Wayback: Path of Shadows
Path of Shadows has moved on enormously since I wrote these original impressions; even being announced for Xbox One. So before I check out, and post about, the game as it is now, let’s look back at its humble beginnings.
Path of Shadows is a game about War. Or mysterious women. Or Ninjas. There’s some sort of story here but, given that this is only an introductory sequence, it’s fair to say that in a larger product it might be expanded upon. Until then; Ninjas.
Path of Shadows is a stealth game. A gorgeous and very simple stealth game. It puts you in the shoes of ‘John McNinjason’ (my name), gives you a couple of simple powers and tasks you with working your way through three areas, steadily ramping up in complexity of layout and number of guards. The skills themselves are standard; a short range blink where you can move between shadows, a skill that allows you to see enemies through walls while stationary and a crow which shows you the way to go if you get lost.
They’re all (particularly the last two) entirely unnecessary and make the very act of ‘stealth’ far too easy. You’re entirely invisible in shadows, even at short range, so blinking (or simply) running away from any guard is easy. The element of stealth games that makes them so thrilling, and is so often overlooked, is frailty and weakness. Path of Shadows gets it half right. Guard will kill you instantly if they catch you; unfortunately they’re slow and you can teleport. The range of powers at your disposal makes it far too easy to traverse these opening areas.
I sound down on Path of Shadows, and I am a little bit, but it’s certainly not without its successes. Firstly it’s a beautiful game, which the screenshots will attest to, and the UI is cleverly built into the environment. The music is beautiful and used sparingly to great effect and the animation has a subtlety to it that many games would do well to mimic, with your character slowly reaching for his sword as you draw closer to enemies.
For an early effort showcasing what the full game might offer Path of Shadows sits somewhere in between success and failure. There’s potential here, certainly, and if (and it’s certainly a big if) that translates into a full game then I’d sing its praises from the rooftops. However if the game’s issues are indicative of wider problems understanding the stealth genre then I’d have to call it a missed opportunity. Until then, however, for a free download you could do a whole lot worse.
It’s amazing to me how negative I was about Path of Shadows when I played it; but it’s a testament to the development team how far, and quickly, the game has come since then. It’s now firmly on my “list.”