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THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH (PC) Review

Guillermo the Conqueror appears like a pacifying king in the  Tapestry of Bayeux , an embroidery woven between years 1066 and 1082 “to be exhibited the day of the consecration of the cathedral of the city”, explain our companions of the  Country. The fabric fulfills, in part, a propaganda function in favor of reconciliation between two peoples, the Norman and the British. Not in vain, “Guillermo conserved the English traditions, maintained in the positions to those who showed them and promised to learn his new language”. The tapestry, of course, hides the most bloody parts of the story and sweetens other episodes perpetrated by the new monarch.

The question of succession in medieval times has always been thorny. Between fratricidal struggles and nobiliary plots, the crown passed from one head to another, always dependent on the  balance of loyalties  and the vagaries of power. According to the BBC, “Esteban usurped the throne of England to Matilda in 1135, but failed to consolidate his power.” Esteban de Blois, William’s grandson, reigned in 12th-century England during a convulsive period known as Anarchy. The civil war was precipitated with the death of the legitimate son of king Enrique I, which abrió a deep wound that was sharpened with the ascent to the throne of Esteban.

The Pillars of the Earth (PC) screenshot

Building a cathedral

The story of The Pillars of the Earth, the pinnacle work of British writer Ken Follett, takes place in that turbulent period. Real and fictitious facts are fused in a novel that is articulated around the construction of a cathedral in the fictional town of  Kingsbridge. However, bringing an architectural work of such caliber to fruition is no trivial matter. To begin with, with the change of sovereign, some aristocrats have fallen into disgrace and others have risen with their own light. How could it be otherwise, not everyone is willing to work prosper, rather the opposite. The new count of Shiring decides to attack the quarry in which the workers extract the rock to sabotage their work. As if that were not enough, within the clergy, the personal ambitions of some ecclesiastics clash with the plans of the most pious. In that position is the devious Bishop Waleran, who prioritizes the construction of his luxurious episcopal palace while planning plans to destroy the cathedral.

Although the book offers detailed brushstrokes on the techniques and architectural styles of the moment, as well as the technical and aesthetic evolution that took place over the years-the work lasted for decades-, The Pillars of the Earth is, all, a  story of characters. The reader observes the flow of events through the eyes of individuals of all social classes, something that works especially well in its adaptation to the video game. Daedalic Entertainment, the creator of the Deponia series, has designed a point-and-click graphic adventure   focused on narrative.

The Pillars of the Earth (PC) screenshot

For a few years, the genre has taken different paths. Life is Strange, Detroit: Become Human or the set of video games from Telltale Games have opened new paths to evolve the graphic adventure. In the case of The Pillars of the Earth, Daedalic has chosen to  mix the traditional with the new. Thus, the way of interacting with the interface and the controls is familiar, but modern elements have been added such as the possibility of facing some decisions in the dialogues. On the other hand, the puzzle, crucial in the genre, has remained in the background. It is not that there are no small enigmas or some moment of reflection, but most of the puzzles are not thought, worth the redundancy, so that the player breaks his brain. The gameplay is dependent on the story and not the other way around.

The plot of The Pillars of the Earth begins with  Tom Builder  and his family crossing the forest. The reason for the trip is none other than to seek work, since he has lost his position as master builder due to the situation of instability experienced by the new king. His dream? Build a cathedral. Although the road is long and includes many dangers and misfortunes, the script is spinning to the heat of characters like the kind prior Phillip, Jack, Aliena, Alfred and many other unforgettable protagonists. The experiences of these characters are interspersed in a narrative that remains faithful to Follett’s text, although sometimes it lacks a bit of rhythm and can become somewhat heavy. 

The Pillars of the Earth (PC) screenshot

The  boundaries between genres  are not always clear. It happens in movies and books. Sometimes you do not know where to catalog a work. At the risk of placing unfair labels, this adaptation is a combination of classic graphic adventure and narrative. It is a product that seeks to tell a story and that the player enters the skin not of a single protagonist, but of several. Characters you drive can share the same scene. For example, at one point during the trip, two characters sit under the shade of a tree. Protected from the sun and in a romantic context, a conversation begins. The funny thing is that you can select dialogues of the two characters and order the exchange of phrases to your liking.

Anyone who has read The Pillars of the Earth knows that Alfred is a  hateful character. He is petty, envious and cruel, very much in spite of being the son of Tom Builder, a character with a very affable character. Since he meets little Jack, maybe out of jealousy, Alfred makes his life impossible. However, the child is much smarter and cleverer than his twisted half-brother. We name these characters to reflect one of the actions that can modify small parts of the argument. Jack has grown up and is now a builder’s apprentice. Alfred, on the other hand, has already reached the master’s degree. What has not changed is that both continue fighting with the same intensity. We have the option to make the boy even more angry. Do we write a message against Alfred or do we let him pass? If we do it, maybe the situation will get worse …

The Pillars of the Earth (PC) screenshot

Daedalic has opted for an episodic model that surpasses in dimensions to almost any game that has been released in this format. Each of its three episodes, Books, as they have been called, has a complete video game entity. While the graphic adventures tend to last a few hours, the fact that Ken Follett’s novel is so long and has so many characters is the perfect excuse to choose this model. With its licenses, the German studio has been able to transfer the essence of the novel, and thanks to its magnificent visual section, Kingsbridge and its inhabitants come to life. 

conclusion

The Pillars of the Earth is a point-and-click graphic adventure that takes elements of modern videogames such as Life is Strange or any work by Telltale Games. The adaptation of Ken Follett’s book has been transferred to the video game successfully and divided into three major Books-denomination equivalent to `episodes’-. 

This title of Daedalic Entertainment, creators of the Deponia series, focuses on the narrative and offers more than twenty hours of fun. His story remains true to the novel, although he takes certain creative licenses in some points. Thus, the player lives the plot through the eyes of mythical characters like Jack, Phillip, Tom or Aliena. It is true that the script lacks rhythm at times , but the narrative works well in general lines. What is missing, however, are quality puzzles. It is obvious that the German study has prevailed the narrative in front of other elements, but to include some more brainy puzzles would have done no harm. 

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