Chucklefish’s new adventure game, Pathway, is like the lovechild of D&D, Darkest Dungeon, and Cannon Fodder. Any explorer at heart will adore the nostalgic feeling gameplay and mysterious map which only unveils itself as you move forward.
The game starts off by letting you pick one of many storylines (hence the title Pathway?). Set in the 1930’s desert wilderness, it’s up to you to pick which quest you’ll head off on. But before heading out, you’ll have to pick your team. I liked that Pathway had a sizeable chunk of characters to choose from – each came with their own talents and drawbacks making it a challenging task to choose.
Of course, some characters suited certain quests better than others and so it soon became clear how important strategizing was going to be before the game even started. Some characters are strictly healers but make bad shots, whereas others prefer explosives or guns. Once I got my crew together, it was time to hit the road. I picked the quest ‘A Friend in Need’ which involved a friend lost in a vast desert filled with Nazi patrols.
The map branches out, inviting players to think twice before choosing to go left instead of right. The map is covered in tiles that the player must choose and click on to move forward. It sort of resembles games like Mario Party, and some tiles even bare vague symbols enticing you to check out those instead of the seemingly plain tile beside it. But the truth is, you never know what you’re going to get and I kinda loved it!
When you pick a direction, an event will occur – whether it’s treasure, a possible ambush or a mystery forgotten in the sand, it’s up to you to decide how to engage with it. I liked that the choices weren’t always as simple as I first thought. Sometimes I was sure that going with option B was best and then it would actually lead to a secret ambush that beat up my team pretty bad. The game really keeps you on your toes that way – it’s delightfully unpredictable.
I loved the design of the game in general and how each event had a pixellated story along with the narration and choices beside it. It has a very old-school vibe and yet I haven’t played anything else like it in a long time.
Since this RPG game is procedurally generated, you’re never going to have the exact same path or events even if you pick the same quest which is an awesome plus! I played through one story twice, with two different team members and not only was the map completely different, but the way I fought my battles had to change as well to adapt to the new characters strengths.
Battles in Pathway are thankfully pretty simple to learn, however, any seasoned gamer who likes strategy games will be able to recognize a lot of similarities with other games of the same genre. There aren’t too many tutorial-like hints that pop up but it’s fairly simple to figure out. The battles are turn-based, with each character getting two turns for you to make use of cover and their special abilities. I actually really liked the battles – they weren’t too dragged out and enemies felt like they had just the right amount of smarts to make it challenging. I’m not going to lie – while the battles were fun, my favorite part hands down was exploring the map.
I’m a sucker for any game with a ‘sit down and let me tell you a story’ vibe. While the game doesn’t have a ton of voice acting (most of the narration you just read,) there is a little storytelling the start of each storyline to explain where you are and what this adventure will entail. I feel like that paired with the constant Indiana Jones-esque music in the background really helped set the tone.
You can’t help seeing getting excited as the map unfolds in front of you. I do wish there was a little less reading and more telling of the story only because the narrator does a really great job at the start of setting the mood and sometimes having to stop and read every event myself took me out of it.
Overall I had a lot of fun playing Pathway. Exploring the map like a proper adventurer was a lot of fun and kind of made me feel like a kid again! I think anyone who’s looking for something different and with a whole lot of imagination would really enjoy Pathway. It’s not a typical shooter and doesn’t require the player to run around a vast open world. While those are aspects of a game I love, it was really fun to play something a little more simple. The choices you make in events aren’t always easy and the NPC’s in battles are ruthless – overall it’s a challenging experience that really forces your strategic hand.
Have you played Pathway yet? Let us know what you thought in the comments down below or check out the trailer here!