Surprising No One, Pathfinder Still Incredibly Confusing In Video Game Form

Surprising No One, Pathfinder Still Incredibly Confusing In Video Game Form
Image: Owlcat Games

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, the recently released character RPG developed by Owlcat Games, seems really neat. I like the writing so far and the character work seems solid. But holy shit, it has possibly the most overwhelming character creator I’ve ever touched. If your game asks me to process 25 different classes, each of which has like 4 archetypes therein, I am going to need to take a nap before I actually finish the damn thing.

Wrath of the Righteous is directly based on the original Pathfinder roleplaying-game system, which was notoriously crunchy. For those of you who are unfamiliar with tabletop crunch, if a game makes you keep track of more than like…five numbers, and keeping track of those numbers is necessary for you to actually play the game, then the game is crunchy. Crunch can be good! Often times crunch and player expressivity are spoken of in opposition to one another, but this isn’t always true.

Luckily, the person running your in-person game can just toss out the crunchier aspects if you don’t like them. That’s the power of TTRPGs, you only have to do the shit you find interesting. This is summarized in the rule of cool. If the thing your player wants to do is cool, and narratively reasonable, throw out whatever rules you want to make it happen. A specific class or race doesn’t get access to a particular alignment? Fuck that! Rule of cool baby.

Sadly, the same cannot always be said for video games based on TTRPGs, which bring in all of the crunch, and none of the accompanying flexibility of a real game master. When I would normally just make a cool character and let my GM sort out balancing the game around the messed up weirdo I made, in Wrath of the Righteous I actually have to put together a sensible build. Which is fucking hard, because its Pathfinder, and Pathfinder has a lot of shit in it. Again, there are 25 goddamn classes in the video game.

This is compounded by the fact that the game’s introduction to the Pathfinder system only really starts after you’ve built your character. Like all of the text is on screen sure, the game tells you what rolls use what stats, but it doesn’t show you any of it in practice beforehand. I would’ve given anything for a pre-character making prologue that actually gives you an idea of what a good build looks like. And sure, the game does have premade archetypes to make all of this easier, but there is a joy in making a fucked up weirdo of your own.

Sadly that joy is buried underneath well over a decade of nearly inscrutable systems.

I want to make a cool guy in your video game, I really do. I just do not have five hours to do it. I am happy to spend five hours pouring over reference materials when hanging out with my friends, but I am not doing that shit while alone at my computer to play a game by myself. Please make your shit more approachable. I am begging you.

Comments

  • Sorry. Completely disagree. More choice = more good. Flexibity and nuances make for a better game for many players, but if you’re struggling with that you can roll a fighter, put your stats in Str and Con and press start.

    Have fun.

  • Pathfinder only works with a certain amount of minmaxing even in standard difficulty.

    At least there’s story mode for Jank, but that’s way too easy. Just left click even as a primary spellcaster.

    As a dm, I have found that I can’t enjoy them as much as actual ttrpg because you can’t modify things on the fly to maintain challenge while allowing player creativity.

    But that’s the kind of sacrifice that has to be made for a video game unfortunately.

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