The Pathless knows that you’ve played Breath of the Wild. Its stunning visuals and fully orchestrated soundtrack scream the influence of Nintendo’s beloved series, so much so, that you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as the latest entry in The Legend of Zelda. The looks and sounds may drag you in, but the feel, specifically the fluid motion of the protagonist, will drive an arrow through your heart and drive you to explore every nook and cranny of its vast forest map.
As a master archer, you are tasked with saving an island from a dark curse that has corrupted its inhabitants. It’s nothing new to adventure games, but that doesn’t cheapen the overall experience. The story is minimalistic with an occasional cutscene and exchanges of dialogue. Developer, Giant Squid, decided to let the world tell its own story. Bodies around the world provide a small glimpse into the island before your arrival. On one occasion, I read about the slaughter of a whole monastery. To my surprise, I happened upon that monastery and those who would call it their final resting place. Later on, I would find myself in the skeleton of a giant lizard, who just so happened to swallow a temple. It’s small moments like these and the fact that you can miss them that make the island feel alive.
This island is huge, spread across four biomes that include a thick jungle, vast plains, and the deepest snow valley I’ve seen in a game. As you traverse villages, ruins, and other structures, you’ll work to avoid the area’s boss, as they hunt you in the shape of a giant red orb. These moments are scary. While I never had one interrupt a puzzle, there would be a few times where I would be caught off guard while admiring something in the distance. Getting caught starts a difficult-to-win stealth section. There isn’t much lost if you fail these sections, so they’re only mildly annoying.
I originally was worried that traversing each area would be tedious, as the archer is only equipped with a bow and her eagle companion. I could not have been more wrong. Your character is given boosts that can be filled by shooting talismans spread around the island. The inclusion of auto-aim makes moving around the island fluid and easily the most fun to be had in the game. Your eagle adds depth to the movement, giving you boosts into the air to help gain access to new areas. There’s also the pet button. Time and time again your eagle will be corrupted by the darkness of the world. The only way to heal her is with pets. While it is a small addition, it gives you the opportunity to slow down and take in the environment around you.
You have one objective with each area, beat the boss. To do so you’ll have to find numerous lightstones around the island. With no world map or markers present, you will rely on spirit vision to help you find your way. Spirit vision (think detective view from Arkham Asylum) gives you hints on where to find stones. With the lightstones in hand, you’ll liberate the three towers in each area and then will face the area’s boss. This loop in each area can get repetitive. The discoverability can help break this up a bit, but if you’re streamlining to get through to each boss, you’ll likely feel some fatigue. This ultimately doesn’t take away from the awesomeness that is the boss sections.
Each boss fight is broken down into three sections. The chase, the fight, and the finishing blow. If you can only experience one moment in The Pathless, please let it be the chase. As you enter the final lair of an area, the boss takes off and you are forced to give chase, using everything you’ve learned and the talisman around you to stop and corner the big chicken. With the chase, I don’t hesitate to draw comparisons to Wander climbing giants in Shadow of the Colossus in reference to the scope and the awe you feel in the moment. Each fight also evokes more Zelda comparisons, especially from Majora’s Mask in reference to the darkness and the warped state of each boss. The fight and the finishing blow for each boss bring something interesting to the table, but they fail to live up to the excitement brought on by the chase.