Since the beginning, game developers have had to be resourceful; be it for system limitations, time constraints, lack of manpower, or any other of a near limitless number of situations. Though there are a number of ways developers solve these issues, every once in a while a game tries to turn the solution into its own identity. Let’s see if this approach paid off for Stories: The Path of Destinies.
Game Name: Stories: The Path of Destinies
Platform(s): PC (reviewed), also on PS4
Publisher(s): Spearhead Games
Developer(s): Spearhead Games
Release Date: 4/12/2016
Once upon a time, a puckish sky pirate by the name of Reynaldo plundered the floating isles. One day he was called to his mother’s deathbed, whereupon he swore off the pirate’s life to honor her wishes. This peace would be short-lived, however, as the now tyrannical emperor’s destructive search for magical books of power has left Reynaldo looking after an orphaned child who happens to possess one of these books. Now, he must take up the sword once more to stop the emperor’s reign of terror with the help of this magic tome.
Stories: The Path of Destines revolves heavily around the magic book that Reynaldo get a hold of, but not in the way one might think. The book has the power to show one’s future, but since nobody’s future is certain, the book is a Choose Your Own Adventure. Earlier, I said that games have their ways of covering up certain weaknesses; here the case is that Stories has few levels. The idea to cover this up with having the player re-experience the game through the scope of Reynaldo wanting to find a better ending is smart, but ultimately cannot cover that regardless of path, many levels will be played through several times, making the game tedious if played more than a single story or two in one sitting.
That itself wouldn’t be so bad either if it weren’t for the fact that each play-through only takes about 45 minutes barring excessive death. What Stories lacks in variety, it makes up for in charming characters and choices actually making a difference in a play-through’s ending.
As for the actual gameplay, Stories is a third-person action/adventure that focuses on combat and solving simple puzzles. The combat is snappy and responsive, mostly due to its taking to the style of the Batman: Arkham series wherein combat can be as simple as mashing one button or complex as a deathly waltz between enemies. Despite being fairly robust in its simplicity, there are no boss enemies of any kind, meaning that there are only ever types of basic enemies to fight.
Unfortunately, the puzzles struggle to live up to their name, with each of them being as simple as pulling a lever and making an obstacle disappear for a while (or indefinitely in some cases). In fact, it would be a stretch to call these puzzles as much as busy work. Other than that, there really isn’t anything in the way of mechanics: there is a grappling hook and dedicated posts for it in place of a jump, and materials can be gathered from chests to make magical swords. Interestingly, these magic swords don’t only offer a specific power in battle, but also open certain doors that match each sword. This sword system is a saving grace for Stories, as replaying a level is made much less grating when a new area opens up thanks to the new sword you’ve crafted since the last time you were there.
As far as visuals go, Stories: The Path of Destinies ranges from inoffensive to charming. The madcap art style is charming at first, but after a while, the characters start to look gangling and strangely creepy. The environments stay pleasing throughout and the 2d art both in and between gameplay segments are oddly satisfying to look at; like watching a well-made film based on a book that tries too hard to remind audiences of the source material. The audio is also decent all around, with pleasant background music and voice acting in the style of an audiobook where a single narrator does his best to make distinct voices for each character.
Stories is a simple game with a simple idea behind it. The puzzles may be lacking, and the variety of enemies may get monotonous, but the sheer volume of possible endings and character development along the way makes up for it.
Stories: The Path of Destinies
Ultimately, Stories: The Path of Destinies is entirely reliant on its storytelling and characters for a strong experience. Thankfully, the game’s cast is lovably madcap enough to push the title in the right direction. If strong combat (even if it’s against limited enemy types) and a story whose ending is directly changed by the players descisions appeals to you, Stories is worth a look.
- Fun, enigmatic characters
- Charming art style
- Snappy, responsive combat
- Strong storytelling
- Weak variety in enemies and levels alike
- Poor explanation of backstory
- Sly and dry