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Originally designed as an alternative to the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, Paizo Publishing's pen-and-paper Pathfinder Roleplaying Game was released back in 2009. With its robust fantasy world of Golarion and a rich ruleset based on the modified 3.5 edition of D&D, it's quite surprising that we're getting our first Pathfinder cRPG just now.
Released on September 25, 2018 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Pathfinder: Kingmaker is that game. It was developed by Owlcat Games, a Russian studio that consists of numerous industry veterans and Pathfinder enthusiasts, with the help of such notable individuals like Chris Avellone and Inon Zur.
During the campaign, Kingmaker was said to be inspired by Baldur's Gate, Fallout, and Arcanum, and after spending roughly 100 hours with the game, I can safely say that those weren't just marketing buzzwords, even though Arcanum's legacy is mostly represented by an abundance of bugs of all sorts. Still, out of all the games released in the past decade or so, in my opinion Kingmaker comes closest to recapturing the magic of those classic cRPGs.
Quite an endorsement, I know, so if you're interested in a detailed breakdown of what makes Kingmaker worthy of such praise, you should read on.
Rules of Engagement
If you're at all familiar with Dungeons & Dragons or any video game that uses that particular role-playing system, figuring Kingmaker out will feel like putting on a pair of cozy old slippers.
Some people call Pathfinder “D&D 3.75” and that comparison is fairly apt, I think. Without any prior Pathfinder experience, it didn't take me long to familiarize myself with Kingmaker's rules, create a character, and jump into the action.
The biggest differences you should be aware of, and this combines both Pathfinder rules and Kingmaker's implementation of them, are that single classes are now more desirable due to strong class-specific abilities, you get way more feats, each basic class comes with three distinct archetypes, and teamwork feats are a thing. The latter give your characters considerable bonuses when two of them have the same feat. There are plenty of other minor differenes, but if you know the basics, you should be able to figure those out with some experimentation.
For someone who enjoys character building above everything else in an RPG, just seeing all the options filled me with absolute joy. Multiply that by twenty levels of progression and a party of six, and you get a game where you can spend hours just on the character creation screen alone. And the best part there is that the game doesn't hold your hand and allows you to make bad decisions. This sort of thing leads to highly memorable playthroughs where in order to win, you first have to deal with an extra bit of challenge you have no one but yourself to blame for. But, if that doesn't sound like your thing, you can also just pick a premade build and be sure that it will be at least somewhat competent.
Now, when it comes to difficulty, Kingmaker offers six difficulty settings ranging from Story to Unfair with plenty of custom options on top of that. You can adjust the damage your enemies deal, the severity of their crits, their armor class and saving throws, and so on. Whatever your skill level may be, you can fine-tune the game to offer you the right amount of challenge.
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