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The Pathless review – open-world puzzler foiled by its own ambition

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November 11, 2020 at 12:30PM

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PS5, PS4, PC; Giant Squid/Annapurna Interactive
In trying to apply the formula behind games such as Journey and Abzû to an open world, The Pathless ends up overstaying its welcome

If you’ve played 2016’s underwater adventure Abzû, Giant Squid’s first game, you might expect its sophomore to be a tranquil experience, less concerned with objectives and points than with memorable visuals. But while The Pathless is steeped in the same mythical atmosphere, it’s more focused on puzzles and actions. The land has been cursed with a great darkness, its gods poisoned; a hero is needed, and so you, a female hunter clad in red, accept the task to cleanse and restore landmarks and deities that fell prey to a shadowy foe. Plains, craggy plateaus and crumbling ruins stretch into the distance, an open world to be explored at your leisure as Austin Wintory’s uplifting soundtrack sweeps in at key moments.

The Pathless shares a bit of DNA with Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but it’s much simpler – puzzles involving lighting torches using your bow or operating doors with the help of pressure plates are never difficult to figure out. But shooting the bow inside a ruin at close quarters can be fumbly, and the repetition quickly turns tedious. One example: early on, you learn that lining up your shot so that an arrow passes through a flame lets you light dormant torches with it. You then use flaming arrows to light torches in half the subsequent puzzles in the game, and very few of them will innovate on the basic idea in any way at all. For a game that’s only six to eight hours long, there’s a dispiriting lack of ideas.

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