Pathfinder: Kingmaker released to mixed but generally good reviews in Fall 2018, including on IGN. But the deep CRPG didn’t stop at launch, with updates addressing a number of the criticisms pointed out in the IGN review making it today, a much better version than what shipped. Now, that new-and-improved Pathfinder: Kingmaker is heading to PS4 and Xbox One along with one other major update: a turn-based combat mode.
If you already play and love Pathfinder without the turn-based option, don’t worry, it’s just that – an option. But if you do want to give it a try, it’s being patched into the PC release of the game as well; this won’t be a uniquely console experience. I got to watch a demo with Owlcat Games creative director Alexander Mishulin, who noted that the turn-based option started as a mod made by the Pathfinder community.
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In its official implementation, you can simply click in the right thumbstick to turn it on or off at any time – and yes, you can play with a gamepad on PC too, if you like. For instance, Mishulin brought his party to an encounter with a pack of three Greater Worgs. (If you’re unfamiliar with Pathfinder: Kingmaker when diving in, it will remind you a lot of Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic, but with an old-school Baldur’s Gate-style isometric camera perspective.) You cannot queue attacks with turn-based combat, but it seems to flow pretty quickly if you want it to; you attack with the next party member up, then it cycles immediately to the next character’s turn. If the battle ends up obviously decided at any point, you can simply click in on the right thumbstick again to switch back to real-time combat so that the fight will end sooner and you can move on. You can also pause anytime in real-time combat, give orders, then unpause and your orders will be executed by your party.
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I appreciate that there are tutorials for turn-based combat the first time you activate it, in order to help you get a feel for how the change to the system works. A handy combat log on the right side of the screen shows all your bonuses applied to each attack, whether you hit or missed, how much damage you dealt, etc. After moving through a couple more battle scenarios, it seemed like the gamepad interface has been really well-implemented, though admittedly I was not able to play for myself. When watching it being played, it looks like it was built that way from day one.
While I wasn’t shown Pathfinder: Kingmaker on a stock PS4, Mishulin says it still runs reasonably well on the original 2013-era consoles, but you might see a bit of slowdown here or there that you shouldn’t get on the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. Owlcat is still optimizing. It looks gorgeous no matter what, though; its art direction is very reminiscent of BioWare’s aforementioned original Baldur’s Gate games. Pathfinder: Kingmaker hits PS4 and Xbox One on August 18, including the new turn-based combat option and every previous update the game has had. The PC version, meanwhile, gets the turn-based mode that same day. If you’re looking for a meaty CRPG to chew up a lot of free time, this updated release of Pathfinder looks like it’ll tide you over until Cyberpunk 2077’s release a month later quite nicely.