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Game Info:

Pathfinder Adventures
Developed by: Obsidian Entertainment
Published by: Asmodee Digital
Released: June 15, 2017
Available on: Android, iOS, macOS, Windows
Genre: Digital card game
ESRB rating: E10 (alcohol reference, mild fantasy violence)
Number of players: 1
Price: $9.99 (Steam), free (mobile); microtransactions available, DLC available

I've been a fan of the Pathfinder game setting since I first learned about it. While it may seem to some to be yet another fantasy tabletop game setting with some steampunk leanings, there's just something about the world of Golarion that draws me in. So when I received Pathfinder Adventures as part of a Humble Bundle a while ago, I was eager to try it out.

I have to admit that I've never been so disappointed in my life.

Pathfinder Adventures is apparently the digital version of a card game of the same name. Although set in the same world and bearing a lot of the same artwork, it barely represents a true role-playing game. The game barely glosses over the world and contains virtually no storyline, leading to a sad mess that is all mechanics and no heart.

The game consists of several scenarios, each of which must be unlocked in sequence. There are many decks of cards in each scenario – one for each location, and one for each character you play. There also is a “blessings” deck that serves as a countdown timer. You can collect a group of adventurers (your party can consist of one to six characters, each of a different class) to try and track down a villain hiding in one of the locations. Your characters can “close” each location while trying to find the villain. If you do find the villain and defeat it, it can run away to a different location – unless said location is “closed.” Once the villain is cornered, you complete the scenario and can move on to the next one.

Pathfinder Adventures
Highlights:

Strong Points: Good graphics
Weak Points: Nonexistent storyline; convoluted rules; dull gameplay; repetitive music
Moral Warnings: Magic use; presence of undead; fantasy gods

However, this is easier said than done. Each time it is a character's turn, the “blessings” deck discards a card. Once this deck is empty, the game is over. With several locations to go through and a large deck of cards at each one, it's entirely possible that you'll lose before you even close any locations. I've played through the first scenario several times, and haven't even seen the villain I've been hunting for!

As you go through the locations, your characters will come across several cards that act as items. These can be collected to help make the character decks more powerful, so there is a bit of a deck building mechanic involved in the game. The game doesn't give you any hints about what would be good cards to keep or toss, though – it's a matter of trial and error. Each character has a limit to the kinds of cards they can have in their decks, too. For example, the Sorcerer character isn't allowed to have any weapon cards in their build, while the Fighter deck doesn't use any spell cards. These character decks also serve as “hit points” for each character in the scenarios, too – take damage, and you have to discard cards from your hand. If your deck runs out, that character “dies,” and is out of the scenario for good.

There are other rules that I haven't even touched on yet (such as what it means to “banish” a card), but suffice it to say that the game is rather convoluted, and even the decent tutorial doesn't cover all the elements to the game. What really is puzzling, though, is that the gameplay is surprisingly dull. You draw a card, try to defeat it by rolling dice, using cards, or selecting powers (or, more than likely, a combination of all three), then move on to the next character. There isn't really anything exciting or dynamic about the gameplay. It feels more like a tedious grind than a cohesive game. Then again, with virtually no story elements to the game and no multiplayer at all, there really isn't much appeal to playing in the first place. You may as well get a normal deck of cards and try tossing them individually into a hat. You'll probably have a better chance of winning while doing that as well.

Pathfinder Adventures
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 58%
Gameplay - 6/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 86%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 8/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The graphics to the game are nice, largely lifted from the tabletop source materials. They're static in their limited animations, though. The music is pleasant, but there isn't a lot of variety to it, so it gets old pretty quickly. Sound effects are minimal, and voice acting nonexistent.

As for moral concerns, they're pretty typical fare for a fantasy role-playing game. Undead appear frequently as enemies – and although I haven't encountered any in the game, it wouldn't surprise me if demons get involved eventually, too. You can choose characters that practice magic, and some characters get divine magic from different gods in the polytheistic world of Golarion. I've read that microtransactions are available on portable devices, and allow players to purchase daily boosts to help make the gameplay easier. (Given the difficulty, it wouldn't surprise me if this is deliberate – frustrated players feel compelled to purchase boosts in order to finally complete the scenarios!)

As much as I enjoy the Pathfinder setting, there is no way I can recommend this game. It is a difficult, tedious slog and a poor representation of the game world. I don't know if the physical card game is anything like this, but after playing Asmodee's adaptation of it, I have no interest in finding out.

About the Author

J. Todd Cumming

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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