Areelu as main antagonist sucks :(

Just finished my 1st playthrough(Lich/Core difficulty) few days ago and unfortunately the final confrontation and ending left me disappointed. Battle with Areelu was underwhelming and there are both gameplay and story reasons for that.
Gameplay - she was just a very high level mage with ridiculous AC(like many mobs on Core), dropped her hp to 0 with few Maximized Exsanguinates. It wasnt a multi phase fight like Xanthir and certainly not epic like battle against Lantern King(also 3 phase fight). Honestly it needs a serious rework.
As for story reasons - Areelu has some similarities to Nyrissa from Kingmaker or even Irenicus from BG2 but shes nowhere near as cool, charismatic or intimidating.

  1. Show, dont tell - thats the main gripe i have with Areelu. She barely does anything throughout the story, nothing interesting at least. She mostly just shows up from time to time, dumps some exposition, tries to act all mysterious with boring statements like “you have flawed understanding of the situation” or “answers are yet to be revealed” and then teleports away. Yawn…
    Well made villains do all sorts of stunts to make them appear threatening, cunning, powerful etc. This applies to Nyrissa which was first introduced as friendly “Guardian of the Bloom”, then betrays us, tries to kill us multiple times, uses Tristian as her undercover, unwilling agent, prepares all sorts of calamities on player’s kingdom etc. Likewise Irenicus is guilty of many crimes against various factions, people and player’s character as well.
    Fricking Minagho was more interesting than Areelu and finally killing her in Act 4 was very satisfying.
  2. Speaking of mystery - we already know quite a bit about Areelu right from the start. Half demon Sarkorian witch who opened the Worldwound, traitor of humanity etc. All of that however is just 100 year old lore, we dont learn much about her through our journey until the very end when it was too late to make me care about any of the big revelations(about her son for example).
    Again, its the opposite of Nyrissa, Irenicus and other memorable villains - at the beginning we know next to nothing about them and gradually learn more about who they were/are, their motives, goals etc.

Some other issues:
Demons who are the main baddies of WOTR are just not interesting in Pathfinder. They are inherently evil, destructive, scheming, trechearous and so on. No lasting deals or treaties are possible with demons. Their whole society is so ridiculous it just doesnt seem feasible even for a fantasy setting. Its not believable demon lords would get many followers. Why would anyone outside of few crazy psychos(like Cammelia) want to be a cultist when chances of survival(let alone some meaningful reward) are almost zero whether demons win or lose?
Honestly Devils would make much more interesting enemies.

Nenio - awful, obnoxious, immersion breaking, meme character. Also theres nothing scientific about her approach.

Ember - her banal speeches not only converted lots of genocidal cultists but Nocticula herself… Come on!

I still liked the game though. Mythic Paths are great addition which boosts replayability, tons of content, improved graphics/animations, loading times, awesome music etc. but in terms of story/characters/companions - Kingmaker > WOTR

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I do agree with basically everything you said about Areelu. And this applies to the other main antagonists (Deskari and Baphomet) of the game as well. As a rule the secondary antagonists (Minagho, Jerribeth, Vellexia etc.) are significantly more interesting in this game. I do like that they tried to give Areelu some more sympathetic motivations and they even managed to foreshadow that twist pretty well, but other than the final confrontation she basically does nothing all game besides occasionally gloating at the player character.

I don’t agree at all with what you said about demons in general, though. Demons in the broader Pathfinder lore are boring inherently evil creatures with extremely simple motivations, but the game makes pretty big efforts to give them some nuance and ambiguity. Demons in this game are often portrayed as villain and victim both. There is no joy, no happiness, not even true pleasure in their lives - just the suffering of both others but maybe themselves most of all. In fact this is precicely what Ember takes advantage of in her attempts to redeem them, and why she is as succesful as she is. She doesn’t try to appeal to their better nature or a sense of morality, she’s appealing to their selfishness: “You’re the most miserable person I’ve ever met. Does this wanton slaughter really make you happy?”

This is especially true for said secondary villains who are often shown to be driven by very human desires. Jerribeth exhibits a certain fondness towards the Villagers of Wintersun and can even help you later on with no apparent benefit to herself if you work with her in the Ivory Labyrinth. Minagho and Chivarro feel something akin to love towards each other dysfunctional as their relationship is. Vellexia seems excessively curious about this love thing you talk about and the mortal capacity to do good… who knows maybe in her search for new experiences she one day realizes that the only thing she hasn’t tried yet is doing good for a change. Nocticula already seems like she’s bored of demons and their dull evil antics from the moment you meet her, but too jaded to believe in her own ability to change.

Overall I definitely feel like demons in general are more nuanced in the game than in pathfinder in general and I really enjoy that. I do agree with you that the main antagonists of the game are all ultimately pretty dull, though. Even though there was an attempt with Areelu, it wasn’t quite enough.

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I guess the problem with Ember is that she has a very naive undertanding of evil for some reason. She also tends to project her worldview onto others, and guess what, the plot says her projections are right and accurate all along. After all, apparently psychopaths don’t exist even in demonkind.

I agree they are sort of kind of interesting and nuanced, but it also makes them… less demonic, alien and inscrutable and also more… sane. Then again this was the case in original Pathfinder adventure, so it’s hard to find any valid fault there.

I definitely agree about Baphomet and Deskari being quite boring as well, just didnt include them because i wanted to focus on main villain. I didnt expect much from Deskari, after all he represents almost mindless type of evil bent on killing, destroying and devouring everything, kinda like Tyranids in WH 40k.
Baphomet on the other hand was supposed to be this great schemer yet he only did some random acts of evil with no major goal outside of “gaining more power” or just being a dick.

Baphomet is basically just a collection of his own grudges and fears, which he projects onto you if you get him talking. He’s cunning, but doesn’t adapt well at all when someone starts playing by his rules.

Just finished final battle. Agree with OP on somethings, disagree on others.

OP is right about final battle. It was just kinda dull. Ashrekal battle was much better (even if the dungeon before it was awful)

Disagree with OP on main antagonist. I thought Vorlesh was really interesting. Great voice work, good writing and a compelling story.

And while I think BG2 is the best game ever made, I thought Vorlesh was a better antagonist than Irenicus. Sure, we know she did but we end up learning the why. We even feel for her a bit.

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I think we need to stress the difference between the two. Irenicus works actively against the protagonist, hence it seems he is doing more and has larger presence in the story. For a large chunk of the story Areelu supports the protagonist, and often does it in covert fashion (e.g. she makes the party invisible when they reach wardstone).

Many of your plans and actions align with hers, so there is little conflict until the very end. IMO, she really excels at the whole “dance, dance as I say, my puppet” schtick. And I think her and Nocticula’s standing behind all of what happened, was a delicious twist especially when compared with original P&P adventure.

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Well this is true. On the other hand Ember is a child, and not quite a sane one at that so her naivety is understandable. Nor does her verbal jiujitsu work on all demons, in fact she’d be quite dead without the commander there to protect her. But I do agree it seems at times a bit too easy for her regardless.

Also true. I’m personally more than fine with the trade off, though. I never considered demons as stereotypically depicted particularly interesting. They never felt particularly alien or inscrutable, just boring, shallow and predictable. And since demons are born from human souls them being more mundane and relatable is fitting. For alien cosmic horror you have Qlippoths, Great Old Ones or Rovagug.

Yeahhh, but it also cheapens them being evil. On the flipside it also cheapens Angels and similar beings, who despite being said to be paragons of good, in many cases are pompous, self-righteous and criminally naive at the same time, aka virtue signaling, aka fake good. At certain point I stopped wondering why so many angels fall.

But that’s Golarion for you, full of moral relativism and the like.

Thats another reason why she sucks in my opinion - our character has almost no personal reasons to go after her.
Irenicus does a lot on screen, our character is either a direct witness of his exploits or he experiences them through those dream like sequences or they are unknown to the PC but shown to the player in cutscenes.

Well you may decide not to go against her.

You may decide to make her your ally – which was only an option for Irenicus in a Throne of Bhaal mod You can smite her for her evil plot to replace your soul with another, you can play along and trick her at the last second, you can ally with her or sacrifice your self for her.

I liked her Vorlesh, Ember and Nocticula are the high points of the game.

Well, let’s be fair, in BG2 the MC’s motivations were set up in the previous game (with your legacy and your sister). Wotr starts with blank slate protagonist, without any significant past. On the one hand it does take away from drama, on the other it does allow the player to decide what stance he has towards her.

And the protagonist is also a witness to many things Areelu does - e.g. she sets up his saving in Kenabres. There are some dream like sequences as well as journals both “video” and written.

I don’t think she is worse than Irenicus, she is simply a different kind of antagonist with a different set of iteractions, and enjoying her story may be only a matter of personal preferences.

BTW, do you know that in canon D&D Irenicus is “alive” and well in Shadowrealm version of Suldenselar? That kind of made me… sad.

I feel like I’m the only one who likes Nenio. The only thing that’s a bit obnoxious to me are the voiced bits. Pretty much Velma from Scooby Doo and I just never liked whatever that type of voice is trying to portray. “nerdy girls talk through their nose?” They often do the same kind of thing when they want portray the voice of nerdy guys in cartoons and games… Lesko from Fallout 3 is a good example. But most of it’s not voiced and the voice in my head when reading her parts is much better and I really like her character class. “Here… have a few level 12 magic missiles and a level 15 disintegrate” splat

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Eh. I’m new to Pathfinder but I don’t like sci-fi fantasy hybrids. I left Blackwater right away since the whole cybermen theme seemed out of place and ruined my immersion.

I don’t get how science would work in a world of magic, gods and spirits. Okay, unless the answer is divine intervention, demonic corruption, diabolic influences, magic, fey or spirits the scientific conclusion is: _______ . Science just doesn’t work if you don’t start from a naturalist’s position.

So the jokes are fine but they don’t seem to fit into a fantasy game. I heard the devs don’t want to put in gunslingers – which seems like a good call – wish they felt the same way about science.

Well, imo this quest has very 70s and 80s feel when sci-fantasy was very popular (e.g. Star Wars). Back in the day the overlap between fantasy and sci-fi was huge and many video game in 80s and 90s used it as plot twist. For example Might and Magic series and Wizardry series were famous for mixing the two, with some delicious twists (e.g. big bad guy was actually a being from advanced civilization which came to fantasy world to hunt down alien scum, or the fantasy world is actually a version of sci-fi world after apocalypse etc).

So to me, it’s a nice blast from the past. Not to mention that Paizo’s Starfinder line which is all about Blasters and Sorcery. I think Owlcat may try to create their next game in Starfinder universe, though it will likely bomb, since science-fantasy is too pulpy for average audiences (with the exception of Star Wars, I guess)

Warhammer 40k would like a word.

I don’t think it’d have quite the appeal and reach of the Pathfinder games, but I expect it would do alright, especially if they don’t have to reinvent the wheel on the guts of the game.

You overestimate popularity of Warhammer 40k. And I think sales-figures of Starfinder are vastly inferior to Pathfinder - at least that’s what unofficial sources among youtube personality DMs claim.

So I doubt Owlcats could turn profit on a Starfinder game.

Have you looked at the sheer number of sci-fi, Starfinder-ish themed video games there are? Freaking everywhere. Not RPGs, I’ll grant you, but Starfinder games could tap into audience segments that wouldn’t otherwise look at an Owlcat game. Doing a Starfinder AP could also be a way for Owlcat to start a transition into PF2, since it is sort of a stepping stone (system-wise).