Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth Game Poster Image
Mature point-and-click tale focused on choice, consequences.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Characters with own visions of a better future, varying shades of gray forcing conflicted, complicated choices. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although there are clear villains, protagonists encouraged to play as nurturing, patient, understanding people. 

Ease of Play

Standard point-and-click fare, though some puzzles will baffle, challenge you.


Brief instances of violence: a man stabbed through chest with a spear; a man's throat getting slit, as blood splashes appear. Blood shown in a childbirth scene (no nudity shown), and during a hunting sequence. 


Some sexual material in dialogue: "I will f--k Bartholomew's whore of a daughter. I will f--k her good."; one scene shows an image of a man grabbing a woman by the shoulders, accompanied by text "He shoved his right hand under her skirt."


Lots of crass dialogue, routinely objectifying women, especially as sexual objects, and also every curse word imaginable. 


Based on a series of books.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some characters shown drinking alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth is a mature downloadable point-and-click adventure game that follows the characters and events from the 1989 historical novel of the same name. The game features frequent and varied use of adult language, along with sexual objectification of women and descriptions of sexually aggressive acts. There's some disturbing violence, with people getting stabbed or having their throats cut, and lots of blood shown in other scenes such as childbirth and hunting sequences. Additionally, characters are shown drinking.

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What's it about?

KEN FOLLETT'S THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH, like the 1989 novels this game is based on, takes place in the middle of the 12th century and centers on the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. You play as three different characters (a young boy, an aspiring architect, and a beleaguered prior) who increasingly and intriguingly interact with one another as the game continues to progress. They each have their own motivations and goals, and also each have their own cast of characters attempting to manipulate and gain favor over them. Your decisions as one character will unpredictably impact the others. What's more, even when they are in scenes together, these characters don't see eye to eye.

Is it any good?

As commonplace as point-and-click games are, this adventure game stands out for its simplicity and tenacity in working through its plots and subplots. Whereas other games set you on your way to end a zombie apocalypse or win a war, Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth tasks you with keeping families together. Whether you choose to do that at all costs, and seek to employ trickery, chicanery, and straight-up deception, is up to you. Unlike in other adventure games, you're able to complete entire sections without coming across or solving certain puzzles. Your lack of curiosity or failure to spot these opportunities will always have ramifications -- if, as Phillip of Gwynedd, you don't help all the other monks in the priory with their problems, they won't speak up on your behalf at a pivotal moment. It makes for an adventure game where you're refreshingly less obsessed with inventory management and instead more focused on the people in your world.

But while the game gives you a lot more flexibility and chance to fully explore the world, there are still frustrating bottlenecks. For example, one puzzle requires you to spot not one but three ways that a castle is falling into disrepair to secure work for your new stepfather. There's a shortcut key to highlight context-sensitive items and areas, but you're more or less forced to click on everything and anything until you find the sections you need to target for repairs. That being said, die-hard adventure game fans will appreciate the challenge and the weight to their decisions that Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth allows. There are two more downloadable bigger chapters coming for the game in the future, and this prologue sets things up nicely for a more mature and consequence-filled gaming experience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games and also the negative treatment of women. Do these portrayals of attitudes and acts serve the plot or do they distract from digesting the meaning of the greater plot? 

  • Talk about the use of historical fiction as a way to reframe and better understand the events of our real world. If we can learn from history, what can we learn from fiction? 

  • Why is religion something people are willing to fight, harm, mislead, and even kill others over? 

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