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Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Review

Pathfinder: Kingmaker was released in September 2018, and caused a bit of a divide amongst CRPG players. Those that backed the game on Kickstarter loved it, especially those who enjoyed the table-top campaign, but there were a lot of casual players who found the game’s default difficulty way too hard and unforgiving.

I personally waited until turn-based combat became available for that game when the Enhanced Edition came out, and I was glad I did. I spent over 100 hours playing Kingmaker, and although it had its fair share of annoying glitches and mechanics, the adventure that it took me through was memorable.

When I heard that they were making a sequel called Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous (WOTR), I was excited, but thought I’d bide my time and wait. I wasn’t able to do so for long, though, and after it released on September 2, 2021, I ended up buying it a couple of days later.

I’ve just looked at the hours clocked in-game and my final tally after reaching the end of WOTR was 114 hours.

Make no mistake, this is an epic game, and will take you a lot of time to complete even if you play on normal difficulty (which was toned down compared to Kingmaker) or below. However, if you enjoyed Kingmaker and other games in the genre like Pillars of Eternity, WOTR is probably right up your alley.

The premise of the game, like many CRPGs that have come before, is that you start off as a relative nobody. In this particular title, you’re thrown into the center of an inter-planar conflict between angels, demons, and other ancient beings. You get tasked with leading the efforts against the Abyssal forces, and meet a colourful cast of characters along the way that will either become your companions or your enemies.

There’s a lot to discuss about the game, and I’ll share what I did and didn’t like.

The Good

I’d hate to spoil the story for anyone, which is why I won’t go into a lot of detail about the plot. The main gist of the story is that you’re thrown in the middle of a colossal war against demons in the world of Golarion, and the conflict’s been going on for a century. The fate of the world lays in your hands, and how the war progresses and comes to a conclusion will be the direct result of your actions through the sprawling campaign as a crusade commander. You meet an eclectic group of potential companions along the way, and shape the world’s destiny with them.

There’s plenty of intrigue and betrayal to go around, too, and what’s a good RPG without a dose of that? 

I felt that for the most part, WOTR’s writing was a step above Kingmaker. From start to finish, most of the dialogue was good, plus all of the lore books littered around the world proved to be an entertaining read and glimpse into the what the Golarion’s gone through during the crusades.

Crusader life ain’t easy.

As someone who is a bit more of a casual gamer these days, it was refreshing to see that the “normal” difficulty was pretty manageable. It still sucked in the early levels because there wasn’t access to many hard-hitting abilities or spells, but it didn’t feel particularly unfair.

What I ended up doing was start on normal, and then slowly to tweaked the difficulty up as my party got stronger. This made me feel more in control of my experience, and allowed me to increase encounter difficulty at the appropriate power spikes. Being able to increase enemy damage, critical hits, and base enemy difficulty on the fly made for a great experience.

I never got anywhere near the “unfair” difficulty rating, but that’s because I’m not masochistic. If incredibly punishing difficulty is your thing, WOTR can definitely cater to that style. The fact that turn-based combat was available in the base game, instead of with a later update, was also great, as it became very difficult to manage fights against bosses in the default real-time with pause system that Baldur’s Gate veterans are familiar with.

Turn-based mode made engagements a lot longer, with some of the harder fights potentially lasting 20 minutes or more, but it was helpful as trying to take care of the big bosses in real-time often ended in disaster for me. Not preparing properly also cost me a lot of fights even in turn-based mode.

There’s a pretty wide list of classes to start off with, totalling 25 base classes (with the usual multi-classing options available), plus ten prestige classes that you can only take up once you’ve hit the pre-requisite skills, base attack bonus and alignment requirements. I personally ended up playing as a pure fighter with the dragon scion subclass, and focused on experimenting with multi-classing with my companion characters – some of whom are already set up for specific prestige classes.

To be honest, the character creation can be overwhelming, but there are plenty of good guides online that will give you an idea for builds for both your main character and their companions.

Compared to Pathfinder, character power growth felt weightier with the addition of the Mythic system, which allows players to branch into a specific set of powers and abilities based on in-game choices. The choices given weren’t merely cosmetic, as the chosen Mythic path changed the way the story progressed, and the choices that could be made at the game’s most pivotal points. While the ability to multi-class is still there, the Mythic system is the star of the show in terms of to playing the game in different ways, adding a ton of replayability to a game that already has a beefy amount of content. 

The other new addition to WOTR was the crusade system, which let me take control of ground armies to fight hordes of demons with on a static battelfield, something highly reminiscent of the Heroes of Might and Magic series.

The core of the game, though, focused on journeying through the sprawling world map and enjoying a mix of combat, dialogue, and puzzle-solving that helped me gain a deeper understanding of the source of the conflict, the big players involved, and all of the minor factions at play. There were a ton of optional side quests to do, and if you’re a completionist like me, you’ll feel the gnawing need to finish every single side quest in a chapter before moving on.

The main quests were fun in their own right, but delving into the side quests involving your companions and their reasons for being involved in the war were just as compelling. Out of all the available companion quests, I’d say that I only hated one of their story arcs. Considering that there’s about a dozen of companions to play with (at least that’s how many I discovered in my run), that’s a pretty good success rate for the writers.

For people who played Kingmaker, there are even a few cameos and surprise appearances from that campaign, plus some events that refer to the events that happened in the Stolen Lands.

You meet an interesting group of characters along the way, each with their own motivations and optional side quests to take care of.

The Not-So-Great

While WOTR is an excellent game, there were a few things that I felt were lacking. While the addition of the crusade system was a fine side-game in its own, the tutorials were pretty lacklustre and could have been further expanded. For those who want to just stick to adventuring, the option to have that part of the game automated is there, but fair warning: choosing this option can potentially lock off one of the mythic paths.

On my playthrough, it also felt like some of the alignment-related dialogue options weren’t executed well. I tend to play a good character on the first run of any RPG, and the “good” choices seemed all right, but the “lawful” and “evil” responses were sometimes downright silly. It often felt like the lawful choices left you with no space for empathy. “Lawful” ended up feeling closer to playing an evil or heartless character. “Evil” choices, on the other hand, sometimes amounted to stupid lines dialogue like “I don’t like you, time to die!”.

For a team that put so much effort into world building for WOTR, it felt like the writers didn’t quality-check the alignment-related dialogue chases, especially in the second half of the game. I get that Golarion was in a state of war, and that the world was full of tough choices, but a lot of the non-good options were too black and white.

Final Verdict

For a base price of SGD 59 on Steam, WOTR is worth the money. It’s a long game and as I mentioned earlier, it took me 114 hours to finish it. You’re going to get a lot of bang for your buck. There’s a ton of replayability too, especially because of the different mythic paths you can choose and the romances available – some of which are limited to your character’s gender.

WOTR isn’t without its flaws, especially since it’s a D&D based game that can leave you at the mercy of a run of bad dice rolls during an encounter, but it’s a well-executed game. The soundtrack is great, combat feels fulfilling, and character progression has weight to it.

WOTR does everything that Kingmaker did, but just a little better, so those of you that have already played the previous entry will definitely want to pick this title up. The game scratched the CRPG itch for me, and had me obsessively playing for three weeks. Since it looks like Baldur’s Gate 3 still won’t get its full release any time soon, WOTR is the perfect game to pick up now to get back into the fantasy CRPG mood.

Final rating: 9 out of 10.

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