With its deliberate lack of maps, icons, and any kind of navigational systems, it might seem like The Pathless is titled such just to describe its UI to you. But Giant Squid and Annapurna Interactive actually have a meaningful reason why the game is called the way it is, but I won’t spoil that for you—you’ll just have to play through the game and discover it yourself, which is where the beauty of the game lies.
The Pathless shines in exactly that—there is no single path to get to your destination. Players will be forced to discover their own ways to navigate through the vast open world with just their intuition and their trusty eagle by their side, and that’s totally okay. In fact, there’s nothing more exhilarating than gliding through the skies or speeding through majestic fields to explore everything that’s out there—and there’s a lot of stuff out there.
Gameplay mechanics are actually pretty simple: you navigate through the terrain by jumping and gliding with the help of your eagle, and traverse the land by shooting floating talismans for a speed boost to cover greater distances. You don’t even have to worry about manually targeting those talismans, as a single button auto-aims and does that for you. By eliminating the need to aim, the game forces you to focus on more important things around you, like the lush forests, the rolling hills, and the gigantic red cloud of impending doom in the distance.
While you’ll be spending most of your time leisurely solving puzzles to acquire yellow crystals, said red cloud is always there, threatening to consume you. It moves at a snail’s pace so you can easily avoid it, but sometimes, you don’t have a choice but to get caught up in the red storm. When you do, your eagle partner gets ripped from you. You have to sneak past this huge monster to get your eagle back without getting spotted, which is where the game’s story comes in.
I especially appreciated the lack of complicated menus and buttons, because it forces you to zero in on your relationship with your eagle—and just like that, being alone doesn’t feel so lonely.
Basically, you play as the Hunter, whose main goal is to cleanse the world of an evil that has corrupted the land. Primordial gods called the Tall Ones have been transformed by this corruption into gargantuan rampaging monsters that have it out for you and your eagle, so you have to collect Lightstones that will drive the corruption out. Each Lightstone cleanses an Obelisk, and cleansing three Obelisks clears that area enough for you to face the Tall Ones one-on-one. Defeating a Tall One releases that area from the curse, and then you move on to the next area to repeat the same thing.
There are four Tall Ones to beat before you face the final boss, the Godslayer. Throughout your journey, you collect yellow crystals to boost your eagle’s Flap ability so you can soar through greater heights. But while each area has different puzzles to solve and each guardian boss has some level of variety to them, it does get a little repetitive, especially after the second boss. I personally think the fourth guardian spirit was unnecessary, and was likely only added to prolong the gameplay.
Each area will only take you about an hour or so if you’re just trying to achieve the bare minimum, so yes, the gameplay is short. But to be honest, I felt like the game was most enjoyable when I was simply roaming around aimlessly and trying to enjoy the view. Going through the plains, mountains, and ruins with my pet eagle (which you can literally pet) reminded me so much of Trico in The Last Guardian, with the same wordless bond and the same unexplained post-apocalyptic world. The solitude felt satisfyingly familiar, with striking elements of Journey weaved in between. I especially appreciated the lack of complicated menus and buttons, because it forces you to zero in on your relationship with your eagle—and just like that, being alone doesn’t feel so lonely.
As for the puzzles, they’re not too complicated, either. You don’t really run the risk of getting stuck in one place and being unable to progress through the game, because there are so many of these Lightstones scattered throughout every area. You only need a certain number to cleanse each Obelisk, so if you do find that you can’t solve a certain puzzle, you can simply leave and try your luck with another one elsewhere. With the help of your Spirit Mask (reminiscent of Batman’s Detective Mode in the Arkham games), you can look for glowing red spots in the distance (it helps if you do so from a higher vantage point; check out our beginner’s guide HERE) to find Lightstones and yellow crystals. That’s really all there is to it—at least until you get to the boss fight.
As expected, boss fights are mainly all about your typical timed-action button sequences. You start off chasing the corrupted Tall One and shooting your arrows when you get near enough, then you’re transported to an area where you face off against the boss using button prompts. Every boss has a different phase after that. For instance, the second boss will have you running through the ruins of a structure and hiding behind rubble to avoid its fiery blasts (again, reminiscent of The Last Guardian). Defeating the boss automatically grants you an extra Flap for your eagle. The area also gets cleansed, which removes the red storm in the distance, giving you all the freedom you’ll ever need to collect more crystals if you’re aiming for 100% completion.
The gameplay isn’t really all that unique, but what I do love about the game is how beautiful it all is despite the simplicity. The soundtrack is just top-notch—it definitely helps with the emotional impact of certain scenes in the game. I also particularly liked how there’s no such thing as character death, so you don’t die from falling, failing, or getting hit. That certainly relieves much of the pressure from the game, making it even more relaxing.
I played The Pathless on PlayStation 4, but even then, the stunning environment already took my breath away, so I can’t help but wonder how majestic it would all look on the PlayStation 5. Fair warning: I encountered a couple of glitches while I was playing this game, once when I was trying to get my eagle to come to me but it wouldn’t, and another when I was supposed to receive a Lightstone after solving a puzzle but had to reboot the game before it registered.
To elaborate, there are a few puzzles that will require you to command your eagle to carry a weighted thingy for you. The whole point of those kinds of puzzles is for your eagle to drop the weight onto a raised platform on the ground where you’re standing, so it’s supposed to fly toward your location. The glitch didn’t allow me to do that. No matter how I moved around the vicinity and no matter how much I called my eagle to me, it would just hover from afar and stare at me without doing anything. I eventually had to leave the structure and come back to get my eagle to follow.
The second glitch I encountered was when I completed a certain puzzle, and I was supposed to receive the trapped Lightstone as a reward. No matter what I did or where I went, the Lightstone wouldn’t appear in my menu indicator, prompting me to reboot my console before it did. Not sure if it’s just me, though, so your mileage may vary.
The Pathless Review | Final Thoughts
Overall, The Pathless combines the best elements from Journey and The Last Guardian into a relaxing experience that’s familiar yet refreshing at the same time. Controls are deliberately simple to make you focus on traversing the world around you and finding a path for the pathless, and the road to discovery is actually more enjoyable than the destination itself. I also like how intuitive the surroundings are—for instance, your eagle doesn’t just hang around overhead all the time. Sometimes, it hovers nearby when you’re running around solving puzzles, or lands somewhere else, busying itself with stuff on the ground. It perches on ledges to rest and does its own thing too, which I just find really, really cute.
TechRaptor reviewed The Pathless on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 5, PC, and Apple Arcade.
- Simple, Minimalist Gameplay
- Emotionally Stirring Soundtrack
- Absence of Character Death Makes for a Less Pressured Experience
- Puzzles can Get Repetitive
- Variety for Bosses isn’t Enough
- Had to Reset Twice Due to Glitches