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Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors Review

Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors Review

I've been playing Pathfinder (the TTRPG, first edition) for about 10 years as both a game master and a player, so calling myself a fan is probably a given at this point. However, my relationship with the videogame adaptations of this setting has been rocky, to say the least. I had to skip both of Owlcat Games’ isometric RPG titles for now since I either didn't have the time or would be spoiled on the actual Adventure Path the titles are based on, leaving the now defunct — and honestly a bit weird — Pathfinder Online my only foray. When I heard that a Pathfinder-inspired Survivors title was coming out and it was set in the epic locale of Gallowspire, I jumped at the chance to try out Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors. But is this an epic journey, or will it fumble at the gates?

The story, little though there is, revolves around the titular Gallowspire, a massive dungeon fortress home of, and now prison to, the undead king, Tar-Baphon. Sealed within this labyrinthine construction and bound with the aid of magical circles, it was thought the world was rid of this unimaginably powerful undead lich, but the circles were slowly found and destroyed, save for one. With the Whispering Tyrant's freedom at hand, you play as a duo of heroes willing to delve into the depths of the spire with a magical amulet that can reinforce Tar-Baphon’s chains, though you have to get through his defences first.

There is a lot of stuff on screen at once. My eyes.

Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors offers three heroes to play as: the Fighter, the Rogue, and the Wizard, each with a masculine and feminine avatar to choose between. Before each run, you can select one hero to be your main character and then a companion from the remaining, who will accompany you in the dungeons below! Each adventurer offers some variation to gameplay, keeping things fresh while also giving the player a chance to test out some fun combinations. The companion can also be controlled by another player in co-op, but we’ll circle back to that in a bit. Each hero can teleport short distances as a slowly recharging dodge and have an ultimate attack: the Fighter gains a temporary boost to their armour, the Rogue drops a bomb that deals damage in an area, and the Wizard stops time for a short while.

As is expected of the Survivors genre, the gameplay has you avoiding and fighting a, frankly, silly amount of enemies while collecting resources and powering up your characters, with stronger enemies and minibosses joining the fun as time goes on. The vastness of Gallowspire is separated into four unique sections: the Crypt, the Library, the Cave, and the Lower Crypt, with each area comprising three floors and a boss fight. Each floor has a set goal of enemies to kill, after which you are teleported to the next. Beat the boss, and you unlock the next area! Each location is unique, featuring a unique map to be chased around in, a musical theme, and enemies to face.

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There are four tiers of upgrades, ranging from common to legendary and designated with colours

So, each run starts with you picking one skill for your main hero and for your companion. While fighting the numerous enemies within, you may notice slain foes dropping small orbs, which you can collect to eventually level up, getting to choose a new attack, passive, or upgrades to existing ones. Enemies can also drop useful potions with varying effects, such as gaining a shield to block damage or simply restoring health. Finally, you have three side objectives you can aim to complete during this and subsequent runs to earn some additional XP and gold.

While dodging said ever-growing horde of death, there are also three types of points of interest you can collect: chests, cards, and companion XP. To collect a point of interest, you are forced to hang around an area near it for a set time, with the required time being longer for rarer items! This is a fun addition, as it makes each pick-up a tactical choice. Do I risk taking damage and get something useful, or do I run and stay alive? Chests are simple enough; they grant you gold and a selection of upgrades to your existing skills, with the number of boons received depending on the result of a d20 roll. Get a Critical Success (a 20), and you’ll snag the whole bunch. Roll a Critical Fail (a 1), and you’ll get one measly upgrade or pile of gold for your trouble, which can be infuriating if you’ve fought tooth and nail for an epic box! Cards are collected from statues and display art from the Pathfinder world and give you permanent boosts once unlocked, whereas the companion XP is the only way to level your fellow hero up.

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That is a Linnorm, NOT a Dragon; GET IT RIGHT!

Yeah, about that companion. As there is only one amulet of mystical magicey importance to go around, only the main character can absorb the necrotic energy of the fallen re-dead, meaning their stalwart ally is stuck doing things the old-fashioned way, i.e. looting the place dry for “better gear”. While they can upgrade their skills via chests, the only way to gain anything new is via these companion XP points. It’s not a big deal, and I generally like the whole idea of a follower, as mixing and matching skill sets can provide a lot of variety, but here’s where it gets a bit odd: in co-op, the other player is the companion.

Yes, instead of playing their own hero and allowing both players to collect the ample necrotic power, your friend will control the second adventurer, gaining levels only with the specific point of interest. To add a final nail to the co-op coffin, it is local (or Steam Remote Play) only. While having a simple opt-in local co-op feature like this is fine, I feel it's a bit of a waste of potential. Having a true co-op experience would have been a blast, with two players dodging for dear life while, naturally, arguing over who gets which chest! But it was not to be.

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You can even unlock different dice skins!

Limited co-op aside, I found my experience with Gallowspire very hit-and-miss. In general, I enjoyed the game as a time killer, with a run being over in about half an hour at most. Each session felt like I made at least some progress and nothing in the game made the experience unenjoyable. Regretfully, the absence of unenjoyment did not translate into the opposite, as the game felt somewhat lacking and plain in many aspects.

I think my main gripe with the game is the Pathfinder logo prominently on display: without the setting and some names, the game is, at its core, a generic Survivors title. Sure, the big bad taunts you every now and again and some bosses are creatures from the lore, but beyond that, there is very little to do with Pathfinder here. The cards are the closest, and even they only depict generic images of monsters and items unrelated to the foes of heroes shown, which is a shame as having a collection of little tidbits and fun facts would have gone a long way to improve the theming of the game.

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The Undead Dragon Istravek may be a familiar fade, depending on your Pathfinder Background

In addition to the somewhat aetherial setting, I also ran into a few unpleasant bugs: if your companion happens to fall in battle, which often happens with the low-hp Wizard, you can revive them by staying close for a bit. On one such occasion, I waited a short while, dodging fiery pain for my trouble, only to have my companion stubbornly stay down. The companion may not be that important in the grand scheme of things, but the AoE my magical friend provided was a big part of my build at the time, making the rest of the level… not fun. In another case, my lovely friend got stuck on a wall, the worst of foes.

To summarise, Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors is a fine example of the Survivors genre. The runs are fun and quick, the skill combinations can be quite enjoyable, and each delve into the depths helps you get more powerful. However, I feel the game would have done better without the Pathfinder branding, as they do not seem to use it to its full potential. If you want a fun little title to play for a run or two, give it a look (it’s not that expensive), otherwise, look elsewhere.

6.50/10 6½

Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors (Reviewed on Windows)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors is a fun enough Survivors title to sink time into, though avoid it if you’re looking for in-depth Pathfinder lore. The companion system adds a layer of strategy to each run, but beware of their buggy behaviour!

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Martin Heath

Martin Heath

Staff Writer

Professional Bungler

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