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[Review] My Kingdom for a Horse — A Pathfinder: Kingmaker Review

How hard can making a good Pathfinder game be?

  1. Keneth
    If you've ever wondered what it's like to to run a kingdom in a fantasy world, this game... probably isn't the best example of that. :shake: Don't get me wrong, Kingmaker does a decent job, but it is, first and foremost, a D&D game where you walk around killing foul beasts and rescuing maidens in distress. You are a king more as a hobby than an actual job.

    That said, for any fan of Pathfinder, this game was a godsend. Although, it's probably one of the most dull adventure paths you can play, it offers an experience that most modern D&D games fail to provide. The titular "horse" in this case being a hardcore Pathfinder experience. It is the first but absolutely not the last of its kind (with a new adventure path already in the works).

    Story

    The story of Kingmaker is relatively generic. It's got some political intrigue, a good amount of monster and bandit slaying, and a tragic Big Bad that probably won't stick in your mind for too long. Owlcat did a good job enhancing this experience, adding some interesting companions, new side stories, and a slew of additional content beyond the original adventure books.

    Replay Value

    As far as replay value goes, there isn't all that much in terms of story that you can change. That is not to say that your decisions don't matter. You will gain or lose companions depending on your choices. You will annihilate or save entire tribes and make allies and enemies with your neighbors and outside forces. Your choices matter but, ultimately, your journey will be fairly straightforward. Pick good guy or arsehole (or somewhere in between) and you're good to go.

    The joy of replaying the game, at least for me, would be challenging myself with the massive amount of choices in character building you can make. Was the game too easy playing as a paladin on core rules? Try your hand at playing a druid on unfair. Take different companions with you and build them up in a different way.

    Companions

    Kingmaker offers you some decent companions, some fun companions, and some bland companions. It's a mixed bag, like with most games, but you'll probably love your goblin rogue companion more than your love interest and that's just slightly disappointing. Still, I enjoyed bringing all of them along with me on my journey, so they serve their purpose well enough.

    Gameplay

    Kingmaker offers you a fairly authentic Pathfinder experience. Although the selection of classes and options isn't staggering in the base game, there are mods that can add dozens of new classes, archetypes, and abilities for your character-building pleasure. In addition, with the 2.0 patch, turn-based mode is now also a default option (previously a very nice mod), allowing you full control over the battlefield, like you would have in a tabletop game.

    As far as standard gameplay goes, any veteran of the isometric RPG genre should have no issues finding their bearings. You have your standard 6-man party that runs around in formation to wherever you point and click and an array of abilities at the bottom of the screen for them to use. Go to the edge of a map and gather your party to travel to a different location. Sleep to recover your spells and abilities. Same old shtick.

    Balance

    Balance in Kingmaker has been a topic of some controversy over the last couple of years. The game has been criticized as being too imbalanced, with difficulty of encounters ranging from absolutely trivial to almost impossible. Some encounters could be particularly punishing for groups of unprepared players without sufficient Pathfinder/D&D experience, and many players found themselves changing the difficulty level throughout the game in order to cope.

    From my personal experience, many of these encounters have since been re-balanced. There are still some encounters that can end up being challenging even for optimized groups, but these are usually chapter bosses or optional encounters. The game also offers a wide array of difficulty options to choose from. There is no shame in changing the difficulty.

    Kingdom Building

    As the name of the game implies, before too long, you get your own kingdom to run. You select a group of advisors that resolve semi-randomized events that occur over the span of the game. As time progresses, you get to unlock new areas, build new settlements, assign new advisors, and increase your kingdom's stats in order to provide stability for your subjects. It's a decent little mini-game that bears dire consequences should you fail at it too often. If your kingdom crumbles, the game ends. If it prospers, you get to enjoy some minor perks and the satisfaction of being a good ruler, even though your throne is absent for most of the game.

    Since some people did not enjoy this part of the game too much, Owlcat added options for the kingdom to run itself, giving you the opportunity to almost completely ignore it if you should so choose. Personally, while I thought it was interesting enough to invest my time into, I also found myself save scumming to succeed kingdom events more often than I'd like to admit. It's challenging enough delegating your advisors to different events just to have them fail afterwards, so I think the DCs could have been adjusted a bit, or the effects of failure should have had less one-sided effects.

    It's hard to say how to improve this part of the game without trivializing it. Make of it what you will.

    Art

    Visuals

    As far as art goes, this isn't exactly the most visually stunning game of 2018. That is not to say that the game looks bad by any stretch of the imagination. For the more modern generation, it might look a bit too old school or cartoonish but, since this is not the main focus of the game, I feel it should not be judged too harshly. It's a tabletop adaptation, after all. For photo-realism, you can play Red Dead.

    Sound

    The music of the game is quite lovely and unintrusive. For a game as long as Kingmaker, this is an important feature. Although the soundtrack may not be as memorable as in some other games, you also won't feel the need to turn it off after a few hours.

    The amount of voice acting leaves something to be desired, but it is of decent quality. For a relatively new Russian game studio, it's above expectation.

    Content

    There is a lot of content in Kingmaker. Besides adapting the entire adventure path, they also added a bunch of their own quests and new areas. If you're playing on turn-based mode, you're looking at up to 300 hours of gameplay for a full completionist run (with DLC).

    Modding

    As a Unity game, Kingmaker supports a number of mods that can be managed with Unity Mod Manager. Although there is no explicit support for modding, the game is open enough to support a fairly wide range of mods. Among these, I can recommend several that I found indispensable:

    • Call of the Wild: Adds a large number of (mostly) true-to-tabletop Pathfinder classes and archetypes that Owlcat did not implement.
    • Camera Rotation Mod: As the name implies, the mod will allow you to rotate the game camera. Not much more to say about it.
    • Bag of Tricks: Basically a cheat console that allows you to control many aspects of the game. Great for experimentation purposes.

    Conclusion

    Overall, Pathfinder: Kingmaker was an ambitious but surprisingly good product. While my circle has long since departed from tabletop D&D, I still greatly enjoyed the digital experience of playing Pathfinder, and the game was fun and immersive enough to keep me interested for literal hundreds of hours. I would rate this game a 4 out of 5 owlcats and I'm very much looking forward to Wrath of the Righteous.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Screenshots
    henkie and Taluntain like this.
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