I never set out to become a king, but apparently the king life can just choose you, as my poor confused Cleric found out in my first playthrough of 2018's Pathfinder: Kingmaker. He showed up trying to pay off his student loans and ended up sitting on a throne fending off dryads, giant owlbears, and tax collectors.
At release, Kingmaker offered deadly CRPG combat and memorable moments of humor (like the Inconsequent Debates quest) alongside a unique kingdom management aspect. "The muscle memory I developed playing Baldur’s Gate for hundreds of hours came straight back to me," Andy Kelly wrote in our review.
The marriage of kingdom management and adventuring was rocky, but gave Kingmaker a unique style. Venturing out of your capital felt like being a talent scout on the lookout for their next big signing. The system could be frustrating at times—often delivering stiff penalties for failure and wasting precious advisor time—but it was also a lot of what separated Kingmaker from other CRPGs in its tone and gameplay.
However, Kingmaker also drew criticism from a number of bugs and contentious difficulty. As Owlcat Games announces Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous today, the studio looks to build on the series' foundation. “We learned a lot from the launch of the Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Now we are making a lot of effort to make sure the game will be released far more polished. A lot of issues came from the fact that the player has a lot of choices in the game, and some of those choices (especially ones that are set apart by 20-30 hours of gameplay) tend to interact in the ways that we didn’t predict.” said Alexander Mishulin, creative director at Owlcat. Mishulin also described additional tools that have been created to help level designers “follow the entire decision tree to make sure the team appropriately addresses all branches.”
ABOVE: The launch trailer for Pathfinder: Kingmaker, the first game in the series.
Wrath of the Righteous will migrate the RPG to a new part of the world of Golarion, the Worldwound, a demon-infested wasteland where a planar tear to the Abyss—which you’ll be able to visit—has opened. This unfortunate landscape is where you’ll be thrown into a war between mortals and demons. I imagine that a widespread demonic siege will ratchet up the stakes a bit. I’m definitely more worried about rampaging demons than whether or not to pay off a mafia of bards, as I frequently found myself doing in Kingmaker.
Wrath’s setting is actually based on the adventure module for the Pathfinder tabletop game of the same name, so “players of the original adventure path will encounter a lot of familiar faces and encounters, but [there] also will be new characters, twists, and stories,” said Mishulin.
With this change in setting comes a corresponding shift in visual style, moving Pathfinder towards a darker vibe. A meager, single piece of art has been released so far, but from it I can see that the emphasis on the angelic versus the demonic is heavy, and that the action is more dangerous: swords are bloodied and demons are having their faces disassembled.
Owlcat is also bringing at least two new base classes and the mythic progression system from the Pathfinder tabletop game. This system will let you pick from several different Mythics, including a mischievous trickster, an immortal lich, a celestial angel, and others. The mythic progression system grants quite a few powerful ability choices in the tabletop game, so you can expect to have an extra layer of customization on your main character.
Regarding new classes, we know for sure that the Witch—who operates precisely like you’d expect with spells, hexes, and a witch's familiar—will be making an appearance. Alongside them, the Oracle, who is a kind of belief-oriented holy spellcaster, is joining the cast to butt heads with the demonic hordes. There’s no concrete details on which other classes or prestige classes will appear, but there will be new ones beyond those that appeared in Kingmaker, and there’s also going to be a new race and new archetypes to play with.
The unique part of Kingmaker was certainly the kingdom management, and I’m hoping the system will add more meaningful choices in assembling settlements and reduce the number of high risk/low reward events. “In the Wrath of the Righteous we want to keep the best parts of the mix of strategic and RPG experiences," Mishulin told me. "Make it slightly deeper, with a better connection to the core experience and tailored to the story of the Wrath of the Righteous. And of course, we will be listening to our fans to make this system even more enjoyable.”
From the sounds of it, we’ll see a return of a similar system. Perhaps Wrath will put a focus on managing the war effort against the demonic invaders similar to Mass Effect 3? I’d certainly like to see my next befuddled cleric confront a more serious threat, though I imagine he’ll probably be trying to figure out if his loan servicer will accept demon scales.
Owlcat hasn’t shared a release window with this announcement, but more information should come with time over on Wrath of the Righteous' official website.