Supernatural World War II adventure where you beat up Nazis while exploring Africa, the Middle East, and of course, Egypt is a specific but cherished genre of mine. The clear cut, heroes and villains that Nazis and eldritch abominations provide just makes for such a fun time. No need for moral quandaries, just swing from the chandelier, set fire to fuel depots, and wear disguises!
It’s no surprise then that Pathway has been on my radar and wishlist for a while. With its beautiful pixel art style that puts me in mind of Tower 57, FTL style navigation across randomly generated deserts, and turn-based strategy a la the new X-Com games, Pathway is a match made in heaven for me.
Each campaign in Pathway tasks you with reaching a target destination and completing the objective (read that as: kill all the nazis). Along the way you’ll strategically pick your path to either hit definite battles in order to get good loot, reach a camp to heal up your party, get a new recruit, or find a trader to sell of your junk and buy fuel. And this is where the comparison to FTL is really apt. As you navigate the map, each move takes a unit of fuel, run out of fuel and you have to abandon your jeep and travel on foot which damages your party. Not the funnest thing to have happen right before the final encounter of a campaign…
Each node has a random event tied to it. This could be as simple as some goats on the track to running into a Wehrmacht jeep and having to choose between letting it go or chasing it down. These snapshots of the journey make it feel like you’re actually on an adventure. Doubly so with the way the jeep fishtails between the nodes, kicking up dust as it travels. My only issue is that a lot of the events repeat and it can be very noticeable even on your first or second run of a campaign.
You might be wondering why I’ve said second run. See, Pathway is a bit of a roguelite. While you’re making your way through the campaign you will find new equipment for your heroes, level them up on specific skill trees, and have the choice to put any goodies you find in your “valuables” pouch. This means that you’re in a position to balance your current run with your next. Take too much into your own coffers in the hopes of getting something great at the trader and you leave yourself shortchanged for the next. Not that it has a negative effect. The money from the valuables allows you to stock up on the essentials like fuel and ammo. It also means anyone you took who was KO’d is hospitalised until you have an attempt with other characters which is a clever way of ensuring at least a full party worth of people are levelling up.
Each character has their own skills and Pathway is strict on who can use what. This does occasionally cause some frustration as you might come across a Splendid Disintegrator with no-one capable of wielding it but it forces some tactical thinking in regards to the whole roguelite element. Hold onto the weapon for your next run or sell it to get some healing items now?
In combat, the strategy changes up depending on which characters you’ve chosen and most importantly, what weapons they have equipped. The Baron for example starts with a sniper rifle and as such has an overwatch ability that allows him to take a shot at the first enemy to move in his cone of sight.
At the start of each combat you’re given a green zone to place your characters and are able to see most if not all of the enemy units so you have a rough idea of where to go. As you get further into the campaigns and they start wheeling out the snipers, medics, and officers (which can give any other unit a second attack), you’ll be glad for that starting glimpse.
Like X-Com (and real life), the best tactic is to keep some cover between you and the enemy. The usual half-shield/full-shield denoting partial and full cover are here and make for easy readability but Pathway also throws in icons for walls to say you won’t be able to see through certain pieces of cover.
Pro-tip: Knives are the strongest weapon in the game and don’t require ammo.
Pathway really comes alive when it throws something unexpected into the mix. Whether that be a nazi-zombie infested bunker, magic wielding cultists, or even just getting to use a character’s trait to work around a problem. And while I can’t spoil any campaign details, there were a few moments in Wrath of God that got me genuinely excited.
Chucklefish once again prove themselves to be a curator of genuinely great games and developer Robotality have knocked this one out of the park. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had that “one more turn” mentality with a game and Pathway kept “one more-ing” me till 4am.
Pathway is available on Steam HERE