STAFF REVIEW of Pathfinder: Kingmaker - Definitive Edition (Xbox One)

Wednesday, October 14, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Pathfinder: Kingmaker - Definitive Edition Box art While I’m a massive RPG fan, I never really got into the cRPG genre for games. The biggest names in this genre are your Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, Pillars of Eternity and Planescape Torment, which have a massive following. Developed by Owlcat Games, Pathfinder: Kingmaker was originally released just over two years ago on PC, now finally making its console debut, complete with all of its DLC, hence the Definitive Edition label.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker – Definitive Edition took me by surprise. Not only did it have some massive length to its gameplay, it was incredibly deep and in-depth with many of its mechanics and character customization, though is borderline too complex and deep for casual fans, as even I found myself a little overwhelmed with everything you can do.

While I’ve never played Pathfinder, after doing so research I had no idea that it was essentially one of the main competition when it comes to classic pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons. So if you’ve played Pathfinder before, you’ll definitely recognize some familiar names and places. Set in the Stolen Lands, your adventure starts out in the castle of Restov who are offered title and land if they are able to dispatch of a nefarious bandit, The Stag Lord. Just before you’re set to set off on your bounty hunt, the castle is ambushed, attacking and killing nearly everyone inside.

You find other survivors in the castle and band together to fight your way out. As you finally make your way out, you are accused of leading the ambush by one of your teammates. Given that this is an RPG, you’re able to respond in different ways, choosing how you want to react and reply. If you have more charisma and knowledge you might be able to talk your way out of situations, or maybe you prefer the brute strength approach, it’s completely up to you. The Stag Lord questline is only the beginning of your adventure, as many more plotlines branch further, leading you down different paths and escapades. I initially thought that the Stag Lord plot was going to encapsulate the whole adventure, but turned out to be only a minor part of the overarching storyline. The plot is quite in depth, well written and is carried by some great voice acting from a large ensemble of characters throughout.

You’ll start out by making your character, and to say there’s a bevy of options is putting it mildly. You could spent quite a lot of time creating your character just how you want, as there’s a lot of classes and subclasses that allow for some very unique gameplay. Much like D&D, you’ll put points into different stats depending on how you want to play your character. I opted for a classic Paladin build that uses sword and board but you can choose many other classes, skills and styles to suit what you want.

If you’ve played the classics like Baldur’s Gate or Planescape Torment before, then you’ll already be accustomed to the isometric view these games used. It’s clear that the developers were inspired by these games as many other mechanics are also borrowed and will feel very familiar, yet has made some quality of life improvements and looks modern, especially with the inclusion of being nearly fully voice acted.

During your journey you’ll come across numerous companions, making for a party of six at a time. These characters all have unique personalities and traits that can make for a well rounded out team. Do you make a team full of melee based characters that can take more hits, fill it with hard hitting magic casters or create a balanced team of tanks, casters and ranged? It’s up to you.

Combat takes some getting used to, but you’re actually given an option of classic turn-based or in real time, able to switch on the fly with a single click of the stick. You’re able to issue commands to all of your team members whenever you wish, or go through the options and toggle many different choices based on how you want to them to perform. While you can’t setup scripts like in other games, you can automate different abilities and options should you wish. Combat success and failure is based on typical D&D dice rolls, determining if you hit or get hit, how much damage you take and other saves when exploring and conversing with NPC’s.

Outside of exploring a quite vast map and constant combat, there’s also a whole Kingdom building aspect as well. This is where I started to feel a bit overwhelmed, as I wanted to focus on the narrative and lengthy campaign, but constantly had to keep tabs and handle on the Kingdom as well, deciding on what to build and invest in.

While I’m glad Pathfinder: Kingmaker – Definitive Edition has made its way to console for more gamers to enjoy and experience, the controls need a lot of work and feel quite clunky and cumbersome. One trigger allows you to switch characters and swap to them for battle commands or inventory management, while the other trigger is how you open the menu system. It’s clear that the original controls were built for keyboard and mouse, and the transition to controller, while functional, requires a lot of effort and thought to press the correct buttons and get to the menus you’re wanting.

While I really enjoyed my overall time with Pathfinder: Kingmaker, there were a few issues that frustrated my time with it, aside from the aforementioned control problems. It felt like much of my time was doing very little, making no progress. When I got new items, weapons and armor, it’s a daunting task to have to go through each item, seeing if it’s equippable by whom and if it’s an upgrade. Leveling up allows you to improve your characters in many ways as well, but none of this is really explained, so you can accidently waste these points and specializations for skills that aren’t really that useful if you’re not careful. Also, there’s a ton of loading screens. While each doesn’t take terribly long on an Xbox One X, they add up since every zone and area needs to be loaded each time you enter or leave. Also factor in that movement itself on the map and in areas is quite slow and you’ll start to see how much of your playtime is being padded by housekeeping and waiting.

While not without its list of issues, the length of Pathfinder: Kingmaker – Definitive Edition is deceptively long, the voice acting is quite well done, the dialogue is written well and the world has more than enough lore to get lost in. While its console port could have used a little more care and work, it’s still a great gaming experience if you crave those classic cRPG’s from the late 90’s – early 2000’s and want a classic D&D-like experience.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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