It seems like only yesterday that I was wondering why more RPGs don’t base themselves on the old school, traditional tabletop role-players of my youth. In the meantime another has washed up on these shores. Snappily entitled Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, this promises to bring a flavour of the old times to our modern consoles, being based on a tabletop game itself. Releasing first on PC back in 2021 by developers Owlcat Games, Pathfinder has now appeared on the Xbox and other consoles. I guess the question has to be: was the wait worth it?
In terms of the narrative at play and anyone who has read my reviews previously will know that the story – especially of an RPG – is one of the most important aspects to get right, far outweighing petty concerns like graphics and so on. After all, a dodgy looking RPG with an amazing tale behind it will always be better than some eye candy pushed by a bland and vanilla narrative.
Fortunately, that of Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is sufficiently interesting to keep you wanting to play.
A while ago, it seems that a rift was opened in the world to the abyssal planes of existence, and obviously nothing good ever comes out of a rift, right? The land around the rift was turned into a demon infested wasteland, called the Worldwound, and so the surrounding countries embark on Crusades to hold the enemies at bay. Even so, defeat would have been certain if not for the Wardstones, artefacts of great power that are able to keep the evil at bay. But now, as we awaken in a town, a giant Demon attacks and the Wardstone in the area is shattered. Thus we are sent on a quest to see if we can stop the collapse of the whole world. No pressure then.
Now, the way that Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous looks is pretty standard to anyone who has ever played a CRPG before. The action is viewed from an isometric viewpoint, and the camera can be tilted, panned and zoomed to allow you the best view of the action. It works very well. The actual graphics are very nicely done too, with good character and monster design evident from the very beginning. If I do have a criticism of the presentation, it is that the game is very text heavy indeed, and PC players must all have eyesight of a hawk. If you’re playing on console then you may want to muscle up to the TV in order to make sense of what is being told. Sound-wise it is all gravy as well, and all in all – apart from needing binoculars in order to read the text – the game looks and sounds great.
But what about the gameplay, I hear you ask? Well, here the news is also pretty good, as this is without doubt one of the deeper, more serious entries in the CRPG genre that I’ve played. An example of what I mean? Well, you know how in most games you can choose from a few classes of character as you begin a new run and create your avatar? In Pathfinder, there are a total of twenty-five classes and twelve races to choose from, and that’s before you get to the way that you want to look! That in turn is before we get to the big decisions that you have to make as you go through the game, which path you wish to follow.
You see, if you so choose, you can decide to walk the path of the angels, or the Necromancer, or even the insatiable Swarm that Walks: choices you make really matter when it comes to your character development. Hell, you can even choose to remain steadfastly human, but given the choice of that or becoming a Dragon, which route would you take?
The combat system is another area where a lot of thought has clearly gone into the way that things play out, and there are two main ways to play Wrath of the Righteous. You can run the classic turn-based combat elements, where you make your choices in an orderly fashion and take it in turns to attack or defend, or you can use a real time system that usually devolves into chaos. The real time system is pretty intriguing, as it is possible to set ways that you want your companions to behave, and also then take direct control of your own character. This is, I would say, more advanced than the turn-based system, as things can very quickly snowball; expect to wind up looking at a game over screen very quickly.
Luckily, if you see things heading this way, it is possible to swap between the systems on the fly. Occasionally that means you can sometimes manage to pull the irons out of the fire in time, if you are paying attention. Just don’t do what I did and go to make a brew in the middle of a fight.
Making decisions in the story can also have far reaching consequences, influencing the choices of NPCs as to whether to help you or not. As an example, the first series of missions sees you trying to help some funny looking creatures, and depending on your choices at the end of this small story arc, you can theoretically end up with one of two companions. Of course, one is a nice one and one is a nasty one, and whichever one you don’t choose seems to harbour a grudge…
The amount of choice available in Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is mind boggling, quite frankly, and if you are going to make a serious fist of this game, you will need to dedicate a serious amount of time to doing so. Oh, and yet another top tip from my time with the game – save often; certainly before any confrontation you can see brewing on the horizon! Again, a lesson I learned the hard way…
With even more content the further on you get, such as the ability to hire and control commanders in tactical Crusade missions, letting you take in the battle from an overview or from down and dirty on the ground, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is an enormous game. For RPG fans, it’s a very impressive one. Finding loot, new equipment and friends to recruit can be all consuming, as is taking down more and more powerful enemies as you get stronger; that in itself is extremely satisfying. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a deep, serious game that needs a lot of time investment, but if you can find that time it is unlikely that you will feel short changed, what with the sheer amount of content on display.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is on the Xbox Store