games reviews

Review — Stories: The Path of Destinies

Stories: The Path of Destinies is a beautiful and hilarious gem that is enjoyable from beginning to end… and end, and end, and end.

And end.

You play as a cocksure fox named Reynardo, who has set out to help lead a rebellion against a tyrannical emperor and his army of raven soldiers. The fairy tale is told through a storybook, through which Reynardo must make decisions on how to best continue his journey.

Title: Stories: The Path of Destinies
Developer: Spearhead Games
Publisher: Spearhead Games
Year: 2016
Genre: Action Adventure
Price: $14.99

Those choices devolve into untimely — and often horrific — deaths.

The fox dies a lot. But luckily he is able to turn back the pages of the storybook to try again, learning from his mistakes to take different paths in search of the one true destiny.

The tale hidden within storybook of Spearhead Game’s newest RPG is quite captivating. You get to know more about Reynardo, a retired sky pirate, through each failed quest. You also uncover  immutable truths about his relationships with those close to him, as well as secrets about ultimate warfare weapons. Reynardo must use these truths to map our the correct path through the storybook.

In terms of navigating the storybook, it’s harder than you think to avoid making the same mistake twice, even after learning the four truths.

Perhaps the most endearing aspect of Stories is its narration. Voice actor Julian Casey does a fantastic job reading through the storybook with the enthusiasm and voice range of a seasoned kindergarten teacher. Fans of Bastion will feel right at home with Casey’s effort.

The script of the game’s storybook is filled with wit cover to cover. At times the writing is self aware, making numerous jokes about the game’s mechanics, such as opening the unlocked treasure chests conveniently left in the dungeons. There is even a joke about the rising platforms that take you up and down levels with ease – a nod to the Montreal-based game studio being co-founded by Malik Boukhira and Simon Darveau, two former Ubisoft employees who worked on Assassin’s Creed.

Other lines are filled with pop culture references, ranging from a contemporary “What does the fox say” joke to Reynardo’s Casablanca-inspired utter of “We’ll always have Paris” before one of his many deaths. But while the game has its hilarious moments, the comedy doesn’t detract from the rest of the story. The narrator doesn’t shove jokes down your throat like a bad stand-up comic, but instead blends the commentary with the rest of the tale and its gameplay in a perfect harmony.

Each one of Reynardo’s paths takes him through five chapters, although it sometime becomes quite clear you’ve missed the boat prior to the final act. Each of the chapters takes Reynardo through different settings, including snow-covered mountains, damp underground caverns and airborne pirate ships.

The game has a nice touch of RPG blended with a hack and slash combat system. You can level up your four swords, different gems, and a variety of different combat skills as Reynardo makes his way through different paths. Your progress remains after death, so there is no fear in finding a bad ending.. The leveling isn’t all that expansive, but it’s a welcomed addition that adds a little depth to the gameplay.

The combat system is quite fun — at least for a while. It’s a typical hack and slash game, comparable to a simplified Batman: Arkham Asylum.  You can use a few more moves during battle in addition to your sword — such as grabbing enemies or using your hookshot on foes.

The only real complaint for Stories, other than its generic name, is that the combat never really becomes challenging. In fact, it turns downright easy late-game after leveling up Reynardo’s swords, gems and skills. While you die multiple times at the conclusion of your five-chapter journeys, the paths to reach those fateful ends are not all too difficult.  The ease of the combat system becomes even more noticeable if you attempt to make it through each of the game’s 25 endings.

Stories: The Path of Destinies combines a classic fairy tale narrative with the so-called Choose Your Own Adventure genre to produce a genuinely charming experience. It’s combat system is fun enough to make it to the true ending, but could become stale for any completionists out there.

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