It can be tough to nail an aesthetic of an already-existing franchise. It can be even tougher to adapt a tabletop game into a digital format. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous by Owlcat Games nails both of these points handily from the start. The Wrath of the Righteous campaign setting is a fan-favorite for players of the tabletop game and if this game is anything to judge it by, it’s easy to see why. Tight, visceral combat and immersive role-playing are just a few of the elements used to draw you into this D&D-esque fantasy world.
Wrath of the Righteous is, without a doubt, a story-focused title. Your mysterious origins at the beginning of the game are quickly dwarfed by a whirlwind of calamity that involves dragons, demons, crusaders and a city on the verge of annihilation. Within a few minutes, you are introduced to your first set of companion characters and each of them has an interesting personality. The jovial lady Paladin Seelah has many layers to her devotion, while the mysterious Shaman Camellia’s aloof observations hint at more than just the mysterious origins of her class. These are joined by a few notable NPC’s such as the aristocrat Horgus Gwerm and the ranger Anevia, whose characters develop in an interactive way that reveals itself through your choices through the city of Kenabres.
You will speak with NPC’s who give you notable locations that reveal themselves after discovery. Hovering over these areas will show you if you have business there or are if it is just a new area for you to explore. Each journey will take a set amount of hours to complete and fatigue plays a role in the performance of your party. You can set up camp anywhere in the overworld or in an area you are exploring, as long as no enemies are around. This allows your spellcasters to customize their spells and rest up before using them for the day, emulating the rules of the tabletop game. While the graphical presentation may not be as impressive as titles such as Baldur’s Gate 3, nor are you able to interact much with your party during camp, the dialogue between party members during these moments is charming and shows off their personalities outside of the dire situation surrounding you.
While role-playing is normally an integral part of character creation, the range of choices or start values may seem predictable. Modern Fallout and Elder Scrolls titles give us a taste of what it means to blend these values into dialogue options, using Speech or Charisma as a whole to influence NPC interactions. The Divinity and Baldur’s Gate series show us the lengths this can be taken to, which Wrath of the Righteous fully embraces. Going through your first few dungeons and caves you’ll find yourself perking up at chimes indicating successful perception checks that happen as you move about the world, or taking a moment with the pause feature to assess the situation when they unearth traps. Your athletics, world knowledge, alignment and nearly every other trait on your character can affect how the world reacts to you or how you react to it. Class choice can also put a spin on things and with every race and class from the Pathfinder tabletop game at your disposal, the possibilities are vast.
From Rogue, to Shaman to unique classes such as Imitator, character creation is robust and open-ended. Balancing stats and picking out traits is easy and fun which makes it easy to hop right into the action. Along with more than one story-focused difficulty setting, anyone can find a class and race combo that appeals to them and experience the engrossing story. For the more hardcore players, every aspect of the character creator is at your disposal and you can spend quite some time playing with the numbers to make your perfect character. You will want every edge you can get if you’re playing on higher difficulty modes. Along with a custom portrait and icon, it’s easy to create your perfect player character to face the dangers of the demon-infested world.
Combat in Wrath of the Righteous is dynamic and exciting. There are a couple different ways to play it out, namely turn-based style and real-time with pausing. While real-time with pauses can make combat go by rather quickly, turn-based offers more control overall to your party and positioning during encounters. Both of these options are great and neither cuts out the viscera that occurs during combat. As your party cuts their opposition down, enemies and limbs will fly and you could even end up smashing your enemy to a bloody pulp. With the camera being able to give you the perfect angle, kills can create brutal scenes of ragdolled carcasses that splat into walls after meaty hits. It all gives combat an intense feeling that is palpable when you decimate particularly egregious foes.
While the story is immersive and the combat is tight and engaging, Wrath of the Righteous feels archaic in a few ways. The main method of moving about the overworld city of Kenabres feels slow and uneventful, especially at the beginning of the game. This feeling is made even worse when you stumble across random locations such as failed ritual sites, only to not encounter an area but a list of things you found there. When random monster encounters bring you into a smaller arena, the experience feels like a cheap one. The menu system is also bloated and your inventory can get cluttered quite fast, especially without any kind of quick sort button.
While there are a few problems, they ultimately amount to nitpicks in the face of everything Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous gets right. The character creation is deep and is perfect for new players or those familiar with the tabletop game. The hardcore gamer will have a great time exploring the various customizations while everyone will be happy to use their own custom portraits for their characters. The combat is fun and robust while not taking away form the engrossing narrative, with each fitting their game-defining roles perfectly. This all makes beta for Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous a blast to play, especially for those looking for an authentic role-playing experience in a morally grey world.