Pathfinder: Kingmaker is an isometric RPG developed by Owlcat Games, after a successful Kickstarter campaign less than a year and a half ago, in June of 2017. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Hey, that seems like quite a short time for a brand new company to put out a fully fledged RPG game”, then you’re thinking the same thing I was thinking when I thought that.
The game is the first CRPG to be based on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game ruleset from Paizo. This system is one that I absolutely love, and have played for years, so I’ll admit that I was probably a little overhyped to play this game. Okay. A lot then.
The great thing about an RPG system like Pathfinder is the breadth of what can be achieved from a story and character perspective. I’ve always found it to be a set of rules that gets out of your way and lets you focus on creating new and exciting worlds, populated by creative characters. So the first thing that baffled me about Pathfinder: Kingmaker, is that the world and characters feel like something pulled from an identikit fantasy lore generator.
There’s quite a breadth of characters that you stand to add to your party in the first hour, depending on if they like you or not, but the selection is pedestrian, to say the least. A big dumb barbarian woman who likes to kill stuff and doesn’t like chit-chat. A dwarf guy with a big hammer who is secretly a big softy. An aloof sneering magical dude. The list goes on. It’s like a Who’s Who of RPG staples.
If there’s one thing that’s fairly accurate to Kingmakers pen and paper counterpart, it’s that all the characters talk like they’re being played by a 34-year-old man with a sword collection. One of the companions literally started flirting with me ten seconds after meeting me, for no reason other than I guess she’s meant to be the sexy one. So many times the dialogue made me cringe because it felt like something being said by a man who was punctuating each sentence by licking Dorito dust off his fingers.
These are all things I can forgive because honestly, this is kind of what I want from an old-school RPG like this. Swords and sorcery. Elves and magical creatures. The same old story we’ve been telling all our lives in games like these. Pathfinder: Kingmaker is nothing new or exciting, but it is certainly a nostalgic trip into a world I like to revisit now and then. It’s a bit silly, and a bit twee, but it’s charming in its own way.
The real problem for me is in almost every other core mechanic of the game. It feels like in their rush to get the game released, they forgot to sort of… check… anything. For instance, the premade fighter character for some reason has a ton more points in their stats than I can put into any custom character. Like their own created characters don’t have to follow the rules for some reason. So if you want a good character, you’re kind of pushed towards using their own premades.
Then when you get into some combat, the difficulty is all messed up. Even on the lowest difficulty, you get random encounters with enemies that are waaay outside your stat range. Like they walk up to you and roundhouse kick your head off while you’re still figuring out which side of your sword is the pointy end. Pushing the difficulty up more just rewards you with literally unhittable enemies. I mean, how good are these guys? Am I just wafting my sword around in circles while they flow around it like something out of the Matrix? Since you don’t get a healer unless you make some very specific story choices, this can make the game pretty hard to progress through.
Playing Pathfinder: Kingmaker almost feels like the developers have never really played any Pathfinder prior to making this game. Or I suppose perhaps more like they churned an RPG game out in a relatively short period of time with very little playtesting. It’s a shame about all that, because the game is really fun to play when it isn’t bad. It’s just that it’s bad quite often. As the first game from Owlcat Games, it shows great potential for what they would be able to achieve in the future. But it’s not quite there yet.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker (PC)
Darius has a crush on Nylon and he keeps trying to hit on her but messing it up in oh-so-hilarious ways because of her lack of understanding of cultural references. Meanwhile, Ugg eats meat and sulks because he hasn’t hit anyone in a while.
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