Wednesday 7 October 2020

Pathfinder: Kingmaker - Definitive Edition ★★★★☆

Welcome to our review of Pathfinder: Kingmaker - Definitive Edition, now on PS4 & Xbox One.

If you’re already aware of Pathfinder, you’re our nerdy sort of person. Released in 2009, the popular tabletop role-playing game is second only to Dungeons & Dragons in terms of popularity, offering an arguably more in-depth, hardcore experience. This groundswell of support resulted in Pathfinder: Kingmaker, the first single played video game set in the universe. Originally released back in 2018, it received acclaim for being a complete, uncompromising adaptation of the source material, and would be supported with supplementary content and a thriving modding community in the subsequent years. 

Now in 2020, console scrub players such as this humble reviewer can get their hands on it, in the form of Pathfinder: Kingmaker - Definitive Edition. But how does the game translate from mouse and keyboard to controller? Read on to find out…

Firstly, much like the PC release, it’s a little like Marmite. Some players will love it for it’s faithful recreation of the tabletop game, while others loathed some of the more complex and bizarre rules. We fell into the former category, however it definitely doesn’t hold your hand. Anyone coming into it without any context of the Pathfinder universe might find it pretty frustrating in the early stages, as you get to grips with how certain mechanics work. We’d even go as far as to suggest leafing through the original player’s handbook to fully prepare yourself. Doing homework for a video game might be quite the barrier to entry, however it’ll all be worth it once you start playing.

It truly is the closest thing to the traditional table top experience without having to prep the campaign yourself, or indeed having to wrangle together a group of friends every week (an impossible task beyond your mid-20s). The world is your standard fantasy affair, however the level of freedom you have is the real selling point. You’ll be able to fully customise your character, from their race, class, alignment and skills, and this choice grows exponentially as you gain XP and level up. 

The map of Pathfinder is gargantuan, and it’s an absolute delight discovering new worlds, charming characters and resources to build a kingdom of your own. There’s plenty of variety in terms of quests too, and random encounters littered throughout the world keep things feeling fresh and exciting. 

Developers Owlcat Games have also done a great job of letting you customise the experience specifically to your tastes. You have very granular control over the difficulty, allowing you to adjust things such as enemy defenses, whether or not you need to cast a spell to revive a fallen teammate and even if you’d like on screen prompts anytime you perform an action that can affect your moral alignment. Pathfinder might not be the most accessible game, but this level of customisation goes a long way in pleasing as many players as possible.

Similarly, the developers have paid attention to fan feedback from the original release and included a turned based combat mode in the base game. Originally a fan-made mod, it allows you to control one character at a time based on an initiative check. This is a much more civilised way of doing things, rather than having to constantly pause to give yourself time to think. It also gives you enough time to take in the world around you, which is equally impressive. 

For anyone who might’ve already played the PC version, there’s still plenty of incentive to check out the console port. As the ‘Definitive Edition’ implies, all the DLC from the original release is included here, giving you the most complete product possible. Be prepared to sink in well over 150 hours for a completionist run. 
With that being said, there are a few drawbacks to playing Pathfinder on console. The game just isn’t suited to a controller, and can make gameplay feel a tad clumsy. There has been an attempt to mitigate this with a cursor function, but it’s slow and cumbersome compared to mouse and keyboard. If you can find a keyboard peripheral for your console of choice, we’d recommend investing in one for the most seamless experience possible.

What’s more, it’s worth mentioning that there’s lots of menus and info to keep track of at any one time. So much in fact that this reviewer had to keep a pen and paper nearby to keep track of things. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, more a word of warning for those not used to such a hardcore title.

To wrap up, Pathfinder: Kingmaker - Definitive Edition is arguably the best simulation of a tabletop RPG to ever release on console. Like its PC predecessor, it provides all the lore, role playing and mechanics that you could ever ask for, and it’s an easy recommendation for any hardcore players looking for something to sink multiple evenings into. A few quirky control configurations aside, it’s the best version of the game to date.

Tom Baker

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