Having played other games based on the classic pen and paper setting, I was a little leery about trying Pathfinder: Kingmaker. I was worried about clunky and complicated mechanics, and a regurgitated storyline filled with copy and paste NPC characters that haven’t seen an edit for over a decade. It was more than a pleasant surprise to have been wrong in my worries. For those of us who have a history with Pathfinder and similar tabletop gaming, Kingmaker allows us to dive head-first into campaign bliss.
The game is based on the Kingmaker campaign module, a setting devoted to the players taking over and controlling their own kingdom. Taking over isn’t a stroll in the park, however. You must first lead your party to the Stolen Lands and take the kingdom from the Stag Lord, a self-made bandit leader who has set up his own makeshift community, at the same time competing with a rival would-be king. Once your kingdom is established, it’s up to you to ensure its prosperity.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker plays just like any proper tabletop game. Its controls are instinctual and everything is easily customisable. Before you launch your new game, be sure to check out the settings option first. This allows you to set up essentially your game’s “House Rules”, letting you take the reign on your adventure. Options such as allowing (or not) a character to revive after a battle is over, difficulty on numerous aspects, automatic or manual use of limited quantity spells or items used by characters, and a myriad of useful quirks and setups grips hold of your inner Game Master and quite suddenly makes old habits resurface. There is an additional, and condensed, configuration for your game once you start, handily tying up loose ends.
It doesn’t stop there for excellent customisation. Kingmaker’s character creation ranks easily in my top 5 of all time. The entire creation is so true to the tabletop process that I found myself reaching for my Player’s Handbook more than a few times. Race and class symmetry are easily balanced, statistics and skill points are especially well rounded, and the fact that you can multiclass/take levels in other classes than your starting class at such ease blew my mind. You even get a nifty levelling guide, showing you how feats, skills, etc will look down the line. The only aspect I felt lacking was the character story portraits did not have any connection with the avatar you create.
A key factor a lot of us Game Masters can forget to include in our campaigns is resting and eating. Pathfinder Kingmaker not only incorporates this necessity but does so in a way that makes the whole experience enjoyable. The game utilizes a clock and calendar system that correlates well with timed quests and character fatigue. When travelling on the world map, your characters will get tired, fatigued and eventually exhausted to the point where they must make camp. You are then able to determine who hunts for food, who can effectively hide the group from possible monsters or enemies, the ever-important cook, and the most vital camp guard. Rations and hunting are no joke, so make sure you stock up! Camping in dungeons is also a good way to restore health without expending potions and restoring spells.
Keep your schedule open, Pathfinder: Kingmaker will be taking up a lot of your time. Fantastic customisation, a well-crafted story and overall wonderful interaction will make you yearn for those years of tabletop gaming, yet keep you firmly glued to your computer. Even if you’re a bit rusty, a few playthroughs with different character builds will satisfy your visual tabletop needs.