Pathway is an interesting case of a game trying to mix a lot of stuff at the same time in small proportions. The game has a mix of adventure elements and SRPG with some random loot, map and event generation all using the 30s north Africa as setting to make you feel like you are inside your own Indiana Jones adventure.
The random generation makes some people call this game a roguelite, but I find that definition misguided since apart from that, it lacks any of the traits that define a roguelite or a roguelike, being more close to a proper squad based SRPG, like X-Com or Jagged Alliance, than anything else.
Graphically the game looks beautiful with it pixel graphics and dynamic lighting effects making the North African region really come to life, having a game set in a desert can turn into a boring background of only sand and rocks, but here we see a great amount of contrasts and places from some small villages, Nazi bases or camps and ancient temples… an actual lot of ancient temples. A negative point is that all this beautiful background kind of blurs together after a few hours, all temples, towns or Nazi base are going to feel the same and while consistent it makes every adventure feel the same map wise.
After being struck with the beautiful pixel intro, the game starts explaining how a game session goes, basically you have to pick the adventure you want to play as they progressively unlock, then you pick your team of 3 characters, leaving the last slot for recruiting someone on your adventure. Once you assemble your team is time to go into the desert and you are presented with an over world map full of nodes, each node presents some kind of event, some are just your characters looking at the sand, others let you make choices to progress the event to get some reward and sometimes they have fights in them that you may or may not be able to avoid.
The objective of each adventure is to get to a specific node and beat the last event of the map, but to do that you have to manage 3 important resources: Fuel that is spend for traveling from node to node, ammo that is spend when using your guns in fights and supplies that are used for medic kits, repair kit and grenades. And obviously make sure that your characters survive, in that way the normal mode doesn’t feature permadeath, and the character equipment, level and skills is carried along all adventures… on the other hand there is also a recently added Hardcore mode, were you have to play all 5 adventures back to back with the same team and whoever dies stays dead.
Now, let’s talk about what makes this game worthy of being here, the combat. The game plays in the classic player phase-enemy phase turn system with some spice added to it, you have 3 types of encounters, one were you go first, another were the enemies go first, and the last one were you get half a turn first… how do you get half a turn? Basically all action are part of the Attack, Move or Neutral group, so each character can use any combination of 2 type of action in any order. For example reloading is a neutral action, so you can attack and reload or attack and move, or move and reload, when you are ambushed and get only half a turn, each unit can only perform one action instead of two.
Now guns are a major part in the game, basically combat plays around using cover and setting up good shots so you don’t spend precious ammo and resources healing up your characters. Maps are relatively small, and characters have high mobility and long ranges, so taking cover and breaking line of sight are the only ways of ensuring survival
Apart from that there are a basic skill system at play, were each weapon and armor type have special action, like machine guns allowing you to shoot a line of 5 tiles at the same time, or the pistol allowing for shooting two different enemies at the same time. This gives the combat some variation beyond simple moving and shooting, even if that variation is just a different way of moving and shooting.
All in all, the combat is fast, simple and enjoyable even if it lacks strategic depth beyond the good use of cover and skills.
But on the flip side, since the game uses random maps and/or unit placement the encounters don’t have a really tight design, and even the last encounters of each adventure present their challenges as just more enemies lacking any kind of Boss or memorable encounter.
I have left the story for last since is minimal, only presenting a short and vague objective for the mission: go save your friend, go get this special artifact, go find this sacred place, so on and so on, and while the events that happen in each adventure are entertaining there is a lack of real progression or development in the plot and characters… you fight nazis because they are the bad guys and you fight cultist because they are the bad guys… then again is not like Indiana Jones needed a lot of reasons to go on adventures, right?
In conclusion the game is a light weight mix of adventure elements with SRPG combat, something to have on the side and enjoy in bite sizes chucks, maybe to play over a weekend or for your hour of free time during workdays, I certainly enjoyed the game but you can feel burnout of its simplicity if it is the only thing you’re playing and having long game sessions. If you get it at discount it is certainly worth your money and time.
Console: Steam, Nintendo Switch
Steam page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/546430/Pathway/