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Being evil sucks in Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

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I have a tendency to play villains in RPGs. At least on my first run, and if I haven’t decided to make a Chaotic Neutral weirdo. This means I open myself up to quite a lot of disappointment. For every KOTOR or Tyranny, with their nuanced approaches that manage to strike a balance between darkly entertaining and properly menacing, there are countless Fallout 4s, where allowing you to be a bastard is at best an afterthought. With Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, an RPG that lets you become a lich or a demon, I had very high hopes. They’ve been utterly dashed. 

The main obstacle Pathfinder puts in the way of prospective monsters is one shared by too many RPGs: you are a chosen one, a hero everyone seems to have faith in, and no matter what you do you’re always going to have this reputation as a saviour. It creates a dissonance straight away, letting you act like a complete arsehole with only a half-hearted acknowledgement. Just murdered a bunch of innocent people in front of your kind paladin? At best you’ll get a critical comment, but then it’s back to saving the world. 

Now, this is a vast RPG that I’ve only played for 30 hours, so maybe the consequences of my actions will come back to haunt me, but that possibility isn’t much of a salve. I don’t want to have to wait 100 hours for the game to acknowledge the way I’m roleplaying my obviously awful necromancer. 

(Image credit: Owlcat Games)

I could probably stomach the lack of reactivity a bit more if the dialogue options for evil characters were actually engaging, but Pathfinder has some of the most awkward alignment-based writing that I’ve seen in ages. Even though it uses a D&D-style arbitrary alignment system, that still leaves the door open to some nuance. There’s a huge gulf between, say, Lawful Evil and Chaotic Evil, and on the surface this seems to be reflected, with Pathfinder letting you roleplay as someone very keen on the law who’s still extremely evil. The problem is that none of these traits ever coalesce into what feels like a whole person. Instead, it’s entirely inconsistent, making you act like a bootlicker one minute, and then an out-of-control, rampaging murderer the next. 

It’s entirely inconsistent, making you act like a bootlicker one minute, and then an out-of-control, rampaging murderer the next.

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