In the gaming world, Annapurna Interactive has recently developed into the ideal starting point for insider tips: In recent years, the US publisher – whose self-proclaimed goal is to produce games that are "personal, emotional and original" – has had many brought small indie gems onto the market, including What Remains of Edith Finch, Outer Wilds or the PC version of the magical Journey.
The latest prank from West Hollywood is now called The Pathless (buy now € 48.73 ), released on November 12th for PC, PS4 as well as Playstation 5 and ranks fits seamlessly into the style of the titles mentioned at the beginning. In the second work of Giant Squid Studios, the creative minds behind the Underwater adventure Abzû, There is a lot that has also distinguished Journey and Co.: a fantastic graphic style, a mystical story and an open game world in which you have to bring back light, color and life.
You slip into the role of the so-called huntress, a young woman who sets out as the last glimmer of hope of mankind to explore an ancient island on the edge of the world. In this magical place, where the realms of the living and the dead intersect, lies the source of a curse that threatens all life – and which you must of course stop. Sounds epic, but starts off quite unspectacular at first: You land on the beach in your small boat, hop onto the mainland and first familiarize yourself with the surroundings and the game mechanics.
Source: PC Games
When it comes to locomotion, The Pathless relies on a rather unusual system: With the help of her bow, your protagonist can shoot down talismans scattered around the game world. These in turn fill her ghost display with which she can sprint. Since both actions are on the shoulder buttons, they can be quickly combined with one another. In addition, you don't have to aim at each talisman individually, with one press of the R2 button you automatically take the closest target into the crosshairs and shoot it. The huntress does not shy away from it, in the very best Vanquish manner jumping into the dirt and sliding across the floor.
This mix of jumping, sprinting and sledding quickly becomes second nature. It just feels natural to run fluidly across the forest floor at a mad pace. Your repertoire of movements will be expanded as soon as you stumble upon a small eagle that will accompany you for the rest of the adventure. With your feathered friend you can sail longer distances, catapult you into windy heights with a few powerful wing beats and thus conquer the air.
Source: PC Games
The eagle is not only an aid, but also a loyal companion. In a world that, apart from a few bunnies, deer or other wild animals, seems almost empty and lifeless, he is the emotional anchor – like the horse in Shadow of the Colossus or your partner in the multiplayer mode of Journey. In the course of the adventure, there is even an intimate bond with the bird of prey, because the developers understand how to let you grow fond of it through caresses and other interactions.
Source: PC Games
There are also more than enough opportunities to bond, as exploring the open world takes some time. In return, however, it has a lot to offer you: the island is picturesquely designed, awaits you with varied biomes – such as steppes, prairies and tundras – and is full of interesting details such as huge animal skeletons or crumbling remains of human culture. The only reason to complain is perhaps a little bit the size of the game world: Especially towards the end you are occupied with crossing it for several minutes alone, and The Pathless almost feels like work – also because of the cumbersome orientation. Because there is no card.
That fits in well with the overall picture, the adventure is generally very mysterious, explains little and usually remains rather vague in terms of story. However, it is sometimes a bit detrimental to the fun of the game if you get completely lost on the island. The only possibility for orientation is the ghost view, with which exciting objects, secret passages or important places are highlighted. If you follow a blue shimmer, you will come across ancient stone tablets on which you can understand the cart a little, or the mortal remains of fallen comrades, whose last thoughts and feelings you can read.
Source: PC Games
With a bow and arrow on a puzzle tour
In addition, little dexterity tasks and puzzles await you everywhere, for example racing against a flock of butterflies or puzzles in which you have to arrange symbols correctly. But most of the challenges have something to do with your bow: Either you light up torches with fire arrows or you direct your projectiles through rings. This simple concept is later extended by elements such as switches, mirrors or rails, on which you can move objects back and forth. The head nuts are never overly complicated. They can be resolved within a few minutes at the latest with hints hidden in the area. This prevents unnecessary frustration. Only the rewards for exploring don't feel so satisfying at some point. Most of the time you will find crystals to fill a progress bar. This unlocks additional wing beats. This helps when overcoming high obstacles, but whether you can shoot your eagle six or ten times into the air at the end of the day doesn't make much difference.
The light stones are more exciting. With these you can "heal" towers and thus drive the darkness away from the island. If you do this three times per area, you will unlock a fight against a cursed boss opponent in which you have to access everything that you have learned so far. In multi-phase battles you evade attacks, fire at enemy weak spots at the right moment and sometimes even have to master small hopping and sneaking passages to bring the colossi to their knees.
Source: PC Games
An experience for eyes and ears
Against the complexity of a Demon's Souls Remake That stinks of course, especially since there is no classic game over. Anyone who is hit only loses part of the crystals they have collected. That is very gracious. After all, the staging of the battles is really successful: When you knock down a seven-headed hydra in a coliseum that is on fire, that's an impressive picture – also thanks to the atmospheric soundtrack. Composer Austin Wintory interweaves African, European and Asian sounds into a harmonious carpet of music, which is pointedly underlined by Mongolian undertone singing in the style of The Hu. Goosebumps guaranteed!
Speaking of audio: while the chic cutscenes are set to music in a fantasy language, the German subtitles unfortunately don't always cut a good figure. Here and there you will find typos or bizarre blunders in the translation. The command to let go, in English "release", was translated in The Pathless as something like release. Otherwise the adventure runs technically flawlessly, both on PC as well as consoles. On the PS5, you can choose between 4K and 30 frames or 1080p and 60 frames. Unfortunately, the chance to use the adaptive triggers of the Dualsense in archery was missed. The PS4 version also loads some objects and textures in the background that are clearly visible. That shouldn't detract from the coherent overall impression.
A great indie hit for the launch of the Playstation 5!
Even when The Pathless was introduced at the Game Awards 2018, it landed right on my list. The game simply breathed the spirit of Journey, Abzû and Co. Mysterious story, beautiful game world, great staging – that was exactly my thing! After the gameplay reveal in August, I was a little skeptical for a moment. The rapid locomotion system somehow didn't want to fit into the more pensive, decelerated overall picture. A good six hours later, however, I can now calmly say: No, the station wagon will open well – if you get involved. The Pathless is certainly not a game for everyone. The adventure is enjoyed for its atmosphere, its graphic style, the soundtrack, the subtle story and the emotional relationship between the heroine and her eagle companion. If you are looking for in-depth gameplay, a crammed open world or something similar, you could quickly get bored of the indie title.
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