Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors Early Access Review – An Unending Cycle

Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors is a bullet heaven roguelike from BKOM studios where you fight through enemy hordes in your quest to seal away the ancient king of undeath, Tar-Baphon. You’ll level up and collect upgrades as you progress through each floor of his tower, facing increasingly dense hordes of progressively stronger enemies. Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors draws heavy inspiration from Vampire Survivors, as the name might imply. 

You start each run through the tower by choosing either the fighter, rogue, or wizard as your player character and choosing one other as a companion who follows you around and assists with their basic attack and unlocked talents. For example, the rogue can unlock the ability to drop caltrops that slow enemies after taking damage, and this ability works fully well when the rogue is a companion. This incentives you to not only upgrade your favorite character, but to also spend time leveling up at least one of the others to increase their usefuleness as a companion.

Gallowspire Boss
If you all keep crowding me, I’m gonna need to have a word with your boss.

There are sixteen floors to clear in all, including twelve basic floors and four unique boss arenas. There are three variations of the standard floors that appear in the same order with the same enemies each time, which fits with the story, but Gallowspire Survivors could have benefitted from some random generation or alternate routes in this regard. You progress through each floor by killing a set amount of enemies, an amount that increases through each subsequent floor, and in the meantime collect essence from fallen enemies to upgrade and acquire new abilities. You start out with just a basic attack, but are given a choice among four random upgrade cards every time you level up.

Choosing an upgrade locks it in for the entire run, so it’s important to choose carefully since there are only four attack and four passive upgrade slots to fill. There is a limited re-roll feature if you don’t draw anything that appeals to you, but it is best used sparingly. I was a little dissapointed that the game limits you to only four attack and passive upgrades, since by the time you’re past the first floor you easily could have filled all of those slots. The rest of the run is then spent simply upgrading the same abilities you already have, which is definitely vital, but doesn’t feel as fun as earning something new. I would have appreciated some means to swap abilities out or the ability to upgrade the number of attack and passive slots you have. 

Gallowspire Level
The gauntlet ability definitely helps you run the gauntlet uninterrupted.

After you’ve filled all of your ability slots, the upgrade cards you acquire will only serve to improve your current abilities. You can also earn upgrades by looting chests randomly strewn throughout each floor, and the game thankfully gives you a marker that points towards the closest chest. Each chest contains a random assortment of gold and upgrade cards, the amount you get being determined by the roll of a D20. A 1 nets you a single reward, whereas a 20 earns you all five. 

You’ll encounter different attack and passive upgrades depending on which character you chose, although certain passive like increased armor and a higher potion drop chance are universal. The wizard has a lot of flashy spells at his disposal, for instance, among the elements of fire, ice, and lightning. It would have been nice to have more abilities overall, or if they could synergize in some way, but the abilities you do have are definitely strong enough to get the job done. You start to feel like a one-man army when you’re calling down lightning strikes and sending flame tornados whirling into crowds of enemies. The fighter and rogue focus more on melee and ranged attacks, which can be devastating, but I definitely missed raining down meteors from the sky any time I played them.

Gallowspire Loot
With the amount of 1’s I’ve rolled, I’ll take it.

Passive abilities are just as important as your attack abilities, as they can be the difference between life or death. I found increased movement speed and health regeneration to be the most vital since they allow you to temporarily outmaneveur the horde while you recover your health in emergency situations. It’s important to strike a balance between your offensive and defensive capabilities, though, since eventually the hordes get so big that you can’t reasonably avoid them. The game doesn’t let you entirely outrun enemies, either, since it will just keep populating offscreen enemies back into the fray. If you let enough enemies spawn, let’s just say you’ll be swimming in them.

Each character also has individual level progression outside of each dungeon run where you can earn attribute and talent points. For instance, the rogue can unlock the ability to acquire certain wizard spells. Just killing enemies won’t earn you any experience towards your overall class level, though, since you have to earn experience by completing randomly generated quests. They feature objectives like standing still for 60 seconds or killing 6,000 standard enemies, and thankfully you can complete these objectives over several runs. They’re a bit tedious to complete at first, but as you increase in power the process becomes a lot more manageable.

Gallowspire Talents
Each class has a fair few passive talents to choose from.

Completing quests and looting chests also earns you gold, which can be used to both re-roll quests and upgrade potions. You start out with basic healing, quickness, armor, energy breath, and absorption potions, but through upgrades you can increase their potency and unlock new effects from each. For instance, drinking an absorpotion potion pulls all essence in the room to you, and later upgrades increase the chance that essence will drop from enemies for a limited time. The energy breath potion in particular becomes devastating once you upgrade its duration, and can take out literally hundreds of enemies at a time if you drink it while a horde is nearby.

I found that the way that I played depended both on how powerful I was and how far in the tower I had progressed. At lower levels when you’re weaker, it can be far more prudent to simply run from chest to chest, avoiding big hordes of enemies that might overwhelm you and snagging all those sweet upgrade cards. That said, once you get further down in floors it can sometimes be quicker to let the enemies come to you. More and more elite enemies spawn at later floors, and these have a chance to drop a chest upon death. It was not uncommon for me to get three or four chests in under a minute just standing still and mowing down waves of enemies.

Gallowspire Crowded
Sometimes it’s not so great being the center of attention.

However you choose to play, there are times where you just can’t ignore certain enemies. Flying imps that constantly shoot projectiles join the fray once you reach the third floor, so standing in place makes you an easy target. You’re not necessarily safe while running, either, since there’s a skeleton mage who can summon a barrage of homing flame missiles to chase you down. He likes to run from the player and hide inside hordes of enemies, and his missiles can deplete your health pretty quickly if you don’t have the means to outmaneuver or destroy them. Learning to recognize and prioritize certain targets is crucial to surviving each floor.

The simple, cartoonish art style feels sometimes at odds with the epic orchestral soundtrack, although the sheer number of near-death experiences I’ve had thanks to the endless hordes have convinced me that the haunting soundtrack is warranted. That said, once you’ve beaten Gallowspire Survivors, replayability does becomes a bit stale despite access to higher difficulties. While there isn’t nearly as much variety to player abilities, enemies, or locations as I would have liked, the game was able to keep me on my toes enough to be an enjoyable experience the first few goes around.

Austin played Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors in Early Access on PC with a key provided by the publisher.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cahsa Kjai
Cahsa Kjai
13 days ago

MIssed opportunity to contract out a crpg game like pathfinder wrath of the righteous to another studio. Now with BG3, they could’ve attempted to work on a game to compete against further installments since hasbro wants to pursue more games like it.