When it comes to adapting pen and paper style RPGs into a video game format there have always been some signature names that have stuck around for years and even saw some remasters recently. However one of these styles of table top games never managed to see a full game release of its own and that happened to be the popular D&D spin-off turned into its own thing, Pathfinder. Now after a successful release on PC, Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition has made its way to consoles but is this massive RPG worth diving into?
While Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition initially offers players the choice of three scenarios to play through, the other two take place throughout the core storyline so it is worth noting that anyone jumping into the game should start with the main storyline first. Initially players will find themselves being called, along with other wandering mercenaries, to the ruler of Restov and recruited to eliminate a large group of vicious bandits that have banded together under the rule of the Stag Lord to take the Stolen Lands as their own. The reward for eliminating the Stag Lord and liberating the land of these bandits? Becoming a baron/baroness of the land themselves and being promoted to the noble ranks of the land.
After a sudden assassination attempt throws a bit of a wrench into things, the player’s journey begins and what a massive journey it will be. It is clearly evident that the developers knew that things may end up getting a bit too complicated at times as there is an always accessible glossary to consult in regards to various bits of history, locations, lore, and more. In fact, this initial chain of missions that see the player hunting down the Stag Lord can take easily more time than an average video game’s entire run length and this is merely the beginning of the adventure as there are not only numerous side-quests to take on right from the get go but massive amounts of dialogue and character interaction to take part in.
Alongside the massive amount of core plot that the player can experience in the game there are an extensive number of amazing characters to fall in love throughout the journey. This includes a number of companions who can potentially join the player’s party should they choose as well as a large number of developments that can be revealed as players spend time with them. A number of these revelations can end up being rather surprising in nature and helps make the cast of characters feel more established in a world that is already incredibly expansive and features so much story content that players will easily be able to sink over a hundred hours into the game and still not see everything that can happen.
While players are already given something of an example for how to play their character when creating the game, the actual choices that players make in the game don’t entirely need to reflect on the player’s given alignment. This allows for players to make the most of the incredibly expansive options that can be open to some situations and how they play out. In more than a few ways even the slightest decision may play a factor later on in a questline in a rather surprising way and seeing this unfold helps make players really feel like they are playing their character as they see fit.
Given the fact that Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition takes the entirety of its character creation from the table top RPG and being based around Pathfinder instead of more recent versions of D&D, players will want to take a fairly lengthy time making sure they are creating a character they feel comfortable with. Not only are there sixteen different classes to play as but each of these classes can have up to four sub-classes that also have various special traits. Combine this with race bonuses, stat distribution, special trait, and more depending on class and it can feel overwhelming at the start but for new players or those wanting a bit of help there are some pre-built characters to work with as well.
That being said, this game is also incredibly customizable when it comes to difficulty. Players can choose to play at normal, easy, and story simply to experience the game’s plot without worrying too heavily about the intricacies of the RPG but those who want to get into the nitty gritty will find hard, very hard, and even “Unfair” to choose from. These affect things such as how much damage enemies deal, whether party members completely die when downed or are left at “death’s door” or simply knocked unconscious, kingdom management, and more with each of these being able to individually customized to fit the player’s skill level.
The way combat is handled is actually rather interesting as players can swap between the turn based battle system where they have control of everything their party does to a faster real-time battle system where only their own character is being controlled while the rest of the party is handled by AI. This works rather well for the most part when it is used to mix things up, meaning that most of the time a turn-based approach should be used to take on new foes or more difficult enemies as proper positioning for flanking and sneak attacks, as well as AoE spells and items, can be essential for surviving some of these encounters while easier enemies can be handled simply by allowing your team to run roughshod in real time.
Outside of the combat mechanics players will also spend plenty of time camping to allow their team to heal up and form the aforementioned bonds with one another as these are generally where most interactions take place. The camp allows for various party members to take on different roles such as keeping lookout, healing one another, hunting for food, and more. After a certain point in the game, players will also obtain the ability to manage a kingdom as a new baron/baroness. This provides an entirely new element of gameplay that requires players to not only build up their land but also keep the people happy while protecting it from both monsters but also others that would like to see the player’s new lands become their own. This can be partially handled by advisors that the player can assign to various roles and, as mentioned before, can be a bit difficult at times so players can balance things a bit more in their favor to avoid risking game overs should their kingdom fall while they are handling quests, which isn’t too much of a threat considering most of the time players can respond to potential dangers with enough time but regular save rotation is heavily advised for this reason and a more dire one as well.
While originally released on PC, the transition to consoles has not been the kindest for Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition as interacting with some menus is inherently a bit more troublesome than one would like. To make things worse there are some rather lengthy load times even when transitioning from small screen to small screen, making exploring dungeons something of a hassle but this generally isn’t the worst part. The main reason players will want to regularly rotate saves as well as save frequently is because this is an incredibly buggy game that also loves to crash for no reason at times. Not only have there been times that bosses have either not appeared or simply became invincible for no reason but entire questlines would fail to complete properly. There also happens to be a rather nasty bug that can flat out wreck a save file so players will want to keep a number of them to avoid such an instance and hope that the developers are quick to patch the game with these bugs.
Visuals & Audio
With nearly everything being displayed at an isometric angle as one would expect with a tabletop style RPG, Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition isn’t the best looking game but does feature some great looking character art and many classic enemy designs that fans of the genre will be familiar with. This includes a number of gorgeous looking dungeons and locales to travel to though perhaps the kingdom management could have featured a bit more customization.
It is nice to note that there is an extensive amount of voiced dialogue throughout the game as not only are most main story quests voiced entirely but nearly all interactions with your companions also feature voice work performed by a fitting cast of actors. The background music is similarly superb in fitting the fantasy medieval theme of the game though.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition delivers an immense story with some great combat mechanics that can require as much skill and depth as the player wishes to dive into them. Unfortunately these great elements are hampered by some significantly awful bugs, frequent crashes, and poor performance while those who prefer their table top RPGs to be all about quests may not like the required kingdom management aspects as well. This leaves the game as one that has plenty to offer but also one that is a bit too rough for what should be a “definitive edition.”