The Pathfinder role-playing series is the lifeblood of Owlcat Games, the Moscow studio behind the 2018 CRPG, Pathfinder: Kingmaker. The team's breakout game became a success following a well-received Kickstarter campaign, and a series of post-launch game updates helped smooth over lingering criticisms. Of those, while bugs were an issue, it was the punishing difficulty spikes that riled players most of all.
Following an announcement back in December, Owlcat has now opened up a fresh Kickstarter campaign for its follow-up Pathfinder game, Wrath of the Righteous. We recently met with creative director Alexander Mishulin and writer Chris Avellone to discuss details of the game, and it sounds like the team has taken the lessons learned from Kingmaker and baked them into its design process from the start. Wrath of the Righteous is built to be highly flexible, both in terms of the story and missions as well as difficulty settings.
If you didn't get the chance to play Kingmaker or you're a bit out of the loop in regards to Pathfinder in general, its easiest to think of the base game as an offshoot of Dungeons and Dragons. The tabletop Pathfinder games, while not exactly D&D proper, are based on the 3.5e ruleset that exists under the Open Game License. Like many D&D-inspired CRPGs before it, Wrath of the Righteous is an isometric RPG designed to support the sorts of storytelling, combat, and character development opportunities that are ripe for creative thinkers, especially those who know and love the possibilities of an adventurous D&D campaign.
"This time around," says Mishulin, "the game is set in a nation that's been invaded by demons for the last 100 years. You will fight to survive, and hopefully, turn the tables on the demons."
That premise alone is fairly typical by RPG standards, a fact that Mishulin admits but is quick to retort. "What we are trying to do is to take this premise and tell a really deep story, and make a CRPG with a lot of choices. We will explore mature themes. How do people withstand 100 years of demon invaders? Do they become corrupt? Eventually you will get the power to turn the tables on the demons. How will you approach that? Will you be rushing and trying to finish them off despite the loss of human lives? Or, do you try to save everybody and potentially fail in the process?"
Not everyone is a qualified RPG master, of course, so with the previous game's difficulty woes in mind it's great to hear that Owlcat is baking in options to allow for players of all experience levels to take a stab at the adventure. The core difficulty setting will adhere closely to the tabletop rules, which is likely to be quite punishing for newcomers. Thankfully, they can opt to take advantage of Wrath of the Righteous' more granular difficulty adjustments. At any time, we're told, you'll be free to manipulate variables such as enemy mob sizes as well as their ability to access high-level skills, among other key settings that have a direct impact on the challenge at hand.
It's reassuring to know Owlcat is determined to make an experience that's suitable for all types of players, but the possibilities for that experience to lead down exciting narrative paths is the most appealing prospect. In keeping with the tabletop experience, Mythic Paths will be available in Wrath of the Righteous, and these will let you steer your adventure in one of multiple directions. As Mishulin puts it, "Mythic Paths add a special layer of character progression. It allows player characters to eventually oppose demigods and demons of immense power. It's an additional storyline that is attached to the main campaign, which allows you to experience the story in different ways, which other mythic path followers will not be able to see."
These mythic paths chart the landscape of good and evil, as well as chaos and order. The Aeon path, the most relevant to the main story, aligns you with angels and other celestial powers. The Lich path is then graded in opposition, and will grant you the ability to lead a party of undead minions in place of your standard adventurer troupe. Then there's the Aeon path. As put by Mishulin, " Aeon is a cosmic judge of balance, and every time an Aeon senses something out of balance, he tries to fix it, but he's not very merciful. By fixing it he usually punishes guilty parties. The cool thing is he can travel back in time to alter events, and then return to the current timeline where things will have changed accordingly."
The Trickster path was the final option Mishulin could tell us about, and he was notably entertained by the possibilities the Trickster presents while giving his explanation. "His abilities are a bit wacky. He realizes that beyond this world, his fate is governed by dice rolls, and that he can manipulate those dice rolls. Every time he rolls a natural 1, it changes to a 20. Critical misses become critical hits, to give you an idea. He tries to pull jokes, and is a very powerful being who has fun doing so. It's the funny version of the story.
Now that the campaign is live, Owlcat has revealed the final pair of Mythic Path options. The Azata path will be the quintessential hero questline, making you into a "rebel and a fighter for freedom and good. A superhero of sorts, that protects innocents against demons and purifies the land of corruption." It's also no surprise given the theme of the story that there will be a Demon path, the purely evil choice that will turn you into "the epitome of rage."
Owlcat's Kickstarter campaign for Wrath of the Righteous has an initial funding goal of $300,000, and at the time of this story's publication it's closing in on $90,000 within roughly an hour of going live. The most prized backer reward? A party with the developers in Moscow, available exclusively for a single backer who contributes $10,000, along with a slew of other virtual and physical rewards. But if all you care about is securing a digital copy of the game with your support, $28 is all it takes. The campaign runs until March 11, and the projected release date is currently set for June 2021.