We sit down and review Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Can they bring the tabletop RPG into a digital world? Here is our review of Pathfinder: Kingmaker
It is not the first time, and most likely not the last, that a tabletop game like Pathfinder: Kingmaker has been optioned to head toward a video game side of things. Something that Owlcat Games went out of their way to get funded, started, and then published on the PC. From Kickstarter to landing Deep Silver publishing the game, we are finally at a place where we can play Pathfinder: Kingmaker all by ourselves and not need to schedule a full table to play. This, of course, begs the question of how well it all works. That is why we are here to give you our review after sitting down and putting in a great chunk of time in to try it all.
You have been tasked to do the impossible. You have been summoned to try to tame The Stolen lands of Golarion. Something that has not been truly done for some time. But Gods be damned if you are not the one to do it. All with the reward of being offered up your own barony to build and do with as you please. But can you do it and then deal with all of the other issues that come along with ruling the lands both political and physical? That is what you are setting out to do with all of the random companions you meet along the way. Good luck adventurer.
I am going to have to start off with something a bit odd here, but I am going to have to dig in on the gameplay options that Pathfinder: Kingmaker has set up here. It is always nice when the developers give us a full array of options to tweak and alter the experience to better fit what we want out of it. Kind of like how a good Dungeon Master does at the table. Unfortunately for Pathfinder here, there were either too many or just too poorly written descriptions for them all. I went through at least three playthroughs before I found the option that removed the perma-death option and the many others that made it all playable past the opening few missions. Sure, this could be on me, but seeing as there have been multiple sites and videos out there to try to explain how it all works, I am going to err on the side of that not being the full issue there. It just seems like Owlcat Games wanted to give freedom like the original game but were not able to do it without the need of tutorials on how to set it all up.
This leads me to the next issue I had with this version of Pathfinder, it felt like there should have been a true option to turn the game into a turn-based style of game. In the game, you can set the action up to pause when certain events fire off like new enemies or hidden items on the map are spotted. You can also set it up to pause between each character’s actions so you can figure out what their next move should be. Given that they are using the initiative system from the tabletop version for some reason, it makes no sense to have to pause and unpause to further the fight. Combat in the TT version of Pathfinder: Kingmaker is turn-based with tiles so it seems like it would have been a better fit for this game too. That and it would be easier to actually be able to use all of the character abilities and actions during the fight. I had to default to just having all characters charging in and brute forcing it due to this too. It is not unplayable, but it feels like such a deviation from the source that it just does not work. At least for me.
Lastly, I will have to gripe on the actual Kingdom Building part of the game that pops up and can feel out of place for those who have not played the adventure path around the table. I knew it was coming and it was not a jarring thing for me having played Pathfinder for a while now. The way it is introduced can be hard for gamers that have no experience with the IP and have been used to the adventuring the first few hours have you doing. There is an option to set this all to an easier mode, something I did not do in any of my playthroughs, but in a game called Pathfinder: Kingmaker you would expect it to be a part you want to enjoy. Even for me, it was not and seemed to be a bit clunkier than ever expected. At least if I did not want things to crumble given all of the issues and events that popped up and kept me tethered to the capital for more than a year in-game time.
While Pathfinder: Kingmaker does not have all of the options and things available to the broader tabletop game, am floored by how much Owlcat Games actually were able to get into this game on the basic level. Basic level being not needing DLC or expansions to flesh it all out. I was actually able to mostly build my first PC I took through the tabletop version of Pathfinder: Kingmaker in the video game here. Fans of the tabletop game will quickly be able to see how much of it did make the jump over and how much more can be added in. That is, of course, if they do choose to keep focus on this and not move onto other ventures. Nonetheless, fans of the tabletop game can easily spend the same amount of time building, leveling, and shaping their PC along with the story set forth here as they could before. This truly captured quite a bit of attention from me and made me overly happy.
After building my PC and selecting the basic Story Mode option for Pathfinder: Kingmaker, it was able to dig into the next thing that captured me in the tabletop world here in the video game. Obviously, it should be the story of the adventure and trying to build the actual kingdom here. It is not the exact same that you will experience from the books, even with a DM that goes by the letter of the books, but the changes made them work really well. I was worried this was going to be sacrificed for gameplay and it works so well and expands on things that felt like what was originally wanted in the tabletop version of Pathfinder: Kingmaker. It did take a bit to get to focus on just the story, but it is top notch once you get the settings going in the favor of just this. To the point where I would say that you should go for that option right out the gate the first time and then do all of the other options on further playthroughs.
This all brings me to the final thing I loved about Pathfinder: Kingmaker, it is replayable on an insane level and even though you know the basic story, it works. In a market here that has seemed to focus on a one-and-done style of format or needing DLC to further things, this Pathfinder game offers enough to keep you coming back. As I mentioned, I played multiple times already. Some not to the full completion of events, but thus is how these games usually go and you are not penalized for it. I am already trying to think of the next way I am going to go through it all when or if my current kingdom crumbles. I am also excited about that thought and not just dreading it. I love having that feeling in games like this and it is perfect here.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker is not going to be a game for everyone and Owlcat Games seems to know this. It also has some growing pains it is going through but it feels like it is all heading in the right direction. It will not completely remove the need or want to play the tabletop version of Pathfinder: Kingmaker, but it does scratch an itch if you cannot get a table together. I also feel it should have a true turn-based option mixed in as well, but not having it does not make it unplayable. All of that said, do be cautious on opting to throw your money here. It can be frustrating if you walk in expecting one version of the game and not getting what you would get with pen and paper. It is still a fun play for those who are ready to dive into a game that is DnD meets Game Of Thrones though.
I give Pathfinder: Kingmaker 9 Helpful Companions on the Helpful Companion scale.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker — Launch Trailer