Captain Luiz 'Piranha' Pereira and Miguel Ignacio Caballero are as tough and experienced as they come. They've raided tombs, discovered priceless treasures, and killed countless Nazis. In proper "Indiana Jones" fashion, they even saved the world from ancient threats a few times. If you're like me, you'll craft your own stories with Pathway's large cast of adventurers. It's a blast to play, with competently-created combat and fun adventures to embark on. Developed by Robotality and published by Chucklefish, Pathway is a strategy RPG. Players pick from various skilled characters and set out on five separate adventures. Along the way, you take on a whole host of Nazis, cultists, and zombies. There's also lots of loot and progression for those who love roguelike elements in gameplay.
The strongest element of Pathway is undeniably its art style and visuals. I'm drawn to pixel games in general, so I've seen plenty of great examples. Still, Pathway has particularly gorgeous graphics, partly due to its lighting. Pathway features a lot of dim, perilous tombs and dark deserts. Robotality uses "Pixel/Voxel Hybrid Technology" that creates dynamic shadows and lighting. The visuals pop, creating a powerful atmosphere. Especially when you're battling in a tomb filled with zombies or taking a nap in the desert.
Gavin Harrison's stellar soundtrack makes you feel like you're going on a grand adventure. Its triumphant and heroic orchestra are similar in tone to John Williams' famous work on "Indiana Jones." Voice acting is sparse, featuring a narrator reading off a few brief lines before and after an adventure. I'd swear the voice actor is Harrison Ford himself.
Pathway’s excellent presentation may be the highlight, but let’s not discount its rock solid gameplay. Players begin by choosing one of five increasingly difficult campaign adventures. There are some shared elements between each one, but expeditions feel like vignettes. Each of the five adventures sets you out on a fresh start. Then, there are a number of adventurers to choose from with their own perks and abilities. During campaigns, you can complete challenges to unlock more adventurers.
There is a nice variety in Pathway's cast of characters. Adventurers usually specialize in one weapon type, like shotguns or knives. Then, they have skills and stats that can aid you in your journey. One adventurer might be good at killing zombies. Another adventurer is good at healing. There are a lot of different ways to build your team, but I found that brute force was my specialty.
On the other hand, every adventurer also has a downside, like poor aim or a limited upgrade path. It's in these upgrade paths where roguelike elements come into play. Each run, your characters gain experience and higher-quality items. These carry over regardless of you failing an adventure, so there will be trial and error. Upgrade paths are pretty standard, but there are even more options to choose from to customize characters to your liking. This is great because some campaigns are just plain difficult. You'll most likely fail at one point or another.
The gameplay proper is split up into two segments: plotting your course and tactical combat. In your campaigns, you have to make it across the map to a specified destination. On the way, you'll be trekking through African or Middle Eastern deserts. Each run is randomized, with a spiderweb of paths to take. You move essentially one space at a time and encounter a new event each space. Some of these events are simply meant to build atmosphere, like your experience with a group of peaceful nomads. Other times you could encounter a trader or a new adventurer to pick up.
I appreciated these events with their little stories. Mostly, this was because of the beautiful scene accompanying each encounter. I could read what was going on and see it at the same time. This kept the game exciting in between bouts of combat. One complaint is that a few of these stories are overly short or seem a bit pointless. One event simply described a patch of grass my group saw. That seemed like filler content. Sometimes, though, events called for choices such as searching a house or ambushing Nazis. Some unique decisions are possible if a certain character has a perk. “Brute Force” can open a jammed door and give you loot like gasoline, healing supplies, or new equipment.
More often than not, you'll end up in combat. Because of this, events got a little repetitive in general. Half the time you end up ambushed by Pathway's factions of Nazis or cultists. This puts you in combat, which plays out like many tactical strategy games such as XCOM. Adventurers have guns of varying strength and range, and they also have special abilities. A cover system decreases your chances of taking a hit. In addition, some abilities give you a definitive edge in combat. You'll be taking on Nazis with guns and grenades or cultists with their zombies and fireballs. I wasn't particularly wowed by the enemy variety, but the combat felt rock solid.
There's no ambiguity in the combat of Pathway. In XCOM, I would doubt the ability to land hit even with a 95 percent chance of doing so. Pathway always felt fair to me and so I didn't feel cheated. The percentages to hit an enemy are either rather large or small. There is no in between. Encounters were also pretty fast. I never felt a sense of boredom if I had to take on another group of enemies. Overall, combat is simple and satisfying.
I do have a few qualms about the AI. It's nothing that ruined the experience, but enemies sometimes act very strange. I like to bait enemies while I sit in cover, waiting to seize the opportunity to launch an attack. That doesn't work half the time. If an enemy is out your field of view, many times they will not move at all and sit in position. This forced me to advance forward and cause the AI to act. In one instance, I searched through an entire crypt looking for the last two Nazis to kill. They were just sitting in the back waiting for me to spot them. In these situations, the normally appealing combat becomes unpredictable and frustrating.
As a side note, if you find Pathway too hard, you can also adjust the difficulty in a few different ways. First, you can increase or decrease how much health and damage an enemy has. Secondly, you can increase or decrease the amount of starting ammo and fuel, two precious and finite resources. I know that accessibility is a hot issue right now. I think Pathway's difficulty options provide a proper challenge for anyone regardless of skill level. With plenty of unlockables and achievements, nothing seemed unobtainable.
Overall, Pathway encapsulates what makes "Indiana Jones" so fun to experience. Ancient mysteries, mysterious relics, Nazis, and supernatural threats are all here. I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the very digestible stories and cohesive combat, and the graphics were a treat to my eyes. If you're yearning for a new adventure where everything falls together and just works, then you can't go wrong with Pathway.
Pathway throws in a lot of different gameplay elements, but it does everything well. The strategic combat is simple and fluid, and doesn't outstay its welcome. The vignette-like adventures are palatable and entertaining. And perhaps best of all, it's one of the best looking pixelized games in recent memory.
- Beautiful Lighting and Pixel Graphics
- Exceptional, Simple Tactical Gameplay
- Good Accessibility Options
- Superb Selection of Adventurers
- AI Can Act Strangely
- Some Repetitive Or Meaningless Story Events