There’s something to be said for a very focused narrative in RPGs. Those are valuable, especially when the story and gameplay are good, but in 2021, Owlcat Games took a good story and made it one of the most versatile and player-choice-driven experiences of the entire year. In Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, the land’s turmoil is just one element of the story. Much more of it is up to the character you are, what they believe in, and how they respond to the journey playing out before them.
In Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, you are an adventurer who has made your way to an area known as the Worldwound. It’s a thin and cracking barrier that stands between the earthly plane and that of the Abyss, and demons continue to seep through. When the grandest demonic lords of the Abyss hatch a scheme to open the Worldwound further, it falls to your character to take action. Your decisions could close the Worldwound and bring salvation to the land. You could also lead it to damnation or further consequences in between.
What works to set Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous apart from a lot of RPGs is the sheer depth of character design. You don’t just choose a race and a class (of which there are a lot of both already). You also choose their alignment, what they believe it, and even further things associated with them. Are they brash, adventurous, prone to accidents…? Do they believe in a deity? Do they believe in nothing? Are they inherently evil, good, chaotic, or lawful? These are all choices that bear consequence upon the choices you’ll have in game.
It helps that Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is also very considerate of the dialogue choices you make and the companions you’ve brought with you. Your party members have distinct personalities and could have their own effects in both reaction to the events as they play out and the things you do. That said, being that this is a sequel and Owlcat was mindful of criticism in its previous Pathfinder game, they also worked very hard to make sure your choices matter far down the line in the game. Something you did with a heavy consequence on either you, your party, or the world won’t disappear further along in the quest. The game is excellently consistent in its storytelling despite having given the player so much choice.
Add this rich RPG world and freedom of player choice to excellent execution of either real-time or turn-based isometric RPG combat and interaction (switchable at the tap of a button) and Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a game you can start over and over and face vastly different experiences each time. That’s enough to handily earn this game the title of Shacknews Best RPG of 2021.