During this past PAX East, I had a chance to sit down and play a guided 30-minute demo of Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. Helping me along was Alexander Mishulin, Creative Director for the developer, Owl Cat games. This tour showed that a lot of love and strategy had gone into creating an old-school CRPG experience with modern conveniences.
The small team has taken their experiences with the first Pathfinder title, Kingmaker, and are adding even more content and fan requests (turn-based battles for those board game enthusiasts). This is even more evident with the addition of social aspects and stretch goals for their Kickstarter campaign. While I never immersed myself in this franchise, I found my time with Alexander enjoyable, amusing, and, most importantly, never dull.
For those also uninitiated, the title is based on Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder book based, role-playing game which itself is based on the 3rd edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Wrath of the Righteous lives up to its title as it adds the ability to go down the ‘good path’ has now been expanded to include a journey for those who are more evilly inclined.
My demo took place in the second chapter of the game, right before the storming of the demon-infested stronghold city, Drezen. Instead of being thrown into the action, I was in a tavern strategizing with my companions on the best course of action for the oncoming siege.
This slower and text-heavy section was a good indicator of how the story and character development will take a front seat during the game. The good and evil aspect of alignment also was prominent here as two of your colleagues, the shell-shocked paladin Irabeth and the sassy demon knight commander Regill, played off of each other.
According to Alexander, each companion will have their own arc and missions that can change their path and even alignment. He gave the example of Irabeth becoming more and more jaded over the course and slaughter of adventure, leading to a significant crisis of faith. Even during the demo, the paladin’s foundation was already shaken as she questioned going in to save the city entirely with her heart, obviously pointing towards retreat.
Dealing with your recruits was only one section of the tavern, as your entire mission can be reshaped from the choices you make. I chose to sneak in through the prison rather than a full-frontal siege; this changed the locations, strategy, and interactions I would’ve had, had I wanted a different route. Side missions were also casually brought up at the tavern planning session. I’m happy to say that none of it felt like a clunky handing of exposition, and I even laughed at one point from the character dialogue.
The combat portion of the demo was a little more hands-on yet hands-off than the initial scene. Being a CRPG, maps get to be quite large, and getting lost can be easy. I was guided along rather consistently as my overpowered characters, and I clicked through waves of enemies. At one point, I had to guard my knights as they used a battering ram against a reinforced door. Enemies have the ability to teleport in, so I never knew what was going to come out and pounce (the giant hell insect being my favorite).
Other highlights included freeing a succubus from the prison. At the same time, Irabeth fell further into disillusion as I rode to the city walls of giants who were hurling deadly projectiles at my army. The latter proved to be an exciting challenge as I tried to climb up a series of ropes but failed my agility check, so I had to take a long way around. Players will encounter these branching paths many times, making the experience unique to each playthrough.
There were tons of spells that I could see but didn’t use during my time playing. Still, I was shown where the healing spells were. That’s what I stuck to as I chopped down wave after wave of demons. The ability to pause and spin the camera 360 degrees was needed, even if characters were highlighted with an outline when they were hidden behind scenery. The battles got hectic, so stopping the action from repositioning my troops was also a necessity. All and all, the combat felt fluid (even with a stilted camera), and I wanted to get further into the menus to understand better the ‘more than a thousand spells’ available and all the loot I was hoarding.
Alexander was also excited to highlight the ‘Mythic Path’ of option that players will be able to choose while during their 80+ hour quest. From here, you can ‘make compelling characters capable of taking on Demon Lords and similarly powerful entities.’ Owl Cat Games claim that this feature will have a ‘profound’ impact on both gameplay and story.
While the soft-spoken Creative Director didn’t dive into too much detail with the Mythic Paths, a cheat sheet went over the eight dietic personas that are available. The usual Lich and Angel and Demon are there, but two of the options sounded fun to me:
Aeon is a cosmic judge of balance with the ability to change the current timeline. They can sense where the balance is broken and correct it, usually punishing the perpetrator in the process.
Swarm-That-Walks is an incarnation of anger, allowing the character to become one with the swarm of locusts and consume everything that stands in their way.
How these ultimate classes will play remains to be seen, and we will have to wait until June 2021 when Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous releases on PC and Mac (consoles will hopefully be added in the future).
Until then, the Kickstarter is in its final 24 hours, so if any of this appeals to you, you should check that out. Alexander and the small team at Owlcat are doing some fantastic things, and I’m looking forward to the next preview I get to partake in for this epic sounding CRPG.
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