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Pathfinder: Kingmaker - A beast of an RPG with a few annoying flaws

Fenixgoon

Lifer
Jun 30, 2003
28,136
3,466
126
If you're a fan of isometric, D&D RPGs, this might be the game from 2018 that passed you by. Probably the biggest difference between this and any other of the D&D RPGs is the city/kingdom mechanic.

The game starts out with you being a mercenary competing with another merc team (with whom you can predictably join forces with later). You need to take down a baddie, eventually do so, and the story evolves from there. Kinda standard D&D RPG fare so far.

Map movement is neat at first - the token symbolizing your party slides along the map board. This works out well when the board is small. Later in the game though, this becomes a huge annoyance, because traveling from one side of the map to the other means sliding your piece aaaaaallllll the way there, with few exceptions (there is limited ability to teleport).

The city mechanic is also fun and interesting for the most part* - you can develop regions to give you bonuses, get special items from vendors, and so on. *However, there are two major problems. The first is that the city mechanic is not well explained within the game. How do I unlock new advisors? How do I upgrade my village to a town? Why can't I upgrade all my villages to towns? How do I unlock new advisor slots? Speaking of advisor slots, in my particular case, I was missing key characters to act as city advisors for nearly 2 full acts - either they bugged out or legit died before i could recruit them. That set me back a huge amount. By far the worst part of the city mechanic is that if your city fails, it leads to a game over. Which normally doesn't sound like a problem, until you get into the final stages of the game and the problems facing your city become so difficult to solve that your city will invariably be crushed unless you really understood the city mechanic in the first place. What's the solution? If you don't want to see your 90+ hours of gameplay go down the drain, you have the option to make your city invincible, which I did. One review I read cited this option as an indicator of a failed mechanic design. I'm about 50/50 on that assessment. On the one hand, the challenge should ramp up, especially on the harder difficulty settings. At the same time, if you've been able to make it to Act 4-5, you shouldn't be squeaking by with your kingdom about to be crushed by an impending onslaught, either. I literally went from succeeding most of my problems, to having far more than i could solve, and being unable to solve them even with a roll of a 20.

Graphics and sound design are excellent, especially some of the environmental effects like lightning. The boss fight music, in particular, really makes it felt like a big deal.

The party members are all fantastic in my opinion, and there's an absolute metric shitton of voice acting. They even have conversations during resting, which adds a lot of flavor to each character.

Combat is standard D&D RPG. Diseases, curses, polymorphs, elemental damages, the whole shebang. Finding and disabling traps is always clutch (did the first level of BG2 teach you nothing? :D ). Some spells take resources, which was new to me. I was super annoyed to find out I couldn't resurrect a party member because I didn't have any diamonds. And even protections like stoneskin require diamond dust (pricey early on, but later you're richer than scrooge mcduck and shouldn't have issues affording it).

There is a huge range of itemization, which is both good and bad. If you're a fighter wanting to specialize, you may not find your weapon of choice at the start, or have to forego that new shiny item because all your bonus feats don't apply to it. In general, my characters were not wanting for good gear regardless of their class.

There are a few difficulty spikes that I think are not quite unfair, but at the very least poorly introduced

1) Right at the outset, you can encounter swarms. Swarms can only be damaged by AOE. Your fighters have too low BAB to hit them with a torch, and you may or may not have a spellcaster to cast offensive spells at the swarms in the first place. Using fire bombs would work if your frontline characters could survive long enough. But because you're level 2, good luck. I ignored them and came back to the area much later to clean house
2) Slightly before or after the end of Act 1, you will begin to encounter wisps. Unless you know to counter them with see invisibility (protection from lightning is at least rather obvious), they are basically unkillable and will slaughter your party. Had to google this one.
3) Towards the end of the game, mobs will begin to have paralyze spells/abilities that are cast every round. I had legitimately been crushing everything in my way until I hit this area of the game. Big monsters, dragons, mobs, whatever - I walked all over them. Then paralyze turned my AC50 monk into a chump (goodbye armor bonuses from dex). With no knowledge of this (and you won't have your entire party on hand initially, either), I had to google the solution. Turns out, this can be countered by spells like Free Action or feats like Blind Fight. If it weren't for google, I doubt I'd have made it past this point in the game. (thinking about it now, it's very much like the beholder lair in BG2.. the correct items/spells make it almost a cakewalk).
4) In this same endgame area, you may lose some or all of your party members depending on your relationship with them
5) In the final boss fight, mass dispel and mass dominate will wreck you without the right spells/spellcasters in your party. Luckily, one of my spellcasters could provide the right AOE buffing at the right time, because I earned a spell from an endgame quest that I would normally have ignored if not for following a walkthrough at the very end. I was getting tired, hah

The story is good, though I'd be lying if I said I paid close attention. I mostly just wanted to build an uber party and smash stuff, with the story pushing me along. By the end, my monk did monk things, which was a) punch everything to death b) have sky high AC and be invincible (except anything requiring a will save, because apparently monks get AC from charisma instead of wisdom?). There is a super duper secret ending for the truly hardcore/dedicated, but I'm not about to start a fresh game to accomplish that.

Overall, I'd say it's a great game if you are a veteran to the D&D RPG universe and want a challenge - "challenging" will definitely get you there. If you're new to the D&D RPG genre, definitely go for an easier setting so you're not overwhelmed by a lot of different mechanics. Max out the difficulty if you're truly insane or know D&D mechanics inside out.

At 117 hours, I definitely got my money's worth.
 

shortylickens

No Lifer
Jul 15, 2003
78,804
11,765
126
I couldnt finish it.
Forget the exact quest but I wasnt able to figure out where to go or what to do and that giant annoying map is no god damn help.
Neither was the interwebs.
I gave up. Uninstalled. Will never try again.

Fuck that map.
 

GodisanAtheist

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
3,074
1,569
136
I've read so much mixed stuff about this game. Fenix's review makes me think it's the kind of game someone who is really into the genre would like, but more casual players may hit any number of stumbling blocks and just decide to walk away.

Iso-RPGs we're so my jam back when I was a teen but I just don't have the time to invest in a 100 hr. marathon nowadays. Maybe I'll come back to these types of epics when the kids are older and off doing their own thing.
 

Stuka87

Diamond Member
Dec 10, 2010
5,398
1,186
136
I really enjoy cRPGs, but I have not tried this one, mostly because of the very mixed reviews.
 

ArenCordial

Senior member
Sep 18, 2012
210
15
81
Pathfinder: Kingmaker is probably my favorite isometric RPG since BG2. I grew up on those games and I know 3rd edition dnd (basically what Pathfinder is) really well, so for me it was a fantastic experience. I put over 300 hours in and it really feels like what the BG/Icewind Dale games would have evolved to if they were still being made.

It was definitely better than the Pillars of Eternity games and all the other Baldur's Gate style games that came out of kickstarter era. The writing is mostly good, the story is solid, the villian was compelling, and the party I thought I'd hate but by the end of the game I liked most everyone. The build options are off the charts compared to most games. The reactivity to your decisions is great and rewarding.

That said it's most certainly not a game for just anyone. The developers made the game with the idea that players have some sense of system mastery or at least will want to learn it. Knowing the right buffs/debuffs to use is so very often the difference between an smooth victory and an unbeatable fight in this game. The Kingdom management can blow up in your face unless you understand so I always would advise new players to put it on the easiest mode where you can't fail so you can learn.

That said I've got to give the developers credit because if you want to try and learn the mechanics but a fight is too tough, there is literally a slider that you can adjust how much damage the enemies do to you. Most players won't bother with that though.

Still its hands down one of the most rewarding experiences I've had over the last few years as a cRPG nut. Its one of those when I played it, I instantly thought cult classic. There's greatness in the game but its rough, unpolished, and not for everyone.
 

bguile

Senior member
Nov 30, 2011
484
21
81
I've read so much mixed stuff about this game. Fenix's review makes me think it's the kind of game someone who is really into the genre would like, but more casual players may hit any number of stumbling blocks and just decide to walk away.

Iso-RPGs we're so my jam back when I was a teen but I just don't have the time to invest in a 100 hr. marathon nowadays. Maybe I'll come back to these types of epics when the kids are older and off doing their own thing.
Once you find the time I would definitely recommend it. One of the best CRPG's ever made.
 

bguile

Senior member
Nov 30, 2011
484
21
81
Overall, I'd say it's a great game if you are a veteran to the D&D RPG universe and want a challenge - "challenging" will definitely get you there. If you're new to the D&D RPG genre, definitely go for an easier setting so you're not overwhelmed by a lot of different mechanics. Max out the difficulty if you're truly insane or know D&D mechanics inside out.

At 117 hours, I definitely got my money's worth.
Funny you should post this a day before Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous beta was released to the public. I don't have beta access, but from what I saw in the alpha it looks really promising. As good if not better than Kingmaker. I put in 200 hours just playing the alpha, though a lot of it was just messing around with some of the new classes, trying out different companions, and seeing what some of the epic classes were like (the ones that were in at the time anyway).
 

Stg-Flame

Platinum Member
Mar 10, 2007
2,985
245
106
I've tried so many times to get into these D&D style RPGs but something always gets in the way and I end up either frustrated or bored beyond belief. I loved Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 and I've tried a few of the Baulder's Gate games, but even though I had a lot of fun with them, I struggled more than I should have because it felt like I was taking another class in school just to learn the mechanics. I've had this game on my wishlist for a long time but I doubt I'll ever get around to buying it simply because of how in-depth these games tend to be and I can't imagine I'd have that much free time to actually be able to sit down and become immersed.
 
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GodisanAtheist

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
3,074
1,569
136
I've tried so many times to get into these D&D style RPGs but something always gets in the way and I end up either frustrated or bored beyond belief. I loved Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 and I've tried a few of the Baulder's Gate games, but even though I had a lot of fun with them, I struggled more than I should have because it felt like I was taking another class in school just to learn the mechanics. I've had this game on my wishlist for a long time but I doubt I'll ever get around to buying it simply because of how in-depth these games tend to be and I can't imagine I'd have that much free time to actually be able to sit down and become immersed.
- Yes, as much as I love a good cRPG, the ones based firmly in the older D&D rulesets (and just D&D in general) seem to take a sort of perverse joy in making their many interlocking game systems as dense and inscrutable as possible. It makes getting to the meat of a good story and fun adventure a real chore when there is all this convoluted gameplay getting in the way.

I virtually always appreciate game systems like Fallout's SPECIAL that fundamentally operate on a ruleset that straddles the median between ARPG and D&D, all while providing plenty of options to tell a good story.
 

sactoking

Diamond Member
Sep 24, 2007
6,906
1,735
136
I enjoyed Kingmaker, after installing a few necessary mods. I'm looking forward to this one.
 

shortylickens

No Lifer
Jul 15, 2003
78,804
11,765
126
I've tried so many times to get into these D&D style RPGs but something always gets in the way and I end up either frustrated or bored beyond belief. I loved Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 and I've tried a few of the Baulder's Gate games, but even though I had a lot of fun with them, I struggled more than I should have because it felt like I was taking another class in school just to learn the mechanics. I've had this game on my wishlist for a long time but I doubt I'll ever get around to buying it simply because of how in-depth these games tend to be and I can't imagine I'd have that much free time to actually be able to sit down and become immersed.
In the 7th grade we had one of those mandatory fun days. Most kids went to the golf course or the bowling alley. A few went to our nearby AAA stadium and watched a game.
SOMEBODY (to this day I cannot imagine who) convinced the manager of Great Goblin to come by and run a session of MERP. We were already nerds and we didnt know it.
I think we had a group of about 10 and one or two guys just watched. It was a sharp learning curve for a kid who got confused with Monopoly but I learned a lot, and that weekend I got my dad to take me to a hobby shop. I bought the black box starter kit of D&D and my life has been shit ever since.

I honestly could not imagine starting it today. Too many rules and I dont have to patience to learn new things like I used to. You dont NEED to understand proper D&D to play Baldurs Gate but it sure as hell makes it easier.

Also, Baldurs Gate 1 and 2 both have excellent tutorials and its a shame people try to skip them or race thru them because they actually mean the difference between enjoying the games and being disgusted by them.
 

Coalfax

Senior member
Nov 22, 2002
366
30
91
I think I got to around Act 6 and at that point it got too long winded for me. Also wasnt a great fan of the timed events and such...

I am guessing that the new one coming out will follow the same vein...
 

Borealis7

Platinum Member
Oct 19, 2006
2,769
109
106
i played BG2 to death. good, evil, wizard, thief, warrior, cleric, ranger, monk, whatever that game had to offer.
That was 18 years ago, but now, at the age of 37, i realized i will never ride through Paris in a sports car with the wind in my hair

i mean...i couldn't get into Pathfinder.

(if you didn't get the super old reference: Link)
 
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shortylickens

No Lifer
Jul 15, 2003
78,804
11,765
126
I also played BG2 to death. and it didnt help when they upgraded it for Steam and added some things.
 

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