The Wrath of the Righteous
Owlcat’s video game adaptation won’t be due out until sometime in 2021, with the Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Kickstarter campaign just kicking off today, but it’s already well into development. The Wrath story itself takes place several years after the events of Kingmaker, in another nation, so while some of the peoples and places you recognize from Kingmaker may be a reference, Wrath of the Righteous isn’t a sequel or really connected
“We’re taking the story and making a CRPG out of it: a lot of choices, a lot of consequences, a lot of topics like corruption and redemption,” said creative director Alexander Mishulin. “Will you be willing to sacrifice people to reach your goal?”
“We consider ourselves GMs [Game Masters] for this adventure: we’re adding some stuff, removing some stuff, adding more choices and consequences, adding more side stories, and stories about companions.“The biggest change we’re making to the source material is we’re allowing players of any alignment where the original adventure was strongly aligned toward good characters fighting the demons,” Mishulin said. This is important since Pathfinder has a wealth of character classes to pick from, some of which didn’t make it into Kingmaker but will be coming to Wrath of the Righteous.
Owlcat has announced it’s adding the Witch and Oracle classes to Wrath of the Righteous, with more classes to be announced as development continues. And that translates to a ridiculous amount of additional content with no intention of watering down the complexity if you’re looking for it.
“We really like how deep our character customization is, and our fans also like it. In terms of gameplay, we had about one thousand spells, feats, and abilities to build the characters [in Kingmaker], and for this game, you can expect that number to grow two times over,” Mishulin said.
Unfortunately, if you’re jumping into a CRPG as a novice there’s a bit of an uphill battle – one that’s well worth the climb, but it’s a climb all the same. Not only are you learning how to play the video game, but you’re also learning how to play the tabletop game at the same time. It can be daunting if you’re unfamiliar with either, let alone both. So Owlcat tried to figure out a way to keep the depth fans love and be inviting enough for new players, without being overly handhold-y.
“We’re not going to lose the depth of the game. We’re be building an unobtrusive, integrated, optional tutorial that not only teaches how to play our game but also the Pathfinder system itself,” Mishulin said.
For example, during character creation, if you want to play an archer and you want that archer to be really charismatic, Wrath will have little tools tips that say, “Hey, archers use dexterity as their primary attribute, so you might want to build into dexterity to have a really effective archer.” And you’re free to ignore it if you like, but it’s there.Another example is the crazy number of stats-modifications and how they interact with one another. If there’s a conflict between buff spells and items, or buffs and buffs, or items and items, Owlcat plans to spell those out. So if you’re wearing full plate mail with a high armor class and put on a ring of protection and wonder why your overall armor class isn’t getting better, the tooltip will tell you – armor class buffs from items don’t stack, so since your plate mail armor class is much higher of than the ring, we’re just counting the better of the two so that ring is useless on this character. That’s just an example but they’ll drill down as far as they need to go on these.
But compared to Kingmaker, Wrath of the Righteous will change in some ways – namely in technical improvements, development tools, and the grand strategy layer. But the most obvious will be tone. Wrath focuses on a demonic invasion and, well, demons are a little more intense than the pissed off fey creatures of Kingmaker.
“This time around, as most games these days, we’re going a bit more dark, a bit more epic, and a bit more realistic,” Mishulin said. “It comes with the territory because we’re fighting demons and demons tend to do bad things to people and you have to show that.
We’re making a little shift in that direction. We still want to have lighter parts to the story and we still want for you to have a spectrum of emotions, not just doom and gloom, and ‘everyone’s going to die eventually.’”
Like Kingmaker, the Wrath of the Righteous story will kick off with your character thrust into the events – a demonic invasion of a major city – because they were in the right place at the wrong time. And like Kingmaker, you’ll still be splitting time between your character and the party’s exploration and that higher-level strategy element. In Kingmaker, it was wrestling the Stolen Lands into submission to build a kingdom from nothing, and navigating the pitfalls of diplomacy in a wilderness positively lousy with curses.
In Wrath of the Righteous, Owlcat is moving on from the comparatively pedestrian problems of would-be rulers, focusing instead on your goals as the upstart leader and architect of the Fifth Crusade. Demonic and devilish fiends are everywhere, and like the many crusades before you, you’ve got to gather an army, upgrade and outfit it, assign officers, and set goals for them and their troops as you collectively pierce the heart of the invasion and beat back the Demon Lords of the abyss.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Creature Concept Art
“We liked how the strategic layer allowed us to show the companions in a different perspective as a governing person rather than just one of your followers,” Mishulin said. “And we liked how it allowed us to show you a more strategic part of the nation-building and solving the crises to decide what kind of nation you’re going to build.
“The same principals are being applied to Wrath of the Righteous strategic layer but on the scale of a crusade. So you’ll be improving your army, solving some conflicts, and managing some logistics like scouting and your companions will help you with that. And you’ll also be able to recruit troops to send them across the map to battle demons. It won’t be that kind of Total War experience, because that’s another whole game, but it’ll be closer to Warlords or other strategic games.”
But like differences between running a nation and managing a crusade, there are fundamental differences that Owlcat sees as opportunities to improve that strategic layer this time around. Namely, time. In Kingmaker, time was the greatest enemy. While exploring you constantly had to be wary of how long you’ve been away from the capital, lest things start going sour and your kingdom comes apart. That’s not going to be the case in Wrath of the Righteous.
“Time was a great tool to make you remember to go back to your kingdom and address problems,” Mishulin said. “There are consequences if you neglect your kingdom and it worked well because that’s what a king should do. Time was used to teach you how to manage your personal time between exploring the map and managing your nation.“In the crusade war effort, I wouldn’t say there’ll be no time quests at all, but the importance of time will be far less than Kingmaker. For me, time is a tool to tell a story. And for nation-building time is an essential tool, but for a crusade, an army is an essential tool and we’re using the army for this.
The grand strategy crusade element of Wrath of the Righteous is still in development so many of the details are still coming together or being fleshed out. But along the way, there will be tough decisions and you’ll be able to shape the fiber of the crusade as you navigate it both morally, strategically, and logistically. For example, Hell Knights – brutal anti-paladin types that are only concerned with the letter of the law, not the morality of it – will play a major part in the events of Wrath of the Righteous. They get the job done, but with demons and devils on one side, do you really want hell knights on the other? Your decision.
The Path of the Mythics
Much firmer are the developer’s plans to introduce the Mythic Paths – a separate advancement path not tied to your character’s main class or level – your main character class, that allows you to tap into incredibly potent otherworldly forces to harness powers that make up the fabric of the universe and impact the main story.
“Mythic paths are an additional layer of character development that was introduced by Paizo specifically for the Wrath of the Righteous tabletop adventure to allow your characters to become even stronger and fight the demon lords, demigods, and entities of similar power,” Mishulin said.“We’re taking the initial idea but we’re approaching it more thematically. So we’re allowing you to become a specific powerful being that affects both the story and strategical and tactical options. So when you select the Mythic path at the end of the second chapter you can merge the main story with this new progress path.”
The first of the four mythic paths that Owlcat is talking about now – with more to be announced later – is the Angel, the leader of celestial forces. He’s essentially the “good” archetype that can summon angels, heal, and protect. His story is entangled with the main storyline and if you select him you’ll be seeing some special choices that aren’t available to other mythic beings.
The second mythic path is the Lich. Liches are what happens when an incredibly powerful magic user pursues power and immortality above all else, performing profane rituals that turn it into an unbelievably potent undead creature.
As the lich, you’ll be able to recruit some of the enemies that you’ve defeated to become your undead minions and eventually your complete party can be comprised of these minions that serve under you. For example, when you kill a boss and choose to bring it back from the dead, it becomes part of your collection.
The third path is Aeon, the cosmic judge of balance. He’s here to fix balance when things are out of sorts and he usually finds the guilty side and destroys it. He’s not good, he’s not evil, he’s lawful. As Aeon, when traveling through the city he’s seeing who’s guilty of destroying the balance and he can try to go up to that person and talk to them to understand what’s happening, then he decides if he wants to fix it, or kill this person, or something else entirely.
The coolest part is Aeon can travel back in time to fix the greatest imbalances. For example, let’s say there’s a spell caster that was corrupted in the past and now he’s here enhancing the demons during the invasion. Aeon can go to him, speak with him, open a portal to travel back to the event that corrupted him, complete the event and change it appropriately, and when he returns this spellcaster is no longer helping the demons. Now all these demons are suddenly weaker and your fight against them is much easier. That’s an idea of the kind of power Aeon has and how it can impact your gameplay.
The last mythic path Owlcat has revealed so far is the chaotic Trickster. He’s in here to have some fun, pull some pranks – he’s kind of a Loki type. One of the more meta and interesting Trickster traits is that he understands that beyond this world his fate is governed by dice rolls – kind of a tap on the fourth wall.
Since he’s aware of that, he can manipulate those dice rolls. Every time the system rolls a d20 for him he can change it into a 20 and you’ll be able to see that in the logs and everywhere else.
It’s still early in production but The Wrath of the Righteous is already shaping up to be a worthy successor to Kingmaker with a welcome flair for the dramatic in its darker subject matter. For more on Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous you can stop by its Kickstarter campaign to follow along.
Brandin Tyrrel is a Senior Editor at IGN. You can find him on Unlocked, or chat over on Twitter at @BrandinTyrrel.