Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a classic cRPG developed by Owlcat Games and an indirect sequel to the studio’s previous project, Pathfinder: Kingmaker. The release of the game is planned for Summer 2021, but those who supported the title on Kickstarter and purchased a certain tier, like yours truly, can already jump into the beta version of WotR to try the game out for themselves.
Of course, as any beta out there, it doesn’t provide the entirety of the planned content, certain features are not finished or missing, and there is a scattering of bugs of various levels of severity – from typos to more serious problems. However, all of the above doesn’t prevent one from seeing just how great the game is even in its current state.
Arm yourself with the min-maxing tutorials, this is our Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous beta impressions! There are minimal spoilers ahead, no more than you can find by scanning the game’s Kickstarter page.
Note: Kingmaker was my first experience with the Pathfinder franchise. I am aware of the existence of the tabletop game and the Wrath of the Righteous module, but due to being unfamiliar with it, I will speak of Owlcats’ game as a standalone, with no comparisons to Paizo’s work.
A bit of trivia, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous takes place in the same world as Pathfinder: Kingmaker, Golarion, but in a different location and some time after the events of the first game. You will still encounter some minor characters from Kingmaker and hear a few vague comments about the Stolen Lands and the newfound kingdom there, but don’t expect much from it.
Where Kingmaker started slow and relatively humble before diving into the curses of your newly-acquired barony, WotR immediately throws your new protagonist into the thick of things: Demons! Angels! Dragons! Cultists and Paladins!
In WotR, you find yourself in the middle of a large-scale conflict between mortals and demons that has been raging for a hundred years. The stakes have never been higher, and the game reflects it by trying to be bigger, better, darker, and more epic than its predecessor. And, I have to say, it does a good job of it!
Kingmaker had quite a bit of darkness itself – just the Season of Bloom was some horrifying stuff, but WotR takes it many steps forward.
The fate of Mendev – and perhaps the whole world – is teetering on an edge. From the very beginning, the game establishes that you are the Chosen One who can either save it or push it into the Abyss. It is up to you to choose a Mythic Path to walk between Angel, Lich, Demon, Azata, Trickster, Aeon, Swarm-That-Walks and Gold Dragon. You can also actively try to avoid using Mythic powers for an entirely different type of playthrough.
The new system adds a lot of replayability to the game. Not only can you proceed with the usual alignment-based options in the dialogue, but you will also have completely new choices dictated by your chosen Path.
The Paths also affect your companions by giving them new abilities. Both your followers and NPCs react to what your protagonist is becoming based on your choices.
In the middle of an all-out war against the hordes of Abyss, you would need something different from establishing a fledgling barony. A great army to lead. A Crusade to see through.
Frequently, demons, cultists, undead, and other bad guys will be standing in the way of your party. And the only way to get through them is to bring your army to face them in battle.
The new feature might make Heroes of Might and Magic fans let out a nostalgic sigh: recruiting new units, having them traverse the map and attack scattered demonic and cultist troops in the tactical turn-based mode under the command of a hired hero. One of the stretch goals on Kickstarter also saw the addition of the “Magic of the Crusade” feature, allowing you to use powerful spells against the demons.
At the moment, this new system is very, very rough and basic. The best I can say about it is that the idea is there, and it works.
Then again, we are in the early stages of beta, and I am sure Owlcats will see that the feature is finished by the time the game will be headed to the full release.
Of course, in between battles you will also need to tend to the more mundane aspects of being a Crusade Commander. And those are carried right from the Kingmaker: advisors, events, constructing building in towns, etc. Completely avoiding the management bit is not an option.
If you thought the idea of founding a new barony-turned-kingdom in the Stolen Lands attracted a cast of wildly different personalities, just wait until you meet Wrath’s companions!
Coming from a number of races and all ways of life, each of your new teammates has their own reasons for joining the Crusade. For some, it is what their life has been leading to, their duty. Others had no choice or anything better to do. Some have their own personal reasons for joining the Crusade that has barely anything to do with actually vanquishing demons.
The companions jump into dialogues between the protagonist and NPCs to offer their opinions. They also frequently start bickering if the offered opinions are wildly different, which is often the case.
That kind of companions’ reactivity to events happening around them is great. It makes me actively aware of who I choose to bring with me to a particular location/quest – sometimes it is very hard to make a decision, as the bickering is where it is at, and I want to see it all!
Of course, each companion also has a lengthy personal quest chain that leads them on a path of character development that can be affected by your protagonist.
Now, for a bit of subjectiveness.
As I mentioned at the very beginning of my impressions, my first time encountering the Pathfinder franchise was playing Kingmaker. I am aware of the reputation of the tabletop – hardcore, min-maxing, brutal, etc. Obviously, the players who jumped into the video game adaptation of the module are into that, and it is great that Owlcats are adapting some of the tabletop mechanics into gameplay elements.
However, Kingmaker and in the future Wrath of the Righteous might and likely will also attract a different crowd: your usual gamers, even casuals like yours truly. I will admit, my first couple of ventures into the world of Pathfinder were a bit miserable until I finally adjusted enough and found certain fan-made mods to smooth out some rough edges. In particular, faster movement of your party outside of the combat (which is included in WotR baseline).
WotR provides players with a lot of options and setting when it comes to the strength of the party vs enemies. I hope that Owlcats introduce some kind of slider for the amount of rest your party needs when traveling (it feels like entirely too much even though I make sure there is no encumbrance), the new Corruption mechanic, and other elements like that.
By no means do I want the developers to actually remove those elements. I’m sure there are players who enjoy the challenge, and they should be rewarded for it. But there are also those who want to spend a few hours adventuring without feeling like the game is actively trying to put sticks in its own wheels.
To sum it up, Wrath of the Righteous to Kingmaker is what PoE2: Deadfire is to the first Pillars of Eternity. At the very first glance, you might not see much of a difference, but the second you start playing the game, it is obvious how much more the developers have added to it.
Compared to Kingmaker, Wrath features:
- New races, classes, specializations
- New feature: Mythic Paths
- Enhanced graphics and animations
- No Kingdom-building (although some parts of it have carried over into Crusade management). Instead of it, the game has a new system: Crusade.
- Revamped tutorial
- Some QoL improvements, such as an option to turn on faster movement outside of combat (previously available as a fan-made mod for Kingmaker)
- Turn-based combat mode is in the game. You can swap between it and the default Real-Time With Pause at any time in the menu
- Higher reactivity and interactivity
- and much more!
If you have liked the first game from Owlcats, you will have a grand time in WotR. The developers have experimented with Kingmaker, and are going all-in with Wrath of the Righteous.