Pathfinder: Kingmaker review (PC)

Pathfinder: Kingmaker by Owlcat Games was launched on Steam just last week. Inspired by classic RPGs as well as the Pathfinder tabletop game, here’s our review of this Deep Silver-published CRPG.

When we first laid eyes on Pathfinder: Kingmaker, we immediately got some hands on time as well. It was during the summer of 2017 at Gamescom, when the game was still being published by My.com (the move to Deep Silver was mainly due to Deep Silver’s experience with physical distribution). The game immediately stood out for two reasons: it was very different from My.com’s usual MMO fare, and it was an RPG made with a clear passion for what came before.

In this regard, “what came before” mainly refers to videogames like Baldur’s Gate – though the popular Pathfinder: Kingmaker game definitely adds its own flavor into the mix as well. Those who played Baldur’s Gate before will feel right at home with Kingmaker – from its classic isometric viewing angle right down to the control scheme, which feels like it was pretty much directly copied from Bioware’s classic.

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Where Pathfinder: Kingmaker differs from a game like Baldur’s Gate is in its grand objective – which sees you assume the role of a baron and mixes elements of empire management into the gameplay as well. You start off with a very traditional party-based role playing adventure though, where you and your recruits try to lay claim to the Stolen Lands. You’ll run into plenty of monsters and other foes, navigate dungeons and towns, and learn more about the plot. Kingmaker is a very dialogue-heavy game, and there’s more (political) intrigue and strife than you’d initially think. This was clear even in the 30 minute hands on session last year, and I was happy to find out that Owlcat keeps the momentum up for the entire duration of the game.

Combat will be familiar to Baldur’s Gate veterans as well, as it allows for real time combat that you can pause in order to issue new and/or changed orders. I tend to play games like this on easy because I mostly enjoy the role-playing aspects and story development (and I also am just as happy playing Diablo), but even then I found Pathfinder: Kingmaker to be quite challenging – forcing me to pause and re-think regularly. To try out how tactical the game could become I started a new game after my initial playthrough as well, only to be brutally slaughtered time after time. It wasn’t until after about a dozen or so confrontations that I found something of a groove to settle into – but it remained a punishingly challenging game all the same.

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Your own lead character has a base alignment at the start of the game, but you can sculpt and mold it through your actions and conversations. This will even shape conversations later on in the game by changing the responses available to you and the answers you’ll receive – which in turn are affected by how people think you’re managing your barony. On a smaller level, your allies might end up rebelling or leaving your party if they no longer agree with your course. These choices and consequences are a trend we’ve seen in other RPGs in the last few years as well (mainly in Obsidian’s titles), and Owlcat does an excellent job with it in Kingmaker.

If you’re not at all interested in managing an empire (or rather, barony), then you can leave all that up to the game as well, and just play Pathfinder like a regular RPG. It’s fun to dabble in the intricacies of the management side of things though, as you’ll have to make decisions on what tasks to leave in whose capable (or not-so-capable) hands – or make controversial decisions that in turn will affect your reputation and thus your interactions with others.

While there weren’t too many “ooh” and “aah” moments while playing Pathfinder: Kingmaker, I did find it to be an extremely solid RPG. Managing your barony is a nice touch, but doesn’t elevate the game above being an otherwise fairly generic (though well done) RPG. Fans of what inspired the game will definitely enjoy it though, and it’s a brilliant debut for Owlcat.

Score: 7.8/10

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