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.
September 2, 2021
Owlcat Games, META Publishing
Over a year following the announcement of its Kickstarter campaign, Owlcat Games has finally released Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, the long-awaited sequel to Pathfinder: Kingmaker. This new entry rectifies some, if not all, of its predecessor’s flaws and delivers a fantastic new cast of characters and setting to explore. Despite some bugs, and the new replacement mode for the kingdom management elements in Kingmaker still not being as compelling as the main gameplay, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is definitely a worthy follow-up and a title that fans of fantasy RPGs will love.
Set near the Worldwound, a massive opening to the Abyss has unleashed hordes of demon armies that have preyed upon mortals for a century. After the city of Kenabres is assaulted by the Demon Lord Deskari, your custom character teams up with a band of rebels to take back the city and launch an offensive against the demon invasion. By the end of the prologue chapter (which, like in Pathfinder: Kingmaker, is rather long), you find yourself designated as Commander of the mortal armies as you lead a campaign to close the Worldwound for good. Despite some references to Pathfinder: Kingmaker, it’s very much a non-linear kind of sequel; you don’t need to have played the first one to understand the narrative.
“If you appreciate replay value and unlocking all the potential endings and optional content, Wrath of the Righteous will definitely satisfy you.”
What initially impressed me about Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous was just how many diverse options are at the player’s disposal. This time around, the amount of race, class and sub-class options are even more varied, along with more than 10 companions to choose from. The amount of difficulty options is still absurdly nuanced, allowing players to tailor their experience to their liking.
This entry also adds Mythic Paths, which are like an additional sub-class that unlocks additional abilities, dialogue options, story paths and even companions. Your Mythic Path is not chosen at character creation, and instead unlocked later on depending on various dialogue choices. If you appreciate replay value and unlocking all the potential endings and optional content, Wrath of the Righteous will definitely satisfy you.
In terms of the core gameplay, much of it is unchanged from Kingmaker. You control a party of 6 as you move around dungeons and camps looting containers, disarming traps and engaging in combat. As with the Enhanced Edition of Kingmaker, players can choose between turn-based or real-time-with-pause combat. Switching between the two combat modes was quick and simple.
Unfortunately, many issues from the first game are still present. Characters will occasionally not do what you want them to do. Sometimes Charge attacks that the UI says will hit the enemy will only result in the character going halfway towards their quarry and stopping. Looting containers sometimes takes several clicks to register. Ironically, pathfinding was also an issue; before long, two of my party members had animal companions, causing my oversized party to get stuck in narrow doorways and corridors and struggle to navigate past one another to reach their target. Perhaps a noticeable amount of bugs is to be expected for a game as complex as this. Hopefully many of them will be ironed out over time.
Despite its overall similarities to its predecessor, there are some improvements. You can bulk sell vendor trash, which greatly speeds up your regular interactions with merchants to unload your loot. Dialogue options that impact your alignment are also now single-axis rather than dual-axis, meaning that instead of needing to stick to specifically lawful good moral choices to keep your Paladin abilities, you can now pick more regular good and/or lawful choices to maintain a finer degree of control over your character’s morality. This change makes it a lot easier to play alignment-bound classes like Paladins, Druids or Monks without risking losing those abilities in favour of role-playing.
The other major element to Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous that comes in after the prologue is the crusade mode. Filling in for the kingdom management gameplay features in Kingmaker, the crusade mode sees players forming small squads of soldiers and sending them across the world map to fight demon armies and unlock new areas for your main party to travel. When your army encounters an enemy squad, the game will allow you to auto-complete the fight if the power discrepancy is wide enough, not unlike Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars.
If you want to manually engage the enemy, you then control your army yourself, in a combat system very similar to the Heroes of Might & Magic franchise. Units and Generals can be recruited and upgraded to assist your steady advance across the world map. Considering that this mode is necessary to progress through the main story (unless you fully automate it in the difficulty options), I wish its mechanics were explained a bit better.
Overall, while I appreciated the intention of trying something different, it doesn’t quite work as well as Heroes of Might & Magic’s combat did. Many of the Generals’ abilities feel underpowered, it is sluggish to replenish your troops or recruit new members, and the combat itself lacks depth. There are no environmental obstructions or opportunity attacks, making it feel very simplistic compared to the normal combat mechanics featuring your party. I understand the desire to add an additional gameplay layer on top of the regular RPG aspect. However, neither Kingmaker’s kingdom management elements or the crusade turn-based strategy element in Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous has succeeded at being as compelling as the rest of the game that they’re a part of.
Despite the main conflict seeming very black-and-white in terms of morality, I appreciated that Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous by no means railroads you into playing a character who is lawful or good. You can simply betray and attack on sight many NPCs for no reason at all, should you desire to play as a Chaotic Evil berserker for whatever reason. Companions from across the alignment spectrum are presented, and most of them came across as interesting and believably flawed. With the Mystic Path system, your character can side with angels, demons, eldritch abominations or nobody at all.
It is also worth noting that Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is definitely meaty in terms of content. The main quest itself can easily take several dozen hours, without factoring in companion and romance sidequests and exploring the world map in the crusade mode. Owlcat Games has also announced two additional DLC campaigns and a rogue-like mode as part of the game’s season pass. If you’re the sort who can become really invested in a lengthy RPG, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous will be right up your alley.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is certainly a worthy successor to Pathfinder: Kingmaker. With its highly varied moral choices, a tremendous number of race and class options, as well as the Mythic Path feature, players will have a ton to dig into. That said, the addition of turn-based crusade battles where you lead armies across the land doesn’t quite land as well, feeling sluggish and lacking many of the tactical nuances of the main combat mode. In all, however, despite the experience not being the most polished, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a deep, challenging and highly enjoyable title that is an easy recommend for fans of RPGs.