Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Review

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2021-09-02
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Another less-than-ideal thing about the game's dialogues is the way they treat alignment. Instead of offering you organic choices that make sense for your character, or the situation at hand, a lot of the time, you'll just get an optional node with a bunch of replies that serve no other purpose but to move your alignment in a certain direction.

On the other hand, your character's origins aren't purely cosmetic. Playing as a dwarf and a follower of a certain god, I had multiple in-game events reflecting that.

In general, the game has a decent degree of reactivity - with companions getting a lot of love there - and plenty of opportunities to make choices that later on will result in some consequences. In fact, many of the options you have are fairly well-hidden.

For example, at one point there's a traitor in your midst. And while I had my suspicions for who that was, I had nothing solid to pin it on that particular character. After beating that section, I looked things up, and it turned out that you can actually unmask the traitor, and that would affect the chapter's big finale.

So, for all its tonal inconsistencies, it's actually refreshing to play a game where you're not guaranteed to see all the content, where you need to work for it, and sometimes, you just have to accept that you weren't skillful or attentive enough to notice some connection. I loved that part.

The game's itemization also deserves some praise. Very few of its items just give you straight enhancement bonuses. Most of them do something else on top of that, and some even provide additional bonuses when worn by a certain class, or even a character with a specific feat. As such, opening chests has rarely been so exciting.

Beyond that, this is one of the few games where consumables, especially early on, aren't just gold you haven't flipped yet. In the early stages, you'll be using scrolls, wands, and potions like never before if you don't want to rest after every encounter. And you can't really go too overboard with that, because the game has a Corruption system that saddles you with debilitating penalties if you rest too much outside your main base.

And this leads us to the game's overall difficulty. Playing on the Core setting, the way God and Gary Gygax intended, you can certainly beat the game without min-maxing, excessive multiclassing, or using custom mercenaries. It will be quite tough, however.

If in Kingmaker you had to demonstrate some basic understanding of the underlying systems to have a smooth playthrough on Challenging, with the exception of some late-game areas, Wrath will put your skills to the test and require you to use consumables, dirty tricks, and unorthodox tactics just to keep your head above water.

What helps here is the built-in turn-based mode that you can toggle at will. It works surprisingly well and allows you to lock down some of the nastier enemies before they can wreck your party.

On the one hand, this is great. The demons you're fighting come with a long list of resistances and immunities, and that forces you to come up with new builds and strategies well-suited for fighting foes like this.

In fact, this is probably the first game that forces you actually care about properly building your magic users and considering their spell DCs and penetration, instead of just putting them in the back with a crossbow to act as batteries for your melee fighters.

On the other hand, I'm not sure Owlcat knows what Core rules really mean. Sure, the game may not be artificially padding enemy stats, but that doesn't change the fact that it's throwing level 15 enemies against your level 5-7 party, or that the monsters' natural armor is anything but.

And sure, an argument can be made that a video game with abundant magical gear shouldn't be a 1:1 recreation of the tabletop experience, or that for all the overtuned challenges the game throws at you, you do have the tools to deal with them.

But still, it's a fine line the game's walking between a satisfying level of challenge and pure frustration. And while for the most part, it manages to stay fun, certain areas (I'm looking at you Blackwater) evoke some repressed House at the End of Time memories, but now with fewer memory leaks.

And then comes the late-game, and it's like you never left that accursed place, with the game throwing ridiculous encounters at you one after another, made even more frustrating by occasional bugs and, to put it mildly, wonky allied AI.