STAFF REVIEW of Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous (Xbox One)

Friday, November 11, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Box art While I’ve never been too heavily into cRPG’s (Computer Role Playing Game), they have quite a following and have had a number of massive hits over the past few decades; games like Baldur’s Gate, Wasteland 3, Disco Elysium, Neverwinter Nights, Divinity: Original Sin 2, Pillars of Eternity, and Planescape Torment just to name a few. These generally are high fantasy, a setting I quite enjoy, and I never played it's prequel, Kingmaker, I was quite excited to check out Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, developed by Owlcat Games and published by META Publishing.

As the Pathfinder brand was new to me, I had to do some research, coming away amazed with how in-depth the brand really is and what they’ve done since its inception back in 2009. Based on revised 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, by Paizo Publishing, is very consistently ranking in second for sales when compared to D&D, which is no small feat. An adaptation of the “Wrath of the Righteous” adventure path, developer Owlcat Games has made a sequel to Kingmaker that vastly surpasses it in almost every way, not just in sheer scale, but content wise as well.

As you embark on this massive adventure, you can expect virtually endless amount of gameplay depending on your attention span, understanding on basic D&D and how many times you’d want to replay to see all the different options at your disposal. The world is starting to be overrun by demons, and while the Adventure books was split into six main installments, I was quite shocked at how lengthy this campaign was, and that’s not even including any of the optional DLC campaign additions. Do you rise as a hero, fulfilling the impossible to save everyone and everything, or more lean into your nefarious side and choose to do as you like and rule your way? With plenty of customization, actually to the level of being overwhelming, there’s no shortage of playing however you like with any character style or build you want.

A massive rift has torn open among the country of Mendev, aptly titled the Worldwound, where hordes of demons are flowing through led by Demon Lord Deskari. The city of Nanabres is now in ruins, nearly everyone slaughtered and virtually nothing remains. With seemingly nothing that can stop this onslaught of death from the outpouring of demons, you may seem like just a normal mortal, but can you stop the demons in this latest crusade? It seems there’s something even bigger and more evil looming in the darkness, watching over the Worldwound.

You miraculously survive a seemingly fatal blow only to awaken some dormant mythical powers you possess deep within. While you become slowly infused with more power as time goes on, you’ll be making numerous choices that will affect the outcome of the world. Do you become a literal angel and do good, saving everyone you can at every chance? Do you opt for more of an evil inclining, deciding to have power over everything else? Maybe you’re somewhere in the morally grey area. There’s no right or wrong, you can play the narrative any way you desire, complete with numerous endings.

To say that the narrative is massive in scope and that the lore could easily fit in a library is an understatement. I’ll be honest, it was challenging in the beginning to follow along. Not that you need to know the Pathfinder series inside and out, but it’s a monster when it comes to its story, characters and world in sheer volume and scale. Thankfully you can click on specific keywords during dialogue and story sections, bringing up more detailed information on that topic should you want more insight. Remember though, every choice you make will have a consequence, and you’ll need to accept these choices regardless of the outcome. There’s so much depth in this world that even minor characters can have quite a background. I hope you like reading, as much of the dialogue and story isn’t narrated, so you’ll need to make quite a commitment if you want to get the most out of this adventure.

Before you even begin your 50+ hour journey for just the story alone on your first playthrough, you want to begin by customizing your adventure to your liking based on a number of different difficulty levels. Being somewhat of a novice in the genre, I opted for an easier experience, able to change nearly every setting, so you can choose from a very narrative focused journey without much combat challenge, all the way to deeply challenging options that will force you to know every minute detail of its combat, classes and gameplay to even survive. Those heavy into D&D should feel quite at home here, but don’t shy away if you’re like me and very casual with the concepts outside the basics.

Next you create your character. You can choose from 12 races and 25 classes, or go completely your own way and design your character however you wish to suit your playstyle. I chose a basic two-handed fighter so I could focus on the core combat while my teammates would be the ones to cast spells and use cantrips to round out the team. With over a thousand spells, abilities, feats and more, you can truly customize your character to exactly how you’d like if you’re deep into D&D character creation. This is actually incredibly deep to the point that I instantly felt overwhelmed. After a half hour of trying to create my own custom class and character, I decided to opt for something more basic. Which is totally fine, as I enjoyed my class later on when I became much more powerful. I have no doubt that some may spend well over an hour or two in this robust character creation, crafting that character they always dreamed of for their D&D campaign. Pathfinder fans will know what to expect, but it may feel daunting at first for those new to the series.

On top of this deep character creator you’ll also eventually unlock Mythic Paths, allowing you to change the outcome of the story quite heavily. I don’t want to spoil these choices for you, but you have numerous options, like being able to turn into an Angel, a Demon, Lich and more. These Mythic Paths add a whole other layer of options and complexity, but also add near endless replayability if you truly want to get value out of Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous.

When I say you can play how you want, I really mean it. That means being able to kill basically anyone you want, even incredibly important NPC’s that may have serious implications later on should you do so. I always play noble and good aligned though, so I opted to save those who I could, recruiting any compelled to join my cause along the way. You could completely miss some of these companion characters though based on choices you make, so always be careful and read over your options and dialogue choices. With about ten companions that can be recruited to your party, they are all quite varied and have a massive amount of back story. Not a fan of how they act or simply don’t fit amongst your group, you can just as easily tell them to leave at any time and see them on their way or simply not take them in your group of six.

Gameplay is primarily in your typical isometric view, able to zoom in and out to your preference, but this is within each zone or area. Getting from one area to the next takes place on an overview map, as if you’re placing a piece on a warboard, planning your next move. Each area will tell you if you’ve been there before and what specific quests you have in said area. Some will even require specific characters in your party to progress further. You must manage your time though, as the more exploration you do the more corruption you suffer from the Worldwound, eventually giving you massive debuffs and possibly even kill you if you don’t rest and get to safe zones often enough.

At first glance you might expect Wrath of the Righteous to play as a typical action based RPG like a Diablo given its similar camera view, and while you could play this way with real-time combat, where it excels is in its turn based option instead. Slowing things down and playing each turn with strategy is how you’ll survive the harder difficulties as real-time combat can get you in dicey situations with the AI companions being quite dense in difficult situations.

Based on D&D 3.5 rulesets, being able to swap to turn based or real-time on the fly is quite an impressive feat. For basic cannon fodder demons and bandit fights I would let the AI do as they wish, but for the harder bosses and larger battles, I definitely wouldn’t have survived if I didn’t use the tactical turn based mode instead. You’re able to control your group, as a whole or individually, with the typical movement of the Left thumbstick, or with a quick click you can change it to your typical cRPG where you have a cursor to point and interact that way for a more classical experience should you wish. Being able to instantly switch to turn based when battles are starting to favor the enemies was a great feature, allowing me to be able to use some of my special abilities at the most opportune times without having to worry about what’s going on around me and my group and taking my time.

The tactical approach has plenty of benefits, like disarming traps before you accidentally set your whole group ablaze, or flanking an enemy with one of your rogue types, positioning an archer to an ideal spot far from danger or using those special abilities that will be the difference of life and death. Yes that means there’s plenty of micromanaging to do in this mode, but it gives you complete control and will be absolutely needed in the latter half.

You’ll start off with the most basic of weapons and armor, eventually finding better gear as you explore and defeat enemies. Inventory management is probably a large portion of my gameplay time as it’s not as fluid as it could be with a controller. In fact, the whole menu system is clumsy at best with a controller, and while it does functionally work, even a few dozen hours in I was hitting the wrong triggers and buttons because it’s not intuitive.

Remember, this is based on the true Pathfinder ruleset, and there’s an overwhelming amount of things to learn as you go. I didn’t realize that I couldn’t wear gear that had duplicate bonuses or else it becomes a waste. There’s also weapon and gear penalties you need to consider, so you don’t want to simply give everyone heavy breastplates and huge two-handed gear. With how much gear you pickup, you’ll be spending plenty of time trying to manage your inventory for the carrying weight, and even more figuring out if the new gear is an upgrade for each of your characters. Unfortunately this isn’t displayed very easily, so you’ll need to go through every character, check the base stats on what you’re currently wearing, compare to what’s in your inventory then start the process all over again when you hit the wrong button or accidentally switch to a different character with the clumsy controls.

Given the genre and isometric camera, it’s visually pretty much what you’d expect from a game like this. There’s not much up close and in-depth details, but they have done a good job at making some beautiful backdrops and vistas, especially when you factor in just how large and how many areas you’ll be exploring in your adventure. My main complaint here is that there’s a lot of loading screens. Even on an Xbox Series X, because it’s simply an Xbox One game, there’s more loading than I’d like when you transition from zone to zone.

As for the audio, the voiced cutscenes are done quite well with some great performances for the most part, and even though some of the minor characters feel a little over-acted at times, I always appreciate when an effort is made to have voiced dialogue, especially in a game this expansive. That said, a good majority of the game is not voiced and relies on you to read it all. There has to be thousands of pages of dialogue too, so I hope this won’t be an issue for you.

You’ll get what you put into Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. Those that can dedicate well over a hundred hours will surely get a deep and lore rich adventure with plenty of replayability. That is, if you can get over the sheer overwhelmingness of it all in the beginning or don’t feel guilty playing on a lower difficulty. Having gone into the experience without any expectations, I’m glad to have had this adventure even if it did take a dozen hours to start to really understand how I wanted to do so well.

**Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.3 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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