Pathfinder: Kingmaker Hands-on Preview – Of Kings and Kobolds

I was able to check out an early build of Pathfinder: Kingmaker during this year’s Game Developers Conference, and I must admit, it’s got me looking forward to the final release quite a bit. Kingmaker is the first CRPG in the Pathfinder universe, and with Chris Avellone [Fallout 2, Planescape Torment, Fallout: New Vegas] on the writing team, it’s hard to envision it being bad.

The team at Owlcat Games have a bit of a pedigree themselves, having worked on Evil Islands, Silent Storm, and Heroes of Might & Magic V back at Nival Entertainment. Let me tell you a bit about my experience with the game, even if it was only a short session.

My run with Pathfinder: Kingmaker began in an open field. My party of adventurers came across an NPC who told us of feuding Mites and Kobolds in the area ahead, and after grilling them for more information, I soldiered on.

Almost immediately after doing so, I came across a group of those very same races, just about to do battle. I had interrupted them, though, so a dialogue window popped up. In this game, your alignment allows for special dialogue in conversations–in this case, my neutral leaning gave me the option to essentially say, “You guys go on fighting, just leave me out of it.”

I was urged to go to the leader of the Mites and find out the truth, just before the Kobolds began to attack. I could have easily taken a side and gave one faction an unfair advantage, but I had no idea what was going on, and preferred to learn the truth before wantonly massacring people.

My trek lead me North, and on my trail I discovered a strange campsite. It seemed like there was bedding and enough supplies to rest here for a whole day, but strewn around the site were a host of bloody corpses.

I wasn’t about to suffer the same fate, so I continued on–and while doing so, the Creative Director sitting next to me told me that was a wise choice. If I had rested, I would have encountered what killed those people, and it was a significantly stronger fight than I was likely prepared for. Caution won the day!

Next, I headed down into the Mite’s lair, just as I’d been asked to do earlier. In this dark tunnel, I encountered all sorts of creepy crawlies, though spiders and giant centipedes were no match for my Barbarian’s greatsword.

I also lucked into finding a few secrets while down here. One consisted of a button puzzle that required me to manually place each of my party members, whereas the other was a hole in the wall I only spotted by looking closely.

Each ability and spell featured in Kingmaker is plucked directly from the Pathfinder playbooks, so someone familiar with the system should feel right at home playing it.

For those who are perhaps a little less versed in tabletop games, as well as CRPGs in general, the AI seems like it works well enough so you don’t have to micromanage too much. I was playing around with abilities and spells quite a bit, and each one of them feels satisfying to use.

Something I only got a brief look at in my preview was the Kingdom system. At some point in the game, you are able to build your own kingdom, claim territories and even form new cities and towns. Featured above, you can view a preview of what your towns could look like if you align more to good, neutral, and evil.

Your alignment will play into how your kingdom looks, and your decisions will dictate whether or not you are a fair, just leader, or a tyrant who rules with an iron fist. From the brief look I got, it seems like evil rulers can even have an army of skeletons as guards. That’s pretty metal.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker should be releasing this year for Windows PC, Mac, and Linux – and I am pretty darn excited to get my hands on it. Keep your eyes peeled for an official release date, we’ll keep you posted. You can pre-order the game in a variety of backer tiers over on its official website.

Cody Long

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I draw weenies for a living. Also, I write reviews and articles sometimes!