Pathfinder: Kingmaker Reviews, Interview

Owlcat Games released Pathfinder: Kingmaker slightly over a week ago to very little media fanfare. Even so, several reviews for the Infinity Engine-inspired cRPG are already available. They paint a mildly positive picture if you take them at face value, but if you read between the lines and apply a Baldur’s Gate-tinted filter to those reviews, Kingmaker begins to sound like a game you really shouldn’t overlook:

PC Gamer 69/100:

There’s a lot to like in Kingmaker, and it’s clear the dev has a passion for this classic era of PC role-playing—which, in the case of its often absurd level of difficulty, isn’t always a good thing. But it hasn’t grabbed me as firmly as those games, or recent examples of the genre’s resurgence such as Divinity: Original Sin or Pillars of Eternity. The story, visual design, and setting offer little I haven’t seen in a dozen other fantasy games, and I wasn’t as beguiled by it as much as I’d hoped. Once upon a time a good CRPG was hard to find, but now we’re slightly spoiled for choice and Kingmaker doesn’t quite stack up with the best, even if it does get a lot right and throws a few neat new ideas into the mix.

ScreenRant 4/5:

If there are any stumbles present in Pathfinder: Kingmaker, it’s in the pace of play. While the combat itself is fluid and moves in real-time, the narrative moves slowly, and the emphasis on passing days or weeks can be a real drag. While it makes sense that the campaign would feature an open world and a lot of choices to be made, sometimes it comes across as more aimless than inspiring. The introduction of the game, in particular, drags – players don’t even get access to their Barony for several hours, which is puzzling since it’s one of the more innovative and welcome elements of the title. That’s a major issue, since RPGs are already time sinks and failing to make much of an impression in the first six-or-so hours of gameplay is playing with fire.

That being said, there’s plenty to dig into in Pathfinder: Kingmaker, and even if the early introduction overstays its welcome, there are many more hours afterwards that make the game worth the wait. If gamers can find room for yet another long, beautifully-crafted isometric RPG in their schedules, they probably can’t do much better for recent offerings than Pathfinder: Kingmaker.

GameSkinny 8/10:

Pathfinder: Kingmaker is a breath of fresh air in a fairly stale RPG landscape. It takes some seriously bold risks, and they pay off for the right audience. If you’re a fan of tabletop RPG games, or you’re looking for an unexpected challenge in the form of something truly different, you won’t be disappointed.

It’s important to note that the launch of the game was plagued with a really nasty bug causing saved games to fail to load. While there are some easy temporary fixes on Windows, Mac and Linux players are having a rougher time of it.

In reviewing this game on Linux, it was extremely frustrating having to start the entire game over every time the full party died because saved games couldn’t load. That said, it’s just a bug, and hopefully, it’ll be fixed soon.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker set out to bring the look, feel, and gameplay experience of a classic tabletop RPG to the PC and, in that, is an absolute success. It’s not without its flaws, but all of them could be corrected with additions and further content patches, which a game like this lends itself to very well.

On top of those reviews, there’s also a recent interview with Owlcat’s studio head Oleg Shpilchevsky and the one and only Chris Avellone. Here are a few sample paragraphs that should tell you all you need to know:

“Baldur’s Gate was always our beloved reference,” said Shpilchevsky. “We strove to recreate the best feelings one may remember from playing this great game. It did not mean our only goal was to make a blunt copy of Baldur’s Gate, but let us be honest, the ‘Would Baldur’s Gate be better with this stuff?’ benchmark was applied almost to every new feature or piece of content we were considering.”

But to effectively marry the Pathfinder universe to what Owlcat loved about Baldur’s Gate, Kingmaker needed something more. Pathfinder fans coming to the game would be looking to recreate at least some of their feelings from their tabletop experiences, something that isn’t easily replicated in an entirely single-player campaign.

“From our point of view, the most challenging thing is to recreate the atmosphere of a friendly table playthrough with all the jokes, passionate discussions, curses, etc,” said Shpilchevsky. “That’s why one of our main focuses was the player’s companions – to bring more life to their characters, let them react to your actions according to their personalities, or to support or leave or even betray you depending on player choices.”

To that end, Owlcat needed a strong narrative created by experienced narrative designers. And for that the studio turned to veteran scriptwriter and Obsidian Entertainment co-founder Chris Avellone, whose numerous writing credits include Fallout 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Neverwinter Nights 2, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Divinity: Original Sin II, and Pillars of Eternity.

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Val Hull
Val Hull

Resident role-playing RPG game expert. Knows where trolls and paladins come from. You must fight for your right to gather your party before venturing forth.

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