It's early morning in the Egyptian desert where the rising sun is starting to wake Cairo. On the city limits a jeep is being loaded up for what seems to be a long trip, stockpiles of fuel and ammo are being hoisted into the back of the vehicle by a rugged explorer sporting a roughly kept beard. Further along the jeep is a woman with blonde hair wearing a pair of glasses, she's carrying a revolver which has seen little to no use and a satchel packed with medical supplies and research documents. Their names are Jackson and Natalya and they're about to set off on an adventure to stop the Nazi's from claiming powerful ancient artifacts for their own terrible purpose.
At this point, you're probably thinking this is some weird Indiana Jones fan story but it's not. This is Pathway, a strategic RPG set in the 1930's great desert wilderness. Developed by Robotality and published by Chucklefish, this game puts players in the shoes of unique and specialised explorers as you traverse the vast deserts in an effort to uncover the strange mysteries gracing them.
The characters and the storyline of each of the five missions available in the game are all reminiscent of Dr. Jones' adventures. Looking back at Jackson, the rugged explorer from the start, he embodies everything in Indy except for the iconic whip and renowned fear of snakes. It might seem to close to the film franchise at the moment however is that really a bad thing.
Much like the setting of the game, the soundtrack, narration and even the art style all accentuates the 1930's Indiana Jones feel Spielberg coined nearly forty years ago. Whilst the game doesn't use the notorious theme song from the films, everything else makes the player feel as though they are travelling over the untamed 1930's deserts with John Williams and a full orchestra following their jeep close behind. The narration is performed by a voice with striking similarity to Harrison Ford himself as well. The deep burly accent perfectly reflects the fictional explorer and gives the effect of Ford reading the events of the adventure as if it's an actual recollection of his time as Jones. The 16-bit art style is quite a change from the grainy film tape of the 80's, yet it still manages to accompany the style of the game perfectly and showcase both the beauty and severity of the harsh deserts.
Similar to other RPGs with strategic elements, Pathway requires players to not only manage their resources but to also become skilled in how they approach combat. This does mean gameplay can be extremely punishing at the beginning as learning the mechanics and strategies can be frustrating. However, after a short while and most likely a failed mission, the game starts making more sense and becomes much more enjoyable.
As for the RPG elements, one of the most prominent and rage inducing parts of the game is rationing fuel and ammo. Whilst ammunition can be saved by avoiding conflict or executing it intelligently, fuel seems to be the anchor of this game. Players will have to avoid exploring a lot of the time in order to maintain the fuel necessary to complete the adventure. As for how fuel is consumed, each turn uses one fuel and usually, each adventure starts with around fifteen cans of it, even if you change the resource availability to the least punishing setting. Making it to the end requires much more than this. Usually, this results in players having to blow large proportions of money to purchase fuel if the randomly generated loot doesn't seem to want to drop any. It might be worth pointing out as well, once the fuel runs out, the adventure is failed and must be started again, so you can see how this can be irritating for an RPG game.
Aside from this, the game is actually very accessible. The settings and customisation allow Pathway to be both a great introduction for new players whilst also being a demanding challenge for the experienced. Each mission gets increasingly more difficult as the game progresses and with it, the sliders - as mentioned earlier - can be adjusted to suit the player. This might mean changing the resource availability setting similar to us, or altering the enemy lethality setting. Whatever's your style.
The missions, currently being five of them, feature storylines tasking players to rescue people from Nazis all the way to stopping ancient undead pharaohs from bringing darkness to the world. The campaigns have a great deal of variety and last for quite a while. Adventures can take anywhere from one hour up to four plus hours depending on how you play and what the mission is. This means Pathway actually has quite an astounding amount of content for all the value hunting gamers out there. Likewise, during adventures different characters will come across your party. You may head into a town and find Omar the Sultan being accused of conning the town residents. If you save him, he'll join your party and you'll have more help along your journey, but this doesn't mean he'll be there for the next one. Each adventure is entirely unique but has the potential to link together as though it was one.
This structure Robotality has imposed sets the potential for more adventures to be added in the future, maybe even taking our unorthodox team further east to 1930's Asia, similar to the events early in Temple of Doom. Whatever the case, the current state of Pathway has more than enough adventuring for players to sink their teeth into and really get a feel for what it is to be in Indiana Jones' shoes on the search for fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.
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