Tom Quirk plays a lot of video games, but when he isn't, he is reading fantasy novels and watching way more television than is healthy.
Xbox One, PS4, PC
September 25, 2018
Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition is a game developed by hardcore RPG fans, for hardcore RPG fans. Originally released back in 2018 following a successful crowdfunding campaign, the game has been steadily supported by additional content. Now all of that content has been bundled up and ported to current-gen consoles as Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition. Impressively, this dense and complicated computer RPG works rather well on the PlayStation 4, albeit let down by some clunky interfaces and long load times.
After the lengthy process of choosing your race, class, subclass and moral alignment, you are dropped into the world of Pathfinder: Kingmaker. You play as one of a selection of mercenaries tasked with taking down the villainous Stag Lord, a bandit leader who is terrorising the Stolen Lands. The one who takes him down is promised the chance of becoming Baron or Baroness of the Stolen Lands and taking the place over for themselves. After rolling up a Chaotic Good Half-Elf Slayer named Klaus and assembling my party, I went on my way.
That initial quest to defeat the Stag Lord forms what is basically a ten-hour prologue to the real meat of the game. The rest of Pathfinder: Kingmaker is a hybrid of RPG and a city management game, once you are put in charge of your own barony. Each chapter involves a succession of rising threats to both yourself and your kingdom as you try to balance questing with maintaining the health and prosperity of your subjects. Think Dragon Age: Inquisition, if the Inquisitor was a lot more hands-on at running Skyhold.
What impressed me at first was the incredibly fine level of control the player has over the experience. Individual factors such as enemy damage, experience gains, critical hits and encumbrance can each be tweaked in the options menu. The kingdom management portion of the game can also be adjusted, or even completely handled by the AI if you prefer. I don’t know if I would recommend automating about half of the game. However, I applaud that the game makes itself accessible to those who are only interested in the questing side of things.
What makes the combat work on console is the implementation of a turn-based mode. This slows things right down and lets you select characters and skills individually. It felt a lot more true to the pen-and-paper roots of the Pathfinder RPG. I really liked the greater control over strategy it gave me compared to the standard real-time-with-pause combat the original release possessed.
Unlike the similar mode in Pillars of Eternity II, players of Pathfinder: Kingmaker can swap between turn-based or real-time-with-pause combat at the press of a button, even mid-combat. I appreciated being able to tactically direct my party members during the tricky fights, while using real-time-with-pause combat to let the AI sort out the easier encounters.
While the combat feels quite well optimised for console, the inventory management does not. While most games of this type often have a lot of messing about in menus to equip and sell items, this game could do with streamlining a lot of it. Most of your income will come from selling vendor trash, which you cannot bulk sell, and is placed alongside stuff that you may want to keep. This makes getting rid of the useless rings and trinkets in your pack a lot more arduous than it should. This is in addition to a very strict inventory weight limit, leading to a lot of time dropping stuff and less time actually having fun.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker can be very dense in terms of mechanics and worldbuilding, so I hope you like reading. What voice acting is present is well-acted, but the bulk of it is text-only. Handily, the game comes with an in-game encyclopedia for those who want to bone up on the setting’s lore.
“Pathfinder’s cast of party members and NPCs were all quite endearing, particularly in their camp banter.”
Another neat touch is how certain keywords can be highlighted with the D-pad to reveal some details about certain characters or locations, giving key context for those who might not be soaking in as much of the world-building as they should. Pathfinder’s cast of party members and NPCs are all quite endearing, particularly in their camp banter. There is a wealth of companion and romance sidequests to be pursued if you invest in them.
In terms of the port itself, there is a lot to like. It contains all of the paid DLC, including the Varnhold’s Lot expansion, as well as the Tiefling race and the Kineticist class. The text font size can be adjusted, so it didn’t feel a chore to read all the text on my television. Load times could definitely grate, however, especially when travelling around the barony, or in smaller areas with multiple screen transitions. The game could also be somewhat buggy at times, with area transitions not working properly, or characters randomly wasting turns in combat. Hopefully, some of these issues will be ironed out in patches to come.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition, as a console port, works impressively well. Despite some cumbersome menus, it makes the transition from mouse and keyboard to controller without losing its complexity. Combined with the substantial amount of added content, Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition is quite an easy recommend for any fan of Baldur’s Gate, Pillars of Eternity or similar RPGs. It won’t hold your hand, even on Easy, but if you’re looking for an adventure to become immersed in, Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition could be the game you’ve been looking for.