Pathfinder Adventures Review (PC)
For fans of the tabletop version of Pathfinder Adventures, this is an incredibly faithful adaptation. Scenes in game are adorned with excellent artwork, and well utilised music adds flavour to what can be an otherwise dry and mechanical experience. The writing, whilst not up to Paizo or Obsidian’s higher calibre still has a pulpy charm that gives the campaign a lot of character. The wide selection of heroes and cards allow for a lot of tinkering around between sessions. But this does not make up for the shallowness of the core gameplay experience, which becomes clear after a few hours of play.
The core mechanics of Pathfinder Adventures are easy to grasp. You draw a card, that card has a number to beat and you try to roll over that number with a range of dice. Different heroes have different dice for their strengths and weaknesses. Every mission adds new cards for your hero decks; making them more powerful with every game. Starting out on an adventure captures that classic tabletop RPG feel of kitting out your own character. Each hero can only have so many cards in their deck. The heroes have different limits on the amounts of weapons, armours, items and companions. Choosing between giving your fighter a boring but effective +3 Warhammer versus giving him the more exciting but less reliable Shocking Spear +1 is, for me, always the most enjoyable part of starting an adventure.
Yet, some questionable relics from the base game remain that can ruin the experience. Each mission you play has a time limit of thirty turns where you need to explore a selection of location decks. With a larger party not only does each hero have less turns, you also have to explore more location decks, as there is always two more locations than heroes. This can render some missions impossible to complete in time without purchasing single use consumable items from the out of game store using the out of game currency you’d otherwise use to progress your heroes. I found the best way to beat levels was to take only a rogue, and use their power to evade every encounter until I discovered the card I needed to win. Very effective. Very, very dull.
As I progressed through the two campaigns the gameplay became incredibly tedious. The die rolls can be monstrously unfair, often failing back to back rolls where you have a 99% chance of winning. Enemy monsters can have horrific consequences if they’re not defeated. The player will have to use their entire hand of cards to ensure survival. Yet, sometimes, the damage they do is so minor that it’s not worth trying to roll at all. Instead, discarding one or two cards and then reshuffling the location deck is the best approach. This is where the game is at its weakest, where the best play is to do nothing.
After you get some experience under your belt, there’s not a huge amount of strategic thinking required to barrel through missions. Put your mighty warrior where the monsters are. Your powerful spellcaster gets locked up in a library. Your rogue sulks off somewhere to disable traps. There’s no reason to group up your party when cards will often damage every person in a single location. Each deck has what’s called a seal condition, a card you need to beat in order to remove that deck from play. Seal off all the decks and beat the boss and his cronies and you’ll win the game. Yet, some missions are beatable in a single turn if the boss and his henchmen have been the first cards drawn from the top of the deck. There’s no real sense of victory or loss found here. The end of most missions give a sense of relief that you’ll never have to repeat them again.
If you’ve finished playing through the campaign, or you feel that you enjoy the gameplay enough to warrant spending more money on it, the DLC offers an excellent amount of content for your money. A Fighter’s Tale: Valeros & the recently released Rise of the Goblins alternate campaign are very fairly priced at 3.99 and 5.99. It’s important to note that the Goblins is a self-contained adventure, with unique and non-transferable items. It would have been nice to be able to take my upgraded party of adorable gremlins for a spin in the Rise of the Runelords, but I can see why they wouldn’t allow it. I would definitely recommend picking up Valeros over the Rise of the Goblins first, simply because he adds a little more depth to the main campaign.
In summation, If you’re not already a fan of the genre then I can’t recommend picking up Pathfinder Adventures. It’s not a terrible game if you play it in half hour shots. The mobile versions pass and play feature helps break up the shallowness of the core design. The complete lack of multiplayer in the Steam version brings down what is an otherwise fine game. If you’re already a fan of the tabletop game, or you’re looking for something that’s easy to pick up, then Pathfinder Adventures is a great game. For everyone else, I would recommend giving this one a pass.
6 failed d20 rolls out of 10
For those of you looking for a similar tabletop experience, I would recommend the Warhammer or Lord of the Rings adventure games. They offer a similar, but superior, experience. Shadowrun:Crossfire is also worth checking out for a fresh sci-fi twist on the genre.
The Obsidian Edition of Pathfinder Adventures contains: