Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Review (PC)
A left and then two rights don’t make a wrong.
Disclaimer: Gamersledge was provided a review copy by Owlcat Games through one of it’s P/R firms.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is the sequel to Pathfinder: Kingmaker, which was a great single player CRPG. Well, it was after release. At release, it was a buggy, hot mess and eventually Owlcat slowly but surely implemented bugfixes, community suggestions and turned it into a great, albeit single player CRPG.
I bring this up because whether we like it or not, this seems to be the way of games releases in 2021. They launch mostly working, but with some frustrating bugs that will hopefully be ironed out.
And I say frustrating, because this CRPG isn’t good, it’s VERY good. And so when you run into a bug that halts your progression, the game changes from CRPG to a QA simulator, in which you try various methods to ‘beat’ the bug. I’m happy to report that at no time during my playthrough did I run into a bug I couldn’t find a workaround for. The most notable, however, altered my game state in a way that I can never change back from. More on that in the gameplay section.
I’ve played multiple TTRPGs, but Pathfinder has never been one of them. That being said, the story here is incredibly intriguing from the get go. You’re wounded and the first thing you realize is that you’ve been brought inside of a city during a festival. The game never makes too much of a big deal about your time before that, but at times lets you fill in the blanks how you’d like in conversation choices with others. You find yourself in a world with a worldwound where demons are pouring through and trying to kill the last stands of humanity. But you find through events a holy artifact that resonates something within you, and the fifth crusade to drive the demons back and seal the worldwound once and for all begins.
The characters have their own set of story missions to go through, and the writing is excellent. Each character has highs and lows as you progress through their stories, and ultimately your own and it is hard not to become attached to some of them. The count is perhaps one of my favorite video game characters of all time; and it’s both interesting and a testament to the writing that they can put a chaotic evil character in my really, really, really all good party and it not only works, but works well.
The voice acting in the game is top notch. Legitimately not a single voice/character that I didn’t think was stellar. In my review copy, however, not all lines were in the game yet. The soundtrack is top notch epic fantasy, and I find myself humming many of the title screens and tracks as I play the game. The graphics are functional, with the allowance to zoom in, but I am unsure that anyone would generally want to do that, as you really want to see as much as the map as possible for finding enemies and strategizing accordingly based on their proximity to your party. There was just one section in my 50 hours with the game that made my RTX 3080 think that it was having a seizure, dropping the frame rate to about 7-10fps, but beyond that one outlier, the game ran like butter on max settings. The console versions won’t drop until March 1, 2022, so I expect it to look and run just as good there, but with the added benefit of 7 more months of bug fixes and revisions.
There is no controller support on PC, and I asked the devs if they were planning on implementing this at or just after launch. The response from the team was not currently planned for support until closer to the console launch date. Gameplay consists of several ‘modes.’ The first and most common is party mode, where you control your party on specific maps to complete quests and exploration.
Backspace to select the whole party and left click to move your team, set formations and then the game will autopause when you detect combat or at a host of other configurable options. Or you can click on each team member (or their portrait) and then individually assign each person what you’d like to do and unpause the game and combat will play out in real time, or there is now a turn-based mode you can enable that allows it to act more like a true JRPG. The net effect of this is you friendly fire your units far less than in real time, but for me, I keep it real(time). As far as difficulty goes, when I review games I play them on the easiest mode possible, and that being said, I had to reload from total party kill no less than seven times throughout my experience. If you’re a beginner to CRPGs and this style of game, I would recommend the turn-based mode for a much higher chance of success.
The second mode to discuss is siege mode. This is akin to units on a chessboard with different powers, strengths and weaknesses.
This is perhaps where I encountered most of my run-ins with bugs, with units not being able to end their turn, or sometimes loading in to find the board and opposing pieces missing (in which case I had to ctrl alt delete the game, which is not great). The fix to this is to automate the mode in the settings; however, once you do that, you cannot turn it back on, meaning you lose what was turning into a fun section of the game for me. I enjoyed figuring out the recruiting of units, board strategy and obliteration of some demons in a chess-ish type of simulation. And, automation of this mode ALSO loses you access to the third mode:
Crusade mode. This is where you spend the resources you gather through the crusade to build up cities and towns that you’ve cleared out to withstand demon attacks.
So if you do pick up the game day 1, my two pieces of advice and how I got around these types of errors are: Save often(duh) and try using different armies when you get an error with one of them. That’s not necessarily realistic, as building multiple armies takes a lot of coin and resources, but if you can, usually that worked for me. However, after one of the major city battles in the game, I found my only way to progress was to automate the process. Your mileage may vary.
I can’t not draw some comparisons and parallels from Pathfinder: Kingmaker, and one of the comparisons needed are those of races and classes. There were 8 races in Kingmaker; there are 12 races in WotR. Kingmaker had 15 classes, compared to 25 classes in WotR; each with 6 or 7 arcetypes (different ways to play each class) – meaning there are in essence 161 different classes. Plus 13 prestige classes. The replayability factor is off the charts. Or should I say playability? With my 50 hours, I beelined for the story end, and there was still SO MUCH to see and do; you could easily invest multiple hundreds of hours on a single playthrough. Probably the most head-scratching decisions in the game is the cost for creating your own companion from scratch – it’s very costly at the beginning of the game and by midgame it’s almost as much as any top-tier magic item you’d want to buy from a vendor. My only thought is that this is the way Owlcat persuades you to use and develop the characters that are in the game already since they have questlines and dialogue, but it’s still an odd choice to make you burn resources. The argument could be made that you can respec characters for free, which is true – however, you can’t seem to respec their initial class choice, which means if you don’t like their default build choice, you’re stuck with it.
That being said, the game does a much better job of incorporating all of these very deep rulesets and modes with tutorial screens, which I never disabled. Fifty hours in and I was STILL getting new mechanics and modes for the game. Deep is an understatement.
Summary and Verdict
Owlcat really listened to players from Pathfinder: Kingmaker and they trimmed out all the things that simply weren’t fun about that game, resulting in a streamlined-yet-way-more-choices game in Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. Even though it has unfinished edges, the meat of the game is delicious if you’re a tactics or CRPG fan like I am. They’ve kept – and improved – fun systems, introduced some new ones and managed to make this feel more like a coherent story you are a part of more than most videogames of its kind. If you’re looking to sink a couple hundred hours into building your story, customizing your characters and exploring their pasts, and helping heal the world of an ancient blight to end a hundred year war with demons, then Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is right up your alley. Bugs and all, it’s a *hell* of a good time.