Pathfinder: Kingmaker is a new isometric RPG based on Pathfinder, a tabletop game based on Dungeons & Dungeons. Developed by Owlcat Games, the game is a throwback to the days of Baldur’s Gate. I recently got a chance to delve into this complex and challenging PC title and was instantly sucked into the Stolen Lands and the epic quest set upon the protagonist.
In the 20 plus years that isometric RPG games like Pathfinder: Kingmaker have been around, I have played many different interpretations and fantasy settings with similar game systems. Pathfinder: Kingmaker doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, it has many great games that came before to build on and improve. While fans of this genre will feel right at home, if you are unfamiliar with the Pathfinder tabletop system or basic D&D D20 systems prepare to be overwhelmed.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker came into my life at the worst possible time. I have been playing the amazing Divinity: Original Sin II on my PS4 Pro this past month, a game that uses many of the same gameplay elements. To say this is heavy competition is an understatement. Now to be fair, Original Sin II came to PC in 2017, so PC gamers should be well rested since playing it and ready to delve into a similar game. I unfortunately was unable to NOT make comparisons and honestly this hurt Pathfinder: Kingmaker.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker does a fantastic job of bringing the complex systems of the tabletop game to a digital form. Unfortunately it does it so well that you may need a full day of reading and researching if unfamiliar with this system. I haven’t played a tabletop D20 based game in probably 15 years, but I like to think I know enough to not be completely in the dark. Evenso, I was overwhelmed a bit and the game lacks a solid tutorial and is not very helpful with many of the intricacies of the systems. This combined with the fact that players cannot respec or rebuild any aspects of their player character after starting; players, including myself, will likely feel regret about some of the choices they made. While the rule mongers out there may be fine with this, many average gamers may be soured by the archaic set in stone starting choices.
While gameplay is amazing for those able to grasp everything, it really doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. Actions are based on real-time combat with the ability to pause with the spacebar and give you time to think about your next action. Using the D20 system the game will “roll” for you and determine success or failure in your actions. Your starting character can be made from a multitude of classes and the group composition should be balanced with various roles. A healer, a tank, and damage dealing or support classes spread out among your team is a must. My biggest issues with gameplay were the weak tutorials and slowness of movement. A fast forward for walking would of been welcomed because it is painfully slow.
Story is the strongest aspect of Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Written by Planescape: Torment veteran Chris Avellone, the game starts with the local loyalty tasking a group of adventurers, your character included, to take over a part of the kingdom known as the Stolen Lands. If successful one of you will be named baron of the disputed land. The writing is spectacular and everything a fan of high-fantasy would want is there. Players will be given many paths and options via text based conversation choices. It’s a role playing game, so you will want to play the role of the character you created to see the best outcome. That said, the option is there to go down a different path, one of the only parts of your character you can change from the original character creation. So you are not suck being a goodie goodie if you chose Lawful Good at the start at least.
Later in the game you can actually manage your land and barony in an overhead RTS style mode. Build your own little town and even work out trade agreements with other settlements in the game. The option is there to just let the land run itself though if this aspect of Pathfinder: Kingmaker doesn’t interest you. Still, it’s a nice addition and adds some uniqueness to an otherwise standard Iso-RPG game.
Graphically Pathfinder: Kingmaker looks great for a Kickstarter developed game. While not as polished as Pillars of Eternity or Divinity: Original Sin II, I was very impressed with the level of detail and actually enjoyed the use of static art via books and for cut scenes. An attempt to make 3D scenes would of been a waste of resources for the team at Owlcat Games I think. Music is fitting; orchestrated powerful where it needs to be and supports the fantasy theme of the game. I was particularly impressed with the voice acting. All the major characters are well done and again, for a Kickstarter funded game I did not expect the level of quality or amount of voice work.
While not perfect, Pathfinder: Kingmaker does a great job of providing a complex and true to its origin isometric RPG. Newer players to the genre should definitely be wary though as it is so intricate a system with a limited tutorial. Veterans of Pathfinder and these types of games will be overjoyed with this addition to a type of game we don’t see nearly as often as we used to. Owlcat Games has an obvious love for this genre and are constantly working to improve the game and repair bugs as they pop up. I love when a company does that as it shows they care and listen to their players. Hopefully Pathfinder: Kingmaker will continue to expand and I plan to keep playing and see where this epic adventure eventually takes me.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker is available now on Steam. This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher.
- Perfect story for Dungeons & Dragons fans
- Polished and intricate graphical world
- Complex and very customizable stat and gameplay systems
- Limited tutorials
- Painfully slow movement speeds
- Character models are not as polished as the world