Ready for a story?
While I played Stories: The Path of Destinies, I felt like I was playing through one of my old choose your own adventure novels. I made my way through the story, making certain choices before I groaned at the sometimes sudden and most times dark ending that I had haplessly sent myself into. So I would try again; making different choices and exploring pathways and options that led to remarkably different ways to experience the same tale. It was nostalgic, and also interesting. I couldn’t get enough of it. There’s still so much of it that I have to explore. It even felt like having a book read to me, with Julian Casey providing his voice talents as the game’s narrator which added an extra layer of witty nerd humor that kept me laughing.
As Reynardo, the hero of these stories, the player explores the various paths of a rebellion against an empire. The once-shy toad Emperor Isengrim III falls into researching and performing cruel rituals while seeking immortality, with Lovecraftian implications. Reynardo reluctantly joins and fights for the rebellion, facing off against the Emperor’s horde of Raven warriors and a fleet of airships. Reynardo is then faced with different paths to try and achieve his goal of stopping the Emperor, initially deciding between seeking out a mythical super weapon fabled for driving away the old gods, or rescuing an old friend from certain death as a prisoner of the Ravens. Faced with a difficult choice as it becomes clear that the war is nearing the end, and the rebellion is on the losing side, the player decides which path to follow.
There’s no right or wrong answer, as either one will lead to a unique story with even more choices and consequences to face. Each will lead to only one of many different available endings, which at least offers Reynardo knowledge about the certain truths in the world. It makes the journey much more interesting than the ultimate goal, and is only a small part of the game’s charm. Without the dynamic narrative, and the excellent writing, the journey would not be as entertaining without having Reynardo’s actions of destroying every single obstacle both described and explained in picturesque storybook fashion.
Stories’ action-RPG combat system is easy and intuitive to use at first, and expands to include layers of complexity that increases both the intensity of the battles and the difficulty of the enemies. Initially, Reynardo is slow and can do little more than slash at the nearest Raven as much as possible. But with experience through battle and meditation at specific statues, players can choose which skills for him to remember, such as dashing through enemies, or increasing the distance of throws. Other bonuses allow players to take a more strategic approach to battles as time slows down following each successful attack or parry. These powers can then be enhanced to make Reynardo a truly powerful hero, with the ability to cut through waves of Ravens one after the other in the blink of an eye. It was fun to see Reynardo’s climb to legendary strength, but I have mixed feelings about the way the combat system was implemented. As Reynardo skyrockets in strength and ability after multiple playthroughs, the Ravens eventually plateau in difficulty, providing the same challenge against an increasingly overwhelming character. This at least allows players to explore the many different stories faster, but leaves the actual challenge of the game feeling like an afterthought.
Then there are the hero swords, forged by players as they find ores and elemental essences. These blades allow players to perform magic: burning or freezing enemies, or increasing the speed of Reynardo’s swing depending on the blade. They can also unlock specific doors that lead to extra combat challenges with Ravens and usually offers rewards in large treasure chests that might spawn random glowing gems that can be added to the slots in Reynardo’s gauntlets. These gems, shaped like polyhedral dice (d4s, d10s, and d20s) provide additional bonuses, such as recovering magical energy with each kill, taking less physical damage, or swinging his sword faster. However, once all blades have been forged and upgraded, there’s little use for them except to act as a glorified key ring to open doors to treasures the player quickly stops needing. The magic powers are useful, but eventually Reynardo becomes powerful and deadly enough that magic is a fun but unnecessary tool.
That being said, this game is driven primarily by the story and the different possibilities available for the player to explore. Without revealing any spoilers, the story is a mixture of many different threads and plots instead of a single storyline to follow. It’s fun to explore, and there is a main objective to reach before players can simply play the game to find all of the endings. Like rereading a book again and again just to make sure you didn’t miss anything interesting.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is a decent hack and slash game with a wonderful variety in story, witty writing, and an excellent narrator to tell and play out the entire story. Almost like an audiobook, it’s fun to listen to, and the controls are easy to learn, but tends to challenge against button mashing for slower and more thoughtful attacks. There is a certain point in which the difficulty of the game can no longer challenge Reynardo, but this at least makes it easy for the player to quickly explore as many different stories as possible. And ultimately, that is the main point of playing this game. I easily recommend it for those who enjoy a good story, or multiple stories in this case.
Review copy supplied
Tested on PS4