The Pathless from Giant Squid and Annapurna Interactive may be one of 2020’s most charming adventure puzzle games. The Pathless is from the creators of ABZÛ and we’ve had our eye on it since it was announced. How does it stack up now that it’s been released though?
In The Pathless, players will take on the role of a Hunter. As the Hunter, players will explore a distant land gripped by a mysterious curse. Within the first moments of starting the game, the game’s world and gorgeous aesthetic will enthrall you. You’ll learn how to move and look around and before you know it, you’ll be dashing and firing arrows at targets that float in the air.
Shooting these targets charges up your “Spirit’ gauge which you can then use to dash around at high speeds. Shooting targets while dashing keeps the gauge charged which means that you can continuously dash at high speed. This is one of the key aspects of gameplay in The Pathless and the developers have absolutely nailed it. There’s a sense of speed imparted to you as the player and it’s extremely satisfying in action.
Upon encountering a giant dying bird, players will soon discover that there’s nefarious forces at play in the game’s world. The cursed land is the result of the actions of the “Godslayer” and after a brief encounter with this powerful being, the real journey begins. Players will have to help free the land from the curse beset upon it by the “Godslayer” by defeating powerful “Tall Ones” (Mythical beasts) and “Godslayer” himself thus setting The Pathless’s plot in motion.
In order to defeat the “Tall Ones”, players must first activate pillars of light by inserting Lightstone sigils into them. These sigils can be obtained by solving puzzles in the various ruins scattered across the landscape. Early on in the game players will gain access to a mask which allows them to see into the Spirit realm. By pressing a button, you can toggle between the real world and the spirit realm. Objects are highlighted in the spirit realm and certain walls or doors can be phased through by entering the spirit realm view. It works extremely well in action and looks amazing too.
The spirit realm view also serves as your guiding light of sorts. By swapping over to the spirit view, unsolved puzzle areas are highlighted in the game world and you’ll have to make your way across to them to progress further in the game. This is the game’s core mechanic. You as the Hunter will explore an immensely large open-world landscape solving puzzles and activating pillars of light before finally making your way over to a boss battle. It sounds simple but it works incredibly well in the game.
Combat in The Pathless involves firing arrows which auto-lock onto targets. Taking damage and dying in The Pathless causes you to lose crystals which slowly disappear as they spill onto the floor when you respawn. Dodging enemy attacks and avoiding their line of sight is necessary to survive battles with the “Tall Ones”. The boss battles are great and are rather cinematic. Each encounter with a “Tall One” is something you can look forward to in-game.
Graphically, The Pathless is absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous. The entire game has an art style which is extremely visually pleasing, and we wish that there was an actual photo mode present in the game. Players can easily spend hours just exploring the game world and soaking in its rich visuals. The Pathless developers have also opted to remove any sort of map in the game world so as to encourage exploration and while this is a design decision that works, it may annoy some gamers who will have to traverse the entire landscape looking for one last collectible or Lightstone. The spirit realm view does however help guide you towards areas or puzzles you haven’t completed yet.
The soundtrack of The Pathless has been composed by Austin Wintory and it is excellent with numerous tracks that are great to listen to. There is voice acting in the game and the developers opted to use a fictional language instead English. This works great for immersion purposes since it really adds an additional layer of world-building to the game.
Speaking of world-building, much of The Pathless’ story is told by means of reading text left behind by spirit orbs floating above the lifeless remains of warriors or people in the cursed world. These tidbits of text help build the backstory and lore of The Pathless and we highly recommend reading them throughout your travels in the game.
Puzzles in The Pathless work by incorporating various different gameplay mechanics such as depressing switches, lining up mirrors, firing arrows through flaming lamps using the spirit realm. Players will also gain access to an Eagle, which they can pet. This isn’t just for memes either since it’s an actual gameplay mechanic where the Hunter and the bird establish a bond with each other. Petting the Eagle involves rubbing it and this also wipes off any cursed material from the “Godslayer” or “Tall ones” which prevents it from flying. The Eagle is used in-game to carry weights which are necessary to solve puzzles involving switches and more. The puzzles themselves are not exactly mind-bendingly hard but there is a satisfying level of challenge throughout the game. The developers have done a great job with this.
Overall, The Pathless is a great indie title that should definitely not be overlooked. The game world is a visual feast for the eyes, especially when you swap between realms and the visual effects ramp up for the spirit world. The puzzles and exploration are top notch and the boss battles against the “Tall Ones” are cinematic gameplay masterpieces. The game’s simplistic mechanics incorporating running, jumping, exploring, puzzle-solving, dodging and firing arrows play out in a way that will keep you entertained for hours on end. The Pathless is highly recommended by us if you’re a fan of open-world games.
The pathless is available on PlayStation 4/5 and PC. This review is based on the PlayStation 4/5 version of the game which can be purchased here for £29.99.
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