Stories: The Path of Destinies - Review  

Go Habs Go!
by Sam Wachter

Less than 20 Hours
+ Fantastic branching storylines
+ Fast and fluid combat
+ Exploration is a joy
- Technical errors can bog the experience
- Pop culture references are cute but get old
+ Go Habs Go!
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Narrative branching RPGs, though fascinating in structure, often flop because the larger story isn't interesting to begin with. If a developer is forcing a player to replay aspects of a story, there needs to be a damn good reason why. Spearhead Games' recent effort Stories: Path of Destinies is a great example of a game that can tell a branching narrative, while also making the player feel as though are immersed in the larger story being told.

   Players take on the role of Reynardo, a clever fox who gets himself suckered into helping a rebellion against an insane toad emperor. However, after finding a young rabbit murdered with a book in his arms, Reynardo takes the tome and learns its true nature: it evokes the path of destinies, the ability to change ones path before impending doom. Reynardo has to make tough decisions in order to figure out what his true destiny is, while also trying to stop an imminent war.

   Stories is a game that shines through its narrative and use of branching paths. While there are four key plotlines to discover, how the players reaches the end of them is entirely based on the choices that are made. Reynardo 's story can drastically change even from the first path selected, to the point where the end result may or may not be what the player expected. It helps that each path is sharply written, wonderfully developed, and delightfully imaginative. Narration is told with an omnipresent narrator, who is charming, sarcastic and pushes the driving narrative along while also making jokes to keep the story light. The only downside in the writing comes from the pop culture references that are sometimes taken a bit too far. Despite that minor complaint, the main draw of Stories comes from navigating each plotline and seeing what becomes of Reynardo 's fate.

Ahoy there! Ahoy there!

   Paths are also integral to exploration in the game as well. There are numerous pathways in every level of Stories, meaning that no one area is explored the same way. While the player will have to traverse through locations more than once, different areas can be unlocked, and there is also multiple routes to get to the objective. Along the pathways there are coloured doors which correspond to Reynardo 's sword, and though each sword must be crafted, once that is done, another pathway in the level is unlocked, often with a bigger reward and a greater sense of danger. It makes revisiting these locations refreshing, and considering that every area isn't time consuming to steer through, it's definitely a point in the game's favour.

   Combat starts fairly basic in Stories: using the square button, Reynardo can hack n' slash his way through enemies. As he gains levels, new skills can be added to his arsenal, such as a hook shot and dashing. Both these skills become a larger part of Stories battle system, as Reynardo will often have to mow down large numbers of enemies at a time, so being able to dash precisely and use the hook shot in opportune moments is crucial to doing well. After every section of combat, Reynardo is graded on his performance and that determines the amount of experience points that can be obtained. As Reynardo upgrades both his skills and swords, more abilities are granted, and there's more room to experiment. Combat is fast, fluid, and it keeps Reynardo on his toes, though it's easy to make a mistake and die. There's no penalty for death, but being vigilant in understanding Reynardo 's surroundings is key to success in terms of building combos and experience.

   For all the praise in Stories, it does have a few faults, mainly on the technical side. The game has framerate issues, and on a few occasions enemies or even our intrepid hero got stuck in the game's environments. These blemishes do not ruin the game, but it can be very frustrating when they occur. The rest of the game runs pretty smoothly, however, so hopefully these issues can be ironed out.

The correct anser is everything. Everything can go wrong. The correct anser is everything. Everything can go wrong.

   Stories has lovely environments to traverse through. There's an intense range of hues used, and considering how expansive each area is, players get a larger sense of how fairy tale-esque the world is. The art direction for the story sections is where the game really shines, as the cartoony character designs add a lot of charm to overall narrative. In terms of music, the soundtrack is decent, fitting the fairy tale theme, but it's not very memorable. What is outstanding, however, is the narrator's voice, as he plays the role of all the characters in the story, and does a fantastic job of providing sass and sarcasm within Stories.

   Stories: Path of Destinies was a huge surprise for me, and I adored my time with it. The writing is as tongue-in-cheek as it is serious, the characters are delightful but two-faced, and the world that Spearhead Games has crafted is a complete joy to explore. While it takes roughly fifteen hours to collect the endings of the four main plotlines, there's over twenty endings to collect and it's very easy to get caught up in the various plotlines. If you are an RPGamer that puts a huge amount of stock into narrative, then Stories: Path of Destinies is sure to be a delightful experience from start to finish.

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