When the Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous game was released last year, it had a lot to live up to given that it was attempting to follow up on the Pathfinder: Kingmaker RPG, which is widely regarded as one of the most epic titles of this generation of computer RPGs. However, developer Owlcat Games did top their previous game in a lot of ways with Wrath by offering more complex character interactions, a bigger world and lots of new spells and abilities – including a mythic path where heroes could eventually become angels, devils, dragons, legendary monstrosities, a Judge Dredd type of character and quite a few other interesting choices. And while you were not building a kingdom, you were liberating one from an army of demons, which in many ways was even more challenging.
Our GiN review heaped praise onto Wrath of the Righteous, and we eagerly awaited the promised DLCs, because even after going through an 80+ hour grand campaign, we really wanted more.
Unfortunately, most of the DLCs for Wrath have been kind of lackluster. There is a lot of discussion online and on the Steam forums asking how Owlcat Games is able to make such amazing core content, but such disappointing DLCs. I don’t really have an answer for that other than, and I am just guessing here, Owlcat probably sees DLCs as a chance to experiment and try something different – things that they would not want to risk doing in their core games. The problem is that experiments often fail, and Owlcat seems to have proven that. The Inevitable Excess DLC failed because it was mostly one gigantic string of puzzles, and just like with the Nenio quests in the core game, the interface is not really designed to give players all of the visual clues they need to solve the puzzles. You can’t zoom in, rotate or otherwise manipulate the puzzle tiles, so all the squiggly lines painted on them look very similar sitting in your backpack. Then the second DLC, Through the Ashes, had an interesting concept with a low-level character trying to survive using their wits, but a pretty poor level design that more or less required you to specialize and be one of a handful of character types if you wanted to have a good chance at survival.
So, now we come to The Treasure of the Midnight Isles DLC, and it’s probably the best of the lot, although that is not saying too much. Here, the developers wanted to clearly create a rogue-like experience (not the D&D rogue but a rouge-like game where if you die you can’t go back). They do this by creating very difficult enemies, preventing your party from resting other than at very specific points because of the corruption, and – this is probably the worst aspect of the DLC – forcing players to adventure in Iron Man mode so that they only have one save slot. And you can’t even save whenever you want. You have to find special save statues in the dungeons, like it’s 1998 again and we are helping Lara Croft find save diamonds hidden in tombs.
And even with all of those headwinds, I still managed to have a nice time with The Treasure of the Midnight Isles, although it did get a bit repetitive after a while. In terms of the premise of the DLC, remember that the Midnight Isles are comprised of dead demons that were slain by Nocticula. You will be tasked with exploring them, collecting treasures and slowly gaining power so that you can, well, explore more islands. There is really no story and no overarching plot to the DLC, although there is a bit of backstory that can be learned as you collect artifacts from bosses. You start in the abyss, but why you are there or what your motivation (or curse) is for constantly going aboard a cursed ship for deadly voyages is unclear. Maybe your character is saving up enough gold to get a badass cosmetic procedure or something.
Having no real plot does free up players to create any kind of character they want, so the DLC is a perfect chance to try out an undead assassin build, a halfling cavalier, a tiefling mad dog barbarian or whatever else you can think up. And while that motley crew is still alive, they can earn perks that will carry over to the next group of adventurers you build for your next run.
You start with one character in your party and can get another by talking with one of the very few NPCs in the game. They are located right where you start the DLC. Thereafter, you can earn more party members by finding them on the islands you explore, because the map shows you which islands have new party members as rewards, so you just need to sail to them. New party members are blank slates keyed to your main character’s level, so again, this DLC gives a perfect chance to try out all those crazy classes you never got around to playing in the core game.
The goal of The Treasures of the Midnight Isles DLC is to book passage on a weird ship made of bone piloted by an even weirder helmsman. You will be shown a map with a small collection of islands and the rewards that you can gain (in addition to all the treasure and magic items that you find on slain monsters) by sailing there and conquering it. You are also shown a difficulty rating for the island, so you have a lot of information to make a good choice. You won’t be able to visit every island on a map. As you visit each island along a “chain,” you will almost always be closing off other travel options. You have to visit four islands and then all the possible paths converge onto a final island that will end in a boss fight. Once you beat that boss (or if you beat that boss) you will be taken back to the starting harbor where you can sell your loot, buy new gear and then get ready to set sail again. Every run is exactly five dungeons, unless, of course, you don’t make it that far.
Each island is basically a dungeon. None of them use any special tile sets that we have not seen before. The creatures are also the same ones from the main game. Each island does at least have a theme, so that, for example, it might be an elemental-based dungeon, or one filled with undead. Sometimes your party is also randomly subjected to a so-called undertow force, which is basically another penalty because, well, the developers must have figured the core DLC just wasn’t quite unfair enough. Undertows can take different forms with varying degrees of nastiness. Some examples include an island that summons a monster that attacks spell casters whenever they try to use magic, or a rapid aging force that makes your characters get older and weaker the longer they stay there (which thankfully dispels when you leave that bad M. Night Shyamalan movie set of an island). There are also some epic undertow penalties that are truly like a big F-U to players, like one where a random lightning bolt just comes down every so often and randomly deals massive damage or outright kills players. Yeah, fun stuff there, Owlcat. Thanks for that one.
This is balanced somewhat by the fact that you generously level up in the DLC. And you also gain mythic levels by visiting islands that have Nahyndrian crystals as rewards (the levels that have them make sure that there is one such reward on every possible path, so you can’t miss them.)
Now, I said that I had fun with The Treasure of the Midnight Isles DLC, and I really did. That is because I enjoyed beating the challenging islands, and I did this by first always choosing paths that got me new characters, something I would highly recommend doing as early as possible in any run. By doing that, I could build a full and balanced team. For example, in one run I added a cleric and a rogue to compliment my barbarian (with animal companion) melee build. Then I added a sorcerer and another melee character. I gave my spellcasters bows or crossbows (and the stats to use them) so that they would have something to do when we got to those islands where magic was nerfed. And on the ones where some elemental force tried to randomly kill us, protection from elements – mass kept us safe as long as we watched the 10-minute countdown timer on the spell.
Then it was just a matter of using good tactics like we learned in the core game. Kill the spell casters first and the archers second. Summon undead to quickly put up a meat shield between you and the melee opponents. Make sure your rogue is armed with a longbow, has fast stealth and is always hidden so their first shot will be a backstab (ideally against those aforementioned spell casters or archers). Haste. And don’t charge forward. Let the enemies either run into your summoned undead or race across the battlefield to close the distance with you, but without enough action points to actually attack that same round. Then swarm in and attack, working together to concentrate attack power on single enemies so you can drop them quickly. Doing all that, there were only a few times when I felt like the DLC was being exceptionally unfair, and even then, I was able to overcome it – although just barely in a couple cases.
Whether or not you will enjoy The Treasure of the Midnight Isle DLC will depend on how much you like engaging in combat in the Wrath of the Righteous core game, especially challenging combats. Because you will be doing that almost exclusively in this DLC. If that sounds appealing, then set sail to The Treasure of the Midnight Isles on this bloody adventure and find out how great of a tactician you really are. However, anyone looking for a story or even light role-playing will not find much loot in these isles, so you are better off charting a course for friendlier waters.