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The Pathless review: An epic adventure game to help you escape everything

This game for Apple Arcade, PS5, PS4, Mac and PC favors the curious.

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The Pathless is an atmospheric puzzle game with a satisfying, immersive narrative. 

The Pathless

After over a year of waiting to play The Pathless -- the epic mythic adventure game for the PS5 and Apple Arcade from Annapurna Interactive and Giant Squid -- the game absolutely lived up to the hype. I'd been waiting for so long to play it that on launch day, I sank an easy three hours into it, and continued playing for a few minutes here and there when I had time. 

In The Pathless, you play as the last Hunter, a veiled young woman with archery skills tasked with traveling to a mysterious, cursed island inhabited by corrupt spirits. Alongside an eagle companion you must defeat the evil to bring back the light. This task is just as big as it sounds.

The game itself is relatively short if you rush from boss battle to boss battle, but players who take time in each world -- gathering gems, finding secrets -- will experience the full breadth of The Pathless and its narrative. 

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Puzzles are everywhere -- even within the architecture of the island's ruins -- and your bow and eagle will come in handy to solve them.

Apple/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

Visuals on the iPad ($279 at Amazon) and mobile are dialed back compared to, say, the PS5, but that rarely detracts from the overall experience. The Pathless is beautiful regardless of platform -- flowers and grass sway in the breeze, and mist hovers in the trees as beams of sunlight cut through. The immersive environment provides the perfect escape during a winter where most of us are still stuck at home.

The controls took a bit of time to get used to, but finding your rhythm is key. Run, jump and fire your arrows at targets to increase your speed. Before you know it, you're dashing through the grass seamlessly, with your eagle companion at your side. This video game makes you feel cool, for lack of a better phrase.

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Striking the floating targets with an arrow increases your speed. 

Apple/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

The Pathless is unceasingly atmospheric from the moment the Hunter arrives on the cursed island to the final scene. Each of the worlds you explore are almost eerily quiet. The stress is palpable as you quickly try to solve puzzles and find collectibles before being discovered by enemies. 

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Each boss battle gets increases in difficulty as the game progresses, so be ready to use all your skills. 

Apple/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

The developers worked hard to create a special bond with your eagle partner. Not only does the eagle help you solve puzzles and travel, you can also pet it. Yes, I was excited too. If enemies find you, the winds will rip your eagle away from you and you must search for  them. Once you're reunited, players have to pet the eagle to clean off soot and dirt before continuing. Tiny details like this helped me grow increasingly connected to my eagle partner.

There's a nice consistency to The Pathless, but it never becomes repetitive. Added depths reveal themselves if you explore. Each boss fight gets increasingly challenging as you progress. The final boss -- the Godslayer -- is an incredibly sinister character who contrasts sharply with the peaceful environments. 

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I can honestly say I pet the eagle every chance I got. 

Apple/Screenshot by Shelby Brown/CNET

There wasn't much that I disliked about The Pathless. If mobile's touchscreen controls aren't working for you, the game is compatible with a controller. There are also two possible endings to the game, based on the choices you make ahead of the final boss battle -- one is a bit more satisfying than the other. 

The Pathless is subtle, weaving broad themes focused on nature, spirituality, good versus evil, into an experience that remains sticky, tactile and rewarding from start to finish. It's not every day you play a video game that mixes Mesoamerican influences, and Arthurian legend as effortlessly as The Pathless. From every possible standpoint, this game soars.

You can check it out on Apple Arcade, PS5, PS4, Mac and PC. 

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