There is no map in The Pathless , no indicators or fast travel system that can make getting around its boldly vast forests and steppes slightly easier. unlike other video games that we arefamiliar with
Apparently these elements have been removed to immerse the player more in the game world, to push him to see these rain-soaked trees and whispering prairies as places that must be understood and learned by walking through them, rather than as empty spaces used to distance places of interest.
And I certainly grasped this aspect. Under dark skies and surrounded by the broken towers of old temples, I started calibrating my very own compass. But there is also more: The Pathless is an authentic hymn to the pleasure of movement and speed.
Forget the plot, the mission to complete, the ancient legends and the destruction of the world that looms red and malignant on the horizon. On the other hand, these mythological lands are always in danger, aren’t they? But few are as exciting to explore as these.
The Pathless Review
More than any other game I’ve tried in recent times, this title focuses completely on triggers. Take on the role of an archer, a small red, black and white element in a world of greens and grays. The setting is littered with diamond-shaped objects, small luminous targets to lock your aim on by pressing the right trigger.
Hold it down long enough and your arrow hits it directly when you release it. A small burst of light is absorbed by your energy gauge which can be used for a dash, a dash, using the left trigger.
And so again and again, arrow after arrow, picking up speed and moving from walking to running, to sliding on the prairies. Hold the trigger until the reticle turns red and you will hit the target. Keep it pressed for half the time and still hit the target … skill shot!
Pressing it for a shorter period of time results in an error that is still capable of entertaining, a trip that you can almost feel through the controller when the energy you were waiting for simply does not appear.
I could spend hours doing all this. Move through the grass by taking a web of glowing knots, scattered targets in bulk to find a way to transform them into a fluid line of motion. The sense of speed, of the wind blowing fast, of a body moving perfectly above the ground, is simply glorious.
It’s a constant reminder that the team behind The Pathless traced the underwater currents of Abzu and probably got their hands on that part where Journey suddenly transforms into SSX, gliding along the sand dunes and through archways. The best part.
I think it works so well because the automatic aiming automatism blends perfectly with the rhythmic work of the triggers, which first aim a target and then allow a dash. An interesting fact is that you are not actually the archer, as his skills with the bow and the movements themselves are completely internalized.
You have general control: you pick a point and it will reach it perhaps surprising you, jumping over a barrel or branch along the way.
And speaking of the triggers, they almost convey the feel of a heat engine with that energy transfer from one side of the controller to the other, and voila – a blast of speed! But The Pathless is also based on another idea. Together with the arch, the protagonist also has an eagle and if
It all starts with a double jump. Jump and then jump again, and the eagle grabs you in a gentle downward glide, clearing larger chasms and opening new paths. By combining this with the bow and arrows, speed can also be brought into the mix. But then there are the “flapping wings”: by collecting enough items the eagle learns to flap its wings so that you can reach higher areas.
By collecting others you learn more “beats”: this “economy” of wing beats is very lively and each addition changes your perspective.
But what is your mission in this world? Of course, everything is in danger and fiery beasts seem to follow you, one for each of the vast territories you explore. In the portion of the game that I tried, I moved around the world enjoying the speed and the fact that my eagle did not need any particular attention, solving simple puzzles to collect treasures which I then placed in high towers to activate ancient mechanisms.
Puzzles often fall into the genre of platforms to press but maybe there is a target to hit and a door to stop us.
Maybe there are more platforms to press and the eagle can be used to carry a weight and drop it in the right place.
Even better are the optional puzzles that reward you with items that enhance the flapping of wings.
These encourage you to really think about the settings: how would you light a series of torches with a single arrow? How would you line up these statues that sport such inviting cavities for your arrows? Whenever you feel directionless, you can wear a mask that highlights the important parts of the environment with colors. Not a map or an indicator or a quick trip but a delicate nod that pushes you back into the game world.
All of these elements make The Pathless seem like a gentle and meditative creature and this is definitely a great aspect of it.
However, in the map I have played, alongside green expanses, cliffs, trees and temples, there is a wandering patch of very angry red, a small world of flames, smoke and embers.
If I found myself inside it, my eagle would disappear and I had to stealthily move through the burning grass, with the trees suddenly crossed by a sharp light, to find it.
All while avoiding the gaze of the giant beast that I will eventually have to defeat. But not yet! There are more towers to discover before you face them, for now it’s a sudden burst of stealth.
When the eagle is found and cleaned up, with a handful of analog moves that are impossible to accomplish without thinking of some kind of loving delicacy, the wall of fire is exiled to another part of the map.
In time we will be ready to face that enemy, to chase him through the blinding smoke and shoot our arrows, as we manage speed and attack with the calm surrounding landscape suddenly awakening.
But for now it’s time for other towers, other objects, other directions to choose, aim, shoot and run across the prairies.