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Pathfinder: Kingmaker

Posted by GG Goblin On October - 9 - 2018

Make me a King.

I spent far too much time with pen and paper RPGs as a kid. From D&D, AD&D and Call of Cthulhu to the Palladium RPG, Paranoia and Stormbringer. However, this all pretty much stopped when I discovered video games and, more specifically, Baldur’s Gate which gave me my RPG hit without having to be sociable. So, when the Pathfinder pen and paper system came out, I had already left these types of games far behind to indulge my addiction to video games. Because of this, I have no idea how close to the source material Owlcat Games’ Pathfinder: Kingmaker actually is. But what I can say is that as an example of the isometric RPGs of old, such as Baldur’s Gate, Pathfinder: Kingmaker is pretty good.

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Fans of the classic RPGs will feel quite at home here, not that there is a shortage of classic RPGs at the moment. Players will take control of a customisable hero, along with a bunch of allies, and adventure their way across a fantasy world, all while following an involved storyline with plenty of twists and turns. There will be monsters to fight, treasure to collect and abilities to learn. It ticks all of the boxes so far, but there is a lot more going on in Pathfinder: Kingmaker.

But first, the game begins with the player creating a character. There are ample choices to be had here, from race and character class, to an in-depth alignment system. I don’t know if everything came over from the pen and paper system, but there is plenty of opportunity here to create a character worthy of any player. Then the story begins with the player being one of many adventurers that have been summoned to a castle. The reason for this summoning is to take back the disputed territory of the Stolen Lands and install a new Baron. Obviously, the player is not the only one who fancies that title, so after a little chaos, the player, along with some of the other adventurers depending on decisions made, heads off to the Stolen Lands to kick out the bandits and become Baron. So begins what turns out to be quite an epic quest.

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The combat is straight away familiar. It all happens in real time, along with the awkward standing around while waiting for their turn, and players are able to pause the action in order to consider their options. It’s a good system, and one that will cater to all of the different levels of difficulty in the game. At the lower end of the difficulty spectrum, encounters are not so difficult that anything more than a quick choice of actions will do the job. Turn the difficulty up a notch and players will find themselves having to carefully plan their moves and strategy, playing the strengths of each character in the group.

Kingmaker does feel unbalanced at times. Even on the lighter difficulty, some encounters will prove testing as players can often wander into areas that they are just not ready for, and some enemies have special conditions that need to be met in order to defeat them, which is not always amply explained. I would imagine that the pen and paper RPG has a huge number of different systems in place, to cater to every situation, and translating them into video game form would likely leave some things unexplained to the unfamiliar. Hopefully, the game will feel smoother in time, as Owlcat address any problems that they come across.

Anyway, the mechanics are very much as they would be in pen and paper form, with all manner of different checks to be made against abilities and skills for pretty much every action. When it comes to group actions, rolls are made only against one characters stats in that particular skill, which saves time and prevents the team from being split. The alignment system is dynamic and players will find their alignment change if they act in specific ways, and certain actions will be unavailable to certain alignments.

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It won’t be long before the player gets their Barony, and this is where the game takes a nice little detour. Once in control of the Stolen Lands, the player can start building up their settlement. This will mean hiring advisors, assigning jobs to party members and even placing buildings that will give the player what they need for further adventuring. Taking the Barony is far from where the game ends, as the player will still have to deal with the motivations of the character that hired them, along with other involved parties, and then there are adventures to have using this as a base of operations. As for the complexity, the player can get as involved as they choose, so if Sim Fantasy City is not what the player is looking for, they can step away.

Kingmaker does a great job of emulating the tabletop experience in video game form, but the level of complexity will put some players off. The difficulty can be an issue, and things like knowing what the player is facing and how to defeat it, along with preparing fully before entering combat rather than just running in, will leave players frustrated. But these little details are also what makes the game shine. How many games do you know that will have the player having to send a party member to hunt for food when they set up camp, and having each character in the party prefer different food? There is a lot going on here, but for those fully invested, it can be pretty amazing.

However, the game is not without bugs and glitches, which do tarnish the experience somewhat. While my own game has been free of any major problems, I have heard others mention some major bugs that have caused loss of gameplay. On the lesser scale, things like quests failing to complete or dialogue lines being out of place are quite often. Owlcat Games seem very passionate about this game, so I am sure that over time the game will be patched and polished, but at the moment it can be a bit messy.

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At the end of the day, Pathfinder: Kingmaker is a lot of game. The complexity of the game can be overwhelming and players will have to invest time and patience to learn the ebbs and flows of the systems. It is aimed at a relatively niche market, but for fans of the classic RPGs or their pen and paper equivalent, Pathfinder: Kingmaker has a lot to offer and is well worth checking out.




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