I have just seen four priestesses unlock the sky with mystical stones, bring King Solomon’s Holy Chariot to the heavens, and order the lighting down to kill a gaggle of cultists. And I am getting bored. It’s indicative of my experience with Pathway, a turn-based strategy game in an Indiana Jones-inspired world— it has some fun ideas and I liked it in short bursts, but it quickly killed my curiosity by its insistence on making me perform boring tasks.
You fly through five missions across North Africa, each of which has its own pulpy tale about preventing Nazis and cultists from looting old graves. Missions are a network of waypoints: some are shops where you can purchase more petrol for your battered jeep, some provide mini stories and options, including asking if you’d like to try digging a haunted dungeon to get some extra cash.
Pathway plays like a condensed XCOM in battle which happens every few stops. I push my squad into an enemy shelter, knife and fire, recover and invest courage points on special skills such as shotgun blasting that can hurt multiple enemies. -player may do two acts per stage, normally one step and one attack, but healing or reloading can be switched.
Pathway relies partially on randomness and offers you a percentage chance to land each shot, but I never felt cheated. When I had a clear line of sight I always hit my mark. Shield is clearly marked and you can turn over an opponent to see their range of motion so I always understood where I could hunker down comfortably. It’s all about manipulating the team to keep out of sight of certain opponents and surround others, and every step, a simple set of rules creates a different tactical challenge. But those puzzles just don’t prove interesting enough to hold such a boring game, especially as you begin to replay the same tasks in oceans of games.
Each run at Pathway, like most modern roguelites, offers gradual, sustainable improvement. If all of your players perish, you fail to complete a mission, but you have whatever things you’ve nabbed on that try, so your squad retains their level-ups in attempts, offering you a better shot each time. I loved this process for the first four or five hours and Pathway’s battle always felt fresh because of how my team formation continuously jumbled.