Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is the kind of game that can take over your life if you let it. Its intricate mechanics, engaging combat, and gritty narrative combine to create a heady experience, provided you're willing to put in the time to learn its specific eccentricities. It can be unwieldy, and its depth and difficulty may scare off the faint of heart, but for veterans of computer RPGs (a genre once exclusive to the platform for which they are named) looking for their fix on console, there's very little else like it.
Set in the same universe as developer Owlcat Games' previous title, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, your first task in Wrath of the Righteous is character creation, and it's probably the most difficult encounter in the game.
With 25 base classes to choose from (and each of those having four to six subclasses to complicate things further, so add another 161), 13 Prestige classes to aspire to, and the ability to multiclass any of the above together, you are faced with virtually limitless possibilities in the opening minutes of the game — and it can be paralyzing, enough to afflict even the most stalwart gamer with a severe case of restartitis.
Want to be a Mad-Dog Barbarian, and use your berserker rage to decimate demons alongside your faithful canine companion? No worries, just know that the real move is to multiclass with the Gendarme Cavalier, and at level 7, when that good boy grows to monstrous proportions, you can even ride him into battle.
Set during the final days of a demonic apocalypse, Wrath of the Righteous takes place in the nation of Mendev, a country that has been bled dry through a series of invasions from the Worldwound, a portal between reality and the realm of demons, known as the Abyss. These wars are known as Crusades, and through happenstance, fate, and the nature of RPGs, it falls to you to lead the Fifth Crusade as its Commander.
The gameplay here is classic party-based CRPG fare, with you leading a party of six adventurers through this desolate world. You will meet more than ten extremely well-written companions along the way, each with their own motivations, agendas, and alignments to consider. Your decisions at key moments throughout the game carry weight and can affect many things, so choose wisely, as even trusted friends can become bitter enemies, and not all are as they seem. Don't like any of them? You can create your own, each being as fully customisable as your player character, just without the voice acting or backstory. Even veterans of the Baldur's Gate or Pillars of Eternity franchises will find something new here, as the Pathfinder ruleset really is its own beast.
Alongside this, you will also actually lead the forces of the Crusade, recruiting and managing your forces and commanding them in turn-based combat against demonic armies. It can be time consuming and a little fiddly at points, but you earn some really awesome gear by getting involved, and it serves to make a deep game even deeper. Or, you can simply automate this aspect of the experience if it doesn't appeal.
For a computer roleplaying game, Wrath of the Righteous plays incredibly well on PS4 (or PS5, via backwards compatibility), all things considered. That a title like this can even be mapped to a controller is magic in itself, with numerous menus tied to the triggers and buttons doing double duty. Combat can be played in classic real-time with pause fashion, or in a true turn-based mode (and you can change between the two with the push of a button), meaning you can take as long as you need to commit to an action.
Originally released on PC back in September 2021, the Enhanced Edition of Wrath of the Righteous on console benefits from a year of patching and tweaks, although it certainly still has some bugs. We experienced several crashes, but luckily, the game autosaves frequently, and you can quick save at any point — so we have to imagine this will be addressed through stability patches. It's also perhaps worth noting that the Enhanced Edition does not come with any of the three larger pieces of DLC, although they are available on PS4; rather, it refers to UI, graphical, and gameplay improvements and is not a compilation bundle.
The game's visuals are gorgeous, in a gory, grim kind of way. The world of Wrath of the Righteous is a dark one, but the game's visuals, especially its satisfying audio, fit it perfectly. The sound of a crusader's mace impacting with a demon's skull never gets old, nor does the way their lifeless corpse crumples to the ground, especially from an isometric angle. Magic effects are suitably epic, and some of the later-game enemy models are a site to behold. Production values are high across the board, so much so that you would be forgiven for not realising this one began life as a Kickstarter project.
What really sets Wrath of the Righteous apart, though, is the Mythic Path system, which quite frankly adds a ludicrous amount of replay incentive to an already long game (50 hours main story, nearly 200 for completionists). A Mythic Path is a direction your character can take to become a legend, and there are ten of them. Functionally, each serves as an extension of your player's class, allowing you to choose specific dialogue options and make choices aligned with each, in addition to being able to unlock associated combat feats and abilities — not to mention entire narrative branches and even endings.
Side with the Angels and protect humanity as a boring paragon of goodness, or embrace the Abyss, follow the path of a Demon, and seek power for its own sake, as the cool kids do. Too binary for you? Embrace your capricious side, follow the Trickster's path, and amuse yourself as the world turns to ash. Why not something wilder? As a Lich, reject the living and form a party made up of undead companions, or with the Swarm-That-Walks, feed on all living creatures and the world itself as a sentient cloud of carnivorous insects.
It's hard to overstate how different each Mythic Path is and what an effect each has on your character mechanically and in terms of narrative. Hats off to Owlcat Games for including such variety, and while it's true that not all Mythic Paths are created equal (we are looking at you, Gold Dragon), each is worth pursuing in its own right and offers another reason to start the adventure all over again. And considering most players will follow the bog standard Angel path, there is a mountain of content here the majority of players will never even see, with much of it being well hidden.
The depth on offer is something of a double-edged sword, and it's hard to describe how within the confines of a written review. The scores of Feats (abilities) you can use to create your character can just as easily hamstring them if you don't know what you're doing. If you're a particular kind of broken person (like us), you'll spend just as much time researching Wrath of the Righteous as you will playing it, and even then, you can get things wrong. This is a very difficult game, even in its normal setting, and fascination oftentimes goes hand in hand with frustration.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is one of those forever games, like the legendary PC titles that came before it, such as Arcanum, or Baldur's Gate 2, where you will find yourself returning to it every couple of years and somehow still finding something new. It's lightyears ahead of most video games when it comes to telling a complicated, morally grey narrative — but it sometimes staggers under the weight of its intricately interlocking systems.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a must-play for those looking to truly lose themselves in a dark fantasy world where choices (both narrative and mechanical) matter. For those on the fence, or for the uninitiated, do some due diligence before you commit, as this is the kind of game that makes you work for it. If you're willing to take this particular journey, to walk the path that it demands, you are likely to find freedom almost unparalleled, and a roleplaying experience in a league of its own.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Enhanced Edition was already one of the best RPGs on PC, and on PS4, there's virtually nothing else like it. With an enthralling narrative, evocative world, and nearly endless build variety and replay value, Wrath of the Righteous is a glorious game to get lost in for whole weeks at a time.