Life is full of choices. What to have for breakfast, do you walk or take a taxi to work, do you plot world domination or plan to be a benevolent dictator. These are all things we may think about during the course of a typical day. Stories: The Path of Destinies is a game all about choices and the consequences of those choices.
What Is It?
Set in the world of Boreas, a mythical fantasy world populated by all manner of anthropomorphic animals, Stories has you take on the role of Reynardo. He was once a pirate, but settled down and had been living with an old toad he fancied. On her deathbed, the toad implored Reynardo to take care of her son Peter. Peter comes into possession of a mysterious book and sets off to deliver it to the rebellion.
This book is not only the main means of delivering the story, but also a record of what has come to pass. In gameplay terms, it keeps track of what stories you’ve completed and the choices you made to do so. This is key, because the entire point of the game is to explore your choices and see if you can make a better one. Thus begins the tale of rebellion, an Empire of tyranny, the occult, and an absurd amount of gaming and pop culture references.
Stories is a game that can tell a fairly grim tale, but brings in just enough levity so as not to feel to overwhelmingly dark.
Why Should I Care?
The game is a strictly single player affair. There is no cooperative mode or online functionality of any kind in Stories. This means that Spearhead Games could focus entirely on making a robust and satisfying action RPG. In a lot of ways the game can be compared against SuperGiant’s Bastion and to some degree Transistor. These are not bad games to be deriving inspiration from. The narrator is never far away to provide context or to throw in a quip or two. This might get old quickly, had it not been for the sheer number of lines of dialog available. In my time playing, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard dialog repeat, with the exception of the introductory narratives that set up the stories, and even those change as you uncover more truths.
As an action RPG, there are a few things that one might expect to be present. Crafting, skill trees, and action-oriented combat to name a few. These elements are all present here, though they’re handled in a simplified way. Crafting only requires Ore and Elemental Essences which you’ll pick up from treasure chests and by smashing the occasional random breakable object. You can then use these materials to craft new swords or upgrade existing ones.
The skill trees allow you to assign skill points to your abilities. When you first start out, you’ll only have access to Tier 1 abilities. As you uncover truths by completing storylines, you’ll gain access to more powerful abilities. Each level you gain will grant you a Skill Point you can spent at an Alter. It’s a simple system that works well.
Stories’ combat is quick and fluid. You are playing as a fox, after all, and they’re naturally very quick. It doesn’t quite have the depth to it as some other games, but that doesn’t mean it’s a dumbed down system. Shielded enemies will require different tactics to defeat than regular grunts. Warlocks can do massive damage to you in a hurry so you’ll want to get in on them quickly. Different enemies will require different tactics, and Reynardo is nimble enough to be able to flow from one enemy to another, so you can get in quick on a warlock and take them out, and then roll back and dash at a grunt, grab them and throw them into a shielded grunt. All of this is done with one button, so it’s just a matter of timing. Once you start acquiring new swords and assigning skill points you can add hooking enemies and bringing them towards you and using sword magic to the mix. There is a lot to the combat, but it ramps up gradually, which I appreciate.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
With solid gameplay at its core, Stories brings a highly stylish presentation along to wrap that core in. The story sequences are told through spoken narration as well as stylized storybook illustrations. While the game itself looks like a more realized version of those illustrations. This is a good looking game. The devil is in the details though, and details haven’t been skimped on. There are little touches like how Reynardo pulls his grappling hook out when you’re near a spot that can be hooked, negating the need to provide a prompt. It’s a small thing, but it shows that actual thought went into small things. I also particularly like how the game uses lighting. There are the obligatory torches along dark corridors, but there are also cleverly used bloom effects from large fires throughout some areas. It just gives the game a sense of life that I haven’t seen in a long time.
There are a few rough edges that could be worked out with a patch. For instance, the game seems to enforce an ‘always keep going’ mentality. Platforms, portals, are one time use, so once you’ve used them you can’t use the same one to go back to where you came from. I understand the design choice made here. Let the player take that other path in another playthrough. It’s a valid approach, but it might turn some folks off. Particularly those that like to explore every nook and cranny.
Stories: Path of Destinies is a highly enjoyable game. The way it’s structured around multiple playthroughs makes for an ideal game for quick one hour or so sessions, but it has enough hooks in its progression systems to keep people coming back to revisit their choices. The outcome of those choices may turn some people off though. Going into specifics on that would be going into story spoilers. It will have to suffice it to say that I now hold the belief that the folks over at Spearhead Games do not have a very sunny outlook on life. That said, the game has kept me playing, and kept me interested. It may be a bit heavy-handed at times, but Stories: The Path of Destinies is worth your time.