Review: Stories: The Path of Destinies (PS4)

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Title: Stories: The Path of Destinies
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.22 GB)
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Developer: Spearhead Games
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: T
Stories: The Path of Destinies is also available on PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Between the era of Atari 2600 and the original NES – and the video game crash that happened within that time – I found myself looking for a new form of entertainment that captured what I loved about video games, while still taking me to interesting worlds and challenging me all the while.

Yes, Atari transported me to other words. Most of the graphical work was done by my imagination, but there was a certain level of “transporting” being done. But I digress into nostalgic nonsense.

As I was saying, after Atari’s gaming empire crashed, and before I owned my first NES, there was a time when I jumped into reading (what a concept), and one of my favorite types was the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series. For me, they provided hours of enjoyment and took me on fantastic journeys where I could choose the outcome of my fate by flipping to different pages.

These “games” had the ultimate graphics, because my mind was the limit. There was even a series of books, Lone Wolf, that actually took you through a sequential story. Each book furthered the quest along and “carried your items and progress” from one book to the other. How’s that for battery backup?

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The reason why I bring up these old books is because Stories: Path of Destinies is a video game with a “choose your own path” narrative. While you explore the world with your controller, fighting off bad guys with button presses, the overall story is moved forward by choices on the pages of a book.

These choices direct the story in distinctively various directions, some of them ending in tragic death, others in the ultimate success. These aren’t presented like the dialogue trees in Mass Effect or The Witcher. Instead, these choices are displayed on a storybook, much like those old ones I used to read.

… Save your friend, or find the item that will destroy evil …
Gameplay:
The core gameplay takes its cue from action adventure games like Zelda and even oozes small hints of God of War. Our hero, Reynardo is a roguish fox who finds himself amidst a war against an overly ambitious emperor who is looking for eternal life, regardless of how many lives it costs to help him achieve this. You spend most of the time exploring the beautiful environment, fighting enemy ravens as your progress through the storyline.

What’s interesting is that the campaign only takes about an hour to complete. But before you take this at absolute face value, that hour of gameplay represents the game’s strongest gameplay element. Throughout your playthrough, you are presented with various moral choices.

Do you attempt to kidnap the princess, who was your old love interest, or find the item that will single-handedly take out the empire? The latter might seem the obvious choice, but power like this yields unpredictable results, especially if it is untested.

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After completing a playthrough, you will more than likely find yourself dead, as part of the narrative, not because of some unfair play mechanic. In this death, you will learn an important truth.

It might be that the magic stone you trusted is pure evil and you shouldn’t trust it, or something else entirely (trying to avoid spoilers here). There are four truths you must learn before moving forward, but a large number of paths you are able to take, including some that unlock new environments to explore.

… upgrades open up new areas to explore …
So my initial statement that the playthrough will last an hour is indicative of the developer’s design. You are supposed to go through this game multiple times in an almost integrated “New Game +” component.

The great thing about Stories is that every run through is different. Not only are you constantly leveling your swords, as there are four of them, but those upgrades open up new areas to explore and thus, you are awarded with treasure that was previously inaccessible.

Couple this with the fact that you are making different choices at each narrative crossroad. This is anything but a game that you will fully complete in an hour.

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The leveling system is another component that will keep you going through each path until you’ve experienced the entire story. In addition to unlocking the full potential of each sword, Reynardo himself gains levels through combat.

The resulting skill tree progression opens up various combat moves, overall stat upgrades, and even some combo upgrades. On top of this, you loot gems throughout your adventure that augment a gauntlet Reynardo wears. This further adds to your skills and abilities, making you a formidable rogue fox.

… Environments are quite varied …
Visuals:
Stories evokes the storybook feels with its graphical style. Despite being told mostly from a birdseye view, the environments are colorful and incredibly vast. As you stand on a cliff, you can look down to environments far below that you can visit.

Also, early previews for this game gave the impression that you would spend most of your time in green fields and lush countrysides. This could not be further from the truth. Environments are quite varied, taking you from desert temples to a fleet of flying ships.

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My only minor complaint would be that the game takes a minor hit in frame-rate at times, even when I’m simply exploring an environment. While it is beautiful to behold, nothing here suggests that that PlayStation 4 should be tasked to the point of dropping frames. Again, nothing game-breaking, but definitely noticeable.

… a great and unique experience …
Audio:
The story throughout the game is told via a narrator. It’s very reminiscent of Bastion. There were a few laugh-out-loud moments, and despite the narrator playing every character, I never felt like it was repetitive or annoying.

In fact, I rarely if ever heard him repeat the same line twice, even when he had commentary on my destroying boxes to gain loot, which I did a lot. Few games go the narrator route, but those I have played do it well. I couldn’t imagine playing through the multiple storylines without his voice accompanying me.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

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Conclusion:
There are quite a few gems releasing this Spring through Sony’s Launch Party 2016. In fact, this game launches alongside some pretty huge titles. But if you are remotely curious about this smaller title, I would suggest giving it a shot.

It’s a great and unique experience, one that I will likely revisit. It boasts a great personality, an amazing narrative with moral choices to be made, and an involved leveling system that includes leveling character and weapons. The question is: would you sacrifice your close friend to save the world?

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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