Giant Squad, creators of the compelling underwater adventure ABZÛ, have released a brand new adventure for Playstation 4 and Playstation 5 called, The Pathless. A mythical adventure of a Hunter and her eagle on a quest to dispel a curse of darkness. The Pathless is the studio’s most ambitious game to date.
Full disclosure, I was waiting on the Playstation 5 to release in Europe (November 19th) before starting my playthrough of Giant Squid’s The Pathless. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a Playstation 5 on launch even though I had a pre-order placed months in advance. It’s still a sore subject. That being said. I did want to provide you with a review of the game close-ish to launch and decided to fire up the old reliable PS4 Pro. Do note that some of the features exclusive to the Playstation 5 version are not available on the Playstation 4 version and thus would not be able to test these.
Well blended design
Due to the game’s art style and studio history The Pathless is easily compared to games like; ABZÛ and Journey. Both were favourites of mine and the game immediately peaked my interest from the get-go. I’m glad to see that The Pathless has lived up to my expectation and remains consistently gorgeous to look at throughout my playthrough. The multitude of environments and bosses the game has to offer look gorgeous and are well designed.
Austin Wintory, well known for his work on Journey and ABZÛ has composed the game’s soundtrack and provides a well designed connection to the gameplay and overall design of the game. It’s hard to separate the game’s design and sound as the two are blended together perfectly. The art and sound design transports you to a magical world of fantasy of which you wished there were more.
Fly like an eagle
The Pathless is divided into three key elements; Exploration, Puzzles, and boss battles. The first of which came as a welcome surprise to me. I was following the game throughout its development and at one point it looked like the game would become an on-rail shooter and did not offer any kind of exploration. Boy was I wrong.
Exploring the world of The Pathless is easily one of the best features the game has to offer. The game even invites you to explore and makes it easy to do so by providing you with fast was to traverse the world. All around the game’s world are little diamond shaped icons. shooting these while running will increase your stamina and makes sure you can keep traveling. If a diamond is placed a bit higher you will jump when shot and your eagle can lift you higher when possible. This is a rather ingenious way of exploring the world of The Pathless. You will upgrade your eagles ability to fly throughout the game and bond with him by petting the eagle, saving the eagle through forced stealth sections and overall gameplay. The eagle plays a key role in the emotional connection to the game as there is little story to be experienced. These diamonds are placed in such a way that they invite exploration, which is key to finding all the puzzles and recover all the obelisks in the area you find yourself in.
The game offers a multitude of well designed puzzles, which are luckily never too hard to solve, if needed you can get some hints from spirits. And while some puzzles require some well timed actions from your bow or Eagle they are so well done that I didn’t have issues with the Eagle AI ruining my puzzle jam. Do note that solving all puzzles is not mandatory as the game lets you progress with completing only the necessary few. However, for a completionist solving all puzzles is a must and the game will reward you for completing all puzzles in the end.
Once you have obtained enough Obelisks you can start your boss encounter. These cinematic bosses are the highlight of the game. They are well designed and push you to use all of your abilities to defeat them. Without becoming unfairly brutal and punishing like souls games. Each boss has multiple phases and requires some quick thinking and cooperation with your eagle to complete. You can defeat a boss by shooting the diamond shaped icons that will appear throughout the boss’ body. However, during these boss battles you might get frustrated with the game’s clunky camera controls that might have you unnecessarily redo a section of the battle, you will not die though. Defeating a boss will leave you with a satisfying feeling that will uplift your spirits until your next encounter. Ultimately leading you to the Godslayer. After each boss fight the game area will be cured and opens op to more exploration and puzzles for you to solve.
Giant Squid’s The Pathless might easily be overlooked during this season of heavy hitters and a next-gen console releases. However, The Pathless delivers a perfectly unique puzzle platformer experience that will leave a lasting impression. The game’s ingenious travel mechanics are fun to experience and the boss battles are the highlight of the game. The game is highly likeable and the game’s art and sound design are perfectly blend together to transport you to a mystical fantasy world full of exploration. A thin story that can be completed in 8-9 hours, some clunky camera controls, and forced stealth sections prevent the game from being a near perfect experience.