Stories: The Path of Destinies takes place in a world filled with anthropomorphic animals where an evil emperor is trying to conquer the realm. Entrusted with a magical book, Reynardo sets off on a quest to save the kingdom. It’s a generic enough plot, but it gives that premise a twist by introducing time travel. At the end of each chapter, a choice is given, which will affect the story. Should he save his friend, or look for a magical weapon to defeat the empire? Unfortunately most of the paths are too similar, deflating an otherwise good concept. That and by the time players figure out the true path, that ending’s weight will be deflated due to exhaustion.
Combat implements a countering system similar to Assassin’s Creed, or the Batman Arkham series. When fighting, an exclamation point will appear above an enemy’s head, signaling the player to strike. Aside from slashing, Reynardo can grab and push them back with his hands, or summon a grappling hook to pull them closer. Defeating foes earns experience, which then translates into ability points. The skill trees aren’t complex, but they do help flesh out his moves making encounters feel more fluid as time goes on.
Going back to Reynardo’s weapon, he has the ability to create four swords: healing, wind, fire, and water. The water, for example, can freeze enemies when activated. Each blade also acts as a key to open color-coordinated gates that hide jewels that can be placed inside his gauntlet. These gems boost stats and level up by collecting the same type up to three levels. And on collecting, the blades are all forged by gathering elements materials and ore. The problem with this system is that it’s far too easy to complete in the main game’s narrative.
See there are four truths that will unlock the main story path. In order to find these truths, players have to navigate through choices repeatedly until they solve it. Clues will give context to which routes to take, but they’re also not exactly clear at times either. Retracing the same maps over five chapters again and again gets monotonous. The overwhelming possibilities felt like unnecessary padding to elongate the game’s otherwise short narrative. Plus leveling up Reynardo gets harder and the aforementioned crafting gets completed too fast, halting that sense of progression.
Visually the game is gorgeous. The breathtaking scenery and use of cel-shading will make it stand the test of time in the same way Wind Waker has: aka the best 3D Zelda. That said it doesn’t perform well on the PS4. This writer got stuck in environments multiple times, ran into areas that weren’t loaded properly and it actually ignored choices at times, negating previous commitments. Now these issues didn’t necessarily ruin the game, but they made the act of backtracking through the narrative more frustrating when he had to repeat areas after having to repeat them for the story already.
Stories: The Path of Destinies, despite some minor issues, is a treasure. The narrative may falter and there’s definitely a sense of repetitiveness, but the beautiful look and fluid combat make it stand above its flaws. It could have been better, sure, but it’s a great testament to what small companies can do.
Special Notes: Spearhead Games provided a press code for Stories: The Path of Destinies. Check out a video review for Stories on the accompanying YouTube Channel, ReActionExaminer.