Along with our primary Game of the Year Awards 2021, every member of the PC Gamer staff is shining a highlight on a sport they beloved this yr. We’ll submit new workers picks, alongside our primary awards, all through the remainder of the month.
Technically, The Pathless got here out in late 2020. However it did not arrive on Steam till November 2021. Whereas I’ve nothing in any respect in opposition to Epic Retailer exclusives, I will use that as an out to pick it as my private choose for the yr, as a result of it is simply that good.
The Pathless is the story of the Hunter, summoned to a mystical island realm to free the kids of an historic god from the thrall of highly effective Godslayer, who has turned them in opposition to their true natures and shattered the realm they as soon as protected. It is a wide-open fantasy world of forest, plains, and tundra, and the Hunter may be very small by comparability. However she will transfer quickly throughout the nice areas by taking pictures floating targets together with her bow, which grant transient, stacking bursts of pace with each she hits. The Hunter’s travelling companion, an eagle, can even carry her aloft and over nice distances.
Mechanically, defeating evil and restoring the glory of the Tall Ones is completely simple: Discover 4 distinct realms set on adjoining plateaus, resolve some easy puzzles, and deal with just a few boss fights. However for all of the give attention to motion, The Pathless is without doubt one of the most remarkably enjoyable video games I’ve ever performed.
Every little thing about it’s designed to movement easily, gracefully, and with out undue obstruction. The Hunter goals routinely on the targets that grant her blistering pace, so there isn’t any must even have a look at what you are taking pictures at—constructing pace as you race throughout the plains and steppes is a matter of cadence, not accuracy. There aren’t any enemies on the earth to interrupt exploration save for the prowling Tall Ones themselves, who’re simply prevented—and if you happen to do get caught, it is simple to flee their sight by way of a easy stealth mechanic. Even if you happen to blow it, there’s nearly no penalty.
Even the boss fights are constructed aerodynamically. Taking an ass-kicking carries no penalty apart from a small slice of progress throughout the struggle itself: I get knocked down, I stand up, and I leap instantly again into the brawl. I detest boss fights, to the purpose that I’ll virtually instantly begin in search of cheat codes once I encounter one, however The Pathless invited me to have interaction by eliminating the frustration of loss. It is a superb stability of issue and forgiveness, and it really works brilliantly. The depth of the struggle and exhilaration of victory—with out the standard videogame bullshit and progression-blocking guffola—feels nice. These are the boss fights for boss struggle haters.
What I really like most about The Pathless, although, is the world it builds. The usage of shiny main colours is putting—blue, inexperienced, and yellow in all places, standing in stark distinction to the burning pink of the raging Tall Ones—and the nice, wide-open areas that give the sport such a robust sense of scale are punctuated by secrets and techniques and tiny tableaus. Navigation is finished solely by landmark and finest guess—there isn’t any minimap, compass, or every other exterior ‘aids’ to detract from the immersion—and fairly like The Elder Scrolls, if you happen to can see it, you may get to it. One in every of my favourite moments got here once I noticed a citadel perched atop a mountain, tiny and simple to overlook within the distance. It seemed extra like skybox decor than a spot to go to, however with some effort I made it, and it was completely well worth the journey.
There is a sensible worth to exploring as a result of discovering hidden gems can drastically empower your eagle good friend, however the actual worth for me is the sensation of historical past it creates throughout historic battlefields, ruined encampments, ornate, crumbling ruins, and the ultimate recollections of long-dead pilgrims, troopers, and usurpers. These dying ideas may be learn by the Hunter, they usually’re typically very somber: Some followers of the Tall Ones stay dedicated to the tip, however others met their finish within the grip of concern, abandonment, anger, and damaged religion. The fallen fanatics of the Godslayer have last recollections of their very own, and a few of them paint a extra sympathetic image than you may count on. I felt an actual sense of standing within the aftermath of one thing actual and highly effective, that impacted lives far past my very own.
Small touches carry all of it collectively. Deer ran at my aspect as I raced throughout the plains, and stroking my eagle’s feathers sometimes introduced snuggles. On the aspect of a mountain that I wasn’t meant to climb, I discovered the skeletons of two fallen troopers of Sauro—one of many Tall Ones—close to the bones of an enormous cyclops of some kind, clearly the aftermath of some small however lethal battle. When did it occur? What was it about? The sport does not say. Like a lot of the remainder of The Pathless, I used to be left to surprise.