Pathfinder: Kingmaker Update #4, Gameplay Preview

Pathfinder: Kingmaker's daily Kickstarter updates are quite welcome, if you ask me. The latest one provides the backstory for one of your potential party members - Valerie, the Brevic Fighter. An excerpt:

Due to her flawless, almost supernatural beauty, Valerie has been at the center of everyone's attention, even when she was still a child. Born into a noble Brevic family, the young girl soon became a shining star of high society. She quickly had to learn to resist the unwanted advances of her admirers, using cold arrogance and impeccable, distant manners as an impenetrable shield. Her father had chosen a great destiny for Valerie: she was supposed to become a paladin of Shelyn. However, the teachings of obedience and humbleness before the goddess of beauty and love appeared to be something that young Valerie wasn't too susceptible to - unlike the lessons of martial arts, which she mastered almost to perfection. The life of Valerie had changed dramatically when an act of blasphemy made her future path as Shelyn's paladin impossible. Having rejected the grace of the goddess, she left high society to take her fate into her own hands.

Today Valerie is not some nobleman's pampered daughter. Instead, she has become a seasoned mercenary, who has lived through dozens of battles under the banners of Swordlords. Having her gorgeous hair cut off and her silk dresses replaced by steel armor, she has broken with her past without hesitation. But is the past ready to stay behind the proud and confident mercenary? Even the kindest of gods don't take well to blasphemy, and the revenge of Shelyn may not only be harsh, but also incredibly poetic.

For those who appreciate her military talents, Valerie will become a reliable defender in every possible challenge. In battle, she uses a bastard sword and a tower shield. Valerie prefers full plate armor and defensive tactics: she waits patiently until the enemy reveals an opening, and only then she strikes with all her might.

Additionally, a write-up from IGN describes their experience with a playable version of Kingmaker they've had the chance to try out. We get a primer of what Pathfinder is and how it relates to D&D, an overview of a few game mechanics, and a general conclusion that, while not revolutionizing the genre, Pathfinder: Kingmaker looks like a solid Infinity Engine-like RPG with some welcome twists. Have a look:

Owlcat has also brought on well-respected games writer Chris Avellone to help tell the story of Kingmaker. Avellone is famous for his work on classic RPGs like Planescape: Torment and Knights of the Old Republic 2, which are highly regarded for their complex character and faction interactions. That's something they want to do well in Kingmaker as well, which I saw a bit of as I played.

Most every choice I made trended my character down a path of the D&D alignment system. Be nice to someone, lean toward Good, do something for the fun of it, get a few points down the Chaotic path. This is combined with specific decisions that can change party members' relationship with you. In one quest, my party met a helpful mage who was performing experiments on live trolls. His info was necessary for my quest, but one of my party members threw a fit about his torture of sentient creatures. If I didn't order him to release his prisoners, our relationship would be damaged.

In many RPGs, a situation like that could be avoided by leaving party members whose ethics the player might disagree with behind, but that's another aspect of Kingmaker with a slight twist. According to Mishulin, your companions don't exist only when bring them out of storage for adventures, but, if not joining you on the campaign trail, will stay at home in charge of your castle. So if you take all your Evil companions out so that the Good ones don't yell at you for being a creep, those do-gooders may end up ruining your dastardly plans by their acts at home.

Like much of the rest of Pathfinder: Kingmaker, what seems to be a comfortable, generic RPG trope has the promise of a little extra depth. Almost everything I asked about in terms of story seemed to have a layer beyond what I expected--the advantage of having years of tabletop playtesting, perhaps. If these different aspects of Kingmaker can coalesce into a dramatic whole, this could be special.

The IGN article also has three short video clips showcasing some early gameplay that already looks quite nice. However, they run in IGN's built-in video player, so you'll have to go to the source to check them out.