Shadow of the Colossus is very highly regarded and rightly so. I believe it to be one of the best games ever made & a personal favourite. From the moment the soundtrack kicked in showing Wander arrive at the temple, I was emotionally sucked into the story. When you experience the world created, meet the majestic creatures known as Colossi, the sense of scale brought to this barren world is staggering. I was in awe and have been ever since.
Shadow of The Colossus Was One Of A Kind – We Need More Games Like It
There has naturally been many imitators over the years with Praey For The Gods being one of the latest. Shadow of The Colossus is so well renowned and highly regarded, developers are bound to try and replicate it. As gamers it is good to feel comfort in something we love. In terms of atmosphere, one of it’s most important aspects, none have achieved the same beauty in the isolation within the world presented like The Pathless has. This game manages to set itself apart with puzzles, worldbuilding and traversal mechanics. It has a definitive art style and gorgeous music with different gameplay while being clearly influenced by it’s forebearer.
Enter The Pathless – Imitator Or Innovator?
Created by Giant Squid, well known for Abzu, The Pathless is excellent as it manages to feel familiar but does things differently to create its’ own identity. The game has four maps instead of one land mass and our protagonist, The Hunter, is allowed to explore one at a time at their leisure.
Similarities echo throughout. Instead of using Wander’s friend Agro for travelling through the world, The Pathless’ protagonist, The Hunter, has a pet eagle. It is your companion which you must take care of – keeping it clean from the malevolence pervading the island. The eagle allows you a different mode of travel – being able to glide. It is a liberating experience to fly across the landscape to another location or to soar high and find out of reach places. It shows a different side to it’s gameplay – it’s verticality. Being able to stand on the precipice of the world and take it in is a sight to behold.
When you don’t fly, the game’s shows it’s other side – speed. The Hunter can jog, but you will mainly dash around the world. This will drain a stamina meter. Throughout the world are red icons called talismans which you can smash to keep your dash meter high and go through its’ landscapes at exhilarating speeds. The game keeps a nice rhythm and allows the player to choose at which speed you want to go.
Instead of a sword for a weapon, you use a bow, handy for hitting these targets and is your only physical equipment for dealing with enemies and puzzles. You also obtain a headband which acts as a guide to spot landmarks and secrets throughout the world, much like Wander’s sword.
Forging Its’ Own Path
This is where The Pathless comes into it’s own. In Shadow of the Colossus your main objective is to find your next Colossi to continue the story. You could also find fruit and lizards to upgrade you health and stamina if you chose to explore. Within The Pathless, you will find and solve puzzles to collect crystals to upgrade your eagles abilities. There are also main puzzles to complete to obtain “lightstones”. Obtaining all of these activates the Obelisk which is in a central location, like Shadows’ main temple. The puzzles are sometimes a team effort, with participation from your eagle. The central shrine is unlocked by scaling four towers with beacons which will light the way.
Beasts With A Burden
The biggest similarity but uniqueness to both games in terms of gameplay are the boss battles. There are four bosses, classed as the Tall Ones, where each one has certain stages to defeat them. You as the Hunter are tasked to hunt each one down so that they can be confronted head on. Each Tall One has talismans to destroy which once completed, moves the boss fight onto the next stage. They are much like the puzzles presented in Shadow of the Colossus and were thrilling to complete.
Shadow of the Colossus presents it’s mythical beasts as towering figures of stone wondering a lonely path similar to Wander which unfortunately must be destroyed. The Pathless’ bosses are corrupted souls needing to be cleansed. The are presented as raging fires unwilling to be rescued, fantastical beasts in charge of their domain. However, once they are directly confronted, they turn out to be a friend in need and will aid you in your quest to save the world.
A Familiar Fable
The Tall Ones are connected to the main quest which is excellently told through environmental storytelling. Scattered throughout the world are tablets which detail the history of the world’s plight. It is a similar tale about an evil being, called The Godslayer. This entity is set in their ways and believes they are correct. In being all powerful, they have corrupted the spirits of the island, which you need to confront in order to save humanity. If you don’t stop them, this all-powerful “god” would be free to wreak havoc on the world at large. This is the same for Shadow of the Colossus, albeit in different circumstances and the way both games their stories are very similar which I will not spoil here. Suffice to stay, by the end of your quest, both stories are very emotional.
The important strand that ties both games together thematically is that they aren’t actually alone. Both experiences wouldn’t be the same without Wander’s horse Agro or The Hunter’s Eagle. In being able to ride the plains or glide across the sky, our protagonists have a gift. They are presented with a way to traverse without physically limiting themselves. However, they may help each protagonist physically but they are also emotionally involved, culminating in a sense of loss where our heroes are separated from their companion before the end. Can they keep going without them? More importantly, can you as the player manage to complete the game without someone who has been by your side the entire time? It is an excellent dichotomy to place at the heart of each story, as most players will have become attached to their trusty companion throughout their journey.
Atmosphere Is Key
Tying this together is a hauntingly beautiful musical score which evokes the isolation of the Hunter and the threat and terror of facing each Tall One. The musical score in general echoes Shadow of the Colossus by being achingly beautiful. The boss music is also a main highlight, presenting an exhilarating, thrilling tribal score which gets the blood pumping. The Music is excellent at setting the tone throughout the adventure when travelling the world. Austin Wintory did an excellent job. He created music which is bathed in folk and unique to the presence of animals and birds, eagles and falconry especially.
While there are similarities, there are enough differences to appreciate that The Pathless is a great game. Giant Squids’ ability to present an achingly beautiful and melancholy world is key. You want to inhabit the sense of scale in the story and world created here. There are very few games which have evoked the same sense of wonder and escapism. With beautiful presentation evoked through the art direction and especially the hauntingly tribal/folk music. If you love Shadow of the Colossus or free roaming adventure games, you owe it to yourself to check this out.
For those interested, check out what Christian Pacoski thought about The Pathless in their review.