Stories: The Path of Destinies is an action-RPG, Choose Your Own Adventure game. Developed and published by Spearhead Games, Stories attempts to weld a player-chosen narrative with player-driven combat and role playing game elements. Having played this at PAX South earlier in the year, I was definitely excited to do this review.
For the unfamiliar, Choose Your Own Adventure books are stories with decisions you, the reader, make throughout the book to give you a feeling of crafting your own narrative. There is, of course, one complete “correct” story in there, but there are also branching paths that end in your demise. Stories: The Path of Destinies looks to harness that idea and capitalize on it. They do a pretty spectacular job of it, too.
You play as Reynardo the Fox. Reynardo lives in a world full of seemingly full of toads and ravens as well as one rabbit and one cat. The Toad Emperor is trying to resurrect the lost god and is terrorizing the people with ritualistic sacrifice. Reynardo joined the rebellion and came into a possession of a book. This book is special. It allows Reynardo to experience the different paths of destiny in order to find the true heroic ending and save everyone in the land. By experiencing these paths, Reynardo learns certain truths that open the true path.
In the game, you experience in each Story in 5 chapters. Those chapters are action-oriented, but in between each of the chapters is a choice. Make a choice, play a chapter. The story you play is the based on the choices you make. The first choice presented to you in the game is whether you will save your friend, Lapino, or will you attempt to find the armature of the Skyripper, a weapon of mass destruction. You pick one and off you go to either rescue Lapino or find the armature. Once you’ve completed that task, you will be given another choice – so forth and so on.
Once you’ve made your choice, it’s time to adventure. Reynardo isn’t the type to sit on his laurels, he going to fly by the seat of his pants and mix it up. Combat starts as button-mashy goodness, but expands as you acquire skills. There is the hook shot, which can help you traverse the isles of Boreas, but it can also be used as a tool to bring your enemies close. Combo moves that increase damage the higher your combo meter increases. The dash moves can cause havoc in battle and remove you from sticky situations. My favorite are the Time powers, where instead of mashing your attack button, you can hit once and time slows enough to allow you to begin planning your attacks in advance. There are also small powers you can get by building and upgrading swords. The swords not only allow power-ups – such as fire or ice attacks – but also can be employed as keys for special doors that provide special treasure or short cuts.
Unfortunately, the combat can get repetitive. There are not a huge variety of enemies so they instead they just throw more at you. There are also not a large variety of levels/islands. So, here’s the thing, the game does an exceptional job subtly directing you to find the four truths and lead you to the true ending in the first five stories. After you finish, you can continue playing the different stories until you have discovered them all. So, for the first five stories, things feel pretty fresh. But after I completed the true story, I wanted to go back, but that’s when it turned into a slog. I just there was more of an incentive to continue going back with more paths, levels, environments or enemies.
Overall, Stories: The Path of Destinies is charming, enjoyable and clever. The story narrative will keep you enthralled as the dialogue is so well written. I laughed out loud many times while playing. The combat will keep you engaged during the path to the true ending. I definitely recommend this game for fans of story –driven or indie games. It has a charm that makes games like Bastion fondly remembered.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is available on Steam and the PlayStation 4 now for $14.99.