By Chris Picone, 24 September 2021
I absolutely loved Pathfinder: Kingmaker; it’s the first RPG in I don’t know how long that I’ve poured more than a hundred hours of my life into. Now, while I have a policy about judging each game on their own merits, Kingmaker had such a big impact on me that there was no way I could stick to that philosophy this time. I very much went in expecting Wrath of the Righteous to be like Kingmaker, but better – it was Owlcat’s debut game, after all. Lessons learned, and all that.
As it stands, I’m about 50 hours into the game, which probably seems far too late to be writing a “first impressions” article (after all, even big RPGs are normally 20-60 hours, right?), but that’s the sort of game this is. And I feel justified going in with expectations based on its prequel because I’m getting exactly what I expected. Like Kingmaker, the core isometric RPG component of the game got off to a bit of a shaky start but quickly found itself, leading to a deep story full of exploration, decision-making, and a glorious war between good and evil. The crusade – a new component not seen in Kingmaker where you move armies around HOMM-style, to engage in vaguely HOMM-style tactical battles – is a bit of a shambles. It’s a nice feature in that you really do feel like you’re leading a campaign instead of just picking up “Commander” as a meaningless title, but the tactical minigame is very much lacking in depth and balance. The kingdom management component is similar to Kingmaker’s, although it’s been drastically simplified and now really only serves as another layer of the crusade. The choose-your-own-adventure-style events have also taken a back seat this time; they’re still written well and exciting but they’re much fewer and further between than they were in Kingmaker.
The verdict? If you’re a Kingmaker fan – or hell, any kind of isometric CRPG fan, it’s a no-brainer. Get it. Sure, some aspects haven’t been executed terribly well, but others have been executed incredibly well and the overall experience is amazing. If you aren’t an RPG veteran, this probably isn’t an entry-level game.