An journey that doesn’t fairly reside as much as its dreamy Indiana-Jones-meets-XCOM pitch.
For those who’ve performed your fair proportion of roguelikes and turn-based techniques video games, Pathway presents as a well-recognized and intensely interesting bundle. Most clearly, it’s a hybrid of XCOM-style fight and board game-style motion punctuated with text-adventure-style eventualities, a la FTL. However upon nearer inspection, you’ll additionally discover shades of Into the Breach, Diablo, and Useless Cells. All of that is neatly wrapped in pixel artwork representing World Warfare II-era colonial Africa and the Center East, which loudly calls again to Indiana Jones. It delivers the promise of placing all these items collectively seamlessly, however solely to some extent: Pathway is designed to be endlessly replayable, however barely has sufficient selection to maintain a single playthrough of its 5 mini-campaigns.
Pathway is, greater than a method sport or an RPG, a run-based procedural journey sport. You lead a crew of as much as 4 adventurers on a highway journey throughout the desert, charting their path by transferring their jeep from node to node on a big and comparatively plain game-board-like map. Every node presents a flavorful text-based state of affairs that usually results in a handful of choices, like giving or taking sources, presenting a tactical selection, or fight (a few of which is non-compulsory and a few necessary), which performs out in turn-based tactical battles on a grid.
Along with these on-the-spot decisions at every cease, some gentle useful resource administration creates a broader tactical layer on the world map. You have got a restricted quantity of fuel on your jeep – far lower than you’ll have to make it throughout a map, a lot much less doing so whereas making detours to take a look at to the few highlighted areas the place you could find a store, a spot to relaxation and heal your group freed from cost or add a brand new character to your occasion. Equally, your crew shares a cache of ammo which must get topped off occasionally. You’ll discover each sources at random factors and get an opportunity to earn them after profitable a battle. Managing these sources, plus your characters’ well being and armor, creates an thrilling rigidity when it comes time to decide on between selecting a combat, which dangers well being and ammo, versus fleeing and risking the opportunity of your fuel tank working dry and forcing you to take injury by marching by means of the desert on foot.
That is the place Pathway will get actually fascinating and begins to disintegrate .
That is the place Pathway will get actually fascinating and begins to disintegrate . Virtually each step of every journey is randomized to some extent. The tactical maps and the scenes they provide are procedurally generated; once you’re offered with a selection, similar to whether or not to sneak right into a Nazi campsite and steal provides reasonably than simply combat, the outcomes are determined with a cube roll. The emphasis on randomization retains every state of affairs thrilling even should you’ve seen it earlier than, as you possibly can’t ever memorize easy methods to deal with them.
However that degree of randomization goes a bit too far, because it’s all too potential to expire of fuel by advantage of some dangerous cube rolls early on, by means of no fault of your personal. Properly, Pathway offers you a technique to keep away from this: Along with the various difficulties of every marketing campaign, there are two problem sliders — one which makes enemies weaker, and a second that allows you to begin with extra fuel and ammo. Whereas it takes a bit little bit of drama out of crossing the desert, I discovered that beginning with further sources offset the frustration that arose the few instances destiny left me excessive and dry.
To maximise its variability, Pathway’s story is damaged up into smaller chunks that provide you with extra choices from run to run. You select considered one of 5 campaigns on the outset, every of which has a setup that’s loosely based mostly on common films set within the interval. One is actually a retread of Raiders of the Misplaced Ark; one other sounds similar to the 1999 motion film model of The Mummy. It doesn’t matter what you do, the useful job is identical: Race the Nazis and/or an historical, zombie-loving cult throughout the desert to save lots of… one thing. The tales are mainly inconsequential, as you solely hear concerning the plot just a few, very transient snippets.
That the journey looks like window dressing shouldn’t be a difficulty because you are supposed to see every portion of it many, many instances as you replay it, however the writing is drawn too broadly usually. A lot of the adventures you get into, each the central plots and particular person scenes you come throughout alongside the way in which, have little or no element and barely transcend a primary useful rationalization. Certainly one of Pathway’s primary attracts, no less than for me, was its aesthetic and the potential for worldbuilding in a setting that’s acquainted however hardly ever utilized in video games, so it was disappointing to scratch the floor and discover it was solely a skinny coat of paint. Furthermore, because you’ll play by means of no less than 10 to 15 scenes per map display, that paint will get routinely stretched over a really massive area even on the primary playthrough, nevermind the tenth.
Although every run is extremely changeable, Pathway is a “roguelite,” that means that your characters’ upgrades are persistent from one randomized run to the subsequent. Firstly of every journey, you select a pair of adventurers from a forged of cliche however efficient archetypes who vary from Baron Von B. German, monocle-wearing conman, to “American Globetrotter” Jackson Sheffield. As in different roguelites, the characters evolve and develop throughout every journey, gaining expertise and leveling up no matter whether or not you win or lose, and maintain no matter gear they discover: There are a number of variations of every weapon, armor kind, and merchandise, plus color-coded variations on every, so they’re sure to enhance over time.
Pathway neatly mandates some variation in your techniques.
Every character has his or her personal stats, abilities — most of which dictate what sort of weapons they’ll use — and perks, which create further alternatives in some scenes outdoors of fight: In a single state of affairs, for instance, I got here throughout a person lamenting that his camel was sick and dying. More often than not, nothing occurs on this state of affairs — you simply transfer on — however in case you have Natalya, the medical professional, she will deal with it to earn a reward for the entire group. Alternatively, the archeologist Leonora De Quincey is aware of historical languages, so she will learn inscriptions on temple partitions and monoliths that, as a rule, maintain you from falling into historical traps.
Even with persistent characters, although, Pathway neatly mandates some variation in your techniques. Over the course of every story, you’re prone to develop your crew from two to as many as 4 by recruiting different random members of the group who’re scattered throughout the desert. (There are additionally just a few hidden characters not on the roster who can solely be a part of your journey mid-way). Although beginning with solely two characters could be a hindrance within the early goings, as you’re all the time outnumbered in fight, it’s all the time thrilling to deliver a brand new character aboard, and determine easy methods to use a group that hasn’t been constructed to work collectively presents its personal challenges.
Talking of which, once you get right into a combat, the fight looks like quite simple, very customary tactical-RPG fare. You progress round a grid, searching for XCOM-style full or half-cover positions that decrease your threat of getting shot whereas supplying you with the best purpose share, growing your probabilities of taking your opponents down. The fight is supposed to maneuver quick — your well being and armor, each of which solely get well utilizing restoration gadgets, are fairly restricted sources, so it’s essential take enemies off the board as rapidly as potential.
Whereas that tracks — most of my battles solely lasted a couple of minutes — the fights don’t really feel all that tactical. Every character will get a few particular skills based mostly on their tools and each weapon kind and most armors confer a particular fight motion, which is powered by Bravery factors you earn each time you employ a normal assault. Lots of these skills provide you with extra firepower — each shotguns and assault rifles have particular assaults that allow you to shoot teams of enemies, for instance — reasonably than a tactical benefit that may enable you alter AI patterns and “management” the battle. With out many choices for protection or deterring mobility, most fights actually boil all the way down to who can outflank the opposite and pull the set off quickest.
Additionally, win or lose, any characters who die in your journey have to sit down out your subsequent run, except you pay your persistent forex to expedite their restoration. That system has benefits and downsides: On the one hand, it deftly pushes you to make use of and construct up all your characters as a substitute of specializing in a selected few, particularly within the early going once you solely have a handful of decisions. They differ sufficient that every beginning pair has their very own attraction. On the opposite, it units a meandering tempo, particularly as you’re working by means of the campaigns for the primary time. For those who see one particular duo as your A-team, utilizing different characters each different spherical looks like a waste of time.
Pathway is a small sport with huge concepts. Typically that makes for a wonderful journey, however on this case the 2 really feel out of sync. There are just a few excellent big-picture concepts, just like the idea of a procedural highway journey with survival mechanics and the thought to mix roguelite parts with tactical-RPG fight: These concepts actually shine once you first begin taking part in, but it surely turns into very clear over time that every of its core parts wants extra depth to be as replayable because the video games it takes inspiration from. Like bubble gum that loses its taste, you possibly can maintain chewing on Pathway so long as it makes you cheerful, however that rush you loved once you first unwrapped it isn’t coming again regardless of how onerous you grind.