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There were so many announcements during the WWDC keynote yesterday that even people who follow Apple for a living (and expected most of the details) were overwhelmed. New versions of iOS, OS X, and watchOS were only three of the biggies, alongside the official debut of Apple Music and a lot of small but interesting new details.

1. iPad Split-Screen Modes. If I had to pick just one new feature announcement as the biggest game-change at WWDC, it’s what Apple is calling Multitasking — a collection of three different ways to split an iPad’s screen into segments.

Slide Over: A 1/3-screen pane that gives you an elongated iPhone-like view of one app while the other continues to occupy the full screen behind it.

Picture in Picture: Continue to watch a video or make a FaceTime video call while you’re using another app, thanks to a movable, resizable window that can be placed anywhere on the screen.

Split View: Expand the Slide Over pane such that it takes over 1/3 or 1/2 of the screen, leaving the other 2/3 or 1/2 free for the formerly full-screen app. This is only supported on the iPad Air 2, for now.

2. Proactive Assistant. I don’t know any iOS user who wasn’t (at least quietly) jealous of Google Now’s ability to help Android users plan their days — using information culled from emails and other data, evoking privacy concerns. By bulking up Spotlight search results with location data and information on your routine use of your device, Apple is trying to offer more and better information automatically without crossing into “creepy” territory. From my perspective, Proactive is a lot more limited than Google Now, but anything that makes iOS more useful without having to dig through apps is a plus. Ditto on seeing much-needed search improvements to Spotlight on the Mac.

3. watchOS 2 SDK: A More Capable Apple Watch. Partially because the Apple Watch segment of the WWDC keynote seemed like a speedreading exercise, none of the user-facing features Apple added in watchOS 2 really stood out as a game-changer. I’d personally be surprised if any of them convinced a hold-out to get off the fence. But third-party app support is huge, as it opens the door for the Watch to become useful across a million niches that will eventually attract millions of customers.

4. Performance and Battery Boosts. Calling one hour of extra iPhone run time or 1.4x-4x Mac app improvements a “game-changer” might seem like a stretch, but Apple’s basically turning the key reasons people historically upgraded their hardware — speed and better battery life — into software improvements. For free. Who wouldn’t want a peppier, longer-lasting iPhone, or an iPad that can actually handle multitasking without killing its battery?

5. News. Missing from the early iOS 9 beta, the new News app has the potential to be a very big deal. There’s no question that Apple seriously messed up with Newsstand, crippling the feature within iOS 7 and 8, while ignoring publisher cries to properly support them. And cynical people may look at News as little more than an Apple effort to clone Flipboard, potentially monetizing third-party content in exchange for a nicer UI to navigate that content. But the UI is indeed gorgeous, and a lot of publishers will be willing to forget about Newsstand to give it a shot. If Apple pulls News off correctly, it could easily become a daily must-use alternative to RSS readers, Flipboard, and similar apps.

6. Notes. Notes doesn’t get a lot of attention, and it has barely been updated over the years, but it’s one of the very few apps I keep outside of a folder on my main Home screen for immediate access. Apple has seriously bulked it up in iOS 9, adding basic drawing and measurement tools, formatting and checklist tools, the ability to add multimedia content, and a 100% iCloud-based sync engine. Notes just went from “useful” to “crazy useful.”

7. Transit Maps. Again, it might seem like a stretch to call the addition of something arguably small — mass transit directions — a “game-changer,” but this was actually a huge omission from Apple Maps on the day it launched, and has limited its utility for huge numbers of people in major cities. The more cities Apple adds to Maps’ Transit feature, the more widely used the app is likely to become as an everyday point-to-point mapping solution.

8. Apple Music. A lot of people use Spotify and similar music subscription services, enough to have actually made a dent in music sales for both the industry and iTunes Store. I’m not going to tell you that I would sign up for Apple Music myself, or that I found the overall pitch to be compelling, but I haven’t signed up for any competing service either, and wouldn’t for $10 per month. Other people obviously feel otherwise, and having the feature integrated into iOS 9’s Music app, the iTunes Store, and the Apple TV is going to be a very big deal for them.

9. Apple’s New Keyboard Solutions, Including QuickType. This is a big deal that looks like a small deal, but fixing the messed up iOS 7/8 shift key by borrowing the “shift the entire keyboard” feature is a welcome change, and some of the briefly-mentioned iPad keyboard tweaks — support for accessory keyboard shortcuts and swipe-through-the-keyboard gestures — again hint at what Apple’s been planning for a more powerful iPad Pro. The changes mightn’t seem huge on the surface, but for a more Mac-like iPad, they have a lot of potential.

10. Safari Quality-Of-Life Improvements. From pinned tabs — being able to keep a Facebook tab perpetually active in the corner — to mute controls for increasingly obnoxious interrupting audio, to AirPlay-to-Apple TV video streaming directly from a Safari tab, Apple is bringing a ton of additional multitasking-like power to Safari. These little tweaks will make the overall browsing experience a lot better for people, and extend the power of web pages into your HDTV in a very Chromecast-like way.

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These Machines Were Supposed To Help Win The War In Afghanistan. What Happened?

This week the world has witnessed the stunning, historic takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban forces, marking a dramatic end chapter to roughly two decades of American-led war. 

As recently as May, the United States maintained a network of bases across the country, supporting the government it had backed for nearly 20 years in an ongoing war. This week, the number of troops deployed by the United States has quadrupled from the 2,500 it was in May. Meanwhile, the area of US control has shrunk to just Hamid Karzai International Airport, where the United States is overseeing evacuations of foreigners and vulnerable populations out of Afghanistan. 

The flights out have seen heroic feats, like the C-17 transport that carried out hundreds of people. There have also been fresh tragedies, with Afghan witnesses reporting between three and four people falling from the outside of a plane, before crashing onto houses near the airport. Human remains were also found inside the wheel well of a C-17 after it landed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, according to an Air Force spokesperson. 

The airport, located in the country’s largest city and capital, is named for the long-serving former president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a government that existed in July and may not anymore. The Taliban, a group that once ruled most of the country and waged a decades-long insurgency to reclaim it, proclaimed the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan today.

The shocking events are the latest chapter in a war that saw the direct arrival of American troops in October, 2001, when the United States arrived leading a multinational invasion against the Taliban. This invasion followed the 9/11 terror attack by al Qaeda on the United States, which was planned and coordinated from training camps inside Afghanistan. 

[Related: The Taliban have seized crucial US military equipment, including data on Afghans]

But for Afghans, their long years of war began far before that, with a palace coup in 1979, which then led to a decade-long occupation by the Soviet Union, who fought that entire time against a coalition of armed insurgents in Afghanistan. After the USSR left in 1989, regional warlords fought and factions coalesced, with the Taliban consolidating their control over most but not all of the country by 1996.

Over the nearly two decades of direct US involvement in this war, between the eras of Taliban rule, over 170,000 people were killed in the violence. These numbers include an estimated 66,000 Afghan national military and police, and estimated 51,000 Taliban and other insurgent fighters, and a minimum of 47,000 Afghan civilians. (A higher estimate, by the Costs of War project at Brown University, places the total dead in fighting that spanned Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan at 241,000 people, with at least 71,000 of those civilians.)

Observers are still figuring out what led to the rapid collapse of the Afghan National Defense Forces, which came just over a month after the United States had vacated the massive Bagram Air Base it used to headquarters much of the war effort. It is a rout with both immediate and likely much deeper seeded origins. The consequences of that abrupt end, from feared reprisals to the diminished futures under a deeply different vision of government, have led to a rapid exodus from the country, especially among Afghans who worked with the United States. 

Popular Science’s ‘War Report,’ revisited

In February 2002, PopSci took a look at the machinery of the US war in Afghanistan. Titled “War Report,” it was written as “troops were on the ground and phase 1 of the war was ending.”

As the likely last phase of the US role in the war in Afghanistan draws to a close, it is time to revisit those weapons. The story of the war is much more than the machines used in fighting it—wars are prosecuted by people, of course—but the machines matter because they are a broader part of that process. Looking at how the weapons were used and heralded on their first use in the war in 2001 offers some insight into what changed, and what didn’t, in the intervening decades of combat.

Five aircraft were featured prominently in “War Report” for their role in the dawn of the war. Many of them are still flying today, at the sunset of the war.

A B-52 is refueled over Afghanistan in 2023. Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott / US Air National Guard

The B-52

The Air Force’s longest-serving bombers were already old by the start of the October 2001 invasion, and are now practically ancient. As War Report acknowledged, “the newest of the B-52s used in Afghanistan was built in 1962, long before many U.S. airmen were even born.”

The AC-130

Also flying above the skies of Afghanistan this August were AC-130 gunships, which first flew into action against the Taliban in 2001. Operating almost like an 18th-century ocean-going ship, the AC-130U “Spooky” gunships that flew in 2001 had three big guns sticking out of the left side of the craft, which it would fire while circling people, buildings, or vehicles below. These weapons include a gatling gun for use against light vehicles (like trucks), an anti-aircraft cannon that can be fired at longer range than the gatling and with somewhat more accuracy, and a howitzer artillery piece, used to destroy buildings. 

The Air Force formally retired the AC-130U gunships in 2023, replaced by the similar AC-130J “Ghostrider.” The Ghostrider features a similar array of guns, and adds to that package several bombs and missiles, including the Hellfire missile common on armed drones. 

A MQ-1B Predator in Afghanistan in 2023. Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys / US Air Force

The Predator

Alongside the B-52s and AC-130 gunships that attacked Taliban forces this summer were MQ-9 Reaper drones, the direct descendant of the more-famous Predator drone. (The lineage is so direct that Reapers flown by Customs and Border Patrol are known as Predator-Bs.) In 2001, Predators flew above Afghanistan.

Predators had seen war before, flying above Bosnia and Kosovo and other countries in the Balkans in the 1990s. In fact, Predator drones based in Uzbekistan even flew over Afghanistan in the summer and fall of 2000. These Predators were operated by both the Air Force and the CIA, and were unarmed surveillance planes, useful for directing other aircraft to a target but incapable of launching attacks with weapons of their own.

Arming Predators with anti-tank hellfire missiles, which were lightweight and fast and could kill clusters of people as well as destroy vehicles, fundamentally changed the role of drones in the war. By February 2002, remote pilots using Predator drones had successfully launched fatal attacks against people linked to al Qaeda in Afghanistan, a role Predators would pursue there and above countries like Yemen and Somalia for years, until all Air Force Predators were retired in March 2023, with their job replaced by Reapers. (The Gnat, an even earlier drone that led to the Predator, was also flown over Afghanistan in 2001).

An RQ-4 Global Hawk in an undisclosed location in 2010. Staff Sgt. Eric Harris / US Air Force

The Global Hawk

The Global Hawk is as massive as drones go, and capable of flying for over 30 hours continuously. (As a remotely piloted vehicle, that means switching remote pilots multiple times while the Global Hawk is airborne.) The cameras on the Global Hawk allow it to scan vast sections of terrain, letting one vehicle keep watch over entire battlefields.

Global Hawks are still in use today; one older model was famously shot down over the Strait of Hormuz near Iran in 2023. The Air Force is actively trying to retire more of its older models in less dramatic ways, though Congress has prevented that effort out of a concern that the absence of surveillance by these drones would impede US missions. Beyond cameras, the Global Hawk drones use high-resolution radar to track movements below.

The E-8C Joint STARS

Looking like a business jet with a long bulge underneath the fuselage, the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JointSTARS) is a modified Boeing 707 jet. The E-8C saw action in the 1991 invasion of Iraq. Its flight crew of four keep the plane airborne, while a “mission crew” of people across the Air Force and Army operate the sensors inside. The long radar built into the belly of the craft is the chief tool of the plane, and it can look for vehicles moving on the ground up to 150 miles away. 

“The radar system acts much like a VCR in the hands of one of the 18 operators onboard the plane,” said Popular Science in a phrase that perfectly dates the story to 2002, “who can fast-forward through images recorded during the previous 6 hours or run them backward to show, for example, where a column of vehicles originated.”

Radar is built to track movement, so if a vehicle stops moving, the human crewing the radar can record the stop for when movement starts again. Once the E-8Cs arrived over Afghanistan in 2001, they stayed in the broader Middle East for 18 years, moving on to other theaters and other missions in 2023. The Air Force plans maintenance and upgrades to keep the fleet flying into the 2030s.

Iphone Keeps Restarting? Try These 10 Fixes

When your iPhone keeps restarting over and over again, the whole iOS experience seems to get stuck in a boot loop.

Been there, done that. I can feel the agony you’re going through right now. Enough of the random boot loop, it’s time to look for fixes and take control of the unexpected restarts your iPhone is going through.

Why does my iPhone keep restarting itself?

From what I’ve experienced, a software bug is usually the force behind an iPhone that keeps restarting. But that doesn’t mean other culprits like problematic apps or cluttered storage aren’t responsible for the chaos.

Third-party malicious certifications and faulty chargers that cause an iPhone to restart itself while charging are also usual suspects.

What to do if your iPhone keeps restarting itself

Now that you know what could be behind the issue, you may be asking: So how do I fix an iPhone that keeps restarting? Well, these solutions have you covered:

1. Force restart iPhone

Once in a while, a random glitch tends to sneak in and begins to cause problems. When that happens, a hard reset comes to the rescue more often than not.

So, if your iPhone is stuck in a restart loop, the first thing you should try is to go for the force restart.

Did your iPhone start rebooting repeatedly after an iOS update? If so, this issue could very well be due to a software bug. The right way to troubleshoot it is to go for a software update.

Open Settings → General → Software Update. Now, follow the usual process to download and install the software update.

3. Remove the SIM card and reinsert it

Phones tend to get stuck in a restart loop if the device’s connection to the wireless carrier is facing a problem. Thankfully, one of the easiest and most reliable ways to fix this connection issue is just by removing the SIM card and putting it back inside.

First, shut down your iPhone. After that, use the ejector tool (or a safety pin), which comes with the iPhone in the box, to pop out the SIM tray. Remove the SIM card. After that, wait a few seconds and then reinsert the SIM.

4. Determine if an app is causing your iPhone to restart

If the problem continues even after a software update, track down the problematic apps and remove them. So, how do you figure out which apps are behind this issue?

Well, iOS comes with a feature called “Analytics” that works effectively in diagnosing issues. After a thorough test, it digs out the problematic areas, making it a little easier for you to find out the culprits.

Go to Settings → Privacy → Analytics & Improvements → Analytics Data.

Now, scroll through the entire list and spot the apps that might have been listed repeatedly. Once you have discovered those apps, removing them from your device could solve the issue.

Outdated apps tend to create a lot of problems. They can affect the overall performance of the device, and even cause your iPhone to crash unexpectedly. So, if your device has some apps that haven’t received love from the developers in some time, make sure to wipe them out

On iOS 13 or later

In iOS 13 or later, there are multiple ways to delete an app. One of the easiest ways is to touch and hold an app and then tap Delete App in the popup that appears. After that, tap Delete again to confirm the action.

On iOS 12 or earlier

Simply touch and hold an app and then hit the X bubble. Next, hit the Delete bubble in the popup menu to finish.

You can also update apps manually as and when you want. To get it done, head into App Store → Your Profile → Tap Update All to update all the apps installed on your iPhone in one go.

7. Clean up your iPhone

If your iPhone is still restarting, cleaning up the entire device may help in fixing the problem.

Corrupt files or cluttered storage could be at the heart of this issue. But before going on this marathon of a cleanup, don’t forget to back up all of your important files.

To help you track down all the storage-hogging files and delete them with ease, we’ve created a complete guide. So, hop on it to remove unnecessary files carefully.

Find the process of removing useless files manually a tedious affair? Check out these storage cleaning apps for iPhone.

Side Note:

While I can’t say with 100% certainty, clearing out RAM could help in taking control of this problem.

I also recommend that you delete any third-party certifications you may have installed on your device. Go to Settings → General → Profile & Device Management and delete the displayed certificates.

8. Reset all settings

Now we’re going to wipe out all the existing settings and set the device back to its default state. This solution may sound a bit radical, but it often proves handy in getting rid of common problems. So, let’s hope that it’s able to resolve the issue.

Head into Settings on your iPhone → General → Reset → Reset All Settings.

9. Check for a hardware problem

Dropping your phone a lot may also cause the iPhone to get stuck in the boot loop. If your device has recently met a nasty drop, there could be a hardware problem.

A worn-out battery may also be behind the problem. If it’s found to be the culprit, you can get rid of the issue just by replacing the faulty/worn-out battery.

If your iPhone keeps restarting while charging, make sure the Lightning port is clean. Pocket lint, dirt, and debris may have piled up over time, preventing the smartphone from charging. So, clean the lint and gunk stuck in the charging port and then try to charge the device. If the problem remains, try charging your device with another cable.

Though third-party services charge a lot less, Apple Support is more reliable. So, if you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks in favor of a trusted solution, contact Apple for help.

10. Restore your iPhone as new

Restoring an iPhone as new is something that I usually save for last as it’s known as a last resort when it comes to fixing software problems. It has a solid record of resolving stubborn issues like failed Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. I hope it succeeds in troubleshooting this problem as well.

But before going ahead with the following steps, don’t forget to back up all of your data as it will wipe out everything that your device has on it.

Now, check if the problem is gone. If it is, you’re good to go! But if it’s still there, try to restore your iPhone in Recovery Mode (check out this detailed guide.)

If it was a software issue, your iPhone should go back to normal after an update or a clean restore. In the event of a hardware problem, contacting Apple Support is always the right way to go for a reliable solution. Of course, Apple charges a lot more than third-party services, but when it comes to reliability, the first party solution always has the upper hand.

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A self-professed Geek who loves to explore all things Apple. I thoroughly enjoy discovering new hacks, troubleshooting issues, and finding and reviewing the best products and apps currently available. My expertise also includes curating opinionated and honest editorials. If not this, you might find me surfing the web or listening to audiobooks.

Opinion & Poll: Will In

iBeacon seems to be making a pretty rapid transition into the mainstream, with stores like Apple, Macy’s, American Eagle, inMarket and bars all adopting it – as well as non-retail applications like Major League Baseball parks.

If you’re still not familiar with it, our iBeacon briefing provides the low-down, but the tl;dr summary is that when you walk into a retail store equipped with iBeacons, you’ll be invited to allow alerts to be sent to your iPhone. Say yes, and the store will be able to send you messages and invite you to view content based on anything it knows about you and where you are in the store.

The question is: will iBeacon alerts be a welcome way to add value to our visit, or just a new form of spam … ? 

My own view is it will very much depend on how intelligently retailers implement the system, and that personalization is key. Let’s start with examples of iBeacon alerts I’d welcome.

Store-wide offers (eg. spend $50 today and get 10% off)

This is about the only type of generic message I would welcome. It’s equally relevant whether we’re in the market for a new gadget or a new pair of shoes. Almost everything else, though, I think needs to be targeted based on either what the store knows about my purchase history, or from my in-store behaviour.

Specific product offers relevant to me

If stores use apps linked to loyalty memberships (or Apple ID in the case of Apple Stores), they ought to be able to base offers on purchase history. For example, if Apple knows I recently purchased an iPad Air but no case, it could send me offers on those.

Brand new products relevant to me

If a store knows I bought a bicycle GPS device there three years ago, and now there’s a much better model just out with a bunch of new features, it would be reasonable to let me know about it. Ideally, it would then use its awareness of my location in the store to guide me directly to the product. (Note to gadget retailers: I very specifically do not want to know when there’s a better model out than the one I bought just three weeks ago …)

Information & videos on products I’m looking at

If I’ve been standing in front of a product display for 30 seconds or more, it’s reasonable to assume I’m interested in it – and I’d welcome being sent a link to more product information or to a demonstration video.

What I don’t want to see

But what I don’t want to receive are offers on random products, ‘just in’ news on products that are of no interest to me, and links to product information just because I walked past a display.

I don’t want to know that it’s the store’s fifth anniversary, that there’s a live demonstration of a new Lego toy about to start, that there are hair-care representatives available for free consultations or that I can get a store card right now on the fifth floor.

Send me alerts relevant to me, and I’ll be a happy customer and you’ll probably sell me more stuff. Send me junk, and I’m going to decline future invitations and you’ll probably make me feel less inclined to shop in your store into the bargain.



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Opinion: Mac Business Is Booming

 Apple’s Mac sales shot up 50 per cent year-on-year in April, driving a 46 per cent spike in revenue, according to the NPD Group.

NPD also revealed that – far from slowing down – iPod sales also jumped 15 per cent that month. And Lehman Brothers analyst Ben Reitzes reckons new Mac laptops – equipped with MacBook Air-type touch technology – are on the way. (And maybe more).

“Checks are indicating that the attractive look of the Air may make its way into other models in terms of slimmer, metallic designs. We believe these notebooks will be popular for the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons,” the analyst said. Oddly, that’s what we were saying last week…pegging the date as July-ish…(We predicted the iMac intro a month early too, fact fans).

It’s just the latest in a string of industry trend-beating news from Apple Inc. As 9 to 5 Mac reported (before the majority of the Mac web) earlier this week, NPD figures show Apple to be the brand of choice in the high-end laptop market. An astonishing 66 per cent of laptops sold in the US costing $1,000 or more are made by Apple. While Apple’s share falls to just 14 per cent  in the sub-$1,000 bracket, it’s an incredibly significant figure all the same. (And yeah, we know those Windows Fanboys will begin to chunder on about how the only Mac we can buy for under $1,000 is the Mac mini, get over it, those cheap PCs just don’t offer the same degree of utility, usability or features as a Mac, and run a second-rate OS).

Apple’s making market gains through a combination of factors: superior operating system, better-featured and aesthetically-designed Macs, a world-class retail store chain, and the increasingly vapid WIndows market. Apple’s iPod and iPhone have put the corporate brand into consumer minds, meaning that 50 per cent of Macs sold through Apple’s retail stores are going to users new to the platform.

High-tech also counts: I think many experienced industry watchers missed the significance of the MacBook Air when it shipped: but the whole notion of a computer you can put inside an envelope has caught on on the streets, people remember this. Which is why Apple’s recent 10Q noted: “The increases in Mac net sales and unit sales were driven primarily by sales of the new MacBook Air, introduced in January 2008, and higher sales of the iMac and other Mac portable systems.”

Proof of the pudding’s in the eating: Mac unit growth reached 51 per cent and 48 per cent in the second quarter of Q2 and first six months of 2008 respectively – exceeding the industry average.

Apple’s laptop sales climbed 61 per cent, with 2.29 million Macs sold in Q2, 1.433 million of Macs sold were laptops.

Surging Mac sales caused Apple CEO Steve Jobs to reflect last October: “The question is, are we headed for a tipping point, it sometimes feels like that.”

IDC claims 23.5 million computers were sold in the first quarter of 2008 in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, which is equivalent to 19 per cent sales growth over Q1 2007. Apple’s overall Mac sales in Europe climbed 45 per cent in the March quarter.

And the effect? Apple accounted for 7.58 per cent of all US Internet users in March, up near 15 per cent, year-on-year. And Apple is now the leading supplier of laptops within the US education markets.

So while those inexpensive PCs may dominate the market share numbers, when it comes to users looking to make a serious computing investment in order to actually, you know, do stuff, Apple’s growing share and dominance in the $1,000-plus category promises great things…

….and isn’t the Mac mini due an upgrade soon? With near $20 billion in the bank, is there any real reason now Apple can’t ramp-up its competitiveness at the lower end of the market? (Not one they’ve traditionally played in, I agree).

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Pathfinder: Wrath Of The Righteous Game Review

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous game review




Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a vast, involving RPG epic worthy of your attention.

You will embark on a quest across the land of Golarion to face an ancient evil.

The 80-hour campaign can be played multiple times with different choices.

In many ways it’s hard to believe that Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous began its life as a Kickstarter project. Although, it’s easy to see why a Kickstarter launched in February 2023 has borne a game so vast in such a short time.

It was funded out the door in no time (thanks in part to the popularity of Pathfinder: Kingmaker), with developers Owlcat Games raising 2 million USD on an original target of just 300,000.

It’s fair to say though, that they’ve put it to very good use.

Pick from a pre-made hero, or create your own

A truly epic quest

Wrath of the Righteous is huge. It’s an 80 – 100 hour game per playthrough, with scope for scores of playthroughs. Set in the vast world of the Pathfinder tabletop RPG, it introduces new characters in a storyline totally separate from the previous game.

The character creator is one of the most in-depth I’ve seen. Not in terms of visual tweaks necessarily (you can’t sculpt faces like in Skyrim, for example), but rather in terms of building a truly unique character.

There are 12 playable races, from humans and elves and half-elves, to dark-elves and halflings. The lore of the Pathfinder universe is very similar in the broad strokes to the Forgotten Realms, so anyone familiar with D&D will feel immediately at home among the races of Golarion.

But there are also 25 Classes to choose from, each with as many as six specializations that completely alter the initial skills and abilities of the class. You can even multi-class if you want to, and cherry-pick skills from multiple classes as you progress.

Some of the classes are locked to specific races, others to specific alignments. This affects base stats and starting weapons, while other elements are directly influenced by the deity your character worships and which intrinsic skills you select.

You could be a charming rogue, an evil spellcaster; you could be a reckless healer or a softly-spoken swordsman. The choices feel endless, and it’s easy to spend a solid hour or more creating your character before you even begin the game.

Stay awhile and bicker

Tell me a story

Keeping this spoiler-free, it’s suffice to say that an evil force is ravaging Golarion once again and you’re the only one who can stop it. So far, so CRPG, right? Well, that’s fair.

But Owlcat games have poured hours and hours of dialogue (spoken and written) into a wildly branching narrative that takes into account hundreds of player choices both large and small.

From big decisions such as sparing an apparent enemy to smaller ones like which dungeon to delve into first, everything can and often will have an effect on the story.

As you travel the lands you’ll meet and potentially recruit 13 companion characters. You can select five at a time to accompany you, and as usual, the onus is on picking companions who complement your protagonist’s skills.

If you’re a tanky warrior, you’ll need a healer, some ranged support, and maybe a couple of spellcasters to harry the enemy.

Deeper yet, outside combat you’ll need a character who can pick locks, spot traps; maybe one with high Agility to help you reach certain areas. Bring along a character with high lore or arcane knowledge to glean a better understanding of the world at large.

All of these elements have a bearing on not only the way you play but also on what content you play, as you can lock off whole storylines or unlock new ones by your choices alone.

Later, a mythic path becomes an option, allowing you to specialise your character even more, and opening up even more choices and interactions.

Battles can be in real time, or turn-based

Swords and sorcery

Combat is deftly handled, as Owlcat gives you an impressive list of options to customise the proceedings. You can opt to play fights turn-based, if you want to, allowing for greater strategic control and a more traditional tabletop experience.

Or, you can leave it in real-time with a tactical pause to assess the fray, allowing you to stack commands and course-correct a battle that’s quickly going south.

The former certainly makes things easier, but you can tweak the combat difficulty to the umpteenth degree anyway, reducing the damage of critical hits, for example, or completely restricting the enemy’s use of special skills.

Every fight feels different, with certain enemies requiring specific tactics. You can group your party together to focus fire, or split them to tackle multiple foes at once.

There are spells and special attacks, items, scrolls, pets, summons, traps, and environmental hazards, and on higher difficulties, you’ll need to use everything at your disposal to stay alive. Including good old trusty save-scumming to quick save and quick load your way out of trouble.

But combat is only one ingredient. The role-playing element here is arguably one of the best I’ve played. Decisions matter, as I said, but that’s not the be-all and end-all of an RPG.

Equally as important are the supporting characters and NPCs, but especially your party members. Each is as well-written as a single protagonist in many games.

The player characters you recruit are a diverse bunch

Dungeon party

They have views and opinions, likes and dislikes; some are fickle in their beliefs while others will straight up leave the group or turn on you based on how you lead. You can re-spec their skills and change their gear, but you’ll have to contend with their personalities as though they were real people.

As you travel the world map from point you’ll come across points of interest and random encounters, and even these can change depending on your party and character choices.

A wealth of side-content spins multiple yarns that take you around and through story missions, in ways that feel so organic, you’ll occasionally lose track of which is the critical path. Luckily, the journal and quest-tracking systems work well.

After a certain point in the story (again, no spoilers) you’ll unlock the Crusader Mode, wherein you’ll command entire armies at war to reclaim fallen cities and lost outposts. You will need to make camp, provision your troops, hire reinforcements and choose generals to lead them for you.

It’s an odd element to juxtapose with Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous’ epic campaign, but it kind of makes sense in practice.

If I have a complaint though, it’s that the Crusades feel bland and mechanical next to the colour and pizazz of the campaign. Yes, you’re in control of an army, but Total War this is not, and after a while, you’ll just want to auto-complete battles to move on.

Party battles are simply more fun and feel more real given the game’s CRPG nature. If Crusade mode wasn’t present, no one would be asking for it, let’s put it that way.

Explore a vast world of danger and excitement

Achievements and completion

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is gargantuan. It’s hard to put an exact hour-count to it because you could possibly rip through the main campaign on the easiest possible difficulty inside 30(-ish) hours.

If you want a truer experience, it’s a minimum of 70 to 80. If you want everything? Well, see you some time next year, we guess. You can also play through it multiple times and I couldn’t begin to guess how many runs you’d need to see all possible storylines and side quests.

Final thoughts on Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Pros A huge, involving world that reacts to your choices An in-depth character creator Excellent writing and world-building throughout Cons Crusade mode is take-it-or-leave-it Deep, complex systems may overwhelm newcomers

Final Score: 4/5

Playing this on a fairly decent PC I ran into zero issues with input lag, screen tear, frame rate, or load times. It’s a fantastic CRPG that is as accessible to genre newcomers as it is to veterans who cut their teeth on the original Baldur’s Gate.

The story has so many twists and turns and branching paths that you will never fully predict what’s coming, and you won’t want to. Discovering the depth of this world is part of the fun, and something you’ll only truly manage with countless hours invested.

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous has some spectacular writing at times, while the vast campaign, immense character progression systems and stellar combat will keep you hooked.

If anything, Owlcat would have lost little by snipping the Crusade mode out, but it’s churlish to complain about being given more of something, right?

Disclaimer: Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is currently available on PC for around $34.99 on G2A, Kinguin, GreenManGaming and GOG, and is coming to consoles in the future.

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