Title: Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition
Available on: Xbox One, PS4
Developer: Owlcat Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Genre: Roleplaying Game
Official Site: Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition
Release Date: August 18, 2020
Where to Buy: PSN, Xbox Live
Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is a great transition of the popular tabletop game. If you’re a fan of Paizo’s Second Edition Pathfinder, then you will find a lot to enjoy out of the CRPG.
It’s got everything you’d expect to find in the guidebook of the same name; epic battles, unique spells, and a cast of interesting characters. However, reaching and experiencing the many encounters of Pathfinder can be difficult. It’s a game riddled with bugs and glitches that make it nearly unplayable. We tried time after time to pick it up again only to run into a problem that just halted the fun.
That being said, there are some Deep Silver linings to Deep Silver and Owlcat’s Pathfinder. It is pleasant to look at and each new area offers something stunning to behold. Spells are beautiful to look at when they work, and the soundtrack provides a fantastic backdrop to encounters and enhances the storytelling. Kingmaker is not a game without faults but it feels more like it’s in Early Access than a fully developed game.
As for the story of Pathfinder: Kingmaker, players begin with a quest to defeat someone named the Stag Lord, then settle kingdoms in the Stolen Lands. The Stag Lord rules over the Stolen Lands and is punishing its people, collecting taxes, and killing for sport. The game opens by training players on how to move and gear up for battle. The main character joins forces with side characters and the castle you are in is attacked by bandits.
After a lengthy jaunt through the grounds, you finally exit and can explore the Stolen Lands freely. Kind of. Freely is a loose term as many of the quests and side quests are railroaded and require you to complete some other side adventure before moving on.
Combat is just outright awful. There is nothing wrong with turn-based mode, it works fine, but it all comes crumbling down when your party tries to land hits. Controlling where each character moves isn’t the most fluid. The curser feels heavy and never quite ends up where you placed it. This slows down fights and extends them just a bit longer than you wish.
After selecting the proper placement of a character, having them attack with a melee or ranged weapon is simple but aggravating when not a single attack hits. The same can be said for spell attacks that focus on either range, touch, or ones requiring a save. Monsters and creatures seem to always make their saving throw, leaving you to decide what to do next. However, at that point, your wizard is probably out of spells and will need to rely on staff.
One encounter randomly began after we slept at a pre-determined campsite in one area. For some reason, a flaming skull rose from a dead body and attacked the party. There was no warning, no lore to read to uncover why, and nothing we could do to stop it. The fight began and we readied our six characters: one level three, five-level two, only to find not one could land a single attack on the lone enemy.
The realization slowly set in, after 10 rounds, that we were not making headway with this individual. The skull kept frightening our party, and the majority ran because they failed their save. Once regaining control of the characters we reentered the fight and could still not hit it with anything. We spent so long in the turn-based mode in that single encounter the game recommended we switch to real-time with pause. Thinking it was a hint to speed things up, we did so. The battle continued. We could order a pizza and have it delivered in the amount of time it took to finally hit the skull.
After several pain-filled minutes of watching our characters whiff away at this creature, we did end up defeating it. Our reward. A diamond and 135 experience points. This is just one example of a dozen other battles where attacks from the party never found purchase. Having configured the difficulty setting from normal to story, the same problems existed. This leads to fights being improperly balanced which in turn makes things a lot less fun.
About the Pathfinder tabletop game or Dungeons and Dragons, having a battle be too one-sided makes for a lackluster experience. As any good dungeon master or game designer should know, when designing combat encounters, one should always take into account the party size, level, and abilities. Pathfinder: Kingmaker’s fights are just not fun. They’re over challenging and require more luck than skill to succeed.
Issues With Bugs
While the game could be fun, the amount of bugs in it renders it nearly unplayable. These are especially painful during combat, where they can easily mess up any strategy and swing the battle against your favor. Drinking a potion doesn’t always heal the characters. If a character is meant to attack twice, sometimes they will only attack once. The game may even lock onto certain spells or attacks and not let your character do anything else for seemingly no reason at all.
Where this is the most obvious is with healing-based characters. Sometimes healing spells simply don’t take effect all, despite still counting that spell as used. This can result in characters dying needlessly, making your combat a loss and slowing down the already ridiculously slow process of leveling up.
Creating Your Own Party
Those that enjoy tabletop RPG’s likely have fun creating their party here in Pathfinder: Kingmaker instead of traveling with the game-given characters. Like so many other aspects in this game, it could be fun if not for bugs and lack of foresight. You are limited to certain options, so it isn’t truly a dynamic character creation experience.
The cost of creating a side character is, frankly, unreasonable. If you decide to make characters while your main character is level 1, then they only cost 500 coins. But if you level up to 2, it jumps to a staggering 2,000 coins. There is no way of knowing this in-game, of course, so your dreams of bringing your Pathfinder group to life will be shortly dashed.
We also encountered bugs during character creation. The most notable was that for a couple of characters we couldn’t preview their voices ahead of time, which left us unhappy with the result. In other RPG’s you can simply go back and edit this, but Pathfinder: Kingmaker decided not to put in such an option. Unhappy with your side character? That’s too bad. You can’t fix it and you’re down 2,000 coins.
The Problem With the Characters
The characters already created in the game, with their backstories and dialogue options, are decent. There is a nice variety and they all have unique personalities. But some of the game’s attempts to drive their character arc forward, or allow romance options, feels very forced and awkward.
For example, you meet a character named Octavia and almost immediately have romantic-based dialogue that isn’t even yet present in other characters you have traveled with longer. It contains some cringe-worthy lines about her beauty culminating in her saying the only reason she is so beautiful is that she gets up an hour before everyone else to prepare her looks for the day (collective eye roll).
There is also a side quest where you are forced to have barbarian Amiri join you and she divulges some of her backstory. It would normally be a touching fight to bring her into, but on the normal difficulty mode, she is immediately killed by the first attack of the creature you’ve gone to face. It makes what would be a nice storyline fall completely flat.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker’s soundtrack is a true spectacle. The main composer Inon Zur leads a group of talented and respected composers that include Sergey Eybog, Dmitry V. Silantyev, Alexander Fomichev, Mikhail Kotov, and Dryante. From the main title theme, exploring the near open world of Pathfinder, and the fights, each track is stunningly crafted.
Each song feels right at home if you were to play Pathfinder around a table with a group of friends. It is right up there with soundtracks from Pillars of Eternity and Baldur’s Gate.
Verdict: Pathfinder: Kingmaker Definitive Edition feels like Owlcat and Deep Silver rushed development to hit the release. These problems could be overlooked but they happened on the PC release as well. For a game with such a deep history of lore, the story isn’t polished, the writing is stale, and there are far too many bugs that make the game nearly unplayable.
(Review by Ashley and Scott Roepel)
- Great soundtrack
- Stunning visuals
- Expansive world
- Combat is not balanced
- Characters and writing is bland