Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth: From the Ashes Review – Of Kings and Bishops

I was intrigued about what Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth was all about so I volunteered to get this reviewed. I really didn’t know what to expect at first but when I got into the game, I was treated to something that exceeded my expectations. Let’s go ahead and dissect this video game. A fair warning to anyone who reads this review, as this is a story-driven game there will be spoilers abound, so continue at your own risk.

Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platform Available: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Price: $29.99
This review is based on a review code provided by Daedalic Entertainment.

The game was based on the book of the same name but the game developers decided to break it into three parts. Which is fine because that would mean there are more parts of the game for you to play. It is a very popular book that even had its own miniseries in 2010. But don’t be fooled, although there are similarities to the novel, the game adds its own twist by providing the player choices.

Just like games from Telltale, the game is tailored by the choices and actions that you make. Be it a choice whether to feed yourself first or others or a choice on where on the map you will go. It surely creates a new experience for those who have read the book or watched the miniseries.

Before we dive deep into the story, let me talk a bit about the gameplay. Whenever prompted, you can control your character by using the directional buttons. Interesting items can be highlighted on the overview by pressing the L2 button while the R2 button allows you to move faster.

The X button is used for most actions while the square button is used when you want your character to think and say what’s on their mind. The triangle button is tied to an item that you select from a wheel which you can use upon almost any actionable item that you encounter. Sometimes some actions trigger a mini game that lets you time your presses to hit several bars on a display. Missing the bars will make you have to redo the action all over again.

Choices in the game are presented in three ways. Timed, untimed and path choices on an overview map. Timed ones lets you choose between several choices but you can also choose not to select any of them to remain silent. Untimed ones can either be optional and nonoptional choices that moves the story forward. Path choices on the other hand, lets the story branch out depending on the paths you choose when your characters are travelling via a map.

The artstyle of the game feels like you’re playing a cartoon special. Or reading an interactive comic.The beautifully drawn landscapes are a thing to behold. The places are even accentuated with fogs of cold breeze to convey that it is winter. It’s wonderfully drawn that I sometimes find myself just admiring its beauty.

The Book One of this game, From the Ashes, has been divided into seven chapters. Each chapter detailing the events and choices that a certain character makes from their point of view. You get to control three characters in this game. They are Tom the Builder, Philip the Prior, and Jack the Outlaw.

Tom the Builder is a mason who left the town along with his family because he refused to build a castle. He wanted to build a church so he sought out other places to find work, dragging his family along. His wife was pregnant and they didn’t have a permanent home as they wandered in the cold winter.

Philip is a monk who is the head priest for the fictional area of St. John in the Forest. He went to Kingsbridge which is another priory where his brother is currently serving. He was called upon by his brother to talk about something important but when he got there, the current Prior had just died and they were about to elect a new Prior in his place.

Jack is an Outlaw who lives in a cave by the forest where he’s being cared for by his mother. Jack is young but is very capable to hunt. We first get introduced to him as he started to hunt a deer. There is not much known about Jack’s importance in the narrative but he sort of becomes the bridge that makes the fates of Tom and Philip intertwine.

At first these three people did not know each other but it seems that fate has brought them together. Or rather because of certain circumstances, their lives were forever changed and their intentions and goals seems to have aligned.

You can really tell the difference between these three people’s views and perspectives. We only get a few moments with Tom but from what I have seen of him he is someone who is responsible and brimming with talent and dreams. He wishes to build a grand chapel someday that will bring hope to people even though his son spites him for it.

Philip’s viewpoint I feel are the most tense parts of the game. He usually gets involved in politics, betrayals and conspiracies that are far bigger than him. He really didn’t need to get involved but because his brother requested it of him, he reluctantly agreed to help him search for the truth. A truth that was gonna shake up the kingdom and involved a loss of a town. The consequences of his actions were very heavy and it almost felt like the burden of everyone was cast upon him. He never expected that his actions was going to cause death and destruction but he continued anyway because he thought he was doing the right thing. They explored the moral dilemmas that a man of faith has to go through and you get to witness how these choices are breaking him down. It makes him question his faith even and makes him fearful that what he did can never be reversed.

Jack’s interactions on the other hand were playful, irrational but moreover innocent. Jack is just a kid but having solely brought up by his mother, he had to learn to be independent. To be someone that his mom can depend on. Jack would usually worry about people that are close to him. He would even go out of his way to help that person out that sometimes it came with such a costly price. Time will tell whether the things he did will catch up to him one day but I can sense that all he did were based on pure and innocent intentions.

The chapter ends in an attempt to rebuild a structure that will become an inspiration for the people. A beacon of hope. While others conspire to take down those who are trying to rebuild their lives. Although there were no death defying action sequences, the story cuts in a place where it takes us to what this game was all about. A story about hope and love and duty. A story about loyalty and betrayal and the things in between. A story that I cannot wait to see where it leads to next.

Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth: From the Ashes - Review
Score Definition
When the issues of a game are rolled and stomped by its greatness, then it’s something to invest on if you have some spare.
Great engaging story
Beautiful artwork
Chapter summaries
Some choices are forced
Some quests are unclear