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Kunitsu-Gami Path of the Goddess could be this summer’s best sleeper hit, and you can play it right now

Capcom knows that experimentation works – that's how we got Devil May Cry, after all. Kunitsu-Gami Path of the Goddess should be on your radar.

Header image for Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess, featuring a goddess and four bodyguards in traditional Japanese painter style.
Image credit: VG247/Capcom

If there’s a publisher I trust to get a little bit weird, it’s Capcom. When Capcom experiments, the results are usually deeply interesting at the very least - but it’s also often brilliant. You get things like Devil May Cry springing from the ashes of a rejected Resident Evil 4 prototype, the unexpected brilliance of Ghost Trick, or the mechanical delights of Dead Rising. Basically, when Capcom takes a swing on this stuff, it has a pretty high batting average.

Even knowing that as I do, though, when I sat down to play Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess, my expectations were pretty low. I’d seen a trailer; it looked like a cheaper game, a clear bit of developer experimentation. And, well, maybe I just should’ve known better, and remembered my history - because I was bowled over by it. Even off just a short demo, I think I love this game.

Admittedly, the game is a lot like somebody put me into an MRI or something and scanned to figure out exactly what sort of game would appeal to me. It’s part real-time strategy (which I love), tower defense (the greatest ‘hangover game’ genre, I think), with a lick of hack-and-slash action and role-playing style progression as the icing on the cake.

It’s a weird game, and thus difficult to market and explain - which is perhaps why Capcom’s reveal of the title had sort of passed me by initially - it’s difficult to message. When I speak to the developers, it becomes clear that was even the case internally at Capcom.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess
Look at the art. LOOK AT IT. | Image credit: Capcom

“We had to take it and bring it to a state where it was somewhat playable in order to actually pitch it to the other team members and others internally,” Kunitsu-Gami producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi tells me. “To show off the aspects that we wanted to have incorporated, it really needed to be in a visible form in order to be able to discuss what we wanted to do.”

I feel the pain. Trying to explain the game to you now is an incredible challenge. At risk of slipping into boring ‘you do this’ baby’s-first-preview stuff, let me strip it right back as an attempt to do so:

The titular ‘Path of the Goddess’ refers to a literal path that a literal goddess character takes through each level, treading barefoot through environments styled after Japaense history and folklore with an art style vaguely reminiscent of wood block art. In each level, your goal is to protect the Goddess as she makes her way up this path.

There’s a fairly rapid day/night cycle on each stage. In the day, you’re free to set up traps, recruit villagers, and otherwise lay out your defenses however you like. By night, demonic enemies spawn from portals and your job becomes to use those units and defenses to protect the goddess - triggering traps, directly ordering villagers you ‘train’ to become unit types like warriors, archers, healers and so on, and finally taking up your own sword in third person hack-and-slash play. Enemies killed greant resources that can then be spent on more defenses, unit upgrades, and so on.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess
Capcom's experiments are usually note-perfect. This is no different. | Image credit: Capcom

Ultimately, your goal is always to protect the Goddess. The game is one big escort mission - but not like that. It’s the good kind of escort mission.

“The base thought was mostly based on Tower Defense games,” explains director Shuichi Kawata. “Using that as a base, we wanted to add some sort of action into it.

“We wanted to add something that would actually change the flow of gameplay. So when you have someone to control over, someone who can change the battleground. That added an exhilarating experience by adding the action into it, making it a blend of tower defense and action.”

The units are relatively static once placed. They will obeidently hold their position, meaning you can strategically place them like towers. Some are more tower-like than others - archers will fire on demons from afar, and are great in particular for taking down flying enemies. Warriors, meanwhile, will get into it physically with any enemy that gets too close to them. As you progress more unit types will unlock, while the unit cap will vary from stage to stage - some levels will have you managing as many as 12 units, and that’s without getting into the traps and other elements you can set up and use environmentally. Between levels, there’s opportunities to upgrade your options and equip gear that’ll shift the gameplay paradigm.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess
Oh, my goddess. | Image credit: Capcom

The point is, there’s quite a bit of depth to how you might approach any given stage. Despite featuring a tinge of the action genre, there’s an element of the crunchy RTS meta that I so love here.

“You can focus on making it an action-focused game or a very strategy-only game, where you stand back and you just issue commands to villagers - both are very possible in this game,” says Kawata of the game’s depth.

“You can customize it freely to strategize in the way that you want to clear the stage. So you can go all action all the way, very action-focused, or you can use Talismans to give many different stats and effects, which can alter the options you have and allow you to engage in very active focused gameplay or a strategy play.”

“I find the action and attacking using [protagonist] Soh very fun, so I’ll haver the villagers act more towards protecting [Goddess] Yoshiro and clearing the way of the path so that I can focus on the mainstream and on combat,” offers Hirabayashi by way of example.

“But I personally really like RTS games, simulation games - so I tend to focus on the Villagers,” adds Kawata. “I obviously do control Soh, but I tend to lead from the back. But I mostly focus on the villagers and give commands - that’s my style.”

The result is something that just feels… good? I don’t think Kunitsu-Gami is going to be for everyone, though. Some people are going to see a lame action game; others are going to see a compromised RTS. Some are going to hear the words “Tower Defense” and immediately switch off. I want you to know that based on playing a handful of demos, though, that I firmly believe these people are wrong, and should feel bad. Because there’s something brilliant here.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess
Katana got your tongue? | Image credit: Capcom

Any game that can get you into a groove in a slice-of-the-game demo without actually giving you all of the context has the potential to be a huge winner. And here, I was instantly in a mechanical groove; quickly bringing up the menu to order units around in order to cover my blind spots as I guide Soh to carve pathways through the demons by hand. When I get an alert they’re closing in on the Goddess, I quickly loop back and order the units to form a protective line while I do so. It feels immensely satisfying.

A lot of this comes down to sharp controls, which have clearly been a focus. RTS-on-console isn’t easy even in a pure expression of the genre - so it’s harder still to get right in a game that also plays as a third-person action game. The developers talk about the countless man hours spent optimizing that - both on controller, but also for PC, where the game will support controllers but also a keyboard-and-mouse control scheme that more naturally favors the RTS and tower defense elements but then needed to be better fine-tuned for the action play.

In all, I’m excited. Any game that defies a traditional genre label is exciting - one that immediately gets the synapses firing with possibilities during a hands-on is better still. You know what’s even better than that? The fact that Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess is a quick turn-around release - announced just a month ago, it’ll be out this month, in a matter of weeks.

A demo is out now, too - so instead of trying to imagine how these genre conventions mesh, you can try it out for yourself. I think it has a strong chance to be one of the most interesting and exciting games of 2024 - not a game that’ll set the charts on fire, but possibly a cult hit in waiting.

Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess releases for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S on July 14. A demo is out on all platforms now.

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