Pathfinder: Kingmaker Preview PAX West 2018
I have a dedicated weekly time to play tabletop RPGs with my friends, I do. We all sit around for too many hours and pretend to be fantasy characters, channeling their desires through the figurines we’ve painstakingly painted. But with adult schedules, and adult lives, it can be next-to-impossible to find a time to get everyone together, and maybe you don’t want to spend all that time with other people in the first place. Pathfinder: Kingmaker isn’t the first (by far!) tabletop-based game out there, but based on the demo I saw at PAX West 2018, it’s one of the best at making you feel like you’re still in that in-person roleplay environment, something that can be incredibly difficult to recreate.
In the hands-off demo I saw, Pathfinder-Kingmaker showed a high degree of customization right from the get-go. While it’s not a game with a budget like Dragon Age: Inquisition or Fallout 4, the character customization is highly malleable and points to what the Pathfinder: Kingmaker experience is all about: creating your own personalized experience. Mainstream RPGs that allow a high level of customization, not just at the character level but in the decisions and experiences the character you create can make and have, have largely fallen by the wayside in favor of a voiced protagonist with a more limited range of expressiveness. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I’ll take knowing my character said something outrageous and unique over hearing them say something that’s worth a chuckle at best.
Choices, Choices, Choices
From the way you level your character up to the way you moved in the turn-based map to the way your characters interact with each other, everything in Pathfinder: Kingmaker reflects its roots as a tabletop RPG. You can even make your own companions if none of the ones you’re given work for the kind of party you want to make (although, with the gorgeous character design, I can’t see why you’d want to), and you have the power to interfere—for better or for worse—with the people you interact with along the way. The story does have a set path (it’s not like they can import your Monster-loving GM who won’t stop playing Mongolian throat music during sessions directly into the game, after all) that involves your player character taking control of a region as its ruler, which means that your actions have consequences beyond each individual person your party runs into. The settings are highly customizable and the difficulty varies on how much you want to center on the story—it’s all about how you want to play and who you want your character to become.
The world is standard fantasy fare (the way Pathfinder often is) and at first glance the world looks like any number of fictional places with the standard amount of spiders, dragons, and wizards. What makes Pathfinder: Kingmaker special is that the game feels like a tabletop come to life, not just in design, but the breadth of possibilities at the player’s fingertips. It comes out on PC on September 25th, and I personally can’t wait to fill out that virtual character sheet.