Pathfinder Adventures for iPad is a digital adaptation of the card and dice game of the same name. Based on one of the Dungeons and Dragons rulesets, there is a great deal that is pleasantly familiar here. Fortunately, the gameplay isn't one of those things. As each adventure begins, you will be given access to a series of locations. Each of these locations contains a stack of cards that contains both boons and banes. Boons are blessings, weapons, and armor. Banes are monsters, henchmen, and villains. While most of these are self-explanatory, I need to take a moment to explain the last two on the list. To complete each adventure, you will need to defeat a boss, or as its called in Pathfinder Adventures, a villain. This villain can appear at any location, but more on this in a moment. Each location, in addition to hiding various monsters, will also hold a more powerful enemy called a henchman. Each henchman is unique, and can only be found at its originally determined location. Defeat the henchman, and you can close the location for the remainder of the adventure. This is important because the villain card can be dealt to any location, but if you defeat it before defeating all the henchmen, it will simply flee to (e.g. be shuffled into the deck of) one of the remaining open locations. There's no way of knowing where it is, of course, so expect to fight villains more than once on every adventure; unless you are very, very lucky.
Gameplay is actually quite straightforward for a game with such a complicated set of rules, phases, and counters. Locations are explored by drawing cards from their associated decks. Whether a boon or bane is drawn, the process is the same; use your cards and skills to improve your chances of beating the drawn card's associated number. Win the dice roll and win the boon or beat the bane. Lose, and watch the boon card be buried, and the bane card deal damage to you. What makes Pathfinder Adventures unique, however, is that it is not a competitive game, but a cooperative one. Other members of your party can play their own cards during each others' explorations. This means if you're using the game's pass-and-play option to play with friends (and the promised online multiplayer), you can all pitch-in to help each other. The game's excellent digital implementation takes the guesswork out of this phase by showing you an exclamation point next to the portrait of party members who have cards or skills that could help, and by highlighting these cards/skills to show you what can be put into play. These cards/skills can provide +1/+2/etc. modifiers as well as add additional dice. Although the dice rolls are obviously luck-based, the art of the game is to know how much of your resources to use for any given encounter, as well as the initial deck building and party placement (different locations will have different features to them that make them more suitable for particular classes than others). As fun as pass-and-play can be, it really can't hold a candle to online multiplayer to give a game some real legs and longevity. Fortunately, as previously mentioned, this feature has been promised, and could really wake a sleeping giant on the App Store. Lastly, it's important to cover how Pathfinder Adventures is monetized. As with most games in today's App Store, it is free to download, and all content can be purchased with in-game gold by the very, very patient without spending any real money. Of course, this currency can be purchased by the player for a price that seems to be consistent with other games of this type. However, for old-school premium gamers like myself, you can purchase everything in an all-inclusive bundle. For $25 you will get two additional adventures (and four more when they are released), all 11 characters, a character add-on deck, and promo cards with each adventure deck. While the price seems about $10 too high to me, it's clearly a better value than purchasing everything individually, and completely eliminates the need to worry about gold ever again as all gold earned in-game can be used to purchase booster packs (also optional).
Pathfinder Adventures is a surprisingly fun mashup of dice/card/role-playing games; once you get your brain wrapped around the mechanics as well as the deep, and not so obvious strategies. Although I can't review a game based on promised features, I can tell you that solo adventuring is quite fun, and since the first two adventures are included in the initial free download, there's really no reason not to give it a whirl and see if it's for you. If you're still reading at this point, chances are, it is.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - A high level of visual polish brings the original cards to life on your small screen, even if animation is minimal. Sound: - 3 - The audio isn't a big selling point, but since the physical game comes with no sound, it still feels like an upgrade. Controls: - 5 - There's lots going on, but once you learn what everything does, it's simple to navigate and play. Gameplay: - 4 - The current lack of online multiplayer knocked this down to a 3, but the tried and true gameplay and the rare incorporation of cooperative play, brings it back to a 4.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Those unfamiliar with the game may need to play the tutorial a few times to understand what's happening. Keep an eye on your party members to see who can help with a particularly important encounter. Conversely, don't waste boons to ensure winning unimportant encounters. Pay close attention to which party member explores which location. Look for synergy between location and member.