after they've taken out most all of the sexual violence I've read is present in the source material (shudders). I've spent a bit of time contemplating this. It's weird, because objectively there are plenty of game villains whose actions cause significantly more suffering... terrorists, genocidal leaders bent on world domination, aliens trying to exterminate humanity, etc. The big difference for me I think is that William seems motivated primarily by cruelty whereas a lot of these other bad guys may be cruel, but it's secondary to their desire for power, or some kind of ideological motivation. I don't know. Sort of like how I occasionally wonder, "Who is more evil? Someone like Hitler who causes suffering on a global scale, but is largely uncaring and indifferent to it, or sees it as a means to an end? Or a sadistic serial killer like Ted Bundy, for whom the suffering is the primary goal?" Morbid thoughts.

I did think of a non-video game villain I loathe in a similar way- Joffrey from Game of Thrones. It's a combination of the following traits I think: They're extremely sadistic, have enough power to hurt people without consequence, and a have a whiny insecurity that causes them to cruelly lash out whenever they feel affronted (which is often).

gewy wrote:

The very beginning, when Philip first arrives in Kingsbridge may be the slowest part in fact, so it may be worth trying to plow through if you like this kind of game in general.

Glad you said that. I'm into the atmosphere of the game and am enjoying that early part but it's definitely on the slow side. Knowing things pick up has encouraged me to press on.

I'm rediscovering the simple pleasures of wandering about in a game like this uncovering elements of a story and finding solutions to, admittedly straightforward, puzzles.

I haven’t started yet. Ruhoh.

Ha! Good thing I waited--the PSN 70% off sale started on the 15th. I'll be starting tomorrow.

Eleima wrote:

I haven’t started yet. Ruhoh. :D

Me, either! I'm telling myself that it's because I had to finish Hellblade first.

My play through is going to spill over into March. I'm enjoying it but I now remember that I tend to play Adventure games in fits and starts, half an hour here and hour a couple of days later. Don't think I'm going to have chance to push that pace much and it's not the sort of game I could sit down and play for four hours straight.

Um... my playthrough will also spill over into March!

Same here. I played through the prologue, but that's all I've had time for. February has been very busy.

Part of me thinks I'll still fit the rest of this in in the next week, but more than likely I'll run into March as well. Still on Book 1 and have been too tired/distractable lately to make significant progress.

I just finished Book 1,

The very retro format is great, and the information inventory system is something I wanted for a work project. February being short, I might also spill into March, but not by much, I'm pretty enthralled.

That’s most excellent news. I’m aiming to start in a few days after I wrap up Pyre, so I’ll also spill over into March (and that’s totally fine folks, don’t beat yourselves up).

Book 2 complete. Know what game really believes in bringing everyone to their lowest point? This one.

There were certainly parts that were frustrating, both because they were frustrating in the way adventure games tend to be when you don't grok the developers' logic and because the characters being dealt with were frustrating. But there were also very amazing unique sequences, and holy sh*t is controlling both sides of a conversation cool, I really hope someone goes further with that.

My ambitious schedule is to finish Friday, probably more reasonably, Saturday. Oh, also, there's a weird drop off in trophies on the PS version. Book 1 had the number and sort you'd expect, 2 and 3 have 2 each, and one of them is "You completed the Book!"

When I set my schedule, I forgot that I intended to do things with Saturday, so I finished Sunday. Outside of some annoying semi-QTEs, it was a great experience, something that felt like a true journey. More and more, I appreciate sorts of games that emphasize mundane people dealing with mundane things, and this felt like the most epic version of that idea--you meet a king...because you really need to sell some wool! That's sort of the dagger to the heart of Great Man history right there.

I really enjoyed the part that's gewy's favorite, but I also really liked


Philip meeting Empress Maud, which it seems may not happen for everyone, and getting the option to tell her "Stop this war" or "Your father had my parents killed"...but he says nothing.

I feel like there were a lot of tiny, cool touches that played with mechanics to highlight inner lives, or just did something neat with this sort of narrative presentation, like again the times you guided both halves of a conversation or even a large discussion near the end. Or what I'm going to call "the March of Days," which people who got there will know what I'm talking about. None of these were complicated, but they worked, and like I said I'd really like someone to take the idea even further.

Innovation in narrative mechanics seems really unexplored by the gameosphere--lots of people still aren't past that crude joke from that one id guy about story in games being like story in porn. One thing I thought about playing this was feedback. I brought it up in one of the Mass Effect threads: I think story-heavy games would benefit from more timely feedback regarding choices. Not like instant narrative feedback, but something that signals a choice we made was registered and will be returned to. I think that's needed, because there's an opacity to narrative interaction, it only reveals itself by comparison. This is especially an issue for this game, because I can't call up my chapter summation "What You Did" screens. Also there was a bunch of stuff on them I don't think I could have done because they were historically mandated. Then again, this game seemed to deliberately take a more subtle approach, and the idea of "Big Choices" is antithetical to its vibe, so I might be barking up the wrong tree.

Still, I'm recommending this to everyone I think will appreciate it.

Really dug this track which closed out the credits of each book. Kinda encapsulated the feel of the whole game for me:

Thanks for the write up SpacePPoliceman. It's encouraged me to press on. Not that I didn't want to it's just finding the time. I'll try to get back to my routine of half an hour here and there.

Yeah, that track was especially awesome.