The Pathless Review – Stunning vistas at great speed

Reviewed on November 21, 2020

Platforms:

PS4, PC, iOS, PS5

Released:

November 12, 2020

Publisher:

Annapurna Interactive

Developer:

Giant Squid

The Pathless is an open world puzzle RPG game developed by Giant Squid and published by Annapurna Interactive. It sees you playing as a master huntress trying to save the world and its gods from the evil Godslayer.

In many ways, The Pathless strikes a similar note to Giant Squid’s previous title, Abzu. Just like in Abzu, Giant Squid has crafted a game that heavily emphasizes exploration and non-verbal storytelling by providing players with breathtaking vistas and animations that are stylistically similar to titles like 2012’s Journey. The Pathless is largely set in sprawling fields dotted with ancient temples and towers to explore. While most of your surroundings are beautiful and bright, some of the towers are shrouded in a dark orange light, indicating the Godslayer’s evil influence. Playing as a huntress with superb archery skills, it’s up to you to explore these temples and restore the temple’s natural light in the process.

Practically, you can restore towers by collecting golden fragments that allow you to dispel the orange light on top of a corrupted tower. These golden fragments are hidden in different areas in The Pathless’ world. To find them you’ll have to solve object puzzles in the game’s environment or save corrupted gods captured in a similar orange glow.

The game sees you taking on the world alongside a trusty pet eagle sidekick, who can help you move objects or open locked doors. I found the addition of the eagle a great way to make the puzzles feel layered and complex without becoming overly complicated. To me, the puzzles were just engaging enough; you have to use your brain to solve them, but it won’t take you hours to find hidden buttons or switches. In this sense, the puzzles in The Pathless are well balanced and relaxing for both casual and dedicated puzzle fans.

Whether it’s interacting with puzzle clues, gods, or your pet eagle, any story dialogue is minimal in The Pathless. Instead, the game’s story is mostly told through non-verbal story beats and visuals. It feels like The Pathless’ environment actively nudges you to explore every possible inch of the game’s world in order to learn more about the main storyline.

“…one stunning visual after another.”

There’s lots to explore, too. The Pathless may be an open world, but at first glance, it appears as though there’s a lot of space with not much in it. However, once you get stuck into things, it quickly becomes clear that The Pathless’ environment is engineered to be traversed quickly. Throughout the landscape you’ll find little floating targets that you can hit with your arrows. Each time you successfully hit a target, your spirit meter fills up, which allows you to quickly dash forward. You can build up more and more speed as you keep hitting targets as you move, and thanks to an auto-lock mechanism, you don’t need to worry about your arrow aiming skills. Instead, you can focus on the gorgeous scenery, as it whizzes past you in beautiful bursts of colour.

As you progress through the game’s story, you’ll also acquire more and more powers, including the ability to fly with the help of your pet eagle. This, in combination with the spirit meter mechanics in the game, makes for some truly stunning gameplay that sees you soaring through the world at superhuman speed. In my eyes, Giant Squid has successfully struck an incredibly fine balance where the controls are easy to learn, yet the results you see on screen make you feel positively invincible. Exploring the world’s surroundings at great heights and great speed is incredibly thrilling and running along the game’s sprawling fields with a beautiful Austin Wintory soundtrack in the background truly feels like magic.

However, for players who don’t enjoy similar open-world titles, you might find the gameplay aimless at times. There’s no world map to orient yourself and, like the game’s the title suggests, no set path to follow either. Instead, you’re free to roam as much as you please and solve puzzles in a non-linear fashion. In some respects, this aimlessness can be further exacerbated by the fact that the world of The Pathless seems a lot emptier once you stop running at one hundred and fifty miles an hour. There were moments where I felt like fields and towers started blending into one another and I had to take some time to re-orient myself.

That said though, to me, the aim of The Pathless isn’t to offer up a highly detailed world for players to inspect at their leisure. Instead, the game offers a captivating narrative experience at a high pace with one stunning visual after another. The Pathless’ movement and running mechanics are beautifully executed and, when it all lines up, The Pathless’ story is like a strong, colourful current. The best thing you can do is to let go and allow yourself to be swept along by this captivating game.

8

Great

Positive:

  • Excellent movement and running mechanics
  • Engaging and relaxing object puzzles
  • Great use of non-verbal story telling
  • Beautiful Austin Wintory soundtrack

Negative:

  • Gameplay can feel aimless

If you enjoy games like Abzu and Journey and love a bit of casual puzzling, The Pathless is not to be missed. While its open-world can feel too open at times, The Pathless’ stunning graphics and soundtrack will more than make up for it and will easily draw you in.

The Pathless’ story and movement mechanics are where it truly shines. Exploring the landscape at superhuman speed feels like absolute magic and makes the game’s large surface easy to explore. Full of colour, beautiful landscapes, and mysterious gods and puzzles, The Pathless is sure to keep you engaged from beginning to end.