Review: Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth (Nintendo Switch)

One for display on your digital bookshelf.

The Pillars of the Earth is a point-and-click adventure game adapted from Ken Follett’s 1989 novel of the same name. Taking place in 12th century England, the game starts with a man named Tom Builder roaming through the woods with his two children and pregnant wife. He and his wife talk about him finding work after losing his last job, and whether he will be happy working below his capabilities if it means he can provide for his family. Tragedy strikes the family very early, and chapter one of story one then starts.

The game follows multiple narratives while telling the greater story of the building of a grand Gothic Cathedral. A great adaptation of the novel, this game not only captures every moment of emotion—whether good or bad—but also brings the story to life with its animation and imagery. Each character is carefully crafted to fit their description, and their voice actors do a wonderful job at playing them.

To play The Pillars of the Earth, you are set in a certain location and given different items with which you can interact. For example, when the game starts, Tom Builder is able to interact with his wife, children, the fire in front of him, and a bucket with which you are meant to get water for dinner. You can look at objects with Y. This tells you what a character is thinking, and can also give little hints as to what to do with them. You can interact with objects or pick them up with A. If you pick something up, it is added to your inventory, and you can use that object with others. If you need help figuring out what to look at, you can hold down ZL and it will highlight what you can interact with. You can walk around and enter different locations to make sure you’ve found everything.

You can look at and talk to people the same way. In some cases, you are given the option to choose what to say to a person. Your options have consequences which are revealed at the end of each segment. Choosing these options is sometimes timed, so it’s important to think fast in this game.

Each setting in The Pillars of the Earth is fun to look at and explore. The art style is like a well drawn story book; there’s a lot of detail put into each location and character. The animations are also well done and natural, and I never ran into any glitches or interface challenges. Although the game can be played in both handheld mode and docked, I recommend playing it on a bigger screen so you can fully appreciate the striking visuals.

The Pillars of the Earth takes an admired novel and successfully turns it into a fun point-and-click adventure game in which your choices matter. I recommend it to adventure and visual novel fans regardless of whether they’re previously familiar with Ken Follett’s work.

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