Near the beginning of both games, players are set loose in a large world and asked to explore it with only a few end goals in mind. While the endpoint is predetermined, the journey there makes for an adventure that’s unique for every player.
Nintendo has deemed this style of open-world game “open air,” and we’re starting to see more games of this style pop up, like Genshin Impact and Immortals Fenyx Rising. A completionist playthrough of Breath of the Wild can take upwards of 200 hours, but you can beat The Pathless in just five hours. Any exploration that comes after is the icing on the cake.
The Pathless emphasizes player choice and immersive world design, but on a much more bite-sized scale. It even offers some unique interpretations of the same formula. There’s a satisfying twist on the familiar archery mechanic, and doing away with the world map that has become standard in modern open-world games is a brave step forward
While The Pathless isn’t a flawless experience, it’s a bite-sized Breath of the Wild that anyone can enjoy.
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Age of Calamity
The Pathless does not place much emphasis on its story. Things only move forward at key moments. Players control a Hunter who ventures to an island to defeat the Godslayer, an evil being who is corrupting the gods. After helping a dying eagle deity, the Hunter is gifted with a reborn eagle that expands their move set, empowering them to defeat the Godslayer.
Most of the modest playtime is spent on the journey between these moments, and things don’t feel particularly gripping until the end. The most interesting story elements are relegated to the collectible lore found on dead bodies across the island, Dark Souls style. The game does succeed at forging a bond between the player and eagle, but the villain doesn't gain much in the way of depth.
Thankfully, The Pathless is a joy to play.
The simple act of moving around is entertaining as players sprint, glide with the eagle’s help, and target talismans scattered throughout the game’s world. Unlike other games that force players to aim with a reticle, The Pathless’ archery mechanics are timing-based. You hold down a button and release it at a certain point to hit the talismans.
Players gain a speed boost or launch forward in the air whenever they successfully hit a talisman. As the game progresses, you’ll encounter stronger talismans that give you an even greater boost. As you move to more important destinations, this mechanic will always keep you moving and engaged. This is something that the best open-world games like Breath of the Wild and Marvel’s Spider-Man are able to achieve
If you didn’t like all the empty space between major points of interest in Breath of the Wild, this mechanic was made for you. It also helps that The Pathless is much shorter, with brisk pacing between the more methodical puzzle focused segments.
Breaking up the Pace
The Pathless lacks a traditional map or waypoint system. Instead, you use a Spirit Mask to look at the world around you. Important objects and areas are imbued a red hue, while lanterns signify completed objectives.
At the press of a button, you can get a rough idea of where you need to travel next from there, you spend a few minutes shooting talismans and platforming to reach your destination. The ensuing challenges typically boil down to some combination of shooting an arrow and moving something with your pet eagle.
There isn’t much in the way of puzzle variation, Which could become very frustrating in a longer game, but it’s not particularly noticeable unless you’re a completionist. For those who want to see everything The Pathless has to offer, these puzzles can get repetitive and break the fast pace after a while.
The ultimate goal in The Pathless is to save all of the corrupted gods from the Godslayer by collecting Light Stones in their area to restore three towers, all while dodging the god itself, who is at the center of a giant storm. Putting Light Stones in all three towers in a given area allows you to weaken that area’s boss and confront it in a multi-phase fight.
These encounters are exhilarating, even though they all begin with a straightforward chase portion The final stages of each battle, however, play out differently, mixing platforming and archery-based obstacles. Punishment isn’t harsh either, as death only means players lose a bit of their progress towards unlocking another flap that their eagle can do in the air.
A Link Between Worlds
Breath of the Wild can be very unforgiving until you accrue a substantial inventory of weapons and armor, but this lack of a fail state means that The Pathless does not run into this issue. If you know someone that struggles to get into open-world games, you might want to try and wean them into the genre with The Pathless.
The Pathless is among the first wave of games that are clearly inspired by Breath of the Wild. While some of the games to come will just end up feeling like a pale imitation of something greater, The Pathless crafts its own distinct identity, with a memorable experience that’s different enough to shine in its own right
If you enjoy the “open-air” style of open-world game established by Breath of the Wild, you shouldn’t miss out on The Pathless, especially if you’re picking up a PS5.
The Pathless is available on November 12 for PC, PS4, PS5, and Apple Arcade.
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