What does it take to venture on a life-changing journey? Is it the stories you learn on your way by talking to characters in this world? Is it working towards the end goal without any thought about what the consequences are? Or is it about learning that a journey doesn’t have to be experienced alone, but with a team of ragtag misfits who learn to love one another? It’s very much all of these combined, and Towards The Pantheon attempts to do this and so much more.
Developed by Connor O.R.T Linning and pixel art by Leandro Tokarevski, Towards The Pantheon is a turn based 2D RPG about the world of humans, felines, electropunks, and ghosts. You begin the story as Freyja, a human from the village of Keltoi. Tasked by Chief Wuotan, you embark on a dangerous mission to The Pantheon to defeat The Terrorforce.
Your story is to go out and find Bam, your feline companion, and then to venture forward through different villages and cities, completing quest after quest until you reach your end goal. On the way, you encounter a companion who wants to be a part of your team, and another that needs to be.
This Is Your World
What first stands out is the different regions of the world which you’re free to explore. With more than ten regions open to players, from forests and wastelands to cities and villages, it is an open world for you to explore. You encounter characters, side quests and entries blocked by soldiers or boulders that are accessible later on in the game.
In order to progress to different rooms and subplots, you find items across the world that sometimes helps to unlock hidden features in terms of the history. It makes tracking what each character says difficult, but it challenges the player to remember the NPCs, rather than to skip the dialogue.
It makes you want to return to these regions eight hours into the gameplay. Whilst the gameplay has its limitations and faults, the world and its regions are beautiful, and the soundtrack composed for the game only intensifies your feeling for this world.
The way of transportation is by hamster Speedsters to each different town or village; however it is very difficult to move round the world with ease. There are far few signs than there should be, and sometimes when it tells you to go one direction, it’s usually the other direction which is right.
With this problem, there is also the multiple ways of learning the lore of Towards The Pantheon. Whilst it doesn’t make moving between the areas difficult, it makes it difficult to track where certain items or quests are.
Whilst the story is standard to any typical RPGs from first impressions, it’s what you learn about the world that makes this game unique. From reading a book, talking to characters, or finding loose papers, this world of peppy music and cute feline characters hides an ominous story.
The Darker Side Of Life
I won’t spoil the darkest points of the story, but what’s worth noting is that Towards The Pantheon is a game that does not shy away from the brutality of a repressive regime. For example, there was a moment in the game (without spoiling, a chapter where you explore a large building guarded by five gems) where my heart would drop at the scenes taking place and the imagery.
The reason these scenes feel so out of place is because of the characters you play. The main character, Freyja, is a mute girl from the wholesome and peaceful village of Keltoi. Bam, the feline creature that she is tasked to find by Wuotan, is a scarf-wielding, Law student. Mishima is a cyborg of Adaperion, treated differently for having a human heart, and Phenez is a ghost who cannot leave until he helps these characters in victory.
Whilst all these characters are very different, we begin to learn how important it is for the characters to have each other through the dialogue and fireside cut-scenes. The way you save is that you encounter tents with a fire pit outside of them. As you enter, you sometimes encounter a yellow exclamation mark. When you click on it, a small cut scene image made out of pixels appears of all the present characters surrounding the campfire.
Each time the conversation is different, but the feelings are generally the same. Either the characters are talking about their lives before or after The Terrorforce, what they miss about home, and what will happen to them when the story is over. Overall, the cut scenes help to create depth with these characters by showing their insecurities and their worries. It gives the game time to stop and reflect on these characters as being more than just a way to enter a room or wander around places invisible.
Ready for Combat
With the way that these characters are represented, as a way to give them individual qualities, this is also reflected very well in the mechanics of the gameplay. The turn based combat system gives each of these characters unique battle stats and mechanics to make the player put thought into their choices, and it certainly comes across in more difficult levels and boss battles.
Bam is considered the healer of the pack with his unique perks and healing spells, whilst Mishima’s ‘CPU’ affects her stamina and her health. In term of Phenez, his character’s use of curses and pain to inflict damage also affects his own health because it’s from his past.
With these characters having their own strengths and weaknesses, I found myself making sure that each character helps each other out, either through healing or reviving. It makes for interesting gameplay when you’re dealing with powerful characters that have these problems.
However, it feels that Freyja is intended to be the most powerful character with different weapons and power strengths. What would have been different is if Freyja also had weaknesses, such as bringing in larger restrictions when using powerful moves on a weapon.
In terms of other features in the combat system, the use of the collectible cards and combos was a great feature to experiment with, but I found myself not using it that often. Whilst it was fun to explore the world and find the cards in the chests, it didn’t serve a great purpose in my gameplay. It is quite disappointing, considering collecting items across the game is one of the most interesting concepts.
To play Towards the Pantheon, it requires you to be fully aware of the world’s history by listening to characters and reading books, to help characters to unlock items, or to unlock character moves by racking up points. The game advertises more than ten hours of gameplay, but if you want to explore everything then you need much more time.
Towards The Pantheon is one of the most interesting RPGs I’ve ever played in terms of the story and the combat style, and whilst its method of subplots can get confusing, the result is worth it. Whether you are looking for a world that challenges the notions of a typical RPG, or a unique twist in the combat mechanics, this game is bound to leave a lasting impact on you.
You can check out Towards the Pantheon on Steam and help support Linning and Tokarevski’s two years of hard work on this game. If you can’t get enough of this game, then also check out the prequel game Towards The Pantheon: Escaping Eternity. The world has a mixture of fun, family-friendly dialogue and stories, and a twisting and dark backstory. One minute you are cooing over these endearing characters and their harmless nature, and the next you hear laughter in the sewers, or you’re faced with a bloody guillotine.