Pathfinder: Kingmaker Review

Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2018-09-25
  • Role-Playing
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What you should also keep in mind is that when the game says challenging, it means it. You won't need to play on the highest difficulty level just to avoid left-clicking your way to victory. In my experience, the “Challenging” difficulty should be your starting point if you're familiar with the classic cRPGs - you'll get some fairly tough encounters and will need to plan ahead and use your resources with some consideration, but you won't need a min-maxed party to finish the game.

Speaking of encounters, the game's combat follows the classic real-time with pause formula seemingly taken straight out of Baldur's Gate. It even includes the good old 6-second rounds intended to simulate the turn-based nature of the pen-and-paper game.

Thanks to the existence of these self-contained rounds, the game's combat is easy to read and follow, so you're rarely confused as to what's going on and what your characters are doing at any given moment even when things get pretty hectic. Which happens fairly often. The game's enemy variety is absolutely fantastic and you keep encountering new enemy types and sub-types all the way till the very end of the game. You have to constantly adjust your tactics based on who or what you're facing, be it a fort full of bandits, a house-sized owlbear, a bunch of tiny venomous spiders, a cyclops lich, or an army of angry barbarians.

At times, you may even feel overwhelmed, but let me offer you this piece of advice - no matter how grim things may seem, your spellcasters have all the answers. An appropriate buff, a couple of touch spells, or a well-timed barrage of magic missiles can win even the toughest of fights. Now, you may perhaps be disappointed to not find any complex mage battles in Kingmaker like you remember from the Infinity Engine games, but even so, Kingmaker's spellcasters are immensely useful and you should never underestimate them.

Magic items are also an important component of your success, and Kingmaker has plenty to offer in that department. You will find sackfuls of enchanted gear on your journey, and while a lot if it will just offer you simple numerical bonuses, there's no shortage of unique items that you can build your entire playthrough around. For example, early on you'll be able to find a certain bow that despite its measly +1 enchantment can stay with you till the end of the game and bring more to the table than most of its +4 or +5 counterparts.

With Kingmaker's fantastic class variety elevated to the next level by all the cool gear you get your hands on, I had to constantly fight the urge to restart the game and just play around wth different build and class combinations. To me, this is a mark of a great game.

Mind you, the adapted ruleset and its practical combat applications aren't perfect. Some class and ability descriptions are lacking or downright confusing, certain feats may or may not work correctly, there's no way to preview a prestige class in-game before a character qualifies for it and there's not that many prestige classes to begin with, sneak attacks are perhaps a bit too strong, and so on. Still, compared to everything that the game does right, issues like these are relatively minor.

And finally, the last thing I want to mention when it comes to Kingmaker's rules is the new player experience. What if you're someone who never played those old games? What if you don't know how armor class stacks or why you would use a scythe over a greatsword?

Well, some may say that this game is not for you. I disagree. I still remember playing Baldur's Gate for the first time. Back then I had zero familiarity with Dungeons & Dragons, didn't know how things worked or why having less armor meant you had more armor (oh THAC0). And you know what? Figuring all that stuff out was some of the most fun I've ever had when playing a video game. And if you're in that position right now, you have all that fun ahead of you. Just choose a lower difficulty level and don't be afraid to start over, and trust me, you'll master the game in no time.