First of all, before anything else, I should point out that my familiarity with Pathfinder before playing Wrath of the Righteous was pretty much next to none. Furthermore, I played the game on one of its easiest difficulties. As such, my experience with combat isn’t probably going to be representative of most people’s experience.
In Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, players take on the role of the Commander of the Fifth Crusade against the Worldwound. To put it simply, the Worldwound is this massive rift in the material plane that connects the real world with the Abyss, the realm of pain and suffering that is ruled by various demon lords. It’s your typical epic RPG quest, where the main character goes against impossible odds to save the world, all while meeting new people along the way and stopping to do something else whenever they have the chance. It’s not like the world is at risk of ending or anything like that.
Regardless of some of its tropes, Wrath of the Righteous is a great game on its own. Even though it might often feel like the developers played safe with it, it’s still a pretty thorough journey overall. Furthermore, it’s a CRPG in every aspect of the word. There’s plenty of character customization options, both cosmetic and build-wise, there’s an entire skill-check and dice rolling system as you’d expect from a Pathfinder game, and there’s obviously also a myriad of quests with branching paths whose outcome completely changes depending on the path that you take.
If you tend to spend a lot of time creating your own character, then this will surely be a game where you can easily spend up to 2 hours figuring out who you want to be. However, funnily enough, what you pick at the start doesn’t really dictate who your character will be throughout the game. One of the cool things about Wrath of the Righteous is that the game allows you to continuously build upon your character and create its own Mythic Path throughout the entire game.
These Mythic Paths manifest themselves through your decisions, and each of them not only grants you access to a distinct set of abilities, but they also give you access to completely unique dialogue options that will drastically change the way that the story plays out. Whether you seek to become a living legend that aims to drive back the invading demonic hordes of the Abyss, a Lich, a Demon, an Angel, or an Aeon whose goal is to restore balance to the world, the game will always provide you with a pretty engaging approach to the events of the entire game.
The game features a pretty diverse cast of characters, ranging from demon lords, goddesses, the odd ally here and there, and obviously quite a few companions that come from various backgrounds. Each character has their own aspirations and something that haunts them, and everyone plays a part in the grand scheme of things. Wrath of the Righteous also has its healthy dose of political intrigue, treachery, twists, and mysteries waiting to be solved. There are just as many moments of comical respite as there are grim and more mature moments. Overall, the writing is pretty great, but, as a whole, it’s hard to talk about the story of the game without spoiling things, but I honestly found it to be the driving factor that kept me playing the game all the way until the way.
It’s also worth noting that, even though the entire game isn’t voice-acted, there’s plenty of the main dialogues that are, and masterfully so. Pretty much all the voice actors have done a wonderful job in portraying their characters. It just adds a whole new layer to the game and being able to put a voice to all the characters that will accompany you throughout your journey really makes the whole game much more immersive. Unfortunately, I guess it would be ridiculously costly to have voice acting in the entire game. Nevertheless, the game certainly doesn’t suffer from the lack of it.
It’s both an extremely complex game with lots of mechanics, but it’s also an extremely accessible one. Wrath of the Righteous offers plenty of difficulty modes and custom difficulty configurations that you can tweak to your liking. Personally, I couldn’t be more thankful for this, as I’m someone who likes to enjoy RPGs mostly for their story and characters, rather for how extremely challenging they can be. What matters is that, whether you just want to let yourself sink into Pathfinder’s world and its story, or whether you’re looking for a challenging CRPG, then Wrath of the Righteous has got you covered.
In terms of combat, you also have the option to play it in two completely different forms, in real-time with pause, or in turns, and you can switch between them as you see fit. The game feels pretty different depending on which mode you choose to play, but I never felt like one was better or worse than the other. It all comes down to personal preference, though I imagine that on higher difficulties the game is much more manageable if you play it in turn-based mode.
If you’ve played the previous game Pathfinder: Kingmaker, or any other CRPG, then you should know what you expect when it comes to combat. There’s a ridiculous amount of abilities, spells and scrolls, weapons, trinkets, and potions, that all interact in their own way and provide all sorts of different gameplay opportunities. Still, if you play the game on one of the easiest settings, then you probably won’t have to worry too much about what you’re using. Meanwhile, if you’re a hardcore RPG player, you’ll have plenty of options and ways to minmax your builds and come up with the ultimate party.
While a huge part of the game involves reading countless lines of dialogue, making your way through numerous dungeons, and slaying innumerable enemies, there’s also another huge part of the game that is completely separate from all that. As the commander of the Fifth Crusade, it’s also your job to manage your armies, expand your territory, establish outposts, and issue decrees to help further the Crusade. This is all done via the world map, where you can recruit new troops to bolster your armies, send your armies to explore along predetermined paths, face enemy armies in battle, as well as capture fortifications that will then serve as outposts for your endeavours.
In theory, this all sounds a lot cooler than it actually is. While I find the prospect of managing your armies and waging war against the demonic hordes to be interesting, this isn’t done in great detail like, let’s say, Crusader Kings or Total War. The crusading aspect is extremely limited in terms of gameplay, but I can appreciate the fact that it’s a part of the game that is easy to grasp. I’m sure that other people would have loved to have something more in-depth, but, alas, that isn’t the case.
The fact that you can only move your party and your armies along predetermined paths isn’t really an issue, as this is done so that, no matter where you go, you’ll always end up finding new locations that you can visit. What bothers me about this part of the game are the army battles. These are turn-based and take place in a square grid, which resembles Heroes of Might and Magic quite a lot. No matter how many units of each type you have on your army, they’re always placed on the board on a stack, so everything ultimately boils down to a game of numbers.
The premise of managing your crusader armies might be enticing at first, but after about 30 hours, I was starting to get really tired of it. Most of it just boils down to slowly building up a powerful army, whose growth is limited by the weekly flow of recruits. Afterwards, you’re just throwing yourself at the enemy hoping that your numbers are sufficient to beat them without suffering too many casualties. It’s tiring and time-consuming, mostly because these battles involve almost no tactics at all.
Also, fortress “sieges” aren’t actually sieges at all, as they play out exactly like any other aspect, rendering the whole idea of attacking an enemy fortification completely trivial. It also doesn’t help that a lot of units that are available to you are just cannon fodder and can barely do anything to a lot of enemies. Unfortunately, there are only about a handful of unit types that are worth getting in your army, which doesn’t help in making things interesting.
The best part about the whole crusade management aspect is actually completely unrelated to combat. As a commander, you also get to engage in council meetings to decide on various matters related to the crusade, whether that be how to assure a steady supply of troops and resources, or to figure out how to deal with a rebellious group within the army. These instances provide quite a lot of worldbuilding, but each decision that you make at these meetings also has its pros and cons and can affect how the game plays out in some way.
Still, although there are a lot of ways in which your choices can drastically change the outcome of the story, there are also a few choices in the crusade management part of the game that just feel hollow. It’s almost as if they’re only there for roleplaying purposes, which I guess is fine. In the moment, they might sound like they’ll have a huge impact on how the game plays out based on what other characters are saying, but, gameplay-wise, barely anything, if anything, changes at all.
Unfortunately, even though there’s a lot of good to be said about the game, the game has plenty of issues. While I was lucky enough to not run into any game-breaking bugs, I still had to face my fair share of problems. Thankfully, a lot of them seem to have been fixed as I played through the game, but I still experience things such as, not being able to loot or interact with certain items with my main character, or being unable to loot specific enemy bodies.
Besides that, there are also your typical pathfinding issues, where characters can often just keep going in circles when there isn’t a way for them to reach their target, and when you order someone to disable a trap, they can also just run into the trap, as the AI seems to be unable to simply avoid stepping on it. Still, I also have this really odd issue where the game keeps disabling the media keys on my keyboard, even after I close the game. Sometimes my keyboard also just completely stops working, and the only thing that can fix both of these problems is to unplug and replug the keyboard.
After almost 158 hours I finally reached the end of the game, and despite a few hurdles along the way, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m even considering going back to it eventually and opting out for an entirely different path, just to see how much my decisions can really change the outcome of the story. However, this is such a time commitment that it will probably take a while for me to get back to it.
I have to admit that, although there were times where the game felt like it was dragging itself for too long, there were also just as many occasions where I wished that the game would allow me to explore certain scenarios for a little bit longer. I’ve just finished my playthrough a few hours ago, but I’m already missing some of my dearest companions. While I found the ending to be appropriate and the playtime to be more than enough to satisfy me, I still wish there was more. It’s just that good.
Whether you’re looking for a captivating narrative with relatable characters, or whether you’re looking for your next dose of challenging combat in Pathfinder fashion, you probably won’t be disappointed by what you’ll find here. Also, the soundtrack is absolutely fantastic, it’s so good that I’ve repeatedly found myself humming parts of it ever since I started playing the game. Nevertheless, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is an astronomical CRPG that is, unfortunately, plagued by bugs.
Having said all that, I should point out that ever since the game was released, it has received numerous updates, so it’s clear that Owlcat Games are committed to fixing the game. However, unless you’re really craving some Pathfinder, or if you don’t have anything else to play at the moment, I’d honestly recommend waiting however long it takes to fix most of the bugs.