REVIEW: Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth – Book 1: From the Ashes

REVIEW: Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth – Book 1: From the Ashes

Stay Steadfast

Steam: Released
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Genre: Interactive Novel Adventure
Type: Single Player
Release date: August 15, 2017

I personally have never heard about the book, Pillars of the Earth, nor the author. This is most likely due to not being alive when it was first released, so I missed out on having an initial spike of interest. Though I am surprised that none of my past teachers mentioned it before, reading about the subject matter,  it seems like it would be up their alley. Some of my favorite books came from required reading for classes despite how many people complained. So when it comes to transmitting books into a different medium, it can either go bad or good. You have to decide what to put in or to leave out, striking a balance to satisfy those familiar with the source material but also friendly to those being first introduced.

We open up to a heart-wrenching prologue in the shoes of Tom Builder. Tom and his family are currently traveling to Shiring in hopes of a job opening for Tom. However, it could not have come at a worse time. It has been a harsh winter this year as there is barely enough food to gather to keep him, his wife, and his two kids fed. On top of this, his wife is due for a baby at any moment and it would be good if they did not have to struggle with the lack of supplies and shelter. Despite the short time we spend with Tom, you feel how much they struggled to this point in time and know that they have a long road ahead of them, though this is not the only character you play.

As the emotions from the prologue are freshly on your mind, you go to Philip visiting Kingsbridge. To his dismay, everything is in disrepair and the Cathedral is not being well taken care of. The Prior Philip who intended to speak has died, some saying he was chased by the devil, and the election to appoint the new one is about to take place. Though it really is not an election as only one person is up for running and he might as well bring the Cathedral into more peril as the debts they owe will be impossible to pay off with what he is planning let alone Philip’s brother, Francis, asking a favor that will cause a great deal of stress.

Last, but not least, is Jack. Interesting enough, this is told as a flashback of sorts as an older Jack voices over some events that happen. Jack is a young boy surviving through the winter with his mother in the forest. Both trying to hunt for enough food to survive without having to go into town or encounter the untrustworthy monks or bishops. Of course, nothing goes as planned.

I certainly do not want to spoil anything as experiencing it for yourself has the maximum effect. They all do come together at the same place at some point, and when it happens it is extraordinary as you come to the realization of it. While you might not remember where certain characters are, there are defining features everywhere and while the character you are in control of has no idea who they are, you do.

On that note, the art they put into the game is extraordinary. The backgrounds and the buildings are extremely detailed. You can see every crack in a brick wall, specific places where it crumbled, and each way the light from the windows is cast brightens up the room like the dawn of a new day. It very well might be photo-realistic with how each scene has its own unique lighting and landmarks that make them truly exceptional. For characters, I’m glad they went for a design that stood out from the scenery. They may have a more simplistic style, but they do express themselves with ease.

With Daedalic having a history of puzzle point and clickers, does this title have puzzles as well? Not exactly. The actions you take, or do not take, have an effect on the future whether it be what you or others will be able to do or how someone will see you afterwards. You can help someone stay warm or help foster their dream. You do have to keep track of them, as only the main objective is kept on the screen, but they do not give you too many. The inventory system, in turn, reflects this as you not only have items but clues. You can drag an item or clue to a character and directly initiate a conversation that relates only to the item. There are instances where you give the items away, of course, but they are mostly used to bring forth conversations.

With all that the studio has put into Pillars, without good voice acting or an intriguing script, it will all fall apart. Thankfully, they did not decide to skimp on these. The voice acting is top notch, with each character emotion voiced with incredible feeling.  You can also tell that everyone has the same accent and thus lived in the same place since birth. It is so well done.  The only issue is that there are some awkward pauses because the character animations will not happen if they are talking at the same time and vice versa. It never feels as though they could have written something better. Much like the Telltale games, conversation choices drive the game forward. They all hold a different amount of weight, but you can feel how distressful peoples feel as you intimately spend time with the characters enough to know how they will react. As what you say molds how others will see you, it is also not surprising what will be brought up. At the end of each chapter, you are presented with the choices you made in your conversations and your actions.

My favorite aspect is how character thoughts are portrayed, instead of doing voice-overs for inspecting objects they opted for short lines whenever you inspect something. It is best to inspect things more than once as there are multiple lines available. This also allows you to see their emotions without having to hear their voice.


+ Art style
+ Great soundtrack
+ Great handling of the story and friendly to those not familiar to the source material
+ Voice acting
+ Short and sweet lines for inspected objects
+ Interesting way of having the inventory be used to initiate dialogue

+/- Some may not like the reusing of areas, no matter the reason

– Awkward pausing in conversations

Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth is different from what Daedalic usually provides, but that does not mean it was lackluster. Instead of focusing on a puzzler, they instead focused on human relations between all of the characters. This not only brings a whole story to light to many people who otherwise would never hear about this series but also provides an amazing game-world of Pillars of the Earth. I will certainly start reading the book in my free time  Though Telltale brings in most of these types of games, with some being lackluster of late, Daedalic has their work cut out to keep up with the quality of the original content provided in the following two books and making the in-game decisions worthwhile. Either way, if you enjoy games like these you will not be disappointed. Let’s just hope the next books will come soon.

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