Review: Pathfinder: Kingmaker-Definitive Edition (PS4)


Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Pathfinder: Kingmaker-Definitive Edition
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (51.02 GB)
Release Date: August 18, 2020
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Owlcat Games
Original MSRP: $49.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: T
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Pathfinder: Kingmaker is an isometric CPRG. The game is super dense and explains little along the way. If you have ever wanted to play Pathfinder, this is about as close as you can get without sitting down with a group of friends and a DM.

You know a game is going to be dense when even going through all the gameplay settings feels a little overwhelming. Besides the basic difficulty setting, there are sixteen gameplay settings and nineteen other combat and dialogue options to fully customize your game. Luckily, there is a decent description of each setting.

It’s nice to be able to customize the game the way you want, because there is so much to learn if you have never played Pathfinder before. It is possible to push the through game on easy or story mode and largely ignore the finer points of combat for players only interested in the story and exploring the world. However, they will miss out on the finer details of the combat system, which is meant to be a large part of the game.

After going through all the settings, I was left with another set of overwhelming decisions in choosing a character. Owlcat Games does provide some pre-made characters, and I would highly recommend this route for players new to CRPGs or Pathfinder itself.

Later, I started a new game because I wanted to main a different class. However, the pre-made character for that class was Lawful Good, so I decided to create my own character. I had no idea what I was getting into.

It took me over an hour to create my own character, and I hardly spent any time on my sorceress’s looks. It was all of her stats and character building that slowed me down. I didn’t want to get five hours into the campaign only to realize I had made an underpowered character. There are so many choices and options and I wasn’t sure what they meant or how they fed off of each other. Even a simple choice of bloodline weighed on me. Of course my badass sorceress should have dragon blood in her DNA, but there were almost a dozen different dragon bloodlines.

This whole process would have been a lot simpler if the game would have allowed me to make a few minor tweaks to pre-made characters.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker is a dense CRPG in every sense of the word. Dense combat, dense mechanics, and dense lore. The game pulls no punches at the start, mentioning people, cities, and races, assuming the player is already well-versed with the Pathfinder lore. Luckily, they included a glossary so I could look up select words from the dialogue. Even the glossary feels a little overwhelming. Not only will the glossary describe the city and provide some brief history, it talks about the county and region. Pretty quickly more nouns are thrown at me than I can handle.

I don’t play many CRPGs, but I understand the basics. I ended up playing through the tutorial area four different times. Each time I learned a few new things, a couple even by accident. Some of that is due to how much text is in the tutorial. I struggled to stay focused. However much of that is also due to the fact that despite the tome of knowledge thrown at players, there are so many important things not covered in the tutorial. My engagement with the game was severely hampered because I couldn’t easily and quickly see a description of my abilities. I had to constantly go into a few menus deep and back out to check my abilities and then to control combat. Later, I accidentally discovered a way that allowed me to see an ability description with a few button presses instead of a few menus, but it also changed character movement. I found myself constantly switching back and forth.

The default combat is real time combat that can be paused to assess the situation, give commands, and use abilities. The biggest feature of the definitive edition is the addition of turned based combat. The CRPGs I have played before have had clear actions-one movement and one attack, or use ability and attack. Pathfinder has an action meter, but it could be more clear. With everything else I am trying to wrap my mind around, and a new world to learn, this is one of those quality of life things that should be absolutely clear. Too many times early on, I accidentally moved too far, and while there is plenty of meter left, I can’t follow up with an action.

There are a couple of different modes in turn based as well. One only allows the characters to move a short distance, a fraction of the normal movement distance, but still only allows for movement and action. So it means I can’t accidentally move too far and not be able to attack, but also severely limits my ability to move. Turn based combat should not be this complicated. I loved the turn based combat in Divinity: Original Sin. The addition of turn based combat was one of the reasons I was excited to try Pathfinder. After a few confusion encounters, I switched back to real time combat and never looked back.

The game’s mechanics are based on the Pathfinder roleplaying game and twenty-sided dice rolls. Some stats and character information is displayed on screen; I tried pausing combat and hunting and pecking through the menus and character info looking at stats. Even during simple encounters, I could not get the math to work between my weapon damage and my opponents armor. There are constant dice rolls going on behind the scenes. It would have been really helpful to be able to pause the game and see how the number shakes out.

Like the roleplaying game, players are constantly making choices. Most are flavor text and have no real impact on the story, but help make it my story. Will you rush through the burning hallway focusing only on getting to the VIP, or take the time to stop and help soldiers trapped under rubble? My first stop after leaving the tutorial was a small outpost. I walked in on a small gang threatening the owner. I was playing my character as neutral good. I talked the gang down and they left. I was quickly told that they would be coming right back with reinforcements and still had to fight them. They came back with more numbers, but I was able to prepare a small ambush. Yes, I still had to fight them, but there were more options than straight good and evil.

There is a lot of dialogue in the game, and much of it is not voiced. The dialogue box often includes additional narrative details, such as “he raised his eye brows so high his monocle almost feel out” or “she burst in scared, soot smeared on her face, and she is holding a weapon”. A description sentence sometimes paints a picture that dialogue alone cannot.

Visuals:
The visuals in Pathfinder: Kingmaker are perfectly ok. Looking at the world map, when in storybook mode, or in a dungeon fighting off an ambush, the game looks good, but never impressive. Besides the overall art style, the graphics were probably low on the priority list. What makes or breaks the game is combat mechanics and dice rolls going on behind the scenes.

More variety in animation during battle would have been nice, but I was never staring at one character for too long. During the heat of battle, I was more concentrated on the battlefield as a whole, occasionally pausing the combat to consume a healing potion, or cast a party buff ability.

Audio:
The voiced dialogue between characters has them standing next to each other with the camera zoomed out. You can’t see their mouths move nor facial expressions. The character models don’t move around or make hand gestures.

However, the voice acting is well done and I still got all of the emotions the conversation was trying to get across. Obviously not the same as a Naughty Dog motion captured scene, but impressive nonetheless.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Pathfinder: Kingmaker is a dense CRPG. Even during my fourth playthrough of the tutorial area, I was still learning new things. Although the controls were clearly designed for mouse and keyboard and forced onto controllers, longtime fans of CRPGs will feel at home with Pathfinder: Kingmaker/em>.

For players new to the genre and interested in diving into the world of Pathfinder, it may take twenty hours to even grasp the game and a few more hours scouring wikis. Saying it takes a few dozen hours before the game gets good makes it hard to recommend.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Matt Engelbart

Matt Engelbart

I love all things video games. When I am not gaming I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, BBQing, and reading.

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