Three years ago, the Russian studio Owlcat released a computer adaptation of Pathfinder, a tabletop RPG based on the Dungeons & Dragons system. The game, subtitled Kingmaker, was met with a solid dose of criticism and skepticism at the time of its announcement, but left a very pleasant aftertaste with the audience after its release. This year, Owlcat decided to delight RPG fans with a new title in the same universe – Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. At the same time, the developers noted that the game will be different from the previous title. Is it really? What surprises have the developers prepared for us and is the game worth the dozens of hours spent on completing? We will tell you in this review.
The salvation of the world will wait
Pathfinder briefly greets the player and informs with simple text in the menu that we have to lead the Fifth Crusade against a certain World Plague, and then sends on more mundane matters – to choose difficulty and create a character. The game level settings here are standard and differ only in how much the enemies will be weakened (or strengthened) and how many times your heroes can fall unconscious before they finally die. And then one of the most important, yet most difficult parts of the game begins.
To be able to pass WotR on “normal” difficulty and above, you just need to understand the whole mass of nuances of the local role-playing system. One incorrectly chosen talent or an incorrectly pumped characteristic can negate any attempts to kill even the initial enemies. By the way, in this case, the game even tries to help – for example, if your heroes often miss, then sooner or later a hint will appear explaining how you can fix it. Therefore, it can take more than an hour to create a hero on the first playthrough – you will have to study all the descriptions. Even in this case, the player is not immune from error, but, fortunately, in the process of passing, there will still be several opportunities to change the character’s skills, if the initial version did not suit you.
WotR offers a choice of 12 races and 25 main classes. For example, in addition to the standard RPG barbarian, mage, paladin and thief, there is a horseman, inquisitor, magus and others. Moreover, each type has up to seven subclasses, which differ in the set of available skills. There are also additional specializations that are unlocked only when certain conditions are met. For those who do not want to understand the intricacies of building a build and the interaction of characteristics, the game has six ready-made characters, for whom, for a quick start, it is enough to customize only their appearance, as well as religious beliefs and worldview, which open various answers in dialogues and reflect the moral beliefs of the character. Later, mythical paths become available to the player – additional skill branches, the type of which depends on the choices made during the passage. At the same time, the party members also receive new skills, but they will have much fewer skills available. Mythical paths affect not only the course of battles, but also the plot. For example, when choosing the “law-abiding” path of Aeon, the character will gain the ability to see secret sins, and ordinary residents will whisper about it behind their backs and be afraid of the hero.
Which way to fight?
Wrath of the Righteous begins, following the canons of a classic role-playing game. In the midst of the celebration of the anniversary of the city, the dying hero is brought to Kenabres, the main stronghold of the crusaders. He has a mystical wound on his chest that cannot be healed to the end, only temporarily closed. The protagonist is treated and sent to rest, but soon the feast interrupts the invasion of demons led by the powerful Lord Descari, and the hero falls into a crack in the ground, which appeared from a powerful blow from the demon.
After these events, our hero with a periodically opening wound on his chest helps to recapture the city and becomes the head of the crusade, which must put an end to the invasion of demons. And now, soon, with a sword or any other weapon naked, the hero sets out to save this mortal world, simultaneously carrying out missions of various hazards, participating in intrigues and acting as a personal psychologist for party members and all comers.
It is worth talking about satellites separately. 12 partners can visit the front line with the hero, each with its own character, history and set of skills. At the same time, it will be possible to collect all the “Pokemon”, but sometimes you have to give up moral principles – not all goals and methods will coincide with yours. But even if someone does not fit the worldview or the assembled build, completing personal tasks of the party members and communicating in the camp are worth the time spent. In addition, the developers of WotR made it possible to develop relationships further than friendly ones and start a full-fledged romance. For example, my heroine could not resist the peculiar charm of Count Deyran’s tongue-tied tongue, which, upon meeting, caused only disgust.
It should be noted that the authors tried too hard to destroy the stereotypes of classic RPGs: a descendant of the aasimar angels with an evil outlook, or a paladin offering to arrange a feast even during mourning, and other atypical characters are waiting for you. Through the quests of companions, you can learn a lot about their history. At the same time, WotR has both ordinary escort quests, in which you just need to follow the character in his business, and much more interesting ones. In one assignment, for example, I had to pour wine over my companion, and then arrange a competition with drinks – all to distract him while another ally is investigating. By getting to know the heroes through random dialogues and tasks, you can really get attached to them. And therefore, their strange habit of sometimes leaving the group, so that then, by a wave of the plot, they suddenly return can be seriously upset.
It is very interesting to watch the development of the story itself, but Pathfinder no, no, yes, it will slip the obvious “Chekhov’s gun” right in the face – at such moments you immediately understand when it will shoot, it does not even smell of intrigue. But also, as the game progresses, it will often recall other important things that were done a very long time ago, and you, it would seem, have already forgotten about them. Pathos here is well diluted with comedy episodes that fit organically into the narrative. And for fans of reading, an incredible number of books are scattered around the world, revealing the lore of the game even more.
But, despite the interesting presentation of the plot, it is immediately clear that the writings of the scriptwriters were aimed at specific branches of the story, and if you choose a different path, it can crumble at the very beginning. When the hero comes to his senses, the game makes it possible to choose how he ended up in the city: he came to become a crusader, bears the will of God, or just passed by. And if you want to play a hero who just happened to be at the wrong time and in the wrong place, then you will be disappointed. The game provides absolutely no motivation that would explain why he needs to lead an army. Yes, at first you help on an “all in one boat” principle, but then the game simply says, “You have the power. Now you are in charge. ” What for? Unclear. My hero had no apparent reason to take risks and participate in the campaign, but the game did not even give a chance to challenge it. The secondary heroes have much more motivation than the player character. Because of this, everything that happens next no longer seems so organic and sometimes “knocks” out of the immersion, although the game tries to explain itself by showing excerpts from the protagonist’s past. Because of this, learning the plot and unraveling the mysteries of the new Pathfinder is still fun, but the game sometimes feels rather farcical.
Everyday life of the unfortunate commander
If a bit of absurdity of what is happening does not bother you and you are not particularly pretentious about the plot, then it’s time to move on to the gameplay. In presentations dedicated to Wrath of the Righteous, the developers noted that the gameplay will be different from the previous Pathfinder. However, it cannot be said that the parts came out really different. The top view, the combat system, interface elements, skill icons, and even monsters have remained virtually unchanged. The developers took the wireframe from the previous part and just added new touches. On release, the original Kingmaker had a lot of bugs that broke the game and interfered with the passage – and in this regard, the creators of Wrath of the Righteous did a better job. Otherwise, everything remained at about the same level, but with updated graphics.
From the original Kingmaker to the game, the real-time battle mode has switched, but it is so chaotic here that it is almost impossible to fight in it, even though I am a fan of this approach in other games. In addition to it, a system of turn-based battles appeared in WotR, which are accompanied by a convenient and informative interface, and so it is better to understand what is happening on the screen. However, there are some annoying moments here as well. For example, during battles near mountains, walls, or staircases, the camera tied to the characters starts to go crazy and more often shows the sky or the stonework of the castle than the battlefield. It turns out a choice of two evils.
There are also other bugs: sometimes the attack icon is displayed incorrectly, actions are canceled by themselves, and at some points the game stops showing the character’s route. Sometimes you kill all opponents, and the battle does not end, because the game “includes in the battle” one more enemy, which may even be three rooms from the place of the battle. During massive battles, in addition to the party of the player and enemies, NPC allies sometimes appear. Adds epicness and fills the scene, but incredibly drags on the already long battles – not everyone will be happy to wait more than 15 turns to make one auto attack.
In the process of freeing the lands from the oppression of demons, you will also have to command your own army. The new system allows you to collect troops from squads of volunteers and mercenaries and send them to battle against groups of demons, for the victory over which the army will receive resources and bonuses to morale. Morale is a very important aspect: if its indicators become negative, then the flow of funds and recruits will greatly decrease or even stop altogether. To simplify life, the army and forts, which can be captured and made your strong points, can be improved with the help of various buildings – they are created through the command menu familiar to the veterans of the series. A similar system was in Kingmaker and in general has not changed much. At the headquarters, you can also issue orders and solve various political matters.
The battles themselves look like heavily curtailed battles in Heroes of Might and Magic: squads fight under the leadership of mercenary generals who have various buffs. Sounds good, but they are interesting only in the first few meetings. Then the battles turn into a rather dull grind, without which it is very difficult to go further through the plot, because the roads are constantly blocking the armies of demons. For those who do not want to understand the delights of military affairs, the game offers an automatic crusade mode – the army itself will advance and fight demons over time. True, after confirming the choice, it will no longer be possible to return to independent command and control of troops in this playthrough. But here, too, there were some problems: some quests related to the army may not work correctly in this mode. The developers are actively fixing bugs and broken tasks, but how many bugs will get to release is unknown.
In Wrath of the Righteous, Owlcat managed to capture the atmosphere of an epic battle against demons. If you play a character for whom the salvation of humanity is the goal of his whole life, then the plot will perfectly complement this story and tell about the formation of a real hero. True, in all other cases, the script pretty soon begins to fall apart like a house of cards. The developers managed to create interesting allies, whose personal stories are really fascinating to follow. Side quests and details that can be learned when examining locations allow you to immerse yourself in the vast world of the new Pathfinder. But the abundance of skills and ways of development often makes an unprepared person clutch his head, and the system of tactical battles by army forces gets bored too quickly. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous definitely deserves the attention of fans of the genre, especially if you are ready to turn a blind eye to intrusive mechanics.
- atmosphere and dialogues;
- interesting minor characters;
- turn-based combat system.
- fragility of the plot and lack of motivation of the hero;
- tactical battles while managing an army;
- annoying grind.
Disclaimer: unfortunately, during the beta testing I managed to play only 60 hours, but I did not have time to reach the final. The assessment of the game will appear after the passage of the entire storyline.