|Composer(s)||Inon Zur, Dmitry V. Silantyev, Sergey Eybog, Mikhail Kotov, Alexander Fomichev, Dryante|
|Platform(s)||Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
|Release||25 September 2018|
Pathfinder: Kingmaker is an isometric role-playing game developed by Russian studio Owlcat Games and published by Deep Silver, based on Paizo Publishing's Pathfinder franchise. Announced through a Kickstarter campaign in 2017, the game was released for Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux on 25 September 2018.
The gameplay is modelled on the Pathfinder role-playing game and inspired by classic computer RPGs such as Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. It features a real-time-with-pause or turn-based combat system and an isometric perspective. One of the game's distinguishing features is its emphasis on realm-building, with the player's decisions as a local lord affecting the rest of the gameplay as they are embroiled in a world of political intrigue and adventure.
Character customization is a key feature, along with an alignment system where a character's alignment can change due to player choice. While the player begins with only one character of their creation, the game is party-based as companions join them along the way. These include both established Pathfinder characters and newly invented characters. The game is estimated to last between over 80 to 140 hours.
It is set within the Stolen Lands, part of the greater region of the River Kingdoms south of Brevoy, which is in turn part of Golarion, the default setting of Pathfinder. It features the player carving their own realm out among the wilderness as a local lord, and expands upon the corresponding Kingmaker tabletop module.
The Stolen Lands are split into a number of regions which can slowly get added to the player's barony as the plot progresses. Among the regions include the trecherous wooded Narlmarches in the center, the town of Varnhold to the east and the city of Pitax to the west. Places from the Pathfinder universe that can play a part in the storyline include the rival Brevan cities of Restov & New Stelvan to the north, the revolutionary country of Galt far south, and Numeria & the River Kingdoms to the west.
Throughout the game, the player will encounter & may recruit various characters into their party and as advisors for their growing kingdom. Characters who can potentially join the main character include affable Halfling Bard Linzi, brusque Barbarian Amiri, ex-Paladin and current Fighter Valerie, fatalist Dwarf Cleric Harrim, undead Elf Jaethal, kind-hearted Cleric Tristian, phase-shifting twin sister Kineticists Kallike & Kanerrah, the enslaved duo of Rogue/Wizard Octavia and Half-Orc Magus Regongar, narcissistic Alchemist Jubilost, brooding Ranger Ekundayo, and delusional Goblin Rogue Nok-Nok.
The story begins in the mansion of Restov ruler Jamandi Aldori, where the player character is among a group of adventurers who are offered a barony in the Stolen Lands if they remove the Stag Lord, a local bandit who has named himself King of the Shrike Hills. On the night before the adventurers set off, the mansion is attacked by assassins whom the player and Aldori forces fight off. In the immediate aftermath, one of the adventurers Tartuccio accuses the player of letting the assassins into the mansion and of being a secret spy for Pitax. Unable to determine the truth, Aldori splits the adventurers into two groups with the player leading one and Tartuccio leading the other.
As the hunt for the Stag Lord progresses, two different storylines proceed. In one, the player is informed by a mysterious drifter that Tartuccio is leading his team to finding a magical artifact of some importance. The player's group chases after Tartuccio, during which Restov discovers that Tartuccio was the real Pitax spy. The party discovers that he has taken the disguise of a kobald named Tartuk where he has instigated a war between hordes of kobalds & mites residing under an old Sycamore tree. Making their way down to the shrine underneath the Sycamore, the party find Tartuccio passing the shrine's artifact through a portal. Tartuccio is killed, but in the aftermath an unknown person revives him as a kobald permanently.
At the same time, the player encounters a nymph in their dreams, calling herself the Guardian of the Bloom. The nymph leads the player's party to various locations in order to stop a curse blanketing the region with an impassible fog. After cleansing a nearby shrine, the party is able to assault the Stag Lord's bandit fort and ultimately kill him. With both storylines complete, the party is welcomed back to Restov and the player is declared Baron (or Baroness) of the Shrike Hills.
Upon return, the player is required to address a number of problems plaguing their new kingdom. Among them is the Guardian of the Bloom promising them a reward, only to lure them into an ambush and now showing a desire to harm the player's kingdom. Shortly after, the barony is attacked by hordes of trolls & kobalds terrorising their land. A hammer-shaped brand on the trolls makes them unnaturally resistant to fire, and ultimately leads the party to Trobold, an abandoned Dwarven outpost that has been claimed as a new city for kobolds & trolls. The party eventually reach Trobold's leaders: Troll king Hargulka & resurrected Kobold king Tartuk. Depending on the player's actions, Trobold may be destroyed and remain but regardless the attacks stop.
Months later, the kingdom is subject to a series of unusual events where citizens spontaneously transform into animals & unknown creatures. The kingdom's advisers eventually find that the transformations are due to seeds which end up in victim's stomachs and eventually sprout, creating a portal that brings a creature from elsewhere in (killing the host). It is eventually discovered that the seeds have been put into one of the kingdom's rivers by a nearby goblin tribe worshipping an unknown entity. The player's party attacks the tribe's fort and forces the tribe's shaman to reveal the source, but around the same time mass sproutings happen in the Capital. The player must decide whether to defend the Capital first or go straight to the source of the seeds; a giant everblooming flower inside a remote cave.
While investigating the everblooming flower, the party is transported to the First World, a primordial plane which acts as the home of the Guardian of the Bloom. Through flashbacks, the player is shown the origin of the Guardian – Once a nymph called Nyrissa, she once attempted to create her own kingdom and received the ire of the Lantern King (a god-like Eldest in the First World) in the process. As punishment, the Lantern King charges her with destroying kingdoms in the Stolen Lands over time, with each kingdom becoming a grain of dust in a cup meant to be filled. The party learns that the everblooming flower exists in both the First World and Golarion, requiring the party to split up and attack the flower simultaneously in both planes. The kingdom once again returns to normal.
After a while, the player receives word from Maegar Varn, the monarch of neighbouring Varnhold. Arriving at the barony, the Baron finds all the citizens have disappeared but finds a raven following them. The player comes across a Barbarian camp, including one of a group of mysterious women calling themselves the Defaced Sisters. The player is asked to find her fellow Defaced Sisters at locations where they were looking for artifacts. Once finding the fates of all of them, the first Defaced Sister attempts to turn the barbarians against the player. Regardless of the resolution, the player learns of Vordakai, a former cyclops lich who ruled an empire on the surrounding land, and that the Defaced Sisters were looking for artifacts to open his tomb. The party in turn enter Vordakai's Tomb, and eventually encounter the lich alongside his raven pet. During the battle, Tristian will appear and betray the player, taking from Vordakai's eye an artifact known as the Eye of Abaddon which acts as the source of the lich's power and disappearing in a portal. After defeating the lich, the Maegar and the Varnhold citizens are found in a series of jars in a nearby room and Maeger pledges his lands to the Baron.
While looking into the reason of Tristian's betrayal, the kingdom is alerted to neighbouring Restov being under attack, with Jamandi Aldori requesting her allies to assist. The attackers are found to be a number of barbarian tribes following the Twice-Born Armag, a warlord believed to be a reincarnation of the legendary warlord of the same name. The Baron's party is able to stop the attacks and chase Armag to the tomb of the original warlord, finding the new Armag holding an ancient sword. It transpires that the legendary Armag's soul resides in the sword, and that the tale of the new Armag being a reincarnation was a fabrication told by the Defaced Sisters. Depending on how quickly the Baron finds him, they either find the new Armag possessed by the old's soul or arrive just in time to prevent it.
At the same time, Tristian's trail is found as the player chases him through a series of portals across the barony. Eventually, they find him at one of Nyrissa's fortresses, in the hands of the Defaced Sisters and stripped of his eyesight. After being rescued, Tristian reveals that he was a divine being made mortal by Nyrissa and forced to do her bidding, including helping with some of the events plaguing the barony. The fate of Tristian lays in the player's hands, including execution, exile or forgiveness. With both the Brevoy invasion and Tristian's treachery resolved, the Baron is made a King as thanks from Restov.
Eventually the King receives an invitation to a tournament in Pitax, held by its king Castruccio Irovetti which becomes a thinly-veiled way for Irovetti to insult the player's kingdom. Soon after, the kingdom is plagued by a number of problems including monsters appearing out of nowhere, bandits terrorising the player's border regions and propaganda insulting the King's ability to lead a kingdom. These are soon followed by an ultimatum from Irovetti to surrender the crown to him, who is also believed to be the instigator of the various problems.
While solving the various problems (as well as finding a few problems in Pitax due to Irovetti's ruling), it is discovered that it is possible to enter Nyrissa's dreams in the same way that she had done to others. This leads to the player learning more about her curse, including that she only has two kingdoms left to fulfill the curse: Pitax & the player's kingdom. It is also revealed that the Lantern King had removed the ability to love from Nyrissa's soul, embuing it in a wooden stick known as the Briar. Another nymph later reveals that the Briar was the artifact stolen by Tartuccio in the Old Sycamore, and that it is in the possession of Irovetti. The party heads to the city of Pitax where the King can optionally convince a number of factions within the city to revolt against their king. Regardless of events, Irovetti retreats into his palace to which the player follows. Irovetti is defeated, and the Briar is retrieved by the player.
With the player now being the sole ruler of the Stolen Lands, Nyrissa finally finishes with one large-scale endless assault with First World forces terrorising the player's entire kingdom. The King is forced to travel to the far west, where they find a portal to the House at the End of Time, Nyrissa's home in the First World. As they enter the portal, the player is separated from their various companions and must find them. Along the way, they find that Nyrissa had isolated & attempted to play tricks on them – Depending on the player's actions throughout the game, each companion can either be killed as they succumb to Nyrissa's illusions or resist them. Eventually, the party makes it to Nyrissa's throne room where they find the Horned Hunter, one of Nyrissa's lieutenants. They also learn of Linzi's fate, killed by Nyrissa after pretending to follow Nyrissa's deception but loyally gaining information to help the player. However, her soul has become attached to her journal, explaining the ongoing narration throughout the game.
The Horned Hunter eventually escapes, revealing that Nyrissa has locked herself away in the chamber of the Apology, the cup for her curse. The party must explore the House, dealing with Nyrissa's other lieutenants and finding the keys to eventually reach the chamber and defeat Nyrissa. Upon her defeat, the Horned Hunter reappears and reveals himself as the Lantern King, also revealing that he was under the guise of various characters the player met throughout the story. Angered that his "game" had been spoiled with the death of Nyrissa, the Lantern King transports the player's kingdom into the First World, with the kingdom being beset by all sides from shadows from the various kingdoms that were in the Apology. The Lantern King also curses the player, tying the player's fate to that of their kingdom.
The King can optionally travel to various parts of their kingdoms, saving them from the forces of the First World & shadows from the Apology, before launching an assault to retake their Capital alongside various allies the player has made throughout the game. On the other side, the party finds that the Capital has been reduced to islands of land orbiting in the air above the Lantern King. As the party moves towards the King's throne room, they find pieces of the Apology which the King's Storyteller uses to weaken the Lantern King's power. With the Apology destroyed, the party reaches the throne room where they do battle with the Lantern King. The Eldest is defeated, and dies but is incapable of remaining dead. Noting the defeat, the Lantern King offers the player various deals – The player may become the Lantern King's herald, restoring the kingdom to normal and also providing him with immortality. Alternatively, the player may simply say that he & the Lantern King should leave each other alone, to which the Eldest agrees but laments the end of his "performance".
Alternatively, there is a different ending that depends on specific actions throughout the game. Where possible, the player takes time to understand Nyrissa's curse. Tristian is convinced to destroy the Oculus of Abaddon rather than deliver it to Nyrissa. Taking time to learn about the various curses plaguing the kingdom, the King learns that the power of curses is not in the magic but in the words uttered. When the party encounters Nyrissa at the House at the End of Time, the player offers the Briar to Nyrissa restoring her love and causing the nymph to defect from the Lantern King. While the kingdom is in the First World, Nyrissa & the King pursue the other Eldest of the First World for help defeating the Lantern King. After passing their trials, they offer a mask which the Lantern King had placed part of his power aeons ago. After defeating the Lantern King, Nyrissa & the King use the mask to bounce both of their curses back at the Lantern King, resulting in the Eldest's destruction. The kingdom grows prosperous, with humans & fey living in peace as the kingdom straddles both the Material Plane & First World.
In the same ceremony that the player is named Baron of the Shrike Hills, the mercenary leader Maeger Varn is also named a Baron of land east of the Shrike Hills, to which he calls Varnhold. During the ceremony, he is seen arguing with his mercenary outfit's co-founder Cephal Lorentus about how to handle Restov politically.
The player takes the role of the General, leading Maeger's troops. After preparing their party, Maeger is informed of trouble with aggressive centaurs attacking farmers settling around ruins to the east. The General's party (including Maeger & Cephal, who argue with each other on the road) arrive at the ruins, to find one such centaur patrol who note the evil under the cyclops ruins. Once the situation is resolved, the party returns to Varnhold only to encounter a local treasure hunter running away from undead cyclops. After being rescued, the treasure hunter thanks the party and tells them about the bracer they found, joining the party back to Varnhold.
Once back, the General finds that the people have started to revolt, eventually finding the cause being an agitator from Galt. Immediately after, a woman from a neighbouring village informs Maeger about cyclops terrorising their village. However, upon reaching the village they find the cyclops were a fabrication and that the village hosts a death cult that has gotten violent after half the village started worshipping a different deity instead. After the cultists & apostates fight each other over the village, the party eventually defeat the cultists' leader who informs them of a great "master" which has awoken, that the tomb is surrounded with centaur which have vowed to keep the tomb sealed, and that the leader's staff is the key to entering his tomb.
Fearing this threat, the party travels to the tomb and ultimately deals with the centaur leader, either via working together or by violence. After some resting where they are subject to nightmares, the party enters the tomb which is filled with countless illusions. Along the way, they come across a portal to Varnhold which shows the village's citizens with their eyes removed. Fearing the worst, Maeger jumps through the portal and the portal closes after him. As the party continues through the tomb, they realise it is not a tomb but a fortress that was sunk into the ground below by an unknown force. Eventually, they are separated from Cephal (who runs off to find help) and eventually the deepest part of the tomb, where they do not find a tomb nor a sleeping evil but a portal to the First World. On the other side, the party encounters a will-o-wisp that had been antagonising them throughout the tomb.
Upon the antagonist's defeat, the Horned Hunter appears and explains the situation to the General: That the vision from the portal was only a vision, that the ancient evil did exist but in a different location, and that all that had transpired had been part of a game that was started when the treasure hunter looted the bracer. The Hunter offers a "gift" to the General, which varies depending on the player's choices throughout the game: The player either ends up turned into a Mimic to eat other adventurers, forced to defend the Keep without rest from an endless army of First World monsters, or to roam the First World after being stranded. Regardless of the player's fate, the rest of their party are killed in the process.
Beneath the Stolen Lands
At some point in the main campaign, the Baron has dreams pointing to an ancient evil lurking underground in an endless series of dungeons called the Tenebrous Depths. Upon reaching the area, the party encounters a dragon called Xelliren. The dragon explains that they have been calling various adventurers to the dungeon through dreams, and that the bottom of the dungeon hosts a Spawn of Rovagug, an ancient creature that can lay waste to entire nations & continents if allowed to escape.
As the party descends through the floors of the dungeon, they come across past adventurers who have been driven insane by the Spawn's influence and that now act as mini-bosses for the dungeon – The Wary Traveller, the Fallen Priestess, the Wicked Chanter, and the Captor & the Captive. Once all four have been defeated, the party enters a portal that takes them to the Spawn's nest. Upon defeating the Spawn, the party returns to the surface where Xelliren congratulates them but notes that it doesn't feel like it's over, with the pattern expected to repeat in several thousand years. Nonetheless, Xelliren notes the Baron doesn't have to worry about it.
Alternatively, the player can come across artifacts & clues from the fallen adventurers written while they were yet to succumb to the Spawn's influence, specifically blaming Xelliren for luring them to the dungeon. With enough clues, the Baron can make Xelliren understand the truth: That the dragon had been unintentionally working for the Spawn. Shocked by the revelation, Xelliren disappears and reappears during the party's fight with the Spawn, attempting to attack it but ending up mind-controlled instead. After the party defeats the Spawn, Xelliren congratulates the player, noting that the Spawn is no longer a threat.
Following the game's announcement, Owlcat announced they were considering different funding avenues. This culminated in the June 2017 launch of the Kickstarter campaign, which was billed as for expanding the game rather than funding it. The campaign ended by the end of the month after raising US$909,057 from more than 18,000 contributors.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker received generally positive reviews, holding an aggregate score of 73 out of 100 on Metacritic. The Game Debate review praised the game's engrossing story, depth and realm management feature, calling it "a beautiful looking, rich CRPG, that delivers a great place to adventure, an interesting land to rule and the tools to carve out a realm that you can call home". In a somewhat less enthusiastic review, GameSpot's Daniel Starkey believes the game to be "hampered by a litany of small issues, balancing, and the gargantuan knowledge base you'll need to play most effectively", while also lauding the narrative and the kingdom management aspect of the game, mentioning that "for those with the patience, the rewards are well worth the investment". The game has also been criticized for its inconsistent difficulty curve and the opaqueness of some of its mechanics.
On the technical side, the game's launch was plagued by numerous bugs, long loading screens and balance issues, which hurt the game's initial reception with both professional critics and customers. In the following months, many of these issues have been fixed by patches.
Unfortunately, the subsequent console releases have equally been plagued by similar, far more serious issues ranging from inaccessible map locations, crashes to dashboard, corrupt saves, loss of kingdom progress and issues with combat. While a Day 1 Patch was released upon release for the Sony PlayStation 4 version, no such patch has yet arrived for the Microsoft Xbox, a fact the developer is eager to blame Microsoft's delays in clearing it for release. Disapproval and frustration was seen on their forums[weasel words] as purchasers felt the lack of information and fact the PlayStation patch failed to fix the issues offered little hope for the suggested upcoming Xbox patch and suggestions were made[by whom?] that the console release was a 'cash-grab' to find the sequel due on PC the following year.
Owlcat announced a sequel Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous in December 2019. Narratively, the game will follow the same-named Adventure Path published in August 2013, where the player's party becomes involved in a battle between mortals and demons. The sequel will build on the engine from Kingmaker to address concerns raised by critics and players, and will expand additional rulesets from the tabletop game, include new character classes and the mythic progression system. Owlcat launched a Kickstarter campaign in February 2020 to raise additional development funds for the title. The Kickstarter successfully raised over US$2 million of its requested US$300,000, allowing for several stretch goals to be added during development.
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