"From the makers of Journey and Abzu" – there are certainly worse slogans to market a stylistically valuable indie action adventure. At this year's Penny Arcade Expo in Boston (PAX East) – one of the last events that took place before the corona crisis – developer Giant Squid (Abzu) presented the person of creative director and co-founder Matt Nava (art director of Journey) Visitors see a playable version of The Pathless for the first time. We were not there on site, but summarize the most important information for you.
A game with light and shadow
The main character of the adventure is a currently nameless hunter including a house eagle, who is looking for the light in a mysterious fantasy world. Because the forested plateau, which she calls her home, was infested with an infectious darkness. Accordingly, playing with light and shadow is important, as is the contrast between light and dark colors: Healthy areas of the forest shine in summer colors (or wintry white), infested areas are dark and threatening. Opponents like the fire cattle above on the next page shine in striking (neon) colors, contours are emphasized. On the one hand, this gives the game a very independent, impressive look, but on the other hand it also reminds of Abzu or Journey. The same applies to the background music: the composer Austin Wintory, who was responsible for the music, was already sitting on the keys or on the mouse for Journey – no idea how he stages his music. At this point, the similarities stop.
Source: Giant Squid
The gameplay is namely significantly faster than in the two games mentioned above. As mentioned, you steer your hunter with her feathered companion through the open game world. In a mixture of endless runner, skill game and rhythm game you run through the area, at the push of a button you target a variety of targets, such as chunks of icy darkness falling from the sky, and shoot them down with your bow. For each goal you hit, your speed and jump height increase – so the goal is to get into a kind of flow so that the movement bonuses don't subside. In addition, you also include your eagle in the locomotion: If you grab his legs, you glide slowly ahead – a little reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Source: Giant Squid
In the meantime, you can of course continue to fire at targets so that your combo continues and the eagle wings carry you further. The latter mechanism, however, has a kind of cooldown: Unfortunately, your animal companion is not immune to the falling darkness, which is why you have to take care of it regularly. Otherwise its glide can no longer be used. On the one hand, this ensures that you don't just fly over the entire game world at some point, on the other hand, that the bird really grows dear to you over time. In all of this, the controls should never appear overloaded, but are limited to just a few buttons – so that you can fully concentrate on exploration and movement.
There are also opponents in the game, of course, at the fair the first encounter against the fiery monster was shown in the screenshot above. At the time, however, it could not be defeated. Rather, the heroine had to avoid the demonic cattle in a kind of firestorm in a stealth manner and find her separate eagle. Will we be able to fight such opponents at some point? Not clear. Other corrupted animals can obviously be healed if our heroine can sneak up on them. It remains to be seen whether this is the only way to get rid of the gloomy animal world.
Source: Giant Squid
By the way, The Pathless doesn't take you by the hand. There is no order journal, no quest markers, no minimap, no arrows to show you the way. Instead, you have to explore the world yourself and uncover the secrets behind the approaching darkness – often you only have to find out ways to certain secrets by trying them, for example with which movement and from where you reach a certain point. However, a special view mode gives you a rough indication of where something could be hidden based on the outlines. In this view mode you can also see where you have been everywhere in the game world – practically from elevated positions. There should definitely be enough to explore: According to the developers, the game world is many times larger than that of Journey, for example. The Pathless is due to appear sometime this year.