I’ve never been particularly comfortable when it comes to archery in games, especially not in battle. In fact, whenever I would pick a class in an RPG it would normally be a straight up fighter, or even a mage – but never someone with a bow and arrow. I don’t know why this is but maybe the effort of drawing back the bowstring and taking aim, rather than bashing someone over the head, makes me a bit lazy.
In The Pathless though, archery is the bread and butter of the game’s skill set. But it is also your mode of fast movement across the world.
Part of the storytelling and world building in The Pathless is told in increments, across the visuals. You play the role of a mysterious hunter character who at the start of the game swims to shore, into a magical world. From there it is unclear as to what you need to do, but fairly quickly you get to grips with the game, with the hints, clues, and bits of story that are thrown at you. In the end, you find out it’s up to you to rid this cursed land of its corrupted forces of evil, before going toe-to-toe with an enemy called the Godslayer. See, he has turned the benign spirits in this world into some evil creatures and it’s up to you to restore balance.
The story found in The Pathless will take you to five areas or plateaus in the game, delivering a number of big boss battles as you go. There are plenty of story titbits to pick up along the way, from little glowing orbs that give you an insight into the world before the corruption and what happened to make it so. The storytelling is simple and nicely mixed with text and visuals.
Gameplay consists of controlling your character across this world. You do this as normal but there are little targets dotted around everywhere and by holding down the LT button you will get to target them, utilising RT to shoot them with your bow. This action propels you faster across the world, chaining them together so you begin to move at speed and across heights. It’s an interesting mechanic and a very useful one, but it takes some getting used to. In the first hour, I struggled with the timing, but when it clicked I found the mechanic to be brilliantly fluid and fun to use.
In each area, the aim is to unlock a series of watch towers, shining a bright connected white light to unlock the spirit boss battle. Each of these towers needs a key in the shape of a symbol and to get this symbol you need a bit of puzzle-solving. This could be using pressure pads, shooting arrows through a series of aligning locks, or a bit of platforming. The puzzles are never frustrating but can be challenging as you hunt for the answer. Luckily you have help in the form of your eagle friend.
In the first half an hour or so of The Pathless you get an eagle as your companion. There is a great mechanic where you stroke the eagle to get rid of its corruption, but ultimately this little guy can help; lifting objects for you and placing them on pressure pads. The eagle can also push a limited jump ability, as you look to soar higher in the air. Obviously this is very handy indeed. But you can also glide across the world from high up or by using your archery traversal skills. I found the mechanics on offer nicely different from anything found in other games, fun to master and get used to. I would say that it can feel a bit overwhelming at times, and the boss battles are tricky and a bit repetitive, but on the whole, The Pathless works. .
Visually the game is very pretty, with a lovely world to explore, full of impressive landscapes and vistas. The colours are amazing, the red corruption being beautiful and frightening at the same time. Creatures and characters are pleasingly designed as well. The soundtrack is equally wonderful, with a great score throughout and some brilliant effects. It has a lovely mix of relaxingly epic music while exploring the world and more intense moments for the fast boss battles.
The Pathless is a pretty great experience that will have you engrossed across its six hours or so running time. It provides a lovely world to explore, some great fresh mechanics to master and some nice puzzle elements to complement the gameplay. It does feel a bit overwhelming at times and the boss battles can feel a bit of a trudge, but in all this is a lovely little indie game.
Where else can you get to stroke an eagle?
The Pathless is on the Xbox Store