I initially mistook Stories: The Path of Destinies as another mediocre indie game that would fail to make a lasting impact. Instead, it tingled nostalgic PS2 platformer roots with simple but compelling RPG mechanics tied up wonderfully in a package that centres on replayability, simplistic and effective story-telling, fantastic combat that mimics the Arkham games, and excellent world-building. This all makes the overall experience pretty great.
You fulfil your mother’s last wish by rescuing a precious artifact from a brave victim of one of the evil emperor’s recent purges across the beautiful floating Isles of Boreas. Playing as the swashbuckling bold rogue Reynardo in this 3rd person action-RPG developed by Spearhead Games, Stories: The Path of Destinies sees you play out various scenarios using the magical book – that precious artifact you acquired at the beginning of the game – making different decisions through each of the five chapters which make-up the story of your playthrough.
Choosing whether to help your old friend Lapino the rabbit, or helping build the fearsome Skyripper weapon, is just one decision for one chapter of the game, and it is these combined which will decide the outcome of your playthrough. Each and every playthrough of Stories feels consequential, adventurous and exciting because of the different tales being told and the unexpected outcomes that may come of them.
Commentating your journey is a humorous narrator who voices the various characters found across your playthroughs. The writing can be slightly obvious when it comes to explaining the story, but it does well in its pop-culture references and funny wit. It could well be argued that the few characters found within Stories at first seem blunt, boring and one-dimensional, but after learning about them through a few playthroughs, you soon discover that they’re actually complicated characters with various motives and truths behind their actions.
Characters like Lapino and Zenobia, Reynardo’s love interest, who just so happens to also be the emperor’s daughter, quickly evolve into the key motivations as to why you want to find different endings through making different choices. You want to see what happens if you run with a particular character after ignoring another in the previous chapter, if only to see the ultimate outcome of your actions, and more importantly, attempt to find one of the truths.
Your task in Stories is to be able to discover the four absolute truths across your playthroughs, revealed at the very end of each story, all in order so that you are able to discover the best playthrough, i.e. the one where Reynardo wins. In other words, it’ll take at least five playthroughs to find the best ending.
Finding these truths can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re looking for, or if you accidentally make decisions which lead to the same truth being revealed at the end of your playthrough. But of course, not knowing what is around the corner is all part of the overall fun.
This enjoyment is elevated furthermore by the gorgeous animation style, which complements the story-telling aspect The Path of Destinies nicely. Even though you will find yourself exploring what is effectively the same levels over and over, the tide of tediousness is prevented through various alternative routes which can be unlocked through creating four different swords and the unlocking of different types of elemental locked doors: fire, ice, wind and dark.
Exploring these alternative routes is important, as they host numerous items which will help you create and upgrade your four swords. That said, upgrading them to their max level (of two) can be done within two or three playthroughs, and considering there are 24 different outcomes, that doesn’t bring enough motivation to keep unlocking these different paths. Though you will need to find health occasionally too, you should bear in mind there is no real punishment for dying.
Repetitiveness is also halted, to a degree, by the fantastic combat system of Stories: The Path of Destinies. Mimicking the incredible Arkham series’ combat template, you have to master the basics whilst slowly adding skills through gaining experience by defeating ravens in battle. Beginning with basic attack and counter abilities, you’ll eventually be gliding across the map killing the few types of enemies there are with beautiful elegance. The higher your combo and style in a fight, the more experience you earn at the end of each battle, and the more skill points you can buy to develop Reynardo’s skills.
The combat rarely feels old, mainly because of its smooth and fair learning curve. But what does get old is playing through the game over and over, only to get a fairly similar outcome from any previous playthrough. I’ll be honest, as much as I have enjoyed Stories, it has been difficult for me to motivate myself to make all the same choices in a playthrough, apart from one, just to get a different ending.
Some playthroughs really do tell a very different and unique story compared to others, but once you have maxed out your arsenal and skills after just a few runs, may find yourself relieved to discover a winning ending after a few playthroughs. I have however felt my time with the game came to a natural conclusion. Though I will admit that the change in music depending on how the story was developing did add a lot to the experience in terms of heightening the situation; leaving the game was still bittersweet. The music is excellent overall nonetheless.
The achievements found in Stories: The Path of Destinies on Xbox One are pretty great too, with fair milestones rewarding you to play more. There are also achievements encouraging you to complete every single one of the 24 endings whilst also maxing out Reynardo’s arsenal and skillset. I haven’t yet been motivated enough to find all of those endings, but the achievements being there definitely make it a prospect to consider.
Stores: The Path of Destinies doesn’t quite achieve the ambitious lofts which it aims for in terms of providing a game which can be played over 20 times, with both small and gigantic changes between each playthrough’s story, but I can say for certain that it is well worth playing if you want any of the things which it does well; brilliantly addictive, fantastic world building that comes with a superb combat system and great looking lands. Because, you see, it doesn’t just do them well – it does them great.