Stories: The Path of Destinies is a creative, story-driven RPG which is fun and engaging, yet ultimately a grind for those who choose to play it to completion.
Stories was one of the free games offered to PS Plus members in December. A 2016 release by Spearhead Games, it was new enough, and obscure enough, to mean that most people hadn’t already played it.
Common Glitch is reviewing it after playing the game to 100% completion, with a beautiful platinum trophy to prove it.
The most important feature of Stories is obvious from the game’s title – its plot.
Stories is essentially a “choose your own adventure game”, with each individual story taking around 20 minutes to complete. As the protagonist, an aged grey fox named Reynardo, you are granted access to a magical book that can show you all the paths your destiny might take: paths which depend on the choices you make.
The basic plotline is quite simple. The current reigning emperor of the fictional Isles of Boreas has gone mad, and is sacrificing his subjects to ancient, evil gods in order to become immortal. As a member of the Rebellion plotting against this rogue ruler, you have several options to bring power to the Rebellion and turn the tides in the upcoming war.
The aim of the game is to use the book to explore the many paths you could take. By living out these possible destinies, you can figure out which decisions will create the best, “true” outcome for you.
The game forces you to play through it several times, until you have unlocked four secrets about certain items and acquaintances around you. When you have unlocked these secrets, your character of Reynardo then has enough knowledge about his surroundings to make the right decisions, and ultimately reach his “true” destiny.
However, although a minimum of only five 20 minute playthroughs is required to finish the game’s story, there are a total of 25 possible outcomes which can be played through.
Stories has very basic gameplay. Between making life-altering decisions for Reynardo, you need to play through several short stages. Each stage has you fending off evil ravens sent for you by the mad emperor, while also opening chests filled with loot.
As a top-down hack-and-slash, Stories starts off by only allowing you to perform basic sword swings, then it lets you unlock further abilities when you have a sufficient amount of experience. The fighting is always kept simple though, with parrying, grabbing and throwing enemies, dodging, and simple sword-slashing being the key ingredients.
You can also build enchanted swords at workshops throughout levels, using ore and magical “essence” you’ve recovered from chests. These swords allow you to use several abilities during combat, as well as letting you open sealed doors that lead to bonus areas or shortcuts.
The gameplay is basic, yet effective for the series of short stories the game is trying to tell. However, it’s clear that the developers only expected people to play through the bare minimum amount of stories required to complete the game.
This is where Stories’ major flaws lie. As a game centred around plot, which needs players to stick with it for at least five playthroughs, the gameplay isn’t exciting enough to keep most people invested for very long. Instead of rewarding completionists who decide to hang on for 25 playthroughs, it punishes them.
The combat is repetitive, the stages become cyclical, and the loot runs out considerably early on in the game. By your 15th playthough, you will likely have crafted all of the swords and collected all of the gems possible. At this point, all the chests will offer is health-replenishing fruit. The game becomes a tedious grind.
Stories also has a few bugs involving invisible textures, and breakable objects being weirdly unbreakable.
Stories mixes top-down 3D graphics with 2D illustrations, intentionally designed to look like something from a fairytale. The drawings are quite simple but charming and effective, with a distinctive style.
One of the game’s greatest assets is its narration. The choices you make are read out to you by voice actor Julian Casey, and he does a fantastic job of it. Casey switches up his voice to portray each character, reading off a script that is often very funny. During gameplay, Casey will sprinkle in commentary, making Reynardo exclaim things during battle (“That was awesome!”), or commenting on a chest’s contents (“There was a cat in this one! And something useful…”).
Pop culture references are also included in the game, with the most glaringly obvious reference being to Star Wars – with the talk of a secret Rebel base and the Empire, and comparing a certain super weapon to the Death Star.
The game features an original soundtrack that changes depending on the path you take. The music is decent and sets the mood well, with a sound typical of fantasy narratives.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is a fun, novel game. Its narration and story-telling is entertaining and involving, but the simple and repetitive gameplay stops it from reaching its full potential.
With unique illustrations, dynamic scenery, and excellent writing, Stories is well worth playing to its conclusion, but trophy hunters should be prepared for a long haul.