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Video Game / Pathways into Darkness

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Pathways into Darkness is a first-person adventure game for the Mac by Bungie (of Halo fame) that casts the player as a member of a U.S. Army Special Forces team on a mission to prevent an ancient godlike being from awakening in eight days and destroying the Earth. The team must enter a pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, reach the bottom level and detonate a nuke to stun the Dreaming God within, giving the Jjaro, a benevolent alien race, the time it needs to take more permanent measures to neutralize the threat.

However, during the team's deployment, the player character's chute fails to open, and the resultant impact knocks him out and scatters his equipment. When he comes to, he discovers that he is believed dead, and his team has entered the pyramid without him. Alone, and armed only with a flashlight and a survival knife, he must battle his way through the monster-inhabited pyramid, making his way down to the bottom to complete his team's mission.

Pathways into Darkness is notable for being the first texture-mapped game on the Apple Macintosh, as well as being considered the first true First-Person Shooter released on that platform. It was critically acclaimed, winning a large number of awards, and was Bungie's first major commercial success (it was the third-best-selling Mac game of the first half of 1994, after Myst and SimCity 2000). The success of Pathways Into Darkness helped Bungie hire staff, and they would eventually produce a Stealth Sequel called Marathon...

In April 2013, a version running on modern Macs was released for free in the Mac App Store. It has also been ported - quite faithfully overall - to the Aleph One source port of Marathon 2; you can find this version here, along with high-definition graphics and remastered sounds. This will probably be the most convenient way to play it for Windows or Linux users.

This video game contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: The ghosts of dead Nazis are often cordial and helpful to you.
  • Anachronism Stew: The Walther P4 was invented in the 1970's. It's a modernization of the Walther P38, a pistol that was adopted by the Wehrmacht in 1941, making this a double-layered anachronism (the Nazis in the game died in 1938)note .
  • And I Must Scream: Death in the Pathways/Marathon verse is this or least it is if you're killed by the Dreaming God and/or the monsters its dreams manifest. As the Nazis, explorers, and your fellow marines will tell you, when you die you are stuck in your body with very few of your senses left. Over time, your memories will slowly degrade until you've completely forgotten who you were.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Used for much of the storytelling, with a special twist.
  • Armless Biped: The Headless. They consist of a gaping fanged mouth at about torso-level with a giant tongue waving around in the air, they bend over to vomit green brains at you.
  • Bad Boss: Muller, who executed one of his subordinate for refusing to go through a door. Muller's death is mourned by literally nobody in the Nazi expedition.
  • Badass Normal: Your nameless special ops protagonist is normal enough to get knocked out by a failed chute deployment and be entirely human, and badass enough to be the Sole Survivor of their entire squad as you tear your way through the pyramid and withstand its lethal traps and dangers. And, if you escape in time, nuke the Dreaming God after killing what may have been their spectral avatar and live to tell the tale.
    • Your squad deserves a mention, as while they eventually got overwhelmed, they did make it relatively far in.
  • Bag of Spilling: Due to the airdrop into the temple going pear-shaped (your primary chute doesn't open, and your secondary opens too late), you lose the bag of ammo you were carrying somewhere in the jungle, your M16 gets a bent barrel, and your Colt .45 is empty. When you finally make it to the temple a few hours later, all you have is your combat knife, watch, flashlight, and paper for maps.
    • Contrived Coincidence: Think you can just scavenge said weapons later from your dead squadmates? Think again— none of them have any .45 ammo left, and their M16s all inexplicably have the same bent barrel as yours.
  • Compound Title: Level "They May Be Slow…" is followed by "…But They're Hungry."
  • Compulsive Liar: Muller keeps lying his ass off when you interrogate his ghost, even though he's been dead for over 50 years and has literally no reason to lie to you. You need to cross-reference his lies with what the other Nazi ghosts tell you to figure out what he actually knew
  • Deus ex Nukina: Which leads to…
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The objective of the special forces team is to detonate a low-yield nuclear device on an Eldritch Abomination. Though to be fair, said device will not kill the abomination, just knock it out and bury it, buying Earth crucial time until the Jjaro show up and take better measures to neutralize it.
  • Drought Level of Doom: The first half the game, forcing you to use your knife to take down the weaker enemies.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Dreaming God.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: You start as a Badass Normal special force operator, but end up with various magical items and powers.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: See how much you miss when your chute fails?
  • Excuse Plot: Downplayed. While the plot may not play that big of a part compared to subsequent games from Bungie, it's still more complex than other early first-person shooters. There's also plenty to read from the spirits of the dead who cannot leave their corpses, adding a bit of an adventure game flavor most games didn't have.
  • First-Person Shooter: The first from Bungie.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: Small arms fire is actually quite effective at taking out the monsters both for the player and for the various forces who explored the pyramid before. However, there are so many foes to be found that previous explorers ran out of ammo and got overwhelmed.
  • Fan Remake/Game Mod: Not for this game, but there's a Doom 3 mod that reimagines the first few levels up until you head underground.
    • The Mac App Store version could also be called a Fan Remake in that a fan did the work. However, it was ported from the original Mac release to Cocoa as a 64-bit app, with the original assets (sans one: the sound file), including the old application itself, being used.
    • The Marathon Aleph One port, linked in the description above, is a completely straight example for this game, particularly since optional high-definition graphics and remastered sounds are also available for it.
  • Genius Loci: The pyramid and the catacombs below it are the materialisation of the Dreaming God's dreams.
  • Ghostapo: The player finds numerous skeletal corpses of a Nazi expedition to the pyramid back from 1938 in order to recover the Dreaming God for use as a weapon, or other valuable and/or supernatural artifacts as a consolation prize and help in the upcoming war. They provide an important source of exposition, as well the most frequent source of arms and ammunition.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: A villainous example. The Dreaming God is in a sleeping state (referred to in the manual as being the closest state to death such beings are capable of.) However, it is soon to wake…
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Seems to have befallen one Nazi whose name you never learn, because he won't tell you—however, he claims to know yours, and says he'll never reveal it to "he who rises with the tides, master of all things small and insignificant". This "master" is presumed to be the demon/W'rkncacnter (due to the reference to tides, something associated with the W'rknacnter from Marathon), which makes it seem like the nameless guy (somehow) looked upon it and cracked.
  • Guide Dang It!: The teleporter maze, among other things.
  • Have a Nice Death: Every time you get killed by a monster, you read a message specific to that kind of monster. You also get one depending on the kind of ending you get.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: One of the dead Nazis you encounter has forgotten everything except that death is cold.
  • Infinite Flashlight: Bad news: You have five days to complete your mission before The End of the World as We Know It. Good news: Your flashlight's battery lasts a week. By the time it runs dry, it won't be necessary anymore… one way or the other. Unless you cheat to get more time.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: The player has an encumbrance limitation on how much the Player Character can carry. As this limitation is approached, the character's speed will decrease until he is moving at a crawl. Considering that weapons, ammunition, and treasure all have weight, the player will need to be smart about knowing what to keep and what to discard. Late in the game the player can find a Bag of Holding which will reduce the weight of any items put into it, allowing more to be carried without encumbrance.
  • Invisible Monsters: The Wraiths can only be seen with the infra-red goggles. Conversely, the sole level where they are encountered contains three Banshees, which you have to take the goggles off to see.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: Banshees can only be destroyed with magic crystals; the Green Oozes and Malice (aka the Giant Purple Hellbeast) are completely invincible and must be avoided.
  • Invincible Villain: The Dreaming God, or other beings like it, will never die. Their "sleeping" and "dreaming" states are the closest thing to death they can experience. Thankfully they tend to sleep for billions of years, and can be locked up in stars or black holes.
  • Late to the Tragedy: We hope you enjoyed your nap, because you won't be sleeping for a while…
  • Let's Play: By HB. Due to the difficulty of setting this up for any modern computer, prior to the release of the OS X port or the fanmade Aleph One port this was the ticket to enjoying this game without spending a whole day getting a Mac emulator running.
  • Locked in a Freezer: On the level "I'd Rather Be Surfing", a corpse posing as Schmuck Bait in a room with two open doors. When you enter the room, both doors slam shut. The game console emits "Uh oh." The corpse casually informs you that he was in the room until he suffocated and that the doors did not open until afterwards, and mentions that a group entered many years ago and one of them walked through the other door. Don the red cloak, which speeds the passage of time by slowing your metabolism. Sleeping further speeds up the game. Making more ammo during this time is optional since it will be obsolete soon.
  • Made of Iron: To an extent. Just before the game begins, the protagonist walks away relatively unscathed from an impact that warped the barrel of one of his guns.
  • Money for Nothing: The game keeps track of the value in dollars of all the treasure you find, though there is literally no actual money system or anything to buy in the game. Presumably that's the price you'll get when you pawn off all these precious stones and metals once you get out of there.
  • Multiple Endings: Seven of them.
  • The Neidermeyer: Every Nazi ghost you find thinks their commanding officer Muller was an asshole and outright hope he died. Muller also shot one of his own men in the back for refusing to go deeper in the creepy dark pyramid, and eventually got him and all his people killed (although to be fair they fell into an ambush and were overwhelmed by monsters).
  • Night-Vision Goggles: Useful for finding invisible monsters and avoiding nasty rodents that are attracted to your flashlight.
  • Nintendo Hard: And unlike Bungie's later games, this one does not have difficulty levels... except in the Aleph One remake, in which Normal (the middle difficulty setting) corresponds fairly closely to the original game's difficulty. (The game does get significantly easier when you learn how resting works.)
  • Not as You Know Them: A WMG fan theory suggests that the protagonist is also the protagonist of Marathon, having been brought back as a battleroid cyborg, and, later, given Jjaro implants; however, we should emphasize that although some passages can be read to support this reading, it is by no means universally accepted.
  • Nazis with Gnarly Weapons: Most of the weapons and ammunition that the player ends up using for a large part of the game is recovered from the corpses of German soldiers sent to the pyramid right before World War II. The weapons are in surprisingly functional condition considering they have been lying in the tunnels for decades.
  • Press X to Die: Setting the nuclear device the team is carrying to detonate prior to the player being able to reach a safe distance, setting the nuke off without carrying the rescue beacon to summon the helicopter (Although you can survive if you have enough time to get away from the blast radius on foot before it explodes), setting the nuke to explode after the day the Eldritch Abomination awakens, or just oversleeping the game can result in a game over.
  • Punctuation Shaker: The W'rkncacnter.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Any ending where the nuclear bomb goes off in time and stuns the Dreaming God but in which you're caught in the detonation blast counts. You die, but the world is saved.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Zig-Zagged with the pyramid, which has things like crumbling pillars, but is otherwise in good shape, of course, it's not a normal pyramid, but the manifestation of the dreams of a sleeping Reality Warper Eldritch Abomination that's been phasing in and out of reality for the last few centuries. Played Straight with the Nazi and Cuban weapons and ammunition you find, which are perfectly operational even after laying around on the floor for decades, though you do find one rusted MP-41 which is beyond repair.
  • Science Fantasy: The Dreaming God's powers reshape reality around it, creating all kinds of fantastical items or phenomena that can't be explained or replicated by science, such as a cedar box that duplicates whatever you put inside, crystals that give you Elemental Powers, or souls trapped in their corpses for eternity, who slowly lose their sense of identity and can only feel cold. However the Jjaro are a more "mundane" advanced race of benevolent aliens.
  • Shout-Out: One of your squadmates, when you find him in the later levels, laments that he won't be able to play Street Fighter with you anymore.
  • Spiritual Successor: The Marathon series is a very distant sequel which shares a lot of the same elements; there is even a historical record in the first game that talks about the events of Pathways.
    • It also shares many plot elements with Halo 3: ODST. In both you are an elite special forces operative who gets separated from his squad and must learn about what happened to your unit by interacting with inanimate objects/corpses. In addition both, have to travel underground in order to secure an omniscient presence that has been affecting the world above.
    • One theory suggests that Destiny is the story of Pathways in reverse.
  • That's No Moon: The Dreaming God was the Chicxulub impactor.
  • Time Abyss: The Dreaming God fought in a war that ended up creating the Large Magellanic Cloud, which would make it at minimum 1 billion years old.
  • Timed Mission: You're given five days in real time to complete the mission, the problem is that your main source of healing is resting, which speeds up time.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Initially released in 1993 and takes place in 1994.
  • The Unpronounceable: The dreaming god is said to have a "name no human throat will ever learn to pronounce". If we connect Pathways to the Marathon series, the dreaming god is all but certain to be a W'rkncacnter, which is indeed all but unpronounceable (and we can assume that its representation in Latin script is a mere approximation of what it is actually meant to sound like). Of course, W'rkncacnter is most likely a species name, but with a species name like that, we can assume that their individual names are likewise unpronounceable.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: One Nazi ghost comments that your handling of the Walther P4 pistol is pretty good for a foreigner.