There’s a narrative reason why this game is called The Pathless, but the name also indicates how it’s played. This is an open world puzzle game with an emphasis on exploration and skilled traversal. It is not the purpose of a series of checklists, but the purpose of wandering through the world you find. The vast, puzzle-filled nature of Passless runs through the woods, bowing tricky shots and creating a nice and quiet space to lose yourself at the moment.
In Passless, you are simply a woman known as a hunter. He came to free the ruined land without all human life, except for the masked villain called God Slayer. Known as The Tall Ones, the guardian deity of the land has transformed into a villainous beast roaming the wilderness. With the help of the eagle, the oldest avatar of God, we must free the spirits and save the land. The plot is limited-except for some sparring exchanges between Hunter and God Slayer, a typical tenor is simply “continue”.
To release the tall ones, you need to collect the stickers and reactivate the monuments scattered around the domain. Each of the four regions is a beautiful and vast wilderness with vast plains, calm rivers and high rocky mountains. The hills and valleys are sparsely populated with signs of past and present life. Friendly animals, ruins and huge skeletons. There are enough set pieces in each area so that new goals are always on the horizon, without the world becoming crowded or growing in population. When you run from place to place, you feel like you are in nature-not a wasteland or ruins, but somewhere untouched. It feels very calm to run through.
Despite the few plots, the world feels rich and textured, thanks to very specific architectural styles and descriptive notes that give insight into the history of the land and the history of God Slayer. Due to its peculiarity, the world feels more cohesive and inhabited, and as a result, the exploration becomes more interesting.
However, you don’t have to wash it unintentionally. It has a headband and offers a special vision mode that highlights areas of interest or puzzles that have already been solved. Without it, the signs of civilization generally lead to some kind of activity. Chasing a sparkling red puzzle spot with or without vision mode feels like a kind of directed wandering. I don’t know what puzzles I come across along the way, and I don’t know if the puzzles will reward you with seals or something else.
And sometimes your wandering is interrupted. They are hunting you down when you look for seals to save the tall ones. Huge red clouds are moving around the map more or less randomly. If you get caught in it, you are driven into a stealth sequence, where you must avoid the fallen god and reach your fallen eagle injured by the storm. In theory, it’s a good idea to create some conflicts, but these sequences are the most annoying. I always went impatient and realized that I just wanted to go back to exploring or understanding the puzzle I was in.
Despite her title, the hunter does not kill anyone and there is almost no fighting in Passless. The hunter has a bow, which is primarily used as a traversal and puzzle solving tool. There are floating eye icons around the world that you can shoot to partially replenish your stamina meter and gain momentum. Once you find the rhythm of running, sliding, jumping, and timing shots, you can sprint around the world at superhuman speeds. It’s an intuitive system, but it takes time to learn how to choose targets and time shots so that you can keep running indefinitely. But then you feel like you’re flying.
Your other means of communication is your eagle friend. After jumping, press jump again and the eagle will grab your arm and slide through a large gap.When you press jump again, The eagle has a flap function that jumps straight into the air and stretches the glide. Most puzzles reward you with a golden orb if you don’t lead to a seal. This will eventually power up the flaps and add jumps. Skilled players can basically fly. Jump from a high position on the map, adjust the flap timing, and shoot eye symbols to gain momentum to cover incredible distances. And exploring the huge world from the sky is breathtaking.
Once you reach the puzzle, the bow and eagle are also the main tools for solving the puzzle. There are dozens of puzzles in each zone, all of which fall into several categories. There are several types of trick shot puzzles. You may need to line up the arrows to pass through the flames to illuminate the set of torches. Others need to line up a series of stone rings so they can shoot through them and attack the target. There is a switch puzzle. This mainly involves using an eagle to pick up stone weights from a distance and place them as needed. From time to time, a dark aura enters an area that neutralizes an eagle, forcing it to scale without slipping or flapping. The number of prototypes of the puzzle is limited, but it’s always fun to solve because you have to be careful. And while you don’t have much skill on your side, it’s very satisfying to quickly fire a shot that bounces across five torches.
And yes, sometimes you have to use a bow to fight. Each area concludes with a multi-step boss battle with the shining red corrupt beast god. Dodge projectiles and shoot weaknesses, but it feels more like a puzzle than a boss encounters in a battle-heavy game. Not all phases are carried out as combat. For one, there are multiple hide-and-seek sections where you need to keep the cover from being burned by the breath of fire. The phase performed is pure pattern recognition.
These battles hit some incredible highs and some painful lows. Each starts with a chase sequence, and to do it you need to chain symbol shots, catch up with your prey, and shoot your weaknesses. Injecting traversal for more purposes, not just moving fast, actually enhances those mechanisms and shows how graceful you are and how fluid the traversal flows.
On the other hand, the closer the game is to offering traditional combat scenarios, the less difficult the encounter will be. You really can’t lose-when you get hit, you lose some stamina, and the phases are quietly reset-so those phases lack teeth. You can run any of these sequences 4-5 times in the middle, which can be daunting.
However, those moments in the game are just a handful. Most of the pathless players have their mechanical strengths, free-form exploration, satisfying movements, and systematic puzzle solving. Sometimes it lowers the stake a bit too much, but it maximizes the gameplay of the kind the game is named. For a player like me who builds a beeline to achieve his goals every time, it’s refreshing to simply take it when things come. Passless is a rare game that offers more and makes it special by asking less questions.