|This article is about the game difficulty settings, modes, and options available to the players in Pillars of Eternity, to best suit their level of skill or play-style. For information about modding the game, see Modding.|
The game's difficulty can be set to five difficulty settings: Story Time, Easy, Normal, Hard, and Path of the Damned. Harder difficulties give you more challenging encounters (adding tactical difficulty by replacing weaker enemies with more powerful types or increasing how many are present in encounters. AI won't change based on level of difficulty) and reduce how many camping supplies players will be able to carry at a given time (unlimited on ST, 6 on easy, 4 on normal, and 2 on hard and PotD), limiting the amount of outdoor resting they can do. On average, players will probably get a small increase in loot, but it's possible to get less in certain circumstances.
- Story Time - Story Time mode is for players who are more interested in exploration and story development than the challenge of combat. While Story Time is active, the enemy composition of battles is the same as Normal difficulty, but the game mechanics are biased in the player's favor. Additionally, the party can carry an unlimited number of Camping Supplies.
- Easy - The Easy difficulty requires minimal micromanagement an easily forgives mistakes in combat. It is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED for those who are new or recently-returning to real-time party-based RPGs.
- Normal - The Normal difficulty requires strategy and efficiency, but forgives a few mistakes in combat. It is NOT recommended for newcomers to real-time party-based RPGs!
- Hard - The Hard difficulty is suited for Infinity Engine veterans who are looking for a challenge. Survival requires micromanagement and optimization of stats through items, spells and abilities.
- Path of the Damned - In Path of the Damned difficulty, enemies receive a bonus to most stats and encounters have many more enemies. Warning: this option can't be changed in-game! It is only intended for players who want the most punishing encounters!
- It is a spiritual successor to Icewind Dale's Heart of Fury mode. All enemies from all levels of difficulty are enabled and the combat mechanics are amplified to make battles much more brutal for everyone involved. It is the only difficulty level which changes enemy stats, giving enemies +15 Accuracy and +15 to all Defenses. Enemies may use abilities on Path of the Damned which they don't use on lower difficulty levels.
It's possible to switch between Story, Easy, Normal and Hard during a game in progress, so you can always bump it up or down a notch. 'Path of the Damned' is the only difficulty you have to commit to right from the start.
Pillars of Eternity features two game modes, Expert Mode and Trial of Iron, that players seeking extra challenge can opt-into at the beginning of each game. Both modes are optional and can be combined together in any combination on top of the standard difficulty settings. Neither mode can be changed in-game.
- Expert Mode - Enable more punitive and demanding game-play elements, in and out of combat, including disabling all the individual extra options in the section below. The mode is similar to Fallout: New Vegas' Hardcore Mode, Expert Mode. Because it disables all of the common ease-of-use "helper" information, it is regarded by some players as the most realistic way to play.
- Trial of Iron - The player has one save game that persists for the entire campaign or until player's character dies. Trial of Iron save games are distinguished with metal textures instead of wood. When a player quits the game, their current state is automatically saved and they can re-enter that saved game to continue playing. However, if their party dies, the game ends and the save is deleted. They must then begin a new Trial of Iron game.
- The mode is similar to Temple of Elemental Evil's Ironman Mode. It is likely a wink to classic CRPGs of the 80s, intended to restricting any reloads to counteract regrettable decisions, thus increase game difficulty, making it harder for players to abuse save/load to get the results they like also known as Save Scumming.
In the Game settings, there are options that can be enabled or disabled to tweak the game difficulty and overall feel on top of the difficulty settings selected. Players can enable or disable any of these options, during game creation or later on at any point in the game. All of these options combined are the make up of Expert Mode.
- Combat options
- Maim Companions Before Death: Characters will be maimed instead of dying permanently the first time their health reaches zero.
- Area of Effect Highlighting: Provide a graphical display of the range of area-of-effect spells.
- Show Relative Defenses: Hovering over enemies will provide a popup comparing their known defense scores to the attacker's accuracy.
- Combat Tooltips: If this option is enabled, lightweight combat tooltips will be shown above all characters during combat.
- Non-combat options
- Show Unqualified Interactions: Display conversation options for which the party does not meet the prerequisites.
- Show Qualifiers: Display qualifiers that cause a conversation option to be unlocked.
- Don't Restrict Stash: Allow the stash to be accessed at any location.
- Show Personality/Reputation: Display the effects of choosing each conversation option on the player's reputation and personality.
- Detailed Quest Updates: When a quest is updated in the Journal, the log will identify the particular quest that was changed.
- Show In-Game Tutorials: Show tutorial pop-ups during the game to explain various game mechanics.
Combat is performed in real-time, but players can Pause or use the Auto-Pause criteria to plan or assign actions to their party members. The Slower Combat toggle is another option for players who would like more time to think without constant pausing and unpausing.