The Pathless (Switch) Review
The Pathless was originally released for both PlayStations and PC at the end of 2020. COGconnected reviewed it then, and you can read that review here. As of February 2023, The Pathless is available for both Xboxes and Switch. This article is about the Switch version. The original review does a great job of giving the reader an idea of the kind of game The Pathless is. This review will compare the Switch version to the PlayStation version, as well as give a different perspective on the game, as a direct juxtaposition of the original review.
I agree with most of COGconnected’s original The Pathless review, except I didn’t enjoy the game nearly as much. One of the original reviewer’s favorite parts of the game was its vibe and presentation. I thought they were fine. The music was very ambient. But it wasn’t Aphex Twin-caliber ambient electronic, and it didn’t have strong melodies. It also didn’t have emotionally intense moments the way Journey did. The graphics are also very Journey-inspired. But there are so many games now that share this aesthetic. It’s become a way of making a budget game look more stylized. This makes The Pathless look like a $20 PS3 digital-only release.
Part of the reason I don’t find The Pathless to be visually appealing is that its environments are sparse and barren. This makes its minimalist aesthetics quite drab. It reminded me of something like Turok or Body Harvest on the N64, with some neon wash for flavor. The environments are just too large and empty.
The reason for the large, empty environments is that The Pathless’ main gameplay hook is its traversal mechanic. It is a really unique mechanic. There are targets everywhere. Shooting one with a fully charged arrow fills a stamina meter, and if the player can keep the stamina meter full for a few seconds, they can build massive speed. Getting a full burst of speed and maintaining it feels great. But it also has that classic Sonic the Hedgehog problem where if your stamina runs out, the gameplay grinds to a halt and doesn’t feel fun anymore. All flow and momentum are lost.
Unfortunately, when the gameplay slows down, some jank rises to the surface. Jumping and moving stutters when speed runs out. Sometimes the camera doesn’t know what to do. It constantly moves in and out and was left in an undesirable position more often than I would have liked. The Switch version also suffers from some low framerate stutters, which makes it the less desirable version. Because of the fast traversal and large environments, The Pathless isn’t a great handheld game either. The character is usually quite small on the screen.
Aside from the unique traversal, The Pathless’ gameplay is quite bland. The puzzles are like budget Legend of Zelda. The stealth sections are more of a chore than a fun time. There’s no strong narrative to drive the gameplay forward. After playing for an hour or so, the player has experienced everything The Pathless has to offer. One of the original reviewer’s main critiques was that the gameplay formula gets tired by the end of the game, and this was a huge problem for me as well.
Try the Other Versions First
Journey was likely an inspiration to The Pathless. But from my perspective, The Pathless failed at all the elements that made Journey special. There weren’t any strong emotional moments, and the game just got blander as it went on. It didn’t have an awesome story or finale to elevate it. And I didn’t want to play more when the game was over.
The Pathless is fun for a bit, but I didn’t find any of the detail or smoothness our reviewer loved about the PS5 version. I would recommend avoiding the Switch version over any of the other ones. It’s a game best played docked anyways. If you’re at all curious, you might enjoy The Pathless, but its presentation is far from breathtaking on the Switch.
***Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher***
- Unique traversal mechanics
- Strong sense of speed
- Retro PS3 aesthetic appeal
- Framerate stutters
- Sometimes annoying camera
- Low lasting appeal