Getting the honor of being in the launch line-up for a new console is a double-edged sword, especially for a relatively young studio like Giant Squid. Such exposure, which is moreover given to a reduced number of titles, necessarily generates tenfold attention from the players. May they be reassured: whether on PC or on PS5, The Pathless is up to the hopes raised by its charming attract over the successive trailers. Giant Squid, does that mean anything to you? For many, probably nothing. And for good reason, The Pathless is only the second achievement of the studio, after Abzû, a charming contemplative and kinetic experience at twenty thousand places under the sea, which marked the remarkable debut of the young structure. It has been compared a lot to Journey and for good reason, Giant Squid was co-founded by Matt Nava who was artistic director of thatgamecompany. So much for the little history. With this first success, Giant Squid decided to think bigger with The Pathless, while knowing how to keep where so many others before him were crushed by the weight of their ambitions.
The arrow and the feather
The Giant Squid style is a form of elegant minimalism and refinement in the sobriety of technical means such as game mechanics. The Pathless is a new demonstration of this credo. I play there a hunter, virtuoso in the handling of the bow and accompanied by a majestic eagle, reincarnation of a divinity slain by the Deicide. As its name suggests, the latter is an evil being planning to rise in turn to the rank of master of this world after having corrupted the four tutelary animal deities. Deities whose luminous and benevolent nature will be restored, after having faced them in turn. But before getting there, it will be necessary, for each zone of play, to free three pillars of the grip of the Deicide by going in search of emblems scattered in towers, castles, and other buildings in ruins. To do this, my archer and his companion form a perfectly complementary duo. The first can move at full speed by targeting talismans whose explosion releases energy propelling it to the next, resulting in quite exhilarating sequences of pure movement. As we progress, more and more powerful talismans appear in our path, some going so far as to propel us into the air. To take advantage of the power released by each talisman, it is necessary to focus your aim for a longer or shorter time on the target, depending on the distance at which it is located. It's a blow to take, but the mastery of this ingenious locomotion system is particularly intuitive and constitutes the first strength of The Pathless gameplay, offering particularly exhilarating game sensations.
For its part, the Eagle who accompanies us also has more than one string to its bow. It can thus allow us to glide after a jump, or even hoist us high in the sky with one or more wing beats, thereby facilitating my exploration of the different play areas available to me. His abilities continue to grow over time, after each boss fight but also by patiently collecting golden orbs, filling a kind of experience gauge. He is also of great help in solving the many clever puzzles that line our path. In fact, its ability to carry weights will be regularly used when it comes to actuating mechanisms. Of course, puzzles require many other actions from me. It will sometimes be a question of igniting a succession of torches, by making my arrow ricochet, or of aligning several circles through which to shoot to activate a mechanism. The whole often requires a good dose of observation and reflection, but here again, the analysis of the puzzles is never hampered by an artificially complex construction. Especially since my intrepid archer will also be able to count on a capacity of “vision of the spirit”, allowing him to identify the points of interest and revealing invisible faults in the material world, in which to sneak. Giant Squid here chooses simple mechanisms but which, cleverly associated with each other, give enough difficulty for the resolution of the problem to be accompanied by great satisfaction.
A title adept at the gentle method
And that's good because the essence of the challenge offered by The Pathless is precisely based on these very many puzzles. Apart from boss fights, there is thus no real conflict in the game. The divine creatures certainly stand in our way from time to time on the occasion of random appearances, but when that happens, it will simply be a question of 'avoid being seen by them and come to the aid of our companion, nailed to the ground by their evil aura. Too bad, though, that their sudden appearances often take place right under our noses, preventing us from finding refuge behind the shelter and condemning us to lose some of our golden orbs after being discovered. Once the threat has dissipated, it will be necessary to heal our majestic bird by caressing it. Note also that it is possible to fluff the eagle at will. In addition to being served by a very convincing and satisfying animation, this pretty scene allows you to fully recharge your movement gauge. In short, in The Pathless, the only duality is that which opposes us to Deicide. When it comes to boss fights, it's not even really about defeating them but delivering them from evil. What's more, the game never punishes us with a game over after taking a good rousing and just prefers to kick us out of the arena. A bias synonymous with smooth and uninterrupted progress, but also duels which unfortunately lack a little stake.
These fights are articulated in two stages: once the three pillars have been freed from the power of Deicide, our archer sets off in pursuit of the divinity which has become uncontrollable. To put an end to his mad rush, he must then be reached, in several places of his body; after which the real face to face arena can take place. The first of these two phases vaguely recalls the epic duels of a certain Shadow of the Colossus without however touching the intensity. The idea of associating an obstacle-lined chase with shooting phases could have given rise to exhilarating phases of the game, unfortunately, the action is muddled here and each of these introductions a little too quickly dispatched to arouse the enthusiasm. Fortunately, the second phase is gleefully inspired by the boss fights of the last Zelda and is characterized by a successful hybridization between dodging movements, the anticipation of attacks, and reflex fire.
Pathless in the wild
The influence of the Zelda saga and especially of his latest title, Breath of The Wild, is also present in The Pathless. It's a bit as if the title of Giant Squid is a contemplative variation of it, picked up on a shorter playing time and more reasonable ambitions. We obviously think of the possibility of soaring for a long time above enchanting and depopulated environments, of this rather crazy verticality which also characterizes the latest born in the Nintendo saga or, more simply, of this emphasis on slow exploration, groping, of a peaceful and silent universe… Perhaps even a little too much elsewhere. I would have appreciated a little more life to brighten up the place. However, where Breath of The Wild offers a long adventure of several tens of hours, The Pathless ends in barely 8 hours, a little more for those who wish to explore the universe in its every nook and cranny and thus unearth all of it. secrets. What I will tackle moreover, so much to move in this magnificent framework of play gives pleasure. But all the same, I must say that I am a little unsatisfied after having lifted the veil on all the mysteries of this charming universe. Visually too, The Pathless' clean style is reminiscent of Breath of The Wild. The two tracks share a certain taste for uncluttered landscapes with soft colors, rustling with the murmur of the wind on the great grassy plains and in the foliage of the trees. But the aesthetic of the title of Giant Squid is however characterized by a more contrasted rendering and much less "cartoon".
So I will stop the game of comparisons here, for fear of giving the impression of too much affiliation between the two titles. Despite a relationship that is difficult to contest, The Pathless enjoys a style of its own and an indisputable identity, served by a delicate realization which also knows how to be more shimmering when the action gains in intensity. On PC, the title is thus of a fluidity never faulted and enjoys a great smoothness. Once again, I find the famous elegant minimalism that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Finally, I must obviously salute the exceptional sound design of The Pathless. The whistling of the arrows and the explosion that follows when they hit the mark, impart a sort of rather heady musical rhythm to our progress. The rare dialogues punctuating the narration are expressed in a completely believable fictitious language, which is not without recalling the Elvish language of the Lord of the Rings, and, it is rare enough to be underlined, very pleasant to the ear. Finally, Austin Wintory's sublime compositions (Journey, Abzû) always accompany the action with great accuracy and are characterized by a predominance of strings, and especially the cello, while giving pride of place to powerful guttural songs. Another very high-level OST to credit the composer.
The Pathless Review Conclusion
For his second achievement, Giant Squid takes a step closer to adventure with a capital A. The Pathless provides both aesthetic and kinetic pleasure and, if it does not have the ambitions of a large production, it manages nevertheless to captivate me for a good dozen hours of play, without any hesitation. This result is made possible by a clever mix of amazing exploration, well-designed puzzles, and fast-paced action. Certainly, the title of Giant Squid does not avoid some pitfalls. Among them, boss fights whose first of the two phases, unfortunately, lacks intensity and readability; or an adventure which, despite the many secrets to be discovered, leaves us a little unsatisfied. I also regret that the world in which he immerses us is not more lively. However, these few grievances should not deter you from sampling all that the title of Giant Squid has to offer. The Pathless is a lovely journey that gives pride of place to contemplation and the exaltation of movement, all rocked by the wonderful compositions of a, particularly inspired Austin Wintory. A simple and beautiful work, in which I would have liked to be able to stay much longer.
For more information regarding this game, I strongly recommend you visit The Pathless official website for all details. Also, I invite you to leave your comment down below, in case you tried out the game. Let us know about your own gameplay experience.