The Pathless Review – Finding Your Path
When it comes to new generations of consoles, you’re always so excited to try out the best of the best of what can be shown on the newest hardware. Demon’s Souls, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and more are there to push these consoles to show off their best features (though some of them are on the previous generation as well). While I am excited to play these games as well, I like to look at some of the smaller games, where unique art styles reign supreme. So, after Astro’s Playroom and Bugsnax, the first PS5 game I actually purchased was The Pathless.
The Pathless is an action-adventure game developed by Giant Squid and published by Annapurna Interactive. From the creators of ABZU comes their next interesting experience, with themes surrounding the ideas of religion.
Before you even get to gameplay, you can tell this game is gorgeous. Its unique artstyle, which blends cartoonish looks with amazing designs, make for one stellar looking game. And it all looks good even when in movement, as the motion blur (which you can turn off), even on high, isn’t as ridiculous as some other games. With its colors and designs, this is a good case on why smaller games can look better than even the most realistic looking of games. And all the while running at a smooth sixty frames per second on PS5 is a feast for the eyes.
Slay The Gods
In The Pathless, you play as a woman known only as The Hunter as she arrives at an island to lift its curse that has the whole world clenched in its grasp. Armed with her bow, and joined by an eagle companion, she sets out to stop a man known as The Godslayer from creating what he calls “The One True Path.” To do this, she must save the gods that have been corrupted by his power and cleanse the lands back to their original state.
To do this, she must purify each of these gods. In order for this to happen, she must collect the emblems of these gods by exploring the regions each corrupted god stalks, solving puzzles with all the tools and mechanics available to her. Once she has the sufficient number of emblems, she must insert them into a tower, of which there are three in each region. These towers will then shine their lights upon the god, and weaken them to prepare them for the hunt.
Movement in this game is unique compared to others. While most open world games would just have you run from place to place with maybe a stamina meter that refills over time, in The Pathless you need to shoot targets to regain stamina. These targets are scattered about the map, so there’s plenty to go around. I for one enjoy this as it keeps you engaged in the game, and even allows you to train with your bow to get used to how it feels.
Wielding the bow in this game is rather interesting, especially with the Dualsense adding some resistance to the triggers for extra immersion. First, you won’t be aiming, instead you’ll lock on to a target and hold down the trigger. The more you hold it down, the more the aiming diamond will fill, the more accurate your shot will be. Or, if you get the timing down pat, you can release once the diamond is halfway full, and get a faster perfect shot. It’s not just aiming and shooting, there’s actual thought put into the mechanics to make the game not just be a mindless walking sim where you’re running from place to place collecting emblems.
The activities you do to acquire these emblems varies from platforming to puzzles. And these aren’t just basic puzzles that require barely a thought, but instead some genuinely interesting showcases of the use of this game’s mechanics. To solve these puzzles, you’ll need all that you have with you; your bow, your eagle, and your spirit vision, a tool that allows you to see things invisible to the naked eye. And don’t worry about not being able to complete certain tasks, as there’s enough things to do to earn emblems that you won’t be starved for finding more.
The Gods Stalk
However, beware as you explore each region, for the god is skulking around, searching for you relentlessly in the hopes of stopping you. You don’t need to be on your guard at all times, though, as each god can be easily spotted by their huge red sphere of anger. If you are caught in it, your eagle is thrown far away from you, and you must stealth your way back to your eagle, all the while the god is looking for you. If you are caught, you fail, and your eagle is damaged, requiring you to cleanse it with your hand by petting it. Yes, petting is an actual mechanic.
And you’ll need to pet your eagle to make full use of it. The eagle will be a huge component in not only getting around through the use of gliding, but also being able to move large distances by using your bow to shoot targets in midair. Along with this, there’s a mechanic where the eagle can flap its wings to pull you further into the air for extra time in the skies. You start with being able to do this once, but you can increase that number over time.
Anyway, once the three towers have been activated, and the god is weakened, this is where the real fun starts. The Hunt. As the god runs through the entire region, you must chase after it, keeping your stamina gauge full so you can be at full sprint to even catch up to it. Then, once you’re running alongside it, you must shoot the targets on its sides. Eventually, it will start to fight back as you chase it, but once all the targets are taken out, it moves to the next phase.
Hunt The Gods
The next phase varies between each god, which is refreshing since I expected them to all be the same of just chasing after them, and then fighting them in an arena. The first one is just that, but the ones afterwards have their own things to keep things fresh. It was a very welcome surprise.
Of course, these boss fights wouldn’t be nearly as tense or exhilarating without the gorgeous soundtrack composed by Austin Wintory. In this, he utilizes many different instruments, such as the baritone violin and the oud, among others. And yet again, another indie game that uses some throat singing with tense violin playing to get you right into the mood of the hunt. The entire soundtrack fits with the feeling of adventure you get when exploring, discovering new things, and especially when the hunting starts.
As for the sound design itself, it does its job well. I don’t remember too many unique noises, but one of my friends did point out that the eagle, when in a god’s sphere of anger, sounds like someone blowing a whistle weakly. And now I can’t stop thinking of that whenever I hear it. Otherwise, the sounds work, some are even satisfying, so I can’t really complain about the quality of that.
No Dead Ends
In fact, I don’t have much to complain about at all. The price is a bit much, forty dollars for a five hour experience, but that’s minor, as the experience is just about worth that much. I would’ve been more comfortable with thirty, to be honest. While I’ve praised the engaging concept of shooting targets to regain stamina, it’s not enough to stop the feeling of stagnation from rolling in. However, the amount of distance between puzzle areas isn’t too bad. So maybe wait on a sale.
I’d say The Pathless is one of the more unique indie games of this year, and a great way to introduce the future of indie games in the newest generation of consoles. Its themes can resonate strongly to many with religious background, and to those who are using it as a crutch in life. I’m not very religious, but I understood and respected the ideas and concepts behind this story’s themes.
Overall, with a stunning artstyle and wonderful amount of experiences, I’d say The Pathless is a nice game to grab. Being one of the more interesting game experiences I’ve played this year, especially with the addition of playing it on PS5, I’d say it’s an experience worth trying. Just, maybe not immediately. Like I said, wait on a sale.
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Reviewed by Freelance7 on PS5. Game purchased by the reviewer.