It’s a rare gaming enthusiast who doesn’t have fond recollections of at least a few RPGs. Mention, say, Icewind Dale to the right people and they’re going to gush over the series so hard that you’ll drown. Western computer RPGs, in particular, tend to produce some really intense fans, and for good reason – they’re expansive stories that you can get lost in for hours. That’s definitely the case with Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, the follow-up to 2018’s Pathfinder: Kingmaker and the latest CRPG to dump hours of your life into.
The city of Kenabres and the surrounding lands have spent the past several years dealing with demonic invasions. A series of holy Crusades against the demons have failed to fully exterminate the menace, but Kenabres itself has remained safe due to the power of the Wardstone located at the heart of the city. That all changes when the Demon Lord Deskari manages to get in regardless, laying waste to Kenabres and prompting the start of the Fifth Crusade. This is a desperate effort to save the world from becoming a pretty nasty place, and you’re going to be the one taking the lead.
Wrath of the Righteous is one of those isometric RPGs your parents warned you about, the ones that call to mind classic adventures like Baldur’s Gate. This one’s based on Paizo’s Pathfinder tabletop RPG system, which is vaguely like D&D 3.5 with the serial numbers filed off. Tabletop fans who’ve played their Pathfinder campaigns for years are able to set Wrath of the Righteous up to use a strict interpretation of the rules or even give the game an advantage if they’re feeling masochistic, while the rest of us can play a somewhat less murderous version of the game.
There’s a variety of helpful pop-up tips and tutorials for newcomers as well, which do a lot to make this adventure seem a little less intimidating than it might be. Likewise, the option to switch between Baldur’s Gate-style real-time-with-pause combat and a more traditional turn-based style is much appreciated.
Like Kingmaker before it, Wrath of the Righteous opens up by absolutely overwhelming the player with options. There’s classes. So many classes. And races. So many races. Everything is generally well-explained, though there’s the odd unusually-written (or completely missing) feature description here and there. Further, once you’re actually in-game controlling your character, you’ll find that the Wrath of the Righteous campaign offers a variety of challenges such that most choices feel good to play. You’ll also pick up numerous interesting companions who can help out with problems your own hero isn’t ready to address.
Even if you can choose from the enormous array of warriors, wizards, clergy and scoundrels, though, you’ve now got another consideration: your character’s Mythic Path. These represent a sort of additional ultimate class that you’ll unlock through your choices ingame. Want to be a Lich, an almighty wizard with unthinkable power over death? Sure, that’s a thing. Goody two-shoes players might prefer to become a mighty Angel or majestic Gold Dragon. That guy at your table who always plays pranks on the other party members, meanwhile, is bound to enjoy the Trickster, a bizarre Loki-style class that does things like using their trap-disabling skills to disable their enemies to death.
All of the Mythic Paths are amazingly in-depth, making significant changes to how Wrath of the Righteous plays out. It’s one of the best systems I’ve seen when it comes to encouraging repeat playthroughs.
Those multiple playthroughs aren’t going to be a bore, either, thanks to an array of well-written quests. The Fifth Crusade isn’t just about smashing demons. It’s also about…smashing demons in different places, or smashing people who support the demons, or smashing people who get in the way of all the other smashing! Kidding aside, the city of Kenabres alone has plenty to do and see, and that’s before the game opens up to hilarious degrees as you progress. Many of the choices your character makes won’t be something you can go back on, so it’s entirely worth playing at least twice to see everything.
Beyond that, as your character grows in power and influence, you’ll also end up controlling an entire army and leading a large-scale crusade against the demonic hordes. This plays out a bit like the classic King’s Bounty games. You’ll need to recruit troops, lead them into battle against the demons and make vital choices that define the path of your crusade. This system is interesting and enjoyable, though not quite as polished as the more traditional adventuring. Fortunately, there’s a convenient option to just turn it all off.
Given the sheer amount of depth that Wrath of the Righteous boasts, it’s a little surprising that its presentation manages to keep up. Characters and monsters alike have clean, well-defined models so it’s easy to stay informed during larger battles. Meanwhile, when you’re not fighting you’re reading, and the games’ writing is generally pleasant enough that it never feels like a slog. Even the voice acting is well done, though as a fairly extensive game there’s quite a bit of dialogue that isn’t voiced; this is a minor complaint at most, though.
The bottom line is that Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a rock-solid CRPG that’s packed with compelling content. The various ways that you can build your character and approach the Fifth Crusade lend the game an enormous amount of replay value. The Pathfinder system might seem overly complex at first, but Wrath of the Righteous does a great job welcoming newcomers and vets alike into the fold. If you’ve got the time to really dive into this one, it’s an absolute must-play.