Originally was The pillars of the earth little more than a historical novel by Ken Follett, set in 12th-century medieval England. As a basis for his literary elaboration, Follett used the construction of Salisbury Cathedral - in order to then build an exciting, semi-fictional framework story around this history of craftsmanship. The resounding success of the novel has almost conjured up a franchise out of "The Pillars of the Earth" that doesn't involve buying Potterian coffee mugs, pajamas or slippers, but watching a TV movie, plowing through a board game and, more recently, a video game there to play.

The German developer studio Daedalic Entertainment from Hamburg, which also acts as a publisher of video games, is responsible for the soft-ware of the novel. We have the game Ken Folletts: The Pillars of the Earth on the Xbox One and reveal in the following game test why Daedalic does not have to hide behind adventure specialists like Telltale Games with his work.

More than a book, less than a "real" game

The idea of ​​turning a successful novel into a video game is not entirely new, but it is a rare project. If you look at the rather mixed results of book adaptations, you could at least view the idea of ​​Daedalic Entertainment with skepticism. The Hamburg developer studio is with the adventure game Ken Folletts: The Pillars of the Earth however, a respectable success. Although, in the end, given Daedalic's references, it may not come as a surprise that Ken The pillars of the earth is also an acoustic and visual delicacy as a video game - after all, great titles such as Edna breaks out or the series of games Deponia

Is expressed in medieval times Ken Folletts: The Pillars of the Earth a real bastard. The father is a novel, the mother a video game - and the son is something in between. The pillars of the To describe earth as a full game in the case of our game tests for the Xbox One is a little exaggerated in view of the rather shallow gameplay. The game is more of a kind of interactive novel that comes in episode form. Just as the competition from Telltale Games has already done with similar adventure games. The core of the cooperation between Daedalic Entertainment, Bastei Lübbe and Ken Follett aims to make the best-selling novel tangible and, in some cases, changeable for video gamers. The first book was published on August 15, 2017, the other chapters will probably appear at the end of 2017 and in the first quarter of 2018. 

The first book is entitled "From the Ashes" and its content is based on the original novel. The plot can be summarized relatively spoiler-free as follows. Tom Builder, an unemployed builder, is wandering with his family through the wintry forest surrounding the fictional town of Kingsbridge when his wife Agnes suddenly goes into labour. She gives birth to a healthy boy, but dies herself after birth. Very unpaternally, Tom abandons the baby, who is then found by a priest and taken to the prior of the monastery, Phillip, who later became the head of Kingsbridge Parish. In the meantime, Tom and the outlaw Ellen become a couple. The latter is the mother of Jack, a talented builder. 

If there is music, then an orchestra, please

The musical accompaniment of Ken Folletts: The Pillars of the Earth describe. Instead of doodle entertainment sounds, Daedalic Entertainment relies on orchestral sounds played by the FILMharmonic Orchestra in Prague. Over 60 musicians were available to the composer Tilo Alpermann, who among other things was responsible for the great soundtrack The Night of the Rabbit was responsible. The orchestral sound benefits the game from a purely atmospheric point of view. Only the vocal parts of the Berlin choir Vos Nostra strain the ears and nerves of amateur philharmonists in the long run, but should be a further plus point on the scale of for lovers of choral singing The pillars of the earth .

You can tell from the game that Daedalic Entertainment also had to do a lot of work apart from the background music.

Playtest: Ken Folletts: The Pillars of the Earth for Xbox One

When researching the basic framework, the developers used the same works that Ken Follett had already used to design his novel proposals: including not only historical illustrated books and medieval stories, but also detailed architecture books. The latter, in particular, were of decisive importance for the playful conception - and the resulting feeling of play. After all, as a player you only feel like a real builder if the figure and the structures can also transport the technical and architectural challenges. The attention to detail of The pillars of the earth is noticeable for the player and contributes to the successful atmosphere of the game world.

However, that cannot always be said of the characters who appear to be rather fake. When Tom Builder goes looking for water for his family at the beginning of the game, the first reaction is surprising in view of the stiff movements, because this type of animation is completely opposite to the great background graphics in the game world. Once you have got used to the stiffness of the joints and accept the mix of styles of watercolor and comic look, the story of Ken Folletts: The Pillars of the Earth quick joy. 

Family reunification in stages

Jack, Aliena and Phillip are the three main characters whose fates the player takes on in the first book. While the player gradually gets to know the characters, he is regularly confronted with decisions that also have a playful effect. Although the basic plot is determined by the novel, alternative plot options repeatedly lead to smaller, sometimes more significant, surprising twists. Unfortunately, the initiation of alternative courses of action is just as surprising in some cases. While some game scenes create real tension, it is mainly lengthy monologues that put the player to a test of patience, only to then suddenly demand an important decision or a quick-time event. Happy are those who have not looked at the second screen with the other eye.

The gameplay can be described as mixed. With the active figure one explores visually impressive surroundings and interacts in a familiar way with the available objects. If you don't want to search for a long time, you can display all hotspots directly by pressing the shoulder button. While this is comfortable, it detoxifies the already poor gameplay even further. The developers should have shown a little more courage when installing playful elements - even if the great story should be clearly in the foreground.

Because the focus is on the story, it makes sense - and sometimes playfully valuable - to deal with the novel by Ken Follett. Although the plot is understandable and coherent in itself even with complete ignorance of the novel, players miss the chance to recognize hints in the game that go unnoticed to the uninitiated. The fact that Daedalic Entertainment has deliberately avoided puzzles typical of the genre is due to the serious mood of the story.    

The family situation in the snow-covered forest, which only serves as a prologue for the story, shows where the narrators have in mind: arousing emotions. Thanks to the harmonious combination of graphic presentation, soulful dialogues and appropriate musical accents, this is achieved in a way that is at least as thrilling as a good book. 

The wonderful design of the story is the main reason behind the video game Ken Folletts: The Pillars of the Earth for the Xbox One on the wish list for 2017. As a player, you quickly develop real sympathy for your characters. You learn to hate some of the sly supporting characters and thus get the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the story. Who the first book of The pillars of the earth gives a chance, can hardly wait for the release of the following chapters.

Daedalic Entertainment has been responsible for the development of Ken Folletts: The Pillars of the Earth made an enormous effort. Above all, the beautiful, hand-drawn background graphics often cause astonishment. Together with the rather gloomy mood, the medieval adventure game offers a perfect mix for entertaining hours in front of the television (or screen). The interactive novel is inspiring and is not only worth a look for fans of the novel.     

Media on Ken Folletts: The Pillars of the Earth for Xbox One


Number of players: 1 players
Age: 12
Playing time: 4 to 6 hours per chapter
Difficulty: easy
Long-term motivation: low

Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Year of publication: 2017 
Platforms: Xbox One
Language: German
Cost: 29,99 Euro


In short:Ken Folletts: The Pillars of the Earth doesn't feel like a full-fledged video game, but like a playfully told novel story that urges the participant to engage in smaller interactions at regular intervals. The pillars of the earth is graphically splendid and acoustically bombastic, but looking at the stiff animations leaves slight doubts about the graphic structure. All in all, Daedalic Entertaint, in cooperation with Ken Follett, delivered a project that will be able to set a course in the games industry in the future. All content is playfully simple, but can also be experienced by casual gamers or even non-gamers.

The focus is on an excellently told story with great dialogues that are often exciting and touching, but sometimes also lengthy. However, what applies to all players who take a look Ken Folletts: The Pillars of the Earth throw: as a participant in the interactive novel, you immerse yourself directly in the story and literally join in the excitement.

The developers, on the other hand, should work on lip synchronicity during the dialogues, which gets out of hand during some Ricklers.

“The walls, the roof, the windows. Everything is well proportioned,” says Tom Builder to his children in one of the opening dialogues. You could probably say something similar about the adventure game by Daedalic: the graphics, the music, the story. Everything is well proportioned and coherent. For this we award a great 4 out of 5 points in our final evaluation.