Pathway’s vision feels like a cross between Indiana Jones and Advanced Wars, with a pinch of roguelike thrown in for good measure. The game looks beautiful, however, there are definitely some areas for improvement in this ambitious strategy RPG.
Turn-based tactics games are making somewhat of a comeback with popular entries in the genre over the past few years including Gears Tactics, Into The Breach, and Wargroove (another fun game from Chucklefish) to name a few. Pathway is similar, albeit with gameplay mixed in with classic adventure game style. Pathway is set in the 1930s colonial Africa and the Middle East, which gives off massive Indiana Jones vibes. In classic Chucklefish style, the pixel art shouts quality and the game is a beautiful one to look at. The game is primarily a turn-based strategy game, where you have to head up a team of adventurers crossing the desert, fending off the Nazi enemies as you go.
As you make your way across the map you are presented with a few text-based scenarios which will lead you either into battle or to collect resources. As well as the narrative choices you have to make while traveling there’s also the inventory management aspect of the game. For example, you’ll have to manage your petrol for your Jeep as you cross the desert. Ammo is also something you are going to need to take note of and manage because your team shares it amongst themselves.
You’ll be able to pick up resources at various stops and stations, but the combination of these systems together does make for a good time and one where you have to pay attention to the interconnecting systems. The one to really pay attention to though is the petrol, as walking on foot through the desert definitely isn’t fun! The randomization definitely keeps things fresh, but there could be an element of keeping things ‘too’ fresh, as sometimes the RNG feels a little oppressive. To help with this there are a couple of difficult sliders, one that weakens enemies and one that lets you start with petrol and ammo, which was a welcome option.
Pathway’s story is broken up nicely into little chunks, which helps with the variety as you do more runs. This is something the game does really well and minimizes the repetitive nature of the game for each run. There are five campaigns to choose from, all of which resemble similar movie settings like Raiders of the Lost Ark (an absolute classic). Similar themes are encountered across all runs, for example, battling the Nazis or taking on an ancient, zombie-worshipping cult. The story elements sometimes feel mean a means to an end, as the lore segments are few and far between.
Given you are meant to replay this story over and over again to uncover the many mysteries of the story, it’s a shame Pathway doesn’t go into great detail. It’s similar to something like Hades, where you go on a repeatable journey, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have the depth of story that Hades does. Unfortunately, Pathway doesn’t really dig too deep into the story and characters, and with a game like this is would be good to go into a lot of detail each run, so over time, you can build up a tapestry of characters. We don’t really delve much beneath the surface. It’s a shame because the cast of characters shows a lot of promise early on.
Talking of the characters we have Baron Von B German, the classic villain monocle-wearing type. There’s also Jackson Sheffield, the American Adventurer (basically Indiana Jones in all but name). As you accumulate runs, your characters develop and grow over time and you get to keep the loot you find. You’ll gain XP and level up, plus collect an array of weapons and armor. Characters have detailed stats and skills which generally relate to the weapons they can use. Some characters have unique perks and attributes like medical abilities or knowledge of ancient languages. These moments are few and far between but it really helps with the world-building element of Pathway and these are some of the best and most memorable from the game. As you progress with the story your party grows from two to four and your array of attacks expands too. The new party members mix things up in terms of combat, but also their personalities too.
Combat in Pathway is pretty straightforward tactics RPG combat. Battles take place on a grid and it’s down to you to increase your aim percentage while avoiding enemy attacks. Combat is relatively fast-paced when compared to other tactics games, which is a nice touch. Health, armor, ammo, etc are all fairly limited, so it’s in your best interest to win quickly. Your party members have special abilities based on their weapons and armor plus there’s a special combat action, which can be used for more potent attacks.
Party members who die whilst out in battles have to step aside for the next run unless you pay currency to get them back in faster. While this plays into the whole risk and reward structure of tactics games, this does mean it’s probably best to level up characters much more evenly, otherwise, you run the risk of losing your most powerful squad member. This does mean things can move at a slower pace, which has a negative impact on the feel of the game.
Pathway has a lot going for it. The artwork is beautiful, the setting and characters are very interesting, it’s simply that the tactics element and random nature of things give it a few negative points. Saying that there certainly is a lot to like here. It has that Chucklfish charm, which runs through a lot of the games they publish. I’m a sucker for pixel art and this one got me on that front too. The combination of roguelike elements and tactic RPG battles works well early on, but as you keep playing there isn’t really enough detail in the storytelling to keep you hooked. If you are a fan of the tactics genre and Indiana Jones, then I’d give this one a shot.
Platforms: PC, Linux, Mac and Nintendo Switch (reviewed on Switch, review copy provided by Chucklefish)
Release Date: 27th May 2021 (Switch), 11th April 2019 (Other platforms)