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Codex Review RPG Codex Review: Pathfinder Kingmaker

Infinitron

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
Tags: Owlcat Games; Pathfinder: Kingmaker

Why did it take us so long to review Pathfinder: Kingmaker, our RPG of the year for 2018? Maybe it's because the game isn't good in a particularly interesting way - merely a well-executed visit to the not-Forgotten Realms. Or maybe it's because applying the kind of exhaustive analysis we value here to its implementation of the already familiar 3rd Edition ruleset would just be too much work for too little payoff. Whatever the case, we have recently appointed Codex staff member Roguey to thank for finally putting in the effort and filling this gap in our portfolio. Here's an excerpt from his review, including its approving conclusion:

Kingmaker has a gated open structure; you're able to explore anywhere you want in a certain region, but there are various plot gates that keep you from entering other higher level regions until another chapter unlocks them. I'm not one for high risk, high reward sequence breaking, so I don't mind. As for the main quest, it has to be followed in a step by step manner, though sometimes you'll be able to unlock a new area early if your perception is high enough. Even with these limits, choosing a direction to go in without knowing where the path will take you or what new locations will pop up really helps sell the idea that you're taming an untamed land.

Moreover, one novel aspect of the campaign is that once you've been given your barony, the NPCs come to you with their problems rather than the opposite. Sure, there are some sidequests to pick up while exploring the world, but for the most part, you'll be given the details of your quests from your throne room. A potential downside for some is that this means there is no part where you explore a big city looking for errands to run for random citizens, which is an expectation many fantasy RPG fans have; this would be inappropriate for someone of your character's station. It's eccentric enough to go around solving your people's issues personally, which some NPCs do observe with amusement.

I hope you like combat because Kingmaker has a ton of it. Too much in fact; combat areas on the critical path regularly have 10-12 encounters per map which feels like twice as much as there should be, especially since several areas contain multiple maps. In an interview conducted with us before his cognitive decline, Obsidian's Josh Sawyer said "Sometimes as a designer, when you look at a screen, and you realize like 'Wow, there's nothing there, oh I gotta put something there,' but it's okay. Or maybe that thing that you put there is like a container, or it's something to harvest, or just a little thing. The important thing is that it changes; it can't just be a fight, a screen, and a fight," which is advice Owlcat really ought to take.

Even if there are too many battles, I do like the pacing of combat difficulty for the most part, which consists of a mix of easy to medium and easy to hard battles on every map. Nearly every optional area has just a single encounter of medium or hard difficulty for its intended level, which is a welcome relief from the main quest, though the small number of maps available and the constant recycling of them will become quickly apparent. There are a few optional areas which contain something more substantial; I didn't care for the dungeon where you're locked in and have to kill skeletons over and over again until you're let out, but I loved the area where you climb a mountain to a fortress to kill a giant bird and take its egg (to deliver to an innkeeper or to keep for a one-use-only long-term buff recipe that will give you +3 to attack, damage, skill checks, and saving throws).

There are a handful of quests without combat at all, which is another welcome relief. The most memorable of these involve throwing a party for a sad companion, participating in some other-worldly debates, and competing in a series of contests at a festival. I enjoyed the comedic writing in all of them. Some areas have optional and mandatory puzzles to solve; I have a mixed opinion on these, though my favorite involved a dungeon in chapter three where you have to leave companions behind to press switches to open and close doors. There are also quite a number of well-done illustrated text adventures, which have seemingly become a standard feature in pseudo-isometric fantasy RPGs much to my approval.

When it comes to consistency, Kingmaker is a mix of fun and frustrating. I found the first two chapters a near-relentless grind with enough good parts to keep me going. While I hated the railroading in chapter three, it did ease up a bit. Chapter four was my favorite; unsurprisingly, it's also the shortest. I also loved chapter five up until the final combat area which is a grind of 18 combat encounters in a single map, with half of them tuned to make you give your all. Chapter six eases back a bit, while keeping the difficulty (Mandragora swarms are the cazadores of Kingmaker; I'll let you discover how for yourself). I'm grateful that most of the combat encounters in the final dungeon are off the critical path, so I only had to fight around ten, which may seem like a lot, but the dungeon is three maps with two world states each for a total of six with far more to kill than that. It's my understanding that Owlcat reconfigured the encounters in response to feedback, so props to them. There's even an optional bonus chapter after that depending on a decision you can make, but I didn't play it because I was completely satisfied with the ending I received thanks to my earlier actions; moreover, after 112 hours, I had more than enough, especially after glancing at the massively debuffed conditions you're expected to play under. I'll leave it to the powergamers.

[...] Flawed as it may be, Kingmaker is high enough in quality when it comes to core gameplay and content. My congratulations to Owlcat for making a rough diamond on their first try after many months of patches. While it has too many issues to be an indisputable classic, this is the game Neverwinter Nights 2 should have been, and the one Pillars of Eternity failed to be (even though PoE has better combat pacing even with all its encounters). It's too bad it goes overboard on combat to such a degree that it's the equivalent of two RPGs in one; I never want to play it again even though I'd normally want to try a different build and make different choices. Nevertheless, it's a must-play for any real-time-with-pause party-based fantasy RPG fan.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Pathfinder Kingmaker
 

oldmanpaco

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There's even an optional bonus chapter after that depending on a decision you can make, but I didn't play it

Wow a reviewer didn't finish the game before writing the review. Codex getting more mainstream every day.


edit: Also this
I set Enemy Difficulty to Weak because that's the closest enemy attributes get to the Rules As Written; Normal has them higher than what they should be.
:rpgcodex:
 

Tacgnol

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There's even an optional bonus chapter after that depending on a decision you can make, but I didn't play it

Wow a reviewer didn't finish the game before writing the review. Codex getting more mainstream every day.


edit: Also this
I set Enemy Difficulty to Weak because that's the closest enemy attributes get to the Rules As Written; Normal has them higher than what they should be.
:rpgcodex:

Normal does indeed make a lot of enemies stronger than their bestiary entries.
 

LannTheStupid

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Pathfinder: Wrath
I think
having items on the ground disappear after enough time had passed.
doesn't cut it.

Yes, Owlcats made Golarion like the Moon, where never existed American Lunar rovers and descent stages remain intact until some especially big meteorite smashes them. Golarion's environment, being magical Earth, is much more aggressive.

But staff on Earth does not disappear just because. It decays. And different materials decay with different speed in different environments. So to implement item removal properly the process of decay has to be introduced.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker takes from 3 to 5 years of Golarion time (I think). The leather armor might be completely unusable after 1 year in Old Sycamore. The steel plate - I don't know. What about Mithral or Adamantine? Do they decay at all? And so on, and so forth.

I think getting rid of "items just disappear" feature was bold, but correct decision of Owlcat Games. They did not have resources to implement proper decay system. But I think it is the only way to get rid of loot without making it gamey.
 

Elex

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Yes the “tabletop like” difficulty setting is still missing.
 

TheHeroOfTime

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Look at me I'm on the first page!!!!!

Now seriously, nice review. I was searching for a new rpg to play recently, but I ended replaying some classics instead. I'll take note of this one.
 

Infinitron

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
I think
having items on the ground disappear after enough time had passed.
doesn't cut it.

Yes, Owlcats made Golarion like the Moon, where never existed American Lunar rovers and descent stages remain intact until some especially big meteorite smashes them. Golarion's environment, being magical Earth, is much more aggressive.

But staff on Earth does not disappear just because. It decays. And different materials decay with different speed in different environments. So to implement item removal properly the process of decay has to be introduced.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker takes from 3 to 5 years of Golarion time (I think). The leather armor might be completely unusable after 1 year in Old Sycamore. The steel plate - I don't know. What about Mithral or Adamantine? Do they decay at all? And so on, and so forth.

I think getting rid of "items just disappear" feature was bold, but correct decision of Owlcat Games. They did not have resources to implement proper decay system. But I think it is the only way to get rid of loot without making it gamey.

Old and busted: Soil erosion

The new hotness: Dropped item erosion
 

Roguey

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Wow a reviewer didn't finish the game before writing the review. Codex getting more mainstream every day.

I saw the ending slides. I wouldn't even know about the existence of a bonus chapter if not for metaknowledge.

Things cut out because I couldn't really find a place for them: the tall tales of Cleve Blakemoor which are always rooted in truth:

Or8nFcA.jpg

KJO82dy.jpg


And Apolitical Avellone's Nok-Nok giving his opinion on issues that one might read too much into:

zU96F1N.jpg

xYc6RpL.jpg


Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day.
 

smaug

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Insert Title Here
Why is it so short? I can't read it.
 

oldmanpaco

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Wow a reviewer didn't finish the game before writing the review. Codex getting more mainstream every day.

I saw the ending slides. I wouldn't even know about the existence of a bonus chapter if not for metaknowledge.

Yeah but you missed the giant pumkin!
 
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"I set Enemy Difficulty to Weak" "but I didn't play" ending anyway because "I'll leave it to the powergamers".
"I hate how the title screen is animated"
"I didn't care for the execution"
"I also don't care for the simple randomization-based means of conflict resolution in assigning an advisor"
"after 112 hours, I had more than enough"
"it has too many issues"
"I never want to play it again"

BECOMES

"My congratulations to Owlcat for making a rough diamond"


:hmmm:
 

oldmanpaco

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Normal does indeed make a lot of enemies stronger than their bestiary entries.

Bestiary monsters get a DM to control them.

I think getting rid of "items just disappear" feature was bold, but correct decision of Owlcat Games. They did not have resources to implement proper decay system. But I think it is the only way to get rid of loot without making it gamey.

I'm not sure if you are just trolling but wouldn't all that stuff you leave just get picked up by people passing by? I mean not everyone has 500K gold just spilling out of their packs. Someone somewhere would want to use/sell that leather armor you left on a rotting corpse.
 

Roguey

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Bestiary monsters get a DM to control them.

To my knowledge, every D&D-derived computer game uses RAW enemy stats. Kingmaker's the outlier by pumping them up to compensate for the better building/playing-ability of their more-powergaming-centric playtesters without considering that there are still those who would prefer an option that sticks to the base stats with no special advantages of disadvantages.
 

Tacgnol

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Bestiary monsters get a DM to control them.

There are many criticisms of the original AP, but with a few exceptions the encounter design is not amongst them.

A lot of Owlcat's changes to Bestiary stats are frankly arbitrary at best and completely nonsensical at worst.
 
Unwanted

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It's too bad it goes overboard on combat to such a degree that it's the equivalent of two RPGs in one; I never want to play it again even though I'd normally want to try a different build and make different choices.
There's too much combat should not be a criticism any self respecting CRPG player would ever make.
And yet, here we are.
:decline:

"I set Enemy Difficulty to Weak" "but I didn't play" ending anyway because "I'll leave it to the powergamers".
"I hate how the title screen is animated"
"I didn't care for the execution"
"I also don't care for the simple randomization-based means of conflict resolution in assigning an advisor"
"after 112 hours, I had more than enough"
"it has too many issues"
"I never want to play it again"

BECOMES

"My congratulations to Owlcat for making a rough diamond"


:hmmm:
Turns out Roguey is just as retarded as you are Porky, without the balls to go full on, unapologetic retardation.
 

Tacgnol

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It's too bad it goes overboard on combat to such a degree that it's the equivalent of two RPGs in one; I never want to play it again even though I'd normally want to try a different build and make different choices.
There's too much combat should not be a criticism any self respecting CRPG player would ever make.
And yet, here we are.
:decline:

Even boring trash fights?
 

Tacgnol

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Even boring trash fights?
They're trash fights. They're not difficult and don't take long. Run in kill everything move on to the harder fights.
What's the problem?

If they are easy enough to just let your characters go auto attack, what's the point of them? Why not remove a bunch of them and replace them with a smaller selection of hand crafted more challenging encounters?

Do you enjoy just watching your characters kill stuff without having to actually do anything?
 
Last edited:
Unwanted

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If they are easy enough to just let your go auto attack, what's the point of them? Why not remove a bunch of them and replace them with a smaller selection of hand crafted more challenging encounters?

I like variety. You've got easy fights, hard fights, really hard fights. And all of it is compounded by difficulty and party optimization.
Just cause it's a trashfight for you or me, doesn't mean some fucking retard isn't gonna let his entire party engage against melee oponents while the enemy alchemist is laying the entire fucking party to waste with AoE damage.
Regardless I don't need every encounter to be a boss fight, trash fights have to exist as contrast.

Do you enjoy just watching your characters kill stuff without having to actually do anything?
Do you not? I enjoy watching my characters kill stuff always.

Edit: You could also play on unfair. Then trash fights wouldn't exist
:troll:
 

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