In the last game I reviewed, Abzû, I mentioned how beautiful it was and how amazing the art was. To continue on how just amazing the studio that brought game to life was – I want to take time to talk about The Pathless. The soundtrack by Austin Wintory brings it to life and it does not disappoint. Here is the full soundtrack on Spotify.
The developers of The Pathless, Giant Squid, are the same as Abzû. I absolutely love how they describe the way they feel about video games. It’s no wonder I have fallen in love with both of their games.
We believe that video games can be more than a pastime – they can be an artistic medium that delivers beautiful, meaningful, and timeless experiences to a wide range of people. Our goal is to create games that fulfill that potential. We strive to create innovative and deeply moving experiences that will inspire players, challenge convention, and push the boundaries of interactive entertainment to new exciting areas.Giant Squid Studios
Let’s break The Pathless down into a few key areas:
You’ll play the game as the Hunter. She has a mastery of archery, and she’s traveling to a mystical land to break a curse. As you begin the game, you’ll spend time learning how to navigate around and more importantly – how to shoot!
I played this on the Playstation 4, and the controls were pretty straight-forward. Joysticks to move around and to control your camera. You have a button to fire arrows, but you can hold it down to aim a bit before firing. You also have a dashing mechanic, and if you hit the targets while dashing, you can extend your jumps or your dashing pretty much indefinitely.
There is however, one more mechanic that makes this game even better.
You will receive an adorable baby eagle companion. The Hunter is brave and fearless – the eagle is a baby. The eagle becomes afraid at times, and looks to you for help. You have the ability to PET THE EAGLE. I repeat, you can PET THE EAGLE. More games need to have the option to pet the animal companions.
The eagle gives you an ability to jump even higher – and as you work through the game you will unlock additional ‘flaps’. Each flap lets the eagle literally flap its wings while holding on to you, allowing you to go up into the air even higher. While in the air, you can glide, and this is incredibly helpful while you are looking for items. I think by the end of the game, I had earned close to 11 additional flaps. It felt like we could fly!
The eagle is also used to help you solve puzzles – it can fly to places you can not, or into smaller places where you are physically too big. It will also help to move objects for you into position when needed. And as cute as the petting ability is, it is actually needed – as you pet the eagle to restore its health.
It doesn’t hurt that sometimes, petting the eagle is so cute it makes you want to die.
There are boss fights, in which you will need to save other gods from the curse. These will involve shooting a lot of targets, dashing, and using the eagle to dodge a lot of attacks. The boss fights followed a similar pattern throughout the game: there would be a segment of chasing, where you would have to chase them down and hit targets along side their bodies while dodging fireballs being thrown at you; and then in the second segment, you would have to actually fight them.
The interesting bit is that like in Abzû, dying didn’t seem to be on the table throughout this game. I certainly got knocked out a lot, and at times, I had some of my precious flaps taken away – but I never died. Although I’m sure there are people who were not a fan of this element, I felt it made the game more enjoyable for me as it relieved the stress! I was able to learn how to fight and tackle the bosses and without the fear of dying, I found myself trying more things or being more daring than I normally would.
Abzû’s story was told without words, but The Pathless was pieced together by dialogue and stones . The Pathless is a story that lets you drive it – while you have an overall objective, there is no map. You’ll navigate by looking around and remembering the landscape, but you’ll explore, and solve puzzles, in any order you like.
Additional story elements, with spoilers, behind here.
You won’t be given a lot of story in the beginning of the game – you’ll be on a small boat sailing to an island. The Hunter has set out to an island that bridges the human realm with the spirit realm, in an attempt to stop the curse that has spread across the land by killing the Godslayer.
You’ll find skeletons of those who came before her across the land, and some will tell you what happened to them. As you explore, you’ll find there are no enemies throughout the land. There are a few animals here and there, but that’s all. Everything that looks to have been human has already died.
On the first island, you’ll find The Eagle Mother, a guardian deity, glowing red and seeming to be in pain. You’ll start by helping to cleanse her of corruption, but things don’t go as planned. Without too much spoiling here, this will lead to your new eagle companion.
The Eagle Mother also mentions her children – elk, deer, lizard, bear and snake. I also noticed in the room where each of the children were shown on totems, there was one more that was broken and lying on the floor. That broken one on the floor? A shark! I’m pretty convinced this is a callback to Abzû.
The game will open up from here, and allow you to explore the land for each of the children. It has a cycle to follow – you can go into the land, and you can go ahead and explore but I found it was much easier to deal with the bosses first. If they see you, they separate you from your eagle and then you have to sneak back to it. Getting caught without it would result in losing crystals, and as a result, flaps.
Once you defeat a boss in an area, you’re free to roam around and explore for as long as you like. It is worth it to hang around and continue to collect the additional light stones in each area, as you will be granted an ability by each god for doing so, and if you collect all of them – there will be an additional ending for you.
Each boss you defeat brings you closer to the Godkiller, but the only timeline you are really on is your own.
It is a beautiful game and it is fun to play! The mechanics work well, and the eagle companion is fantastic. There is another, really amazing easter egg hidden in the game, but I’m not going to spoil it!
Overall, I give this game easily 10/10…. flap-flaps? I want more games like this, please.