Review – Pathfinder: Kingmaker (Xbox One)

Back in 2018 Pathfinder: Kingmaker was launched after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Our own Thomas reviewed the game at the time saying that whilst “not perfect and with a high barrier of entry both in its high difficulty at lower levels and the quantity of rules and situations most RPGs streamline, once you master them you’ll see it manages to go blow for blow with some of the genre’s best.” With its first release on console, it’s my time to have a look at this game and see what the fuss is all about. 

Kingmaker is based on the Pathfinder ruleset of Dungeons and Dragons. I’m a newcomer to this subgenre or RPG, and as a result, the learning curve ended up being really steep. Even from the get-go I felt a little bit lost with all the stats you will see in your character sheet but all of this becomes a lot more apparent as you keep playing. I’m not ashamed to admit I significantly lowered the difficulty going into this game. There’s a general lack of direction giving to you through the opening sections and I felt overwhelmed throughout the entire game. 

The world map is a genius touch to make it feel more like a old school RPG

Pathfinder’s combat is interesting, if a bit underwhelming. Being able to switch between Real-Time with Pause mechanics and a full on turn-based strategy system sounds interesting enough, and allows players to real play the game that they want to play. As someone who rarely enjoys RTwP gameplay, this was a treat to see, but I found myself playing with RTwP more often than not. The turn-based combat system just feels awkward here. A lot of the combat is based on dice rolls, so you will see yourself missing a lot of attacks for seemingly unfair reasons, but thankfully, this also applies to the enemies. As a whole, I found the combat to be a bit of a chore to get through, never really enjoying it, always feeling that there were other games that pulled it off much better.  

The meat of the game isn’t actually the combat, but the decision-making and this is where Pathfinder truly shines and comes in all on its own. From the get-go, you can choose from 5 presents character builds, but the real depth comes from the character creator, with over a dozen different classes, each with different variants and skills. It’s a really in-depth character creation system that you can easily get lost into. 

Much of the game will be spent exploring the vast world through the map system, encountering enemies and conversing with the world through lengthy dialogue sequences. It’s all well-written stuff with individually well-told stories scattered throughout, as well as interesting characters to meet. Throughout the story you will eventually become a leader and will have to manage and make decisions for your kingdom.  It’s also a game that requires your upmost attention. Everything is running on a timer and it’s possible to fail quests introducing a time management element to the game and forcing you to prioritise certain tasks. 

Pathfinder is very dialogue-heavy. That’s the best part of the game

Playing on console has been a rather disappointing experience. Navigating the world on a controller is fine enough, but things get a bit sticky with issuing commands and combat in general, with a user interface that just feels cumbersome to go through. It’s far from an ideal way of playing the game, and if possible, you should just stick with the PC version. Then you’ve got the technical side of playing on console. Playing on a Xbox One X (Note: this has no X Enhancements), I was disappointed with the massive amount of screen tearing that is evident when exploring environments. Finally, there is a rather nasty bug that stopped me from loading save games, and just kept taking me back to the main menu. The only way around this I found is to go back to an older save. Thankfully, a somewhat generous auto-save and the ability to manual save can dampen the impact. 

Pathfinder Kingmaker isn’t for everyone, and that shows. The complex and deep RPG mechanics mimic those of pen and paper RPGs of old, and the lack of meaningful direction the game gives new players can be off-putting. But if you are familiar with the genre or are willing to put in the time to truly learn this game, it can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Just bear in mind that it’s hard to recommend to console players in its current state. 

Graphics: 6.5

Visually pleasing art style that makes the world feel lived in, but it felt somewhat disappointing in this console version. 

Gameplay: 6.0

The combat suffers from being too unfocused whilst strong decision making is the game strengths 

Sound: 7.0

Sound design is pretty good. Nothing too noteworthy about it, but it gets the job done.

Fun Factor: 5.5

Kingmaker is an RPG that demands a lot from its players while also taking an annoying lot of time to really get moving. It’s also glitchy.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Pahtfinder: Kingmaker is available now on Xbox One, PC and Playstation 4.

Played on Xbox One X.

A copy of Pathfinder Kingmaker was provided by the publisher.