Indie Review: The Path
The Path is an indie adventure game from Tales of Tales. But that does little to describe a much deeper game. If you're interested in something unique, read on to find out more about this game.
- Worth The Time?Yes, for gamers who are open to trying new things or enjoy interpretation.
- Things LovedIt's a fantastic audio and visual experience, the graphical style is unique and really well executed, there's a solid degree of ambiance to it and it's really atmospheric, the six characters are very interesting to explore, the narrative is a bold concept that pays off well if you give it a chance, the wolf concept is great, brilliant visual clues and style entirely replace the need for an HUD.
- Things HatedSome characters walk a bit too slowly, it can be a little too vague with certain characters, sometimes the yellow on-screen text can get obscured by brightness, voice acting would have been really nice to have.
- RecommendationThis is not for everyone. For those wanting a traditional game or a clear narrative, this probably won't resonate well with you. But if you want something you can analyse and interpret for yourself while getting lost in a mesmerising audio and visual experience, this may be your baby.
- Name: The Path
- Genre: Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC
- Developer: Tale of Tales
- Publisher: Tale of Tales
- Price: R88.53
- Reviewed On: PC
You can find out more about the game and buy it on Desura.
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The Path is an indie adventure game from Tales of Tales that incorporates a number of horror elements. However, that’s quite a vague description of a far deeper game, and if I have to be honest I’m not entirely sure why the game is advertised as being horror themed when it’s really hardly about horror at all. It’s a narrative-focused adventure game, and it just happens to be a little eerie in tone. Maybe even creepy at times. But the game isn’t trying to be a horror title. I wouldn’t really call it an artistic title either, but I will say that its difference is definitely its strength. It’s hard to describe The Path in simple terms. I can’t really compare it to anything. It’s pretty much a new experience, and I find that to be quite fantastic. But simply being new isn’t great enough, so how is the actual experience?
The Path has a very strange, or rather unconventional, way of delivering its narrative. In the game, which takes inspiration from Little Red Riding Hood, you choose from a list of six female characters, all of whom have names that relate to the colour red in some way. You’ll then be thrown into the game after a brief introductory cutscene, and the really interesting part is that the one direction you’re given (not the band) is actually the one you should not listen to. Let me elaborate on that. The game gives you the idea that it’s about directing the characters to their grandmother’s house, and in the beginning it clearly tells you not to deviate from the path you’re on. However, simply following it actually leads to the unfinished and “failure” outcomes, and the correct way to go about it is to actually spread out and explore the environment. I find that to be a pretty cool idea, as it encourages you to figure things out on your own rather than blindly follow instructions. It gets you in the right frame of mind to think.
Now it gets a bit more intriguing. The idea of the game is to take your character and guide them through the forest and terrain, collecting items and trying to encounter what is referred to as the wolf. But the wolf isn’t a creature. It’s actually symbolic for the inner struggle that each character is facing, and they’ll need to come to terms with it. The entire narrative of The Path is left up to players to analyse and interpret. There is no clear answer, and not much by means of explanation. It’s filled with symbolism, metaphors and visual direction, and the rest is open ended for you. Your only guide to the story is people and objects you’ll encounter out in the forest, but it’s easy to question whether these are even real or not. They all look like they don’t belong, and it gives the game an eerie ambiance. Here’s the thing though. Each of the six characters will react to these same objects and people in very different ways, entirely dependent on their personalities, which is great. Together with the game’s heavy focus on player interpretation, this makes for a surprisingly compelling journey in which you’ll not only be trying to piece together the story but also trying to understand the character you’re playing as.
Though there is a degree of wonder about these characters, they possess human qualities and human struggles. In this way, despite the fantasy slash fairy tale undertones to game, it still remains a mature tale, and this is what keeps it engaging. If you give the game a lot of thought and patience, you’ll come to understand them and get a lot more out of the narrative, but if you’re looking for a clearly told story then you perhaps shouldn’t be playing The Path. It relies on your patience and your tendency to want to analyse, and if neither of these are your strong suit then it’s not the game for you and that’s pretty easy to say right off the bat. The easiest way to say it is that The Path is effectively an open ended character study of six people, and I find it pretty admirable from a narrative perspective that there’s so much to glean here and to walk away with based on your experience with the game and what you see. The only real downside here is that the game can be a little too vague with certain characters.
As already mentioned, it largely depends on your patience and your effort. It’s a game you’ll need to spend time with and give thought to. If you blindly follow the path and get to the grandmother’s house without doing anything else, you’ll get a failure rating and return to the character select screen. But if you explore and ultimately encounter your character’s wolf, then you’ll progress and that character will be removed from the selection screen. To get the absolute most out of the narrative you’ll need to make sure you explore the environment as thoroughly as you can with each character to learn as much about them as you can, because if you simply aim to find the wolf you will progress but at the expense of story depth. Despite The Path being extremely unconventional, I can rather easily say that it’s a narrative-focused game, and this is perhaps the biggest reason to want to play it. It really is something different, and I respect its direction and didn’t find it all to fall victim to the potential danger of difference, which is trying too hard. The Path knows what it wants to be, and delivers that well.
As far as gameplay is concerned, The Path is all about minimalism, and can be explained quite simply. All that’s required of you is to run through the woods and explore. While this is absolutely fine, it can get a bit annoying that certain characters walk really slowly, making exploration feel stretched out. It’s not a major issue, but it can detract at times. When you encounter a collectible, an item for the grandmother’s house or an object or person of interest, you’ll simply need to take your hands off the controls and your character will automatically interact. That’s all there is to it, and The Path is yet another advert for minimalism in gaming. If you’re someone that doesn’t like minimalism or thinks it’s “hipster” or something like that, then again you’re not the right person for this game. If you’re open-minded about trying new things, have a wide variety to your tastes and enjoy analysing narratives, then you might definitely be interested in this. It may sound condescending when I put it like that, but it really isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with disliking minimalism or having select tastes or having no interest in story or narrative depth and interpretation, but I’d advise keeping an open mind.
It’s difficult to say how long the game will last, because that entirely depends on you. If you want to see it through with all six characters, you could get a few hours out of it, and perhaps a fair amount more if you’re a completionist. If you only go for a couple of characters, you won’t need that long. How much time you spend with the game is going to depend on your interest in it. But I will say that if it does capture your attention and you find yourself engaged with the narrative, you get really get a lot out of this one, and the character studies you can do are quite extensive and deep. I imagine that it could be quite enjoyable to chat to others who have played the game, perhaps on forums, and debate the symbolism of it and share interpretations. It give the game longevity, lasting appeal and substance.
The Path is a fantastic audio and visual experience, and this is undoubtedly one of the best aspects of the game. The visual style is extremely unique, and I’d go as far as to say that you won’t many, if any, games with this style. It’s very stylistic and vibrant, and wonderfully executed. It walks a fine line between being a cartoony, fairy tale like experience and a dark, mature game, which is admirable. The atmosphere is another highlight, and it’s really created well with the game’s eerie soundtrack and environment. I do wish that the game had voice acting, as it might have increased the immersion and degree to which you could relate to the characters. The game also has unique and brilliant visual clues, and a great style, that replaces the need for an HUD. As you travel, a sort of trail will flash on the screen for a few seconds to show where you are and where you’ve been. If you’ve completed the game with one character, it will show the direction of their wolf on-screen so you have a reference point. In this way the game really has been meticulously well crafted, and it’s not only unique but highly effective. One nitpick though is that sometimes the yellow on-screen text can get obscured by brightness.
In conclusion, while The Path is not a game for everyone, it certainly is unlike most of the games you’ve played. It’s truly admirable for its great open-ended narrative that is entirely up to player interpretation, as well as its stunning and wonderfully unique graphics and soundtrack. However, a bit of caution needs to be advised, because this game probably won’t resonate well with those wanting a traditional game or a clear narrative. But if you’re looking for something you can analyse and interpret for yourself on a deeper level while getting lost in a mesmerising audio and visual experience, then The Path is a really good experience, and it does quite well in the end to achieve what it set out to do.