Wasteland 3

An unpolished gem

When approaching this review, the first thought that popped in my head was “This is really an NCR Trooper’s dream come true”. The obvious joke about patrolling the Mojave and wishing for a nuclear winter really comes true in Wasteland 3, a post apocalyptic role playing tactical squad game. That car crash of game description does little to explain what Wasteland 3 really is so to simplify matters just imagine Fallout and XCOM: Enemy Unknown had a baby and it was written by actually competent writers instead of whatever monkeys on a typewriter Bethesda actually employs.

In a way we’ve come a full circle, since the original Wasteland game inspired much of the Fallout series and Wasteland 3 is an actual spiritual successor of the original Fallout games, more so than Fallout 3, 4  and whatever 76 is supposed to be. In fact, in various points in the story I found myself wishing I had actually played Wasteland 3 first instead of Fallout 3.


So what is the setting of Wasteland 3? Its the 22nd century, a century after the day the Soviet Union and NATO decided to settle their differences in a very peaceful manner – That is nuking each other. Mutants and murderous robots now prowl the ruins of metropolises, as much of the Earth has been rendered an irradiated wasteland. The few remaining humans have either reverted into full barbarism or gone mental, as one would after seeing the destruction of the world.

Into this world the Desert Rangers step, descendants of the United States Army. They are trying to somehow uphold their original oath of serving and protecting people. In the events of previous games they lost their home base and are hurting for food and supplies. Things look grim for the Rangers until they receive an offer from the Patriarch of Colorado. He is in need of military assistance from the Rangers and is willing to provide aid in the form of food and provisions.

Thus, a convoy of Rangers is sent forth from boiling Arizona to frigid Colorado. Of course, things go wrong from the start when the convoy gets ambushed, most of the Rangers are killed and the player is left as the highest ranking officer, now forced to rebuild the expedition while fulfilling its original promise. Should they fail, the people of Arizona will starve, but what does success mean?


I’d rather leave the story for later so let’s focus on mechanics first. The game is neatly divided between role playing and combat. In the role playing portion, the player character mainly interacts with other characters and factions, manages the party and levels up. Its quite easy and straightforward, especially to anyone with a bit of experience with CRPGs. 

A party can have up to six members of varying levels and each character can be leveled up separately and according to the player’s wishes. All characters earn experience points which allow them to level up and unlock points for attributes, skills and perks.

Attributes can give a character more Action Points (AP for short), damage multiplier with ranged weapons, health and so forth. Skills allow characters to lockpick, lie, intimidate, use melee or certain ranged weapons and so forth. Perks are either a handful of general ones every character has access to, or specific for their chosen skills (like being able to move more squares when holding a melee weapon, gain evasion for using sub-machine guns without cover or access to special abilities such as rally).

The party management is quite easy, as you can easily switch between characters in most inventory/character menus and they all have a common party inventory that is limitless (no weight restrictions!). Experience is primarily gained by killing enemies, finishing quests and doing various sneaky stuff like disarming traps, hacking computers and picking locks. There is no hard level cap and by the game’s end you can specialize most characters into 2-3 skills. Considering there is no huge amount of skills and you have six party slots, you can create a well balanced party that can face most challenges.

As far as the party itself goes, the player gains access to a pool of premade characters, as well as unique companions throughout the game. If none of them are appealing the player can create their own custom Rangers to use in the party. That said I found most of the unique companions more than satisfying and far more interesting.

In terms of equipment and armor the game has a wide variety that can be either found, scavenged or bought from vendors. Weapons vary wildly, even within the same weapon group in terms of ammunition and effects. You can have revolvers that fire giant spikes, flamethrowers, laser sniper rifles that can penetrate several targets, tesla coils and so forth. Weapons can be further enhanced using mods which can be found by either recycling older weapons and scavenging or buying from vendors.

Armor in contrast is divided into three parts (head, torso and legs) with pre-made sets. The player can find parts of a set in the various ways detailed before for weapons. Certain armor sets however can only be worn if characters fulfill certain attributes and skill levels (they can be still be worn but incur huge penalties). Like weapons, armor pieces can be modified, but unlike weapons they cannot be recycled for parts. Thus armor modifications can only be found or bought


Combat is the other half of the game. As far as it goes its the bog standard tactical squad gameplay. The player and the enemy take turns executing their moves on a grid map (of the current location, there are no level transitions). The player decides when to end their turn, and the turn order usually favors the player (unless the party is surprised or due to a scripted event). There is no initiative order within the squad, thus the player can switch freely between characters to execute maneuvers and synergize moves (such as remove cover with some LMG shredding to let the sniper or trooper have a better chance of hitting targets and the like).

There really isn’t much to write on the combat aspect itself. Different weapons require different APs, characters can carry two active weapons and freely switch between them as well as carry between 2-4 utility items. Characters taken out during combat can be revived during the battle or will recover afterwards. Friendly fire is possible (though the option can be turned off). Overall nothing exciting, just serviceable.

While there were a few challenging fights, they never felt unfair or unwinnable and only rarely did I resort to save scumming. The battles themselves never dragged on, or felt too tedious or repetitive. There is quite a bit of enemy variety, different enemy classes and enemies that can count as boss battles that are fairly uncommon. It just felt okay for both story progression and filler between story bits..

Travel and Survival

If there is one thing I truly like in the game is its survival management. In the early to middle game, the player often encounters a lack of resources. Good weapons and armor are hard to come by, but the same goes for medicine, utility items and ammunition. I often found myself using money to buy ammunition and using survival skills to keep away from fights on the overmap so as not to waste valuable resources.

Scavenging is a must and each trip I’d hit the vendors to make sure I had enough bullets for all my weapons. The fact characters can carry and seamlessly switch between two weapons meant I usually kept backup weapons that used different ammunition types in case I’d run out in a firefight, which happened a few times in my first playthrough.This never felt forced or bad. Rather it helped me feel more immersed in the setting.

The map itself is divided between the usual CRPG maps of hub locations, and an overworld in which the party travels in a specialized truck. The overmap isn’t too big and has a fair number of locations to explore for side content and other rewards. That said travel is restricted due to radiation and only by advancing the plot and upgrading the truck does the world open up more. There are also random encounters during exploration, some good some bad. Survival skills really help with those.

The Story

I wanted to get the mechanics out of the way so I could write about the story in length. That at least was my original intention but I really don’t want to spoil too much. The game does a very good job at both presenting to and allowing the player to interact with the story that I really wish people would approach it without any spoilers. Thus I’ll give only a small primer without spoiling too much and also showing why its the real meat of the game.

The story of Wasteland 3 is a very simple one. The Patriarch of Colorado has three children who rebelled against him and are running amok in the state sowing chaos and destruction. Not trusting his own people not to turn sides, the Patriarch reached out to the Desert Rangers, outsiders, to help him capture his kids. In return for the help the Patriarch will give the Rangers their much needed supplies as well as a base of operations in Colorado.

Of course, from the setting’s description you know that things don’t start on the right track. Regardless, the main objective of the story remains the same. Capture the Patriarch’s wayward children at any cost. Of course the more you play the game, the more you uncover Colorado’s history following the Deluge (their name for the nuclear apocalypse) and the part the Patriarch played in it. This raises more and more questions for the player.

Its a simple family drama played in the post apocalypse. However this simple framework allows the writers to truly shine. Through its lens the player gets to see and judge Colorado and the myriad of factions that reside and survive in its hellish snowy landscape. It also brings to the forefront the theme of duty versus idealism. The game asks you repeatedly to what and to whom your allegiances are, and how far are you willing to go for them while at the same time presenting you with the ideals the Rangers are supposed to uphold. Can you reconcile the two? Are the two in constant war with each other or can both be accommodated? These are not simple questions the game asks of you, and it doesn’t give you any answers.

In truth, the player is given the cruelest freedom a game can give: Freedom of choice. Wasteland 3 does away with morality systems. Instead it embraces a faction reputation system. The story and side quests will have the player interact with the many factions in the game and the choices made will impact relations with each and every one of them. Helping slavers will cause the people of the wasteland to despise you. Working with the families that rule Colorado Springs may lead the player to clash with the Patriarch and so forth. These choices will also affect the game’s finale and test the player’s morality far better than any karma system could. What kind of Ranger you are is reflected in those choices.

I mentioned side quests and there are plenty of them. Some of the side quests relate to the main story while others trigger during exploration. I found all of them interesting as they flesh out more of the politics and world of post apocalypse Colorado. Quite a few expose the horrific reality of the apocalypse. Not for the faint of heart.

Having done two playthroughs (though sadly not timed them) I believe the main story and the side content amount to around 20-30 hours of gameplay. Am certain that it could be trimmed a tad by more experienced players but overall the story’s pace, side content included, doesn’t feel too slow or rushed. It manages to hit that sweet spot of never outstaying its welcome, a rare feat for many story driven games.

Graphics, Art, Sound and Soundtrack

Graphically the game is not groundbreaking. CRPGs are rarely breathtaking and Wasteland 3 is by no means an exception. It looks as much as you’d expect a modern post apocalyptic CRPG to look. Like many things in the game, its serviceable. That said, by the end of it you would hope to revisit Fallout: New Vegas just to warm up a bit. The endless winter of Colorado can be quite cold and depressing.

Art wise there is quite a bit of character to the game. Though it is somewhat realistic, it does lean, like the original Fallout games, to the comedic. This is reflected in some of the gun, armor and faction designs. The Scar Collectors, slavers who modify their bodies, have thralls with giant bombs for heads. The Payasos are literal clowns who use colorful decor while viewing the entire world as a joke. You got the hypernationalistic Reaganite worshiping Gippers who have a giant mecha Ronald Reagan in their base and so forth. It is a tad absurd but never going overboard, striking a fine balance not seen since Red Alert 2.

Sound is okay. Weapons make satisfying pew pew noises. The voice work itself is top notch with all characters having fitting voices. There is not much to say for or against it really. Once again, it is simply serviceable.

The Soundtrack is where Wasteland 3 truly excels. There are several real bangers which help give more gravitas to certain fights. Their lyrics, often old religious or patriotic songs, clashing with the tortured chords of a post apocalyptic world. Certain songs in particular are used as progress markers for major fights, and truly help transform those battles into something epic and memorable. Of course this is without discounting the travel music of various radio stations in the overmap, helping to give more character to Colorado.

The Jank

So far, reading this review you’d get the impression that Wasteland 3 is a serviceable CRPG with tactical squad combat and a very good yet simple story about duty and ideals in a post apocalyptic United States of America. While all of this is true, the game also has an unfortunate side it shares with the Bethesda Fallout series – bugs, loads of them.

Funnily enough, in my first playthrough I haven’t experienced any bugs aside from one hard crash. However in my second playthrough it seemed like all the bugs had been lying an ambush, waiting for that second run. There hasn’t been a day in which I didn’t experience one or two game breaking bugs that caused me to get stuck for nearly an hour looking for workarounds. To the game’s credit, it has a good autosave system that can be further tweaked so as not to lose too much progress. On the downside, sometimes it can save when you experience a game breaking bug and then its rage inducing.

I experienced graphical glitches, characters “falling” under the map, camera glitches and dialogue breaking scripted events. It shows how much I love the story of the game that I was willing, on a second playthrough, to actually soldier on and even roll back progress just to complete the story. That said, if I had to give scores, the amount of bugs and their impact would have caused me to deduct a full point. The game, in my eyes, needs at least another 1-2 months of bug fixing, no question about it.

Talking about the bad side of the game, I find the UI itself to be clunky, in particular for use in combat. Add to it the horrible AI pathing, that leads friendly/enemy units to move through clear environmental hazards. Worse yet is outside of combat, when the party moves through the map. Sometimes the characters bunch up and sometimes they get separated, and god help you if you stumble into combat at such times. Other times they walk through spotted tripwires or frag mines, triggering them. It can be quite exasperating.

Last but not least is the stealth mechanic which on paper sounds good but in reality is just… Meaningless. I rarely if ever found any good use for it outside of a damage multiplier for the first shot, usually targeting the most dangerous unit on the field to get rid of it while starting combat. I really feel an opportunity was missed there.


Wasteland 3 is CRPG with tactical squad combat. While mostly competent, it does not excel or innovate any of its core mechanics. What it does have is a compelling story that allows players to immerse themselves in a fascinating, post apocalyptic world and the drama of one of its ruling families. It allows players to role play while asking poignant questions about duty and morality without giving easy answers. It looks good, has plenty of character and a rocking soundtrack. It also has a fair amount of bugs and some annoyances. Overall I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a good modern CRPG, or has been craving a good Fallout experience now that the series turned to microtransactions. 

Pathfinder: Kingmaker – Enhanced Edition (v2.05)

Finally, a worthy successor for Neverwinter Nights 2

I had been putting off reviewing the game for quite some time. Finishing the main story, I felt exhausted, yet satisfied that I couldn’t write a comprehensive review straight away. Afterwards things kept happening, forcing me to push this review further back. Now that things have finally slowed down for the holidays, I can catch up and give my thoughts on the game.

As the sub title reads, Pathfinder: Kingmaker is a spiritual successor to Neverwinter Nights 2 and other asymmetric CRPG (Computer Role Playing Game) of the type. The genre had lost its prominence in the early 2010s, as large studios and publishers pivoted away from what was one of gaming’s staple genres and to first person military shooters (Call of Duty clones), butchering beloved intellectual property (*cough* Bethesda *cough*) or making mediocre third person science fiction shooters (hello BioWare).

By the middle of the decade though, the genre was seeing a revival with Shadowrun Returns unironically leading the charge, followed closely by titles such as Divinity: Original Sin, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Tyranny and The Age of Decadence to name those I managed to play. However none of them managed to capture that feeling of epicness that the Neverwinter Nights series held for me. That is until Pathfinder: Kingmaker.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker is set in the world of Golarion, a fantasy world that would be familiar to any fan of Neverwinter Nights though there are many subtle changes and different histories involved. As I wrote before, its an asymmetric CRPG employing modified D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) rule set. I haven’t played either the original or the Pathfinder tabletop versions but from my playthrough the skill system is far more simplified and some changes were made to mechanics such as poison (which I will whinge about later on in the review).


Like any CRPG, the game starts with the player creating their custom character, picking appearance, class and putting points into skills and attributes. Nothing out of the ordinary. There isn’t a huge choice for customization, reminding me of the original Neverwinter Nights but considering the fact the game had been crowdfunded, easy to forgive. The meat of a CRPG, after all, is in the story.

That said, the Pathfinder system seems to have several interesting classes that differ from the D&D third edition, with some enticing multi classing options that would thrill veterans of the genre. I am not ashamed to say that I was tempted at times to deviate from my pure, two handed backstabbing rogue build, though I persevered.

Once done customizing the character, you begin the game in the starting location which serves both as a good tutorial and a hook for the story.


The player starts in the city of Restov as another adventurer lured by the call of the Spellswords, the rulers of the city, to form an expedition to the Stolen Lands; a region bordering several kingdoms that none had been able to lay, or more importantly maintain, claim to. Now a stronghold of bandits, the Spellswords wish to clear the area and install a friendly regime in place to keep the peace.

Of course, in the company of outcasts, mercenaries and vainglorious adventurers, tension rise from the start only to be further exacerbated by an attack on the mansion by unknown assailants seeking to disrupt the expedition. Indeed, there is something ominous about the Stolen Lands and their reputation, not to mention that the Spellswords seem to have an ulterior motive for sponsoring the expedition.

Under such ill portents the player and a small party of adventurers set out to the Stolen Lands to pacify the region and build a kingdom. Unknown to them, the Stolen Lands are not named so lightly, and many secrets lay buried under their surface.


Reading the setting, its easy to see why I love the game’s story. It hooks you in with intrigue, mystery and of course, a deceptively simple premise. Adventurer called to clear some bandits and set up an outpost in the wilderness is a great framework to hang a story on and the developers took full advantage of it. The story itself grows almost organically from this simple start, each twist and turn not just surprising, but fitting and makes sense when put in context of the greater narrative.

I don’t want to reveal too much since I feel any further detail written may spoil and thus detract from that first, crucial, playthrough. However since story is the life blood of a good CRPG, its important to at least discuss some of it. Pathfinder: Kingmaker has a great story, filled with that epicness I wrote about earlier on. It may start as a simple, almost bog standard quest but it saws seeds of mystery and intrigue from the start that pay off later on. I can’t recall a single plot thread that didn’t end up with some satisfying pay off or led to the grand reveal near the end.

This is no small praise considering just how long the story is. We are talking easily 60-120 hours of gameplay, depending on individual ability, difficulty and whether or not the kingdom feature is enabled and all side quests are pursued. To make a story so grand and interesting that I’d still be invested in it even after a lot of repetitive busywork speaks volumes on the quality of the writing, and it is superb.

Characters in particular are well crafted. Considering the size of the game, you come across a great deal of them and each is written with interesting backstories, side quests and even satisfying resolutions (depending on choice). The companions in particular feel like real people, with differing ideologies, philosophical stances and motivations. They even interact with one another during travel and camping, adding more flavor.

The Companions

A party is only as good as the people comprising it and the game furnishes you with ten characters (11 with DLC) to choose from. Though you have an option of generating generic companions via the Pathfinder Society (in exchange for gold, of course), the base game, I feel, supplies you with good enough characters that I never took that option. The companions are AI controlled but can be given orders by the player, have their own classes and can be either level’ed up by the player for those who know what they are doing, or automatically level’ed up by the computer.

Each of the companions have their own reasons for tagging along for the adventure, their reasoning revealed in their quest chains. These side quests hold revelations about the companions and can influence them. They deal with many themes such as societal rejection, letting go of the past, finding out one’s roots, enacting revenge and suffering its consequences and so forth. Each and every companion story was an emotional roller coaster that felt at times satisfying and horrifying. Some of these companion quests can be quite tragic. Not every story has a happy ending.

The player can have up to five companions with him on an adventure, the rest remaining in the main hub area when traveling. The companions can be customized with gear, their AI tweaked and their inventory filled with whatever necessities (or junk) the player needs. There is also a communal chest to put gear in that is accessible for all the party, requiring less tedious micro-managing and item swapping between inventories. That said, the “size” of the communal trunk depends on the collective strength attribute of the party. Companions can also serve as advisors in the kingdom.

Kingdom Come

One of the main features of the game is the kingdom interface. Once you pacify the Stolen Lands, you become their ruler, awarded with a keep, construction points and the task of ruling the region. The game does well to meld the kingdom management aspect to the overall story. That said players who wish to focus wholly on the adventure aspect can turn off the kingdom management if they wish, a useful feature, especially for replay.

The kingdom can be managed through the kingdom interface tab, but only from the throne room, requiring the player to visit their capital frequently (like a true ruler). Every month there will be problems and opportunities. Problems are negative events that will hurt the kingdom, decreasing stability and affecting various stats such as community, military power, culture, commerce and so forth. If continuously ignored, the kingdom will be destroyed and the game will be over. Opportunities on the other hand can be ignored as they only give bonuses to the kingdom and if skipped, won’t result in any issues.

To resolve problems or pursue opportunities, the player must assign an advisor to deal with them. Companions can be appointed as advisors, as well as certain characters the player encounters throughout the story (some of which even I didn’t know you could recruit!). Once an advisor is chosen and assigned, they will resolve the event within the allotted time. In-game time passes either through the kingdom tab or via traveling in the overmap.

As the game progresses, the kingdom will grow, necessitating more advisors, expanding territories and founding villages which act as rest stops on the map for the party (as well as places to settle vendors). These villages, and the capital, can be upgraded with various buildings that affect the various kingdom stats. Building them is tricky as they require Construction Points (CP for short) generated by the kingdom on a weekly basis (or by converting gold into CP) and have adjacency bonuses if placed near other buildings. Since the building screen is grid based, and changes depending on terrain, it can get messy.

Sadly, buildings do not change the look of the villages or the capital, which is a missed opportunity. The system itself isn’t too complicated and can be rather shallow at times. As much as I did enjoy some of the events and stories contained within, I don’t find them as memorable as the main story or the companion quests. I feel like there is something that, in a future iteration, may be expanded upon, but I don’t begrudge anyone turning off the feature.

Stolen Lands

I mentioned the overmap before. The Stolen Lands, where the game takes place, are a region with many points of interests. Each place is a crafted level, with travel facilitated by the overmap. The overmap won’t show every location as it is shrouded at the start and only through travel will the player discover various places that can be visited and revisited throughout the game. Travel as written before, involves time and is done on pathways.

The party will grow weary the longer they travel, thus camping is necessary to rest and replenish. The camping mechanic is well implemented, allowing character interaction and assigning roles such as cooking, guarding, hunting and so forth. Different companions have different skills which may fit specific roles, with some more suited to cooking while others make great guards for example. A well rested party will get positive combat modifiers. Camping, depending on setting, also allows healing and restoring, cancelling modifiers received in combat.

A player may push their party onward but risks incurring worse and worse negative modifiers. Characters will voice their displeasure and beg for rest and you’d feel pretty guilty not granting it. Of course time is important and sometimes you must push your companion forward.

Of course the overmap will only increase in size as new lands are incorporated into the kingdom. This leaves plenty of places to explore and many quests to pick along the way. That said, there isn’t as much map variety as I’d like, and by the middle of the game you become so familiar with certain woodland clearings and mountain passes you just want to scream your frustration. Also encounters on the overmap become tedious by the late game and feel more of a nuisance slowing down progression.

Combat Difficulty

I have tried avoiding talking about combat as long as I could but there is no escaping it. Combat in Pathfinder: Kingmaker is both generic and frustrating in equal parts. I already eluded to it when talking about story but Pathfinder: Kingmaker doesn’t really do much with its combat mechanics, using instead the template that many CRPGs use, that is turn based combat playing out in real time with option to pause and queue actions.

While being generic as it gets, for the first couple of playthroughs I tended to die a lot, almost giving up at points. Now I am not the most elite gamer, putting myself squarely in the average category, but I have experience with CRPGs and I never recalled dying as often in other titles as I did in Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Thankfully the game comes with a robust difficulty setting, allowing you to pretty much tweak everything.

Part of the problem is the way poisons are implemented in the Pathfinder system. It seems poisons not only affect attributes, but can stack. Since every second creature in the game uses poison, you often find yourself quickly losing all your attribute points in say, strength or constitution, leading to your character’s death (or if you decreased difficulty, unconsciousness). This led me to both despise poison and prize any item that gave me protection from venom.

Even after tweaking with the settings and getting better at not dying from poison, the game kept being rather difficult. The difficulty can spike if you ignore certain events, such as a troll invasion early on. I kept thinking that I could concentrate on kingdom building while ignoring it but it soon ballooned, not only threatening my kingdom but infesting every area in the map turning every visit to a level into a glorious last stand against a tide of green and gray, forcing me to restart the game.

Even in my next playthrough, I didn’t really experience a breakthrough until chapter four. I was still struggling with the difficulty, clearing a final dungeon and getting wiped out time after time. After the umpteenth attempt and death, I loaded a save before the start of the dungeon and traveled back to my capital where I bought all the scrolls, potions and weapons I needed. After re-configuring my party I traveled back to the dungeon. I won’t say that I immediately triumphed but I would later clear it with only a couple of attempts (after wiping to the final boss). It was this moment that led to an epiphany of sorts. The game wasn’t difficult on purpose, I was simply playing it wrong.

Its the curse of modern gaming that makes you believe that however you play the game, you could win every engagement with a bit of ingenuity and some luck. The “play it your way” design has atrophied my brain because Pathfinder: Kingmaker isn’t that difficult the moment you prepare properly for the encounter. The game gives you all the tools to defeat its dungeons, but you need to put the effort.

There is a reason why the game gives you four weapon slots, unlike the usual two most games of the type allow. There is a reason why there is a communal trunk, not to mention bags of holding for extra storage. There is a reason why there are different groups of weapons outside of just proficiency, such as cold iron or silver. Once you realize all of that and do your homework in the game, you are more or less set to defeat every challenge the game throws at you, so long as you employ your brain. With this shift in perspective I was able to enjoy the game and die a lot less, which I think is a point in the game’s favor. That said, that point gets sullied by the repetitiveness of combat, which as I pointed before, can get dismal at later levels.

That said, anyone that played the game on unfair difficulty with the Last Azlanti option turned on and actually finished the game is a god among CRPG players. That or an extradimentional being.

Saving Private Scum

Talking about difficulty one must talk about the robust save system Pathfinder: Kingmaker employs. I haven’t seen such a good system in years. The game will auto save before entering a level, keeping up to three concurrent saves at default. This means you never lose too much progression upon wiping out. It also has a similar quick save system. Both can be increased to up to 25 each, giving you plenty of choice if you need to reload or take a different path.

At this point the system is so good that I pretty much going to look down on future CRPGs that lack it. It is indispensable and another point in favor of the game, as well as a mitigating factor with its difficulty (unless you play Last Azlanti at which point you are pretty much a mad person). Its also quite useful for dealing with the consequences of story and side quest decisions that may ripple unfavorably for you later on.

Decisions Decisions

I wrote that the lifeblood of a good CRPG is its story and writing. While this is true, what really separates a good story, from a truly epic one, is not just the scope of writing, but its depth. This involves the situations and choices the game confront the player with. Not just powerful enemies and bad odds, but unavoidable choices and laws of unintended consequences. The game has both in spades, not once forcing me to confront what I deemed moral and good.

This is aided by the alignment system. Alignment is a feature of most D&D games and though I have some issues with the concept, I do understand its necessity. That said in Pathfinder: Kingmaker the alignment system is fluid, rather than strict. Though not a new concept, Pathfinder: Kingmaker implements it quite masterfully with an alignment wheel that allows the player to track the change in their alignment.

Alignment is important in D&D both for magic, deity influence and of course, decisions. Some decisions in the game can only be unlocked through your current alignment, while others will affect your alignment. The game uses this extremely well, in particular with a few companion quests. Since companions have different alignments and viewpoints, its no surprise that their aims and wills will run contrary to the player, their quest lines reflecting this. There are some hard choices to be done. The real mastery is making a hard choice and feel justified with it, but at the same time regretting it. Without spoiling, Pathfinder: Kingmaker has these as well.

On Graphics and Other Things

By this point I pretty much exhausted most of the things I wanted to mention and discuss in reviewing the game. Its no surprise I left graphics to the end because its so miscellaneous in comparison to everything else that I really didn’t see the point in dedicating a section for it. The graphics are what you’d expect from an asymmetric CRPG from the late 2010s – pretty. The graphics are okay. They are passable. They never detracted from the experience but I don’t think they added anything to it. Both them and the art were passable and did their job. There was never a moment I thought “gosh, this is ugly” but I never had a moment where I thought “gosh, this is beautiful”.

The only thing I can mention in regards with graphics is some glitches with cloaks but this is just getting petty.

Other than that there isn’t much else to say. I did play with some DLC (Downloadable Content) and expansions such as Beneath the Stolen Lands which added a dungeon in which you must clear levels and go deeper into the belly of the earth to slay a creature of pure nightmare and madness. It had good writing, good loot, plenty of challenge and many tragic tales as you learn of the fate of previous adventurers that braved the dungeon. The Wildcards adds another character with interesting backstory and its own quest line and resolution within the story. The other expansion, Varnhold’s Lot adds a ~20 hour campaign where you get to play the events leading to chapter four from a different perspective that I didn’t touch because the main game had exhausted me enough and I felt satisfied with the ending I reached.

I mentioned crashes, and the game did crash for me a couple of times but always after extended playthroughs (after more than six hours) which I don’t think many gamers would run the risk of incurring. Thanks to the save game system I didn’t lose much progress.

In Conclusion

Its hard to sum up such an epic game and I feel like my review left a lot to be desired but if I continued to rattle off this post would be as long as a novel. Suffice to say that Pathfinder: Kingmaker is an epic fantasy CRPG with great story, interesting characters and terrific writing. It has bog standard combat system with some difficulty issues but a great save system to compensate. Its not graphically or artistically exceptional but does its job and I have enjoyed it immensely. That said combat can get tiring near the end, and many locations are repeated. Also at launch it seems to have been quite buggy but I played more than a year later during the v2.05 implementation and didn’t encounter any bugs.

I feel safe recommending this to any CRPG fan or gamer who wants to experience an epic story done right, a la Lord of the Rings style. I don’t want to do scores but if you twisted my arm I’d give it a 9 out of 10, deducting a point due to the repetitiveness of combat. Enjoy!