The Pathless Review (PS5)

With the illustrious list of launch titles that were packed into the PS5 lineup, including titles such as Marvel’s Spiderman: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. We would forgive you if you didn’t have the time to divert your attention to the little guys on the list of titles. Many of us witnessed indie title Bugsnax thanks to it being free on PS Plus but few had the joy of picking up the new Annapurna Interactive produced title, The Pathless

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This title sees you take control of ‘the hunter’ who will have to use her skills with a bow and athletic skills to overcome puzzles, hunt corrupted spirits and restore the land to it’s former glory, ridding the area of the evil Godslayer for good. On paper, it sounds like a novel concept with the potential to be a very special title indeed. So we thought we would check it out for ourselves. So here is our review of The Pathless on PS5.

An Enchanting Open World

Let’s begin with the visuals on offer in this title. This game was developed by Giant Squid, the makers of the wonderful indie title, Abzu. So with that in mind, you would expect this one to look the part. Not only does it live up to its predecessors, it blows them out of the water with some of the most refined and enchanting indie game visuals we have seen in gaming to date.

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The open world is crafted with care and attention, offering a world full of interesting puzzles, points of interest and challenges. Meaning that there is enough to look at as you travel and breakneck speeds through the use of dash mechanics. However, if you take the time to get yourself to a vantage point, you’ll see that this title is just as stunning and full of life, even at a standstill. Textures are on point, the animations are smooth and overall, it’s a masterclass in terms of art direction. Simply beautiful.

Take a Bow (and Arrow)

Moving onto the gameplay. This title is clearly one that was made with the new Dualsense features in mind, with emphasis on the adaptive triggers. The resistance that these triggers can offer mimic the resistance of a bow string wonderfully, so seeing as archery plays such a prevalent role in this game, this had all the makings of an essential PS5 title for all the techheads out there.

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Thankfully, the game delivers this with aplomb, with the triggers offering realistic resistance and the haptic feedback offering cues that help with timing your shots just right, allowing you to keep your momentum going. Plus, unlike games such as FIFA 21 where this feature was used in a very invasive and immersion breaking way, The Pathless manages to make this feel perfectly natural which was much appreciated.

As for the core mechanics, you’ll be able to move at speed, shoot arrows and you’ll also have a bird companion who will help you solve puzzles and traverse high ledges. The mechanics are simple to grasp but to take some time to truly master. Thankfully, the game offers a number of puzzles that test your dexterity, allowing you to build up your skill naturally throughout your journey.

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Perhaps the best examples of these moments where your skills will be tested to the max are the boss chase scenes. The evil beings will chase ‘the hunter’, meaning you’ll have to move fast to evade them. You need to be efficient with your bow, make the most of all the well-refined movement mechanics and make use of your avian friend to get to safety.

Gets In It’s Own Way at Times

The puzzles within this game are also a real strong point as you would expect from anything Annapurna Interactive sign their name to. The game doesn’t hold your hand or offer any clues through the UI. Instead, you have to use the environmental clues and engage your brain to figure out what the game is asking of you. It’s the perfect balance of difficulty, frustration and reward. Each puzzle is tough enough that you’ll have to stop and think about it for a while. Yet not too tough that you’ll cast your controller aside in frustration.

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The only issue with this is that the game offers other sections that don’t lend themselves to the puzzle heavy format. The stealth areas being the prime example for this. These sections are dull, slow, not fun and just leave the player wondering when they will be over so they can get back to running at full speed and solving puzzles.

Follow Your Nose

Another aspect that we personally enjoyed but could also see the challenges of, was the lack of an in-world map. To find your quest markers or points of interest, you can change your perception, entering an ethereal version of the world and you’ll see your destination illuminated in a red glow. However, to find new puzzles which allow you to progress through the story. You’ll need to learn the lay of the land and explore the expansive open world.

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This approach lends itself to the lack of handholding approach this game adopts and for many, we are sure it will be a welcome approach. However, it can be a little disorientating, especially in the early hours of the game as you get your bearings. It’s not for everyone but we are all for it.

The Verdict

Overall, The Pathless is arguably the best indie title that you’ll find on next gen consoles and that will likely be the case for some time. Admittedly, the storyline is rather generic and predictable. Plus, there are some sections that drag down the experience as a whole. Yet despite these minor flaws, this title shines through as a PS5 gem. The movement mechanics are slick and fun, the puzzles are clever and well crafted, the animal companion AI and mechanics are superb and artistically, this game is a sight to see. If you want to break away from the AAA scene and see what else the PS5 can offer, we couldn’t recommend a game more highly than this one.

Summary: The Pathless is the mythic adventure of an archer and an eagle in a vast forest.

Genres: action-adventure, indie.

Platforms: Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (Review Version), macOS and iOS

Developer: Giant Squid

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive

Release date: November 12, 2020

The Pathless
Reader Rating0 Votes
Movement mechanics are incredibly fun and fluid in action
Puzzles are clever and meticulously crafted
The Dualsense controller is utilised to great effect
The art direction is simply beautiful
You can pet the bird
Stealth sections leave a lot to be desired
Way-finding with no map can prove to be a dropping off point for some
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