Having too few and too structured options in a Game

«You [humans] reveal yourselves best in how you play.»
Q in Star Trek TNG: «Hide And Q»

The last game I tried out was “Pathfinder: Kingmaker”. It’s an RPG using the Pathfinder world and system. And it’s impressive. Interesting world, lots and lots of character options, nice music, and the like.

Really wanted to like it, but unfortunately, I found the gameplay too constricting.

First, you do not make somebody a king, apparently, you become a king. At least, you’re a baron after the first chapter. And you expand your territory and influence afterwards. It makes sense story-wise, but it does not work for all characters. Hell, it works only for a few classes. A rogue managing a kingdom? A monk? Strange fit. It’s something I found strange with “Neverwinter Nights 2” when you got a fortress, but here it’s a … well, story stopper. Much more a fan of games like “The Witcher 3” — you’re following a story, yet you remain free.

Second, “Pathfinder: Kingmaker” uses a class system. It’s more flexible than “Neverwinter Nights” and the like, when it comes to combining classes, but you still have to selected classes. And yeah, you can build some powerful characters this way. By removing story-logic. And it’s constraining. Why select whole new classes, why not focus on specific skills or develop specific abilities. I wonder whether it would be possible to remove the classes and just give players points to spend on abilities and skills. No need for a rogue to select the cleric class to learn how to cast divine spells, hell, there isn’t a rogue (class) per se. Just invest a huge chunk of skill points for a religious experience – and training. Hmm, a bit like the system in “The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim”. The  skill tree was very well made and it improved by performing and training, not by selecting skill when you reach a new level.

So, despite being a really good game, the suspension of disbelief did not work out for me. Couldn’t really get into the story once you were Baron, and couldn’t find a character I liked and that would fit the setting. And I tried out a few. And in that regard things haven’t changed much with RPGs. It’s pretty easy to edit a savegame to give you higher ability scores or experience. Just find the samegames (on Mac, in Library under Application Support), open it with an editor like BBEdit, select the party file within and edit the json-file (it’s pretty much self-explanatory, just search for, e.g., “strength” (careful: works best immediately after the start when you are still in the hall and the only character stored in the save file, otherwise you have to locate your own character among the others; and some attributes appear twice in the file) or “experience”. 3600000 xps gives you level 20, great to find out in which direction a character can develop.

But yeah, nice to try out another world.

Even if only for a little while.