"...I could no longer rest on old strategies entirely."
For those not following the Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire DLC, the first DLC was a complete package that any fan of the series would gladly take up. Obsidian's second DLC, while enjoyable, didn't quite meet expectations because it presented little narrative or lore, preferring a healthy helping of combat and exploration instead. Now, with the third and final (announced) DLC for Deadfire released, where does it land and is it a necessary purchase for Watchers?
The Forgotten Sanctum almost exclusively investigates Wael, a god we have known almost nothing about throughout the first two games. Wael is the god of epiphany, mystery, and secrets. By his nature, I thought, we'd know little about him. Content in this acceptance, I didn't expect Obsidian to explore his history or goings-on; essentially, my imagination satisfied me as far as this god was concerned. Admittedly, when I realized early on this was a Wael DLC, I was a bit disappointed, but Obsidian did an exceptional job tastefully fleshing out both the god and followers.
The Watcher and his companions are beset with tremors and tidal waves while sailing around, which eventually leads to a visit from Llengrath, a member of the Circle of Archmagi. After dutifully accepting a task at a mysterious island, the Watcher finds other members of the Circle at a sanctum devoted to Wael. What's the cause of the tremors, what secrets do the halls contain, and what might we learn about Eora and its history?
Rest assured, while we're relatively acquainted with Wael and his followers, players will joyously (or regrettably) realize that a staggering wealth of knowledge is outside the Watcher's reach. That said, what feels like ancient history becomes available in book form as players are tasked, through puzzles, to read lengthy tomes about the Engwithans, Eora, and the gods. Puzzles aren't the only gameplay introduced, of course, as the halls are replete with foes and conditional associates.
The fiercest DLC yet, most battles are a bout for survival as the hero is pitted against enemies boasting the highest level spells and abilities. For players who've taken a break from Pillars, these battles may be overwhelming at first and lead to some defeats. After reacquainting oneself with the systems and tactics enjoyed prior, most of the fights can be completed with some genuine tactical play. While initially a frustration, I eventually came to appreciate this challenge, because I could no longer rest on old strategies entirely. Some of the boss battles also offer unique battle conditions, forcing the player to navigate around novel elements never before introduced in the series.
For those less inclined toward battle, sneaking around and talking one's way out of fisticuffs is frequently an option, but not always (as far as I could tell). For this DLC, I truly felt as if I had to use my entire toolkit, which was both rewarding and engaging. Treasure hunters will find the best ingredients, legendary equipment, and consumables. The journey is its own reward, especially since the final few dialogues left something to be desired.
The Forgotten Sanctum is a must-play DLC for fans of the series. If you were left disappointed by the second DLC, I understand, but rest assured that lovers of lore and engaging combat will find a home here. Expect to invest about ten hours or so while enjoying most of it. While I can't complain about the healthy support Obsidian has provided the series as we close on the third announced DLC, I also can't help wanting more. Then again, why offer more DLC when we can just get a third Pillars of Eternity?
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.