Take Hotline Miami, strip away the guns and 80’s aesthetic, and drop the player into Feudal Japan with a katana and you pretty much get the idea behind The Path To Die. It’s a fast-paced little indie game that provides some really meaty combat, but does come with some rather glaring issues.
Let’s start with the game’s main draw is here: its combat. The Path To Die is a game that really understands what it means to have “impactful combat”. By that, I mean that hits actually provide ample feedback, both on enemies and on the player. It does not feel like you’re fighting with sticks, but with actual blades and all of the weight that comes with them. It makes for some very meaty combat, but unfortunately, it is far from perfect.
The main problem here is that the game’s controls simply do not feel intuitive, nor are they anywhere near responsive. All of the different sword strikes are mapped to a movement on the right stick. Quarter rotations in either direction will result in generic swings, a 360 will result in a spin attack, pressing forward will do a jab attack, and pressing back will charge a downward slice. These all sound great in theory, but in actual gameplay, I found that it was oftentimes hard to pull off the moves I wanted to.
For example, I would dash into an enemy with the intent of doing a spin attack, but somehow end up doing a simple jab despite doing the input for a spin attack, resulting in my death. Other times I would want to do a regular swing right out of a block, but end up doing nothing at all. It was like the game was only reading half of my inputs, and despite wrestling with the controls both on a controller and on keyboard and mouse, I could not quite get used to how clunky they felt. In a game where two hits can kill you, messing up an input like this can really be quite disastrous, hence why it’s such a big problem here.
Now, while the game may have some issues with its combat, it definitely has no issues when it comes to its overall aesthetic. It employs a very detailed pixel art style, with relatively simple looking characters, but some incredibly well-done environments. Not only is there a ton of detail there, but the game’s use of lighting was also superbly done, allowing its environments to stand out even more.
The game’s UI, on the other hand, is decent for the most part, but does have some issues worth noting. One is the complete lack of direction at any given moment. Most of my time spent playing was aimlessly wandering around hoping to find something to help progress the story. When I did eventually find someone that provided a clue as to what I should do, their directions were not put into some menu and I was unable to speak to them again. Instead, the game expects you to commit these instructions to memory and hope that you don’t need to reference them later. This can bring all sorts of problems to the table, so some sort of indicator on the current quest objective would be very beneficial to have.
Another big issue with the UI is that it does not tell you which buildings can be entered and which cannot. To check this, you must walk up to the building and see if a button prompt is presented to you. Given that there are a ton of buildings and many look like they can be entered, this became a bit annoying to deal with. It certainly doesn’t help that the map does not appear to indicate this either, leaving it up to the player to manually check each and every building, less they miss something important.
The last issue I had with the UI was a rather minor one, that being that the first option listed on the game’s main menu was “new game” rather than load. This is a game where you will be dying a lot, with the game kicking you back to the main menu every time. As such, a simple misclick can bring you to a new game rather than loading up your current one, a mistake I made a couple times within just the first hour. The game really needs a continue button at the top of its main menu to eliminate this annoyance and get the player back into action as quickly as possible.
Given all of this, I unfortunately cannot recommend The Path To Die. While the combat itself is fine, controlling it is another question entirely and one that I still had issue with an hour into it. The UI issues on top of that just add to the frustration. Hopefully these are some issues that can be patched up, but as it stands, the game is just not worth the recommendation.
You can buy The Path To Die on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of this game. Read more about how I do my game reviews/impressions here.