Developer – Giant Squid
Publisher – Annapurna Interactive
Platform(s) – PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed), PC, & iOS
MSRP – $39.99
Release Date – November 12, 2020
Thanks to Annapurna Interactive For Providing A Review Copy
The Pathless immediately caught my eye when I first saw it on a State of Play showcase a couple of months ago. In a little under 6 minutes of gameplay, Giant Squid turned my impressions of The Pathless into a game I didn’t know about to a game that I needed to play.
I was already familiar with Giant Squid due to their work on ABZÛ (a game which I still hate I haven’t played yet). I was more than ready to delve into this game after what I saw. With juggernaut games such as Spider-Man Miles Morales & Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War releasing around the same time as The Pathless, it seems a lot of people may not have been able to get the game or some may not know about it at all.
I’m here to tell you that if you are able, you need to play The Pathless as soon as possible. If you’re still on the fence about this game, get off it and experience the many preeminent aspects of this title for yourself.
The Pathless puts you in the role of The Hunter, a woman who has come to rescue a land that has been profaned by the GodSlayer. The GodSlayer has spent the last while corrupting the ones that preserved the land with many before The Hunter trying and failing to stop the reign of terror.
With the help of an eagle, who maintained the safety until The GodSlayer came along, you go along on a voyage to bring peace to the now immodest land. A simple narrative albeit but it works well enough because you have a set goal given to you in the beginning and various palpable moments are sprinkled in between similar to a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
The narrative isn’t what makes this game a must-play for me, everything surrounding the narrative is. From the art direction, gameplay, boss battles, and the exceptional soundtrack, The Pathless manages to do so many things right.
This game is absolutely gorgeous and it helps that I played it on next-gen hardware. The art direction for this game is so well-done, the stylization pops in every place it’s meant to. The little things such as the particle effects don’t go unnoticed by me and it makes me appreciate the fact that this is an indie game even more.
Throughout the game, you’ll need to cleanse the corrupt spirits along with your eagle companion. Each of the 4 corrupt spirits are established in a different fraction of the land. You’ll have to avoid these spirits or you’ll be put into these brief stealth sections, which are by far my least favorite aspect about this game. I think the intention is to establish a sudden and stark contrast to the otherwise peaceful exploration but these moments should’ve been more dynamic and rare if that’s the case. I had my fill of them by the 3rd or 4th time and they became more of an annoyance to me than anything else.
The Pathless has you gather special relics to put into three separate towers across each area where a corrupted spirit inhabits to free them. To gather these relics you’ll need to solve puzzles. The puzzles in this game aren’t too hard in the slightest, most of them you’ll probably figure out in about 2 minutes. You’ll have the odd puzzle here and there where you’ll really have to put your brain to the test, but it’s nothing too challenging.
Most of these puzzles consist of you shooting arrows (sometimes fire) to other podiums, through circular contours, on mirrors, or maybe even a combination of all three. As I said, the puzzles aren’t hard but I think that might be the intent. I don’t think you’re meant to spend too much time on puzzles, they’re there to provide a quick break from the continuous dash throughout the land using your bow, which is fun to do in its own right. The purpose is similar to the stealth sections but it’s done much better here.
Speaking of the bow, let’s talk about it since it’s an integral part of the game and its mechanics. Using your bow to navigate throughout the land never got old and it still isn’t as I attempt to attain the platinum trophy. You’ll shoot your bow through these polygon-shaped symbols that contribute to your dash meter. These symbols are scattered across the map and are core to traversal.
The Bow is the core of the combat as well, specifically boss battles. Each boss battle is dynamic in its own right and no battle is like the last. One battle might consist of a four-headed fire breathing dragon in which you must hide behind objects until you have an opening. Another might consist of you avoiding fireballs and fire beams as you shoot arrows into one of three eyes of a giant skeleton.
All of this appears to be the best the game has to offer but there’s one specific aspect that eclipses everything else. The Pathless has one of the best and most refined OST’s I’ve experienced in the past couple of years.
Austin Wintory, I applaud you for every single piece of melody produced for this game because I couldn’t get enough of it. It reminds me of a game like Bully, where the game can leave a lasting impact on me for a soundtrack that has no lyrics in most if not all its pieces.
I could sit here and write about all the numerous times I sat there in awe at the dynamic themes I was hearing but then we’d be here forever. I’ve gone back and listened to the soundtrack on YouTube which I only do for a handful of games such as Red Dead Redemption 2 or Super Mario 64. The music is simply masterful and it’s a much better experience when you play the game and listen for yourself.
In the span of a couple of months, The Pathless went from another indie game to one of my favorite titles of the year. Giant Squid has spent the last couple of years achieving their vision on this title and I think it paid off. The game isn’t without its faults such as the stealth sections but these moments are few and far in-between enough to not make much of a dent in the overall quality. Unfortunately, we’re definitely a while off from Giant Squid’s next game but whatever they decide to do next, I’m sure gonna be along for the ride?
The Pathless is a fun and suspenseful ride that will provide you with an indie experience that you’re sure to remember, similar to a Cuphead or Celeste. Giant Squid, Annapurna Interactive, and especially Austin Wintory should be incredibly proud of what they accomplished. With a huge bulk of games (most of them juggernauts) released at the time of this review, I don’t regret taking the time to sit down and partake in this. Do yourself and favor and play this game as fast as possible, you won’t regret it.
Rating - 9/10