Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Review

Gaming
7.5

Good

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

Developer: Owlcat Games
Publisher: Owlcat Games, META Publishing
Platform: Mac, Windows PC
Release Date: 2 September 2021
Price: $49.99 USD/ $69.95 AUD – Available Here

Video Review

Overview

Pathfinder was birthed from Paizo’s concerns about Wizards of the Coast’s new licensing system that came with the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition books. As a response, Paizo opted to adapt the D&D 3.5 Edition by rebalancing the rules, adding more content, creating their own world, and calling it Pathfinder.

The rights to the Pathfinder video game license first went to Obsidian, whose card game adaptation was met with a lukewarm reception. Owlcat Games took over afterwards and produced Pathfinder: Kingmaker, a tactical RPG that better embodied the spirit of the source content. The game was so well received, Owlcat Games was able to develop their latest title: Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous.

Story

The game is set in a world besieged by demons. The Worldwound was carved through the land many years ago, spewing out demons from the Abyss since then. Blessed with incredible powers, the player is finally able to create an opening for the original inhabitants to drive back the demons and save the world.

The story is interesting. The plot is the bog-standard hero epic where the player has incomparable powers that will help them save the world, but it’s well executed. The lore is tightly woven. The quests are interesting and pushes the plot forward at a good pace.

The characters are a bit straight forward. It’s not a horrible thing as there are so many characters to keep track of. The main character and party members all have alignments that Pathfinder inherited from Dungeons & Dragons. The party characters and dialogue options for the player follow the alignments rather strictly, though the player does have options for neutral answers. Nuance is not exactly the game’s strong suit. More importantly though, the simplicity never devolves into caricature. The character depth never gets deep enough to ever escape the reality that the party members are designed to be shuffled around with very little loss to the plot.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the writers excel at humour. The writers know when it’s right time to slip in a good joke to lighten the mood without derailing the whole game. There are some great minor NPCs who are part of very witty events. There are also some party members that provide a little levity. Lann and Woljif are genuinely lovely characters who regularly crack jokes, and many of them are actually funny.

Gameplay

The follow up to Pathfinder: Kingmaker is here. Check out the first 45 minutes of Pathfinder: Wrath of the Rig in our latest gameplay video.

@OwlcatGames @paizo @metapublishing #Pathfinder #rpg #CRPG #indiedev #indiegames

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a tactical RPG that follows the Pathfinder ruleset to a varying degree. Players who are still in love with the more complex ruleset of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition will have a great time with the Pathfinder ruleset. The game’s normal difficulty is a looser adaptation of the rules to compensate for the sheer number of enemies the game will throw at the player compared to an actual campaign. For the skilled or the brave, there is a mode that follows the Pathfinder rules faithfully.

Character management is impressive. Creating and leveling up characters is almost an exact copy of the tabletop RPG experience. While there are a few pre-generated characters for players to choose, part of the experience is making one from scratch. The game offers a lot of class options as it uses the standard classes inherited from Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition System Reference Document and the content from the Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide. The game has excellent options for players who are unfamiliar with the Pathfinder rules or don’t want to put in the effort of manually leveling up every character.  For those doing a manual level up to tweak a few options or leveling up their main character, the game offers recommended skills and talents. By default, the game automatically levels up the party characters.

Combat in Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous offers some flexibility. By default, the game is a real time RPG where players can adjust the flow of time to queue up abilities, adjust positioning, or select targets. It isn’t for everyone, but it is a faster way of playing the game. The turn based mode is closer to the traditional tactical RPGs. The controls are snappy and just works well. It’s my preferred way of playing as the greater degree of control is necessary in the chaos of battle.

I enjoy the game’s combat. The normal difficulty level follows the Pathfinder rules closely enough to be entertaining without some of the minor peculiarities that would bog the game down or require a change of level design. The game usually throws just enough enemies at the player to keep the game challenging. I would have appreciated a bit more variety in the enemies. There are a lot of demons and cultists to slay, so having more beasts and other creatures would have provided better opportunities to utilize some underused abilities and spells.

The level design has its ups and downs. The levels are split between area maps and the overworld. The overworld is simple and easy to understand. The area maps are where things unravel a bit. The maps for quests are excellent. They are well designed with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, traps to avoid, and puzzles to solve. The random encounters on the other hand are incredibly repetitive and boring. It feels like there are only three or four maps, and players will spend a decent amount of time fighting off these encounters. It feels like the developers are unnecessarily stretching out the game as the enemies are often too easy for the player’s party.

Controlling the army of crusaders is a major part of the game. It is designed to represent the march towards the demon hordes. Demon armies protect the roads and certain locations. An army is required to clear out the enemies, so the party can proceed. While the idea is nice, the execution is lacking. Battles are painfully simple compared to party combat. An auto-resolve function is available, and almost always provides better results. Considering the game runs smoother with the auto-resolve, one must wonder if the mechanic was even necessary to begin with.

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous still has some ways to go with the user experience. The tutorial is decent. I like that the tutorial will repeatedly pop up for specific mechanics until the player permanently dismisses it. Unfortunately, the encyclopedia isn’t thorough enough. Some key terms and tutorials have entries, but there are some serious holes. There is a tutorial covering army combat, but the encyclopedia doesn’t have the entries.

There are some quality-of-life features that would improve the user experience. The game does not always provide error messages with enough details or visual cues to explain what the problem is. Unless the player is very familiar with the Pathfinder rules, players will need to deal with a good bit of trial and error to figure things out. The worst is probably the charge function. All characters can charge into battle, so melee characters have a fighting chance against archers and spellcasters; however, it isn’t clear what is actually blocking the charge since there is no movement line showing what is in the way. Moving around the overworld map is also painfully slow.

The game still requires a good bit of bug stomping. I often ran into issues where the turn would not end properly, requiring me to switch to real time mode for a short while before returning to turn based mode. I also ran into characters who were impossible to manually level up, even though the prompt to switch to manual mode was selected.

The UI feels a little unfinished. There are many feats, skills, and abilities that don’t have art. Instead, they have a generic icon displaying an acronym in a fancy font. The item management UI could also use a bit of work. While equipping characters works well enough, managing items within the bags could use improvement. The icon to designate a better than average item has the same icon regardless if the item has an common buff or is a unique named item. While the filter options are good, a sort by value option could be added. Bulk selling stacks is also awkward. Instead of using a modifier key to sell an entire stack with one click, the player needs to click on the items fast enough to trigger a scroll bar to select a set number of items to sell to the vendor.

Visuals

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous follows the standard western fantasy art style. The 3d game graphics leans towards a realistic look. I appreciate that the 2D artwork looks like it was torn out of the pages of the Pathfinder game books. It is a major part of making the game feel like a Pathfinder game.

The technical options are very good for an RPG. There are plenty of graphic options to tweak. There is also an incredible set of accessibility settings for colourblind players. There are some weird issues with borderless fullscreen mode though. It behaves more like an exclusive fullscreen mode where the game minimizes when alt-tabbed instead of switching windows.

Audio

The audio experience is solid. The soundtrack is composed of the traditional epic instrumentals and fits the emotions of the game well. The sound effects are realistic and have enough variation. The voice acting is also good, though only the most important parts of the game and combat has voice acting. Each character has a few lines for combat that cycle through, but the default setting was still too much for me. I appreciate that the developers even put a setting to tune how often characters use their voice lines in combat. It is absolutely a feature I wish more RPGs would adopt.

Overall

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous isn’t perfect, but it a very good game. It adapts the Pathfinder tabletop RPG in an enjoyable and reasonably approachable way. The audio/visual experience is impressive. The combat is a blast, and the story is good. I am impressed with the amount of options the developer has given the player, both in the technical and gameplay sense. There are issues with the game, but most can either be tuned or fixed completely. The only real problem is the dull army mechanic which, unfortunately, is a core mechanic. Regardless of its flaws, this game is highly recommended for RPG fans looking for a solid table top RPG adaptation.

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

Summary

While suffering from a few UX issues and dully army mechanics, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a fantastic RPG with solid party based gameplay
7.5

Good

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