When you look at this game’s title, its art, it’s design and its concept… most hardcore gamers probably wouldn’t get too excited. I felt exactly the same when I first saw the trailer for Stories: The Path of Destinies, although there was an odd charm to it that seemed to draw me in. I wanted to at least give it a try, to give this interesting idea for a game a respectable nod, to say “yes, I gave you a chance,” and oh my days, I am so happy I did!
Stories: The Path of Destinies: PlayStation 4 [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Release Date: 12 April 2016
Price: £8.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
What a game this is! Out of nowhere, the charm and wit of this beautifully intelligent game drew me into hours and hours of gameplay! I barely remembered I even had to write a review about this it, I was so caught up in its fantastic world.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is a mix of a hack and slash action game, and a dungeon crawler RPG which actually go together very well. I know there are more than likely several others like this but I’ve never had the pleasure of playing them before. I can see a new love developing already. There are traditional RPG elements such as skills to upgrade, swords to build and gems to equip, and lots of playthroughs to actually manage it all. The combat is by no means perfect, I feel there is a bit of a stutter sometimes with attacks or counters, but it’s nothing I couldn’t get used to, or compensate for with the skills or good controls.
The skill upgrades are a fantastic addition. Too often skills prove meaningless and feel wasted, unnecessary to either the game or character, they only serve to fill space until the good stuff comes along, but these skills all feel positive and there’s a great sense of usefulness about them all. It’s very similar to the skill set design in Dragon Age: Origins in this way.
So what’s the main plot or point of Stories: The Path of Destinies? Well, it’s interesting to explain. You play as Reynardo, a dashing pirate fox with an iconic eye patch and, well… his character is down to you! This is probably the best thing about this game. Reynardo is a different character depending on the choices you make and the story you follow. Stories: The Path of Destinies is one of the few games where decisions actually matter. And I don’t mean in a Dragon Age or Mass Effect kind of way, these are not flavour choices, you aren’t choosing what kind of topping you want on your ice cream. No, you’re actually choosing which dessert you want to eat.
The game starts with a short prologue that throws you straight into the action perfectly. You learn combat, skills, and upgrades and you witness the wit and wonder that is the narrator. After the prologue is complete you are given your first choice. You make these at the start of each “chapter” of the book you follow/play and each has a fundamental effect on the story’s outcome. Reynardo is stuck in the middle of a revolution. He’s fighting hard to bring an end to the tyrannous emperor and the rebellion is in need of a game changer. So, you can either choose to rescue an old friend who might have vital intelligence, or, you can attempt to find the parts for a super weapon that once destroyed the Lost Gods.
With each decision, we get a different ending. Every decision counts and there are twenty-four different ending cards to collect to prove it, as well as four “truths” that Reynardo will come to learn. The beauty of the game is that it knows it’s going to be a repetitive process, but the magic book that controls the game world completely explains why Reynardo survives each encounter, or ending, and is then able to go back and repeat his story, or walk a different path with the knowledge he has learned. So, not only does the player grow with the knowledge of each playthrough, but so does Reynardo. The dungeon crawler aspect really comes into effect with each new play through. After you unlock new abilities or swords you’ll get access to new areas and even following a different path seems to have a different outcome on the story. It’s things like this that make me love RPGs.
Julian Casey does a fantastic job narrating; he puts on different voices for every character and brings about a perfect delivery with each line. It truly feels like we’re being told a story, not just playing one. And this leads me to the writing. What fantastic writing! The script is just superb. It’s not only intelligently written, it has set up an incredible world, it’s witty, and it has countless references to the real world that made me laugh so often as I explored. From its worldly flavour text, a quip about how smashing boxes is fun, or a real world reference – I can’t get enough. Reynardo has the ability to hook on to pylons and jump from platform to platform, to hear Casey deliver the line “Reynardo so loved the pylons, he must construct more of them” was just hilarious. Even a lot the trophy’s titles are references.
Stories: The Path of Destinies went under the radar. Spearhead Game’s latest title doesn’t have much notoriety and that is such a shame because The Path of Destinies is a real gem. I’ve seen so many positive reviews, and I can see it becoming a bit of niche cult favourite but the game deserves so much more than that. It’s a title that players will thoroughly enjoy. It’s fun, often hilarious, and also very rewarding to play. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone seeking adventure.