Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Hands-On Preview – On a Mythical Path To Glory
In the past few years, computer role-playing games have seen a sort of resurgence, thanks to titles like Pillars of Eternity and Pathfinder: Kingmaker. While Obsidian tried their best to create a game that is accessible even for those who never played a computer role-playing game before, Owlcat Games didn't do a particularly good job, making it difficult for those with little to no knowledge of Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons to enjoy the game without investing tons of time in learning mechanics outside of the game itself. This was definitely a shame, as Pathfinder: Kingmaker is an amazingly deep game that faithfully translated the pen and paper RPG to a digital format, complete with all the features that make Pathfinder what it is.
Setting out to outdo their previous game, Owlcat Games seems to be on the right track to make Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous not only a better game but also a much more accessible one. Instead of letting the player figure out by themselves the complex mechanics that power the experience, or where to go to complete a quest, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous provides all the help needed to understand what is going on, with contextual tutorials every time a new mechanic is introduced and an intuitive system that lets players learn more not just about the mechanics, but also lore, locations, and characters by simply hovering over a highlighted item. The end result is a game that is enjoyable straight from the get-go.
And there is quite a lot to enjoy from the very beginning of Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, as the new game from Owlcat has upped the ante on pretty much every front. Reaching the Worldwound, where the opening of a rift to the Abyss has unleashed terror across the land, the player will have to lead the Crusade to crush the demon hordes that have invaded the world. The main character can be customized with an extensive character creator that lets you pick between 25 different classes with multiple archetypes all coming with unique traits and skills, 12 different races, and different moral alignments, making for an authentic Pathfinder experience where the player dictates with their choices how the world is shaped right from the start.
The fact that the player can change the world with their choices in Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is evident right from the beginning of the game. Following the attack on the city of Kenabres by a powerful demon lord, the player gets thrown into the city's catacombs, where they meet their first companions Seelah and Camellia, as well as the mongrels, descendants of the original crusaders, Wenduag and Lann. The two mongrels are willing to show the way to the surface to the future Crusade commander, but at different conditions that will effectively force the player to pick a side, which will lead to a different outcome and a rather interesting revelation that highlights the high quality of the writing: despite the game being set in a fantasy world with clearly defined good and evil, there is enough space for some greyness that make the experience feel quite mature. And that shows how, against a powerful evil such as the demons, one has to go to extreme lengths to send it back from whence it came.
An extremely interesting addition featured in Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous are the Mythical Paths, which let players turn into one powerful mythical being between Azata, Angel, Aeon, Trickster, Lich, and Demon. The premise for this gameplay mechanic is incredibly simple and lore-friendly: no regular man can defeat the demons, and only the otherworldly powers belonging to these beings can aid the Crusader in saving the world. The Mythical Path that is picked influences the entirety of the adventure, opening up specific quests and making companions react to the main character differently as well.
Combat has seen a few changes in Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous over Kingmaker. While the classic real-time combat with optional pausing is still in without any major tweak, not counting new mechanics like mounted combat with a full progression system for animal companions, players now have the option of choosing a turn-based option at any time during the fight. While the option is great to have, especially if you feel overwhelmed by the real-time combat and the wealth of skills and options available right from the start, it feels like it slows down the game's pace way too much, especially considering how many enemies are there in dungeons. Still, having more options is never a bad thing.
Even if you decide not to engage in turn-based combat while fighting monsters inside the game's intricately designed dungeons, you will eventually be forced to. The biggest addition to the classic cRPG formula featured in Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is tactical combat for armies, where you will have to lead your troops to victory. Even before engaging demons in these new battles, you will have to recruit and manage your army, which adds yet another layer of depth to the experience, despite being a relatively straightforward addition in terms of actual combat mechanics.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is setting out to be the role-playing game to get this year for those who love classics like the Baldur's Gate games, coming with all the features one would expect to see in a cRPG while introducing mechanics that make the experience both more accessible and deeper. After around 15 hours in the beta, I feel like I have only skimmed the surface of an experience that looks epic in every sense of the word.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous launches on PC on September 6th via Steam and GOG.
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