Gaming has no real shortage of beefy top-down RPGs, and at first glance, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous doesn’t really seem like it’s thinking outside of the box enough to really stand out, but just barely under that familiar exterior lies a meticulously crafted and compelling role-playing experience that does manage to live up to its Dungeons and Dragons heritage.
The sheer depth of Wrath of the Righteous will immediately be one of its more apparent characteristics upon first firing it up. It’s clearly not a game that is too worried about players that want to hurry up and get going. No, this game revels in giving you multiple opportunities to take your time weighing your choices and making informed decisions. That said, if you do have the patience for it but aren’t super familiar with the genre, Wrath of the Righteous could end up being a rather palatable entry point as it does guide you through its various systems in a somewhat uncharacteristically generous way. The slow burn of how the game’s various mechanics open up to you as you play makes it go down even smoother, and thus should be music to the ears of anybody who felt put off by Pathfinder: Kingmaker’s instant ocean of systems and options that were expected to be immediately absorbed by players. Plenty of classes provide more than enough variety in choosing what direction you would like to take, and eventually, mythic abilities to choose from further add to the complexity of crafting your unique character.
"Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous doesn’t really seem like it’s thinking outside of the box enough to really stand out, but just barely under that familiar exterior lies a meticulously crafted and compelling role-playing experience that does manage to live up to its Dungeons and Dragons heritage."
Among the many improvements that you’ll immediately notice are a very clear UI, a somewhat darker tone of the world, and decent – but not amazing – graphics. The UI in particular works just how it should with dragging and dropping items into individual inventory bars being as effortless and logical as it probably can be. Thankfully the more somber tone of the world also works out as it fits the narrative, which is often full of hopeless odds and dark forces. More fundamentally though, the turn-based option added to combat brings a sense of flexibility in a way that many similar games simply don’t have and ends up being one of the game’s defining characteristics.
You may want to take things slower with this option or charge in with real-time combat depending on the situation and it’s nice to see the best of both worlds here. Combat itself is also enhanced by a rather fast-paced and responsive system that contrasts with the game’s slower, methodical approach to its other systems, but not in a bad way- although some fights are over so fast it’s hard to tell who hit who before they’re over. A more diverse set of visual indicators letting you know what’s going on probably would have been helpful here, but at the end of the day it does still play well, and that’s what matters most.
"Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous offers players with a plethora of choices which lean into being more morally ambiguous than I expected."
Crafting is much deeper than in the previous Pathfinder game with a deep alchemy system. Again, this is not something that Wrath of the Righteous invented, but it is nice to see it implemented in this game, as it does make the experience feel far more well-rounded than it otherwise would have.
Something that many games of this type are lacking to one degree or another is well-written and acted characters. Refreshingly, this is not an issue in Wrath of the Righteous. The still images that you spend much of the dialogue looking at do leave quite a bit to the imagination, but you could argue that is sort of the point with this type of game, so it fits well within this genre and setting, and the charismatic voice acting goes a long way to bringing the game’s many characters to life anyway, so regardless of what mindset you are coming at this game with, i.e. that of either an RPG newbie or a seasoned purist, you will likely feel at least somewhat catered to in terms of the story and depictions of the characters. I do wish that the actual in-game character models looked better though.
Of course, visual fidelity is generally not the top priority of a game in a genre that cut its teeth by almost completely relying on players’ imaginations, but at the same time, there doesn’t seem to be much reason why so many of the games models and other assets need to look quite so dated with fake reflections and wooden animations. Many of the bigger baddies don’t suffer as much, but I’d still say the graphics are fairly lacking across the board – both in terms of general detail and interesting visual effects.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous offers players with a plethora of choices which lean into being more morally ambiguous than I expected. Some characters are clearly up to no good, but you may choose to align with them to advance your own interests, and this greatly helps the story bypass some of the more predictable RPG tropes of good guys and bad guys being obvious and overly defined. The game has many moments where you can choose evil or good outcomes for various situations, and while neither are technically wrong, they do feel consequential nonetheless, as they can (and will) impact your experience both functionally and contextually.
"The game has many moments where you can choose evil or good outcomes for various situations, and while neither are technically wrong, they do feel consequential nonetheless, as they can (and will) impact your experience both functionally and contextually."
The audio department has a lot of adequate battle sounds, but that’s about where the compliments stop. Music is mostly fitting for whatever is going on at the moment, but it’s also nothing you haven’t heard dozens of times before in the genre- many of which were done better.
After you really get your arms around Wrath of the Righteous, you get a sense that Owlcat was really trying to walk a fine line between making a deep RPG that welcomes new players with improved gameplay and systems, but also one that feels like a true evolution of the last game, and it’s not a throwaway compliment to say that they have largely achieved that. Doing both of those things on top of pulling everything else together is no small feat, and Owlcat deserves credit for that. Had the visuals, audio, environmental variety, and various animations been improved equally as much, it probably would have achieved its goals even more, but as it stands, if you want a rewarding full-throated CRPG that respects your dedication, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a fine choice.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Meaningful improvements to the UI; Flexible combat; Compelling characters; Impactful choices.
Underwhelming graphics, audio, and some oddly stiff animations that can pull you out of the experience.