Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is, much like its predecessor Pathfinder: Kingmaker, an old school CRPG. This means that it’s big, complex, and unwieldy almost by design. I mean, CRPG developers probably don’t intend for their games to be intimidatingly complicated, but it’s pretty much a necessity when you adapt a table top role playing game for a computer. It’s also buggy, with numerous frustrating quirks and issues cropping up. Yet, in spite of fighting against these issues, I absolutely adore Wrath of the Righteous.
Wrath of the Righteous doesn’t waste any time getting going. It begins in the city of Kenabres, on the edge of the Worldwound, which is a portal to the Abyss that has corrupted all of the surrounding landscape. Perhaps inevitably, the city is attacked about five minutes after you arrive by a massive demon that cuts up the city with its giant sword. You’re left to fight through demon-filled tunnels, picking up allies along the way, before discovering that you yourself have a new mythic power at the end of the first act. That’s pretty convenient, as you’re then given the reigns on a crusade to free a city called Drezen from demonic rule. Any new power you can find is great!
Mythic powers are new for this game and allow you even more options for character creation. Specifically, you will choose a Mythic path to follow from a variety of options like Angel, Demon, Lich, and a magical swarm of evil locusts (yes, really). Each one will have far reaching consequences on the game, drastically changing story moments depending on your Mythic path – it’s the most important choice you’ll make.
I chose Lich, because I’ve wanted to play since my first Necromancer in Diablo 2. The lich gains power over the undead with a lich specific spellbook that includes some very powerful abilities, a Skeleton companion to fight for you, and even some characters who you can resurrect to fight for you in stunning displays of chaotic evil.
This doesn’t all happen at once though, it levels up through the story as it weaves your personal Mythic path into the larger narrative. It doesn’t just affect your main character either, as some of your power trickles down to your companions, letting you choose mythic feats and lending them abilities can really have profound effects of their builds. These paths really have shift how the main story and even much of the side content can play out. The Trickster mythic path, for example, can change details about reality, whilst the Aeon can apparently change things that have happened in the past.
After a brief intro to mythic powers you’ll have to start managing your armies. In the previous game, you had an entire Kingdom to manage, with a council of advisors to help you make decisions with long reaching consequences. It was very complex and time consuming, but ultimately rewarding and, if you really didn’t like it, you could set it to automatic anyway. Wrath of the Righteous replaces this entirely with army management and managing a crusade. There’s far fewer decisions to make, all related to amassing armies and then using said armies to defeat demon armies. It’s much less convoluted and demands less of your time, but it’s also less satisfying.
Sending your armies into battle with demon horsed will free parts of the world map for you to adventure in, but these big military battles take place in their own little turn based mini-games that eventually reveal themselves to be a little shallow. Worse, they can be frustrating, with enemies that can run straight across the battlefield and destroy your unit of archers in one hit – there’s no attacks of opportunity here, so what’s meant to be a regiment of 80 cultists can just charge right past three separate armies. Kingdom management might have been a little overwhelming, but it delivered important choices with satisfying results that had significant effects on the game later on. The crusade management lacks this, so even though it demands less time, it feels like more of an imposition.
Once again, however, you can set the crusade management automatic if you’re tired of it. Thankfully you can customise the difficulty of the rest of the game as well. There is an entire area filled to the brim with enemies that had very, very high armour classes, much higher than any I’d encountered before. This resulted in constant and repeated misses to such a degree that I just stopped using my limited spells because there was no point. This is the least satisfying game mechanic in the world, but at least you can customise the difficulty to make them a bit less intolerable.
So the game is unbalanced, and it’s buggy too. Until late last week, opening the options for the spell Shadow Conjuration would immediately crash the game on my PS5. That has been fixed now, but there remains a selection of intrusive bugs and glitches that have been a constant nuisance. The pop up info boxes eventually start to pop up behind the window they’re providing information for, meaning you can’t see them and need to reboot the game because you simply can’t play without them. Sometimes, the DualSense touchpad starts opening the Journal every time you press it, which is frustrating because it’s the end turn button – this also prompts a relaunch, though it’s less urgent.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous looks much nicer than Kingmaker most of the time and you can now rotate the camera, which makes a huge difference. The magical effects in particular are beautiful, my favourite being the Divine Weapon effect. Both of these improvements come with some issues though, as you will spot some egregiously low resolution and stretched out textures in places, usually on the edge of mountains, character models can be a bit low detail as well, and there’s even some frame rate drops in certain busy, lava-filled areas. That’s easy to ignore, but rotating the camera has brought with it the issue of having to move it so the surrounding environment isn’t blocking your view as well, which is especially common in some of the more exotic and built up environments.
Outside of the various issues, the game’s story is frankly phenomenal. The difficulty behind organising so many moving parts and the sheer breadth of choice that’s included is unimaginable. More than that, the stories it is telling are well written and interesting, provided you like dark fantasy. However, there’s still the occasional awkward cutscenes that plays out from the usual camera angle with unvoiced dialogues that just stay on screen for an amount of time that’s invariably too long, and there’s no option to just skip to the next line. The vast majority of the dialogue in the game isn’t voiced, so you’d best be ready for a lot of reading.