The Top of Nowhere
Path to Nowhere is odd in the world of Gacha Gaming. Dropped out of seemingly nowhere with little hype, fanfare, or marketing into the laps of mobile gamers, you’d expect little of PTN. Not to mention how strange such a launch is in a post-Genshin Impact world where every game is trying to stand out from the sea of imitators and cash grabs. But despite not having had vast sums of money spent on commercials, PTN is a solid RPG game with a lot going for it. Let’s dive in.
Jet Black Worlds and the People in Them
While it has become something of a cliche that non-Japanese gacha games feature dreary art direction and depressing post-apocalyptic settings, as seen in such titles as Arknights and Girl’s Front Line, Path to Nowhere takes a slightly different route than the ruined Earths of its peers and sets its story in an enormous prison, and makes its playable characters, called Sinners here, a cast of misfits and criminals that are both tragic and likable. While many of these characters have done terrible things to land themselves in prison in the first place, the writing behind them conveys well to the player that there is more to them than the crimes they have committed and often provides vital background and context for such acts in the first place.
The story is similarly interesting and mysterious, serving up small clues about the role of the player character in the grand scheme of things and the woes that have befallen the world outside the prison to justify such a gigantic structure existing in the first place. While grim and dark, it never falls into cliché simply because the writing is so good and the characters themselves grounded enough that the whole affair doesn’t feel completely ridiculous. Adding to the charm of the story is excellent English voice acting spread across both the main story and side events.
So what about the gameplay? PTN is best compared, and is nearly identical, to its fellow Tower Defense game Arknights. These two games play approximately the same; you position characters to battle on a grid of squares and then set them to auto-attack against foes trying to get to your base. The big difference here in Path to Nowhere is that you can move characters in real-time during combat, making it easier to recover from setbacks and put characters back into combat they have defeated everyone in a particular lane or space. Changing character position on the fly changes things enough to set PTN from its fellow games. Additionally, it adds an extra element of player agency that is quite enjoyable.
Battles in Path to Nowhere are often smaller than in other games and on maps that tend to go from right to left without as many complications. This means the game is more straightforward than expected in the early story stages, but gimmicks appear to spice up battles as you progress. These include giant bosses that take up huge areas on the map and defense missions that see players holding out against endless waves of enemies for a fixed amount of time rather than eliminating them all.
Building Better Sinners
Battle also gives players materials to upgrade their characters. While this is fairly standard, what Path to Nowhere does well in this regard is allowing players to skip playing out a stage for materials after it has been cleared once. This is done without using an item, as this quality of life improvement often does in other games, but simply by spending stamina and choosing the number of times you wish to run the stage. This makes improving characters and fishing for other items effortless and eliminates the constant time sink of grinding that often plagues other similar mobile titles.
The last thing to discuss is the gacha in this game. Things are standard here, with 80 summons being the hard upper limit to get a guaranteed 6-star character, the highest rarity, and the amount of summons you’ve done carries over between gacha events. While not the best in the genre, there is enough safety net here for spenders and those who have saved for months to get something good from a given summon.
Is it Hardcore?
Path to Nowhere elevates the Tower Defense genre by focusing on its moody story and characters. That, when backed up by interesting gameplay tweaks and quality-of-life features gamers will appreciate, make it one of the biggest surprises in recent mobile game history.
- Excellent visual and storytelling
- voice acting is professional and well done
- Gameplay is just different enough from other Tower Defense games to be interesting
- Quality of life features are outstanding and really make for a smooth experience.
- May not be different enough from other similar games for enfranchised players.
- The story can be depressing at times.