✔️A charming overlay, accompanied by a sensational soundtrack. ✔️Its doom and gloom contrasts its unique appeal in gameplay. ✔️Strong narrative, and fun gameplay loop with an enigmatic protagonist and companion.
❌Could do with a mini-map.
I love this game. From its reveal, The Pathless displayed an aesthetic that I’m enraptured in. The encapsulating cell shaded environment, adorned with lush greenery that bristles against your hero as she scurries through open fields of this wondrous isle. A tale of a hunter that is set to banish a curse laid upon this gorgeous terrain. Expeditiously skidding through peaks under the stark, ominous and stormy sky, with nothing but the slightest beacon of light cutting through the cloudy curse that envelopes the Earth . You can literally – really I mean figuratively – breathe it in. There’s a certain element of magic that developers Giant Squid harness while creating such iconic worlds in gaming. The former Journey developers, have certainly laid the foundations for exquisite art in gaming. From the windy deserts to the deep blue sea, the California based development team have shown a disparity between Triple-A and Indie titles, and how even the simplest form of presentation can further accomplish such magnificence in gaming.
There’s a magnetic flow to The Pathless that streamlines its gameplay loop while pursuing its intoxicating nature. Its campaign seeks to grip players through its equivocal narrative, however the title remains aptly labelled as you may find yourself directionless within the first few moments entering this abstruse adventure. However upon entering the island’s enclave, I was welcomed with a rush that sensibly guided me through its sandbox approach. While besting its linear campaign, The Pathless allows players forge their own way through this stylish escapade. Shrewd with monoliths and landmarks that are overrun by the story’s antagonist, The Godslayer, our nameless hunter traverses through many the many trials that are laid before her in hopes of reviving the Island’s protector, the Eagle mother.
It’s easy to acclimate yourself with The Pathless and its allure. Its whimsical delivery allows you to leisurely form your own pace, and sure there’s some questionable creative decisions made, but it’s all about patience. Roaming through the environment, you will find that the title’s true test does not come in form of confrontation with swarms of enemies, rather it pits our protagonist intellectually with a plethora of puzzles that are scattered throughout each plateau. Armed with her bow-and-arrow, our Hunter makes quick haste through the dark, grassy fields, gaining momentum by targeting a series of talisman littered across the land. Each talisman awards your character a quick burst of stamina to fasten your pursuit across the island. Sprinting through the broken vestiges that had once been protected by the land’s hero’s, The Pathless does less to assist you but more to actually guide you.
Highlighted by a fiery crimson glow, each vantage point harbours the collectable puzzle piece that must be returned to each obelisk structure in hopes of lifting The Godslayer’s corruption, and dispersing their curse across the land. The opening chapter see’s the Hunter reclaim a small portion of the territory, reviving the fallen Eagle mother. With the island’s protector salvaged from extinction, The Godslayer bests the Hunter and the delighted deity by stripping the spirit animal of its power. Once again defeated, the Eagle mother survives the malicious mercenary’s attempt in thwarting both the protector and our hero. Now taking form of an ordinary Eagle, our feathered companion accompanies The Hunter on her righteous quest to defeat the evil spirit and return peace to the land.
Exploring isolated mass with beautiful creatures that inhabit the isle make for a peaceful aesthetic. Dungeon crawling breaks the monotony, with desecrated graves of resting soldiers that are keys to progressing through The Pathless’ campaign, delivering clues through each soliloquy they hold. Weathered nature foreshadows an impendence that may be just ahead. Unlocking your Hunter and the Eagle mother’s potential, you’re able to progress further into the land, collecting vital elements that improve your skills. Chaining together a satisfying combination of sprinting, leaping, shooting, floating and flying will become essential. As you begin to ascend the island towards the cursed land that floats just above its affected surroundings, the Hunter will confront the Godslayer’s soldiers known as the corrupted spirits.
Once guided by the Eagle mother, each spirit turned beast seeks to destroy the land below. All five districts of the land are overruled by five separate pyrotechnics that set their path ablaze, fuelling a firestorm that shields their evil lord from anyone that may oppose him. It is up to our Hunter and her Eagle companion to defeat each behemoth, and reclaim the infected estate that the Godslayer intends to abrogate. Cursing the Tall One’s in order to control their supernatural abilities, the malice behind the vindictive dark lord see’s him best try to apprehend the Eagle Mother, rather than dispose of the God. This all plays a major role in the campaign’s narrative upon reaching the island’s floating summit. Utilising each skill that your protagonist has attained throughout her journey will allow for some of the most innovative combat seen in gaming for quite some time.
I'm like a bird...
Chasing down the flame wielding foes of the cursed island with each skill delivers an intense battle sequence that shows The Pathless’ melancholic flow contrast heighten to almost an influx of pure panic. The insurgency that floods each sensation that its once calm demeanour imposed is thrown out the window, with an intention to defeat the proselytised God before it completely obliterates its surroundings. Completely blown by its sensational presentation, I was captivated by the rush provided within its cinematic representation. The particle effect of each fiery cinder that seemingly grazes your protagonist and her blood red Gi, the frenzy of the Eagle mother trying to keep up with sudden flurry of your enemies punctual getaway, there’s a passion there, a tangible response that triggers a influx of emotion through its depiction. The last time I felt something similar to this was defeating Ganon in Breath of the Wild.
Some may be critical of the The Pathless’ incomprehensive vocals, a completely original language created by developers but is translated through subtitles. The “Banjo-Kazooie” garble is considered passe’ for modern titles, but I can appreciate it within The Pathless as it presents an old school aesthetic that is combined with its freestyle gameplay loop. Again, comparing it to The Legend of Zelda, there is no doubt that the title draws heavy inspiration from Majora’s Mask but only implements minor facets through its design. The darkness that encompasses the earth, The Godslayer’s appearance and its malevolent intent, the mosaic structure of each dungeon and the puzzles that challenge the Hunter. It’s irrefutable that Link’s darkest adventure had influenced The Pathless and part of its design, aesthetically speaking.
Backed by an incredible overture, comprised by esteemed Video Game Musical Composer Austin Wintory (Journey, Erica, Assassin’s Creed), the feather light familiarities heard from previous workings of the established musician delightfully elevate The Pathless’ charm. Melodies tend to impose a soft expression through its beginning stages, then begin to rise as your hero escalates through her mountainous voyage with intention. Each section of its layered soundtrack dictates a looming threat not too far ahead of our protagonists position. With every blockade opening a new path for our hero, the melody grows darker and drums deeper into soul of the campaign, all while dispersing the doom and gloom that is gripped by the Godslayer’s firestorm. An emphatic piece of music that will no doubt have Vinyl enthusiasts salivating in hopes of owning physically – please?
With that said, The Pathless is a PlayStation essential. Much like the former developer’s of thatgamecompany, and its archetypal magnum opus in Journey, the silky smooth gameplay structure that will unequivocally compel players to beguile themselves in The Pathless’ alluring beauty will mark it as one of the memorable title’s to come out of a console generation launch. It’s slow rise towards its wondrous peaks speak volumes for the title’s overall delivery, and how magnanimous its creative vision could potentially excel and inspire other independent developers to track this ongoing generation. In its short six hour campaign, I have fallen in love with its universe, its cast of mystical characters, the cursed nature of its corrupt Gods and the malice of the Godslayer, it’s just all so magical. The Pathless is certainly one to experience before the year’s out.
The Pathless - Giant Squid
The Pathless is an independent action-adventure video game developed by Giant Squid and published by Annapurna Interactive. The game was released on November 12, 2020 for Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, macOS and iOS.