Linearity is a complicated issue when it comes to video games. Some gamers prefer cohesive stories while others enjoy open-ended experiences. However, Stories: The Path of Destinies takes the middle road by offering a Choose Your Own Adventure style narrative.
Stories stars a fox named Reynardo who begins his adventure with a desire to put an end to an evil tyrant and his gang of crows. His journey involves traversing a handful of stages while making a choice of what to do next between each one. Surprisingly, you appear to finish the game in well under an hour, but you haven't even scratched the surface yet. Time will then rewind to the beginning of the tale and you play it all over again while making different decisions. It's a very unique and promising premise for a game. What makes it even more special are the gorgeous visuals. You'll explore vibrantly colourful environments that feature layers of detail while listening to a suitably fantastic orchestral score and a narrator who feels the need to ramble on at any given opportunity. It's all quite impressive on the surface, but does the gameplay hold up?
You control Reynardo by simply running around and interacting with objects. However, when he comes in contact with a crow then it's time to do battle. Combat is handled with fluid mechanics that ensure button-mashing just won't be enough. Basically, you hack and slash away while keeping an eye on every enemy around you. When one looks like he's about to attack, you must react immediately to strike them before they hurt you. Reynardo acquires four swords throughout his journey and each one has a special move that can give you the upper hand. He also levels up which allows you to spend points to unlock stat boosts and extra moves such as dashing. On top of swords and levelling up, you may come across a selection of gems that you can equip to provide even more bonuses. Overall, the tight controls, satisfying combat system, and rewarding character growth makes for a solid gameplay formula.
Although the combat is solid, the amount of enemy types is disappointing to say the least. Aside from the regular crows, there are also ones who carry shields, buff their allies, cast spells, and explode. The only other enemies are eyeballs who patrol certain areas. You'd think that you'd have to be stealthy but they're very easy to overcome, especially because being caught by them means that you'll just receive some damage. I figured they'd at least call some crows. Anyway, there aren't even any bosses so once you master how to effectively take out the few different kinds of enemies, it all gets rather boring.
Playing through multiple times to discover more story paths is enjoyable at first. I reached the true ending after only a handful of playthroughs which probably added up to a few hours. Keep in mind; I haven't unlocked even half of all the possible stories as of writing this, so if you're a perfectionist then attempting to uncover everything will definitely add hours of replay value. That being said, it turns from fun to tedium when you start to notice how often stages repeat. During my second or third attempt, I received a trophy for visiting all of the stages. In essence, this means that you'll see pretty much everything there is to see within a couple of hours.
One problem that I had with Stories: The Path of Destinies is the narrator. I understand that many gamers will find him charming with his British accent and relentless attempts at humour, but he got on my nerves after about fifteen minutes. The main aspect that contributed to this is the fact that the constant jokes are completely forced and contrived. Sure, you can argue that humour is subjective but I'm sure the majority of people will agree that spouting a reference to something out of nowhere just isn't funny. For example, after using a fire ability, the narrator said something about Firefox. Merely making a reference to a web browser doesn't make me laugh; it only takes me out of the fantasy setting. You'll also hear references to games such as Portal (the cake is a lie) and Dark Souls (praise the sun). I can go on about how much this annoyed me all day, but I'll leave you with this: if you think that battling eyeball enemies while hearing "How come they don't fight together? Because there's no eye in team." is funny then ignore everything I said in this paragraph.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is a decent game. If they spent more time creating additional stages and a few challenging bosses then I'd find it much easier to recommend. As it is, there simply isn't enough variety to make it worth playing for longer than one sitting.
- + Beautiful graphics and great music
- + Tight controls with a fluid combat system
- + Discovering all of the possible story paths adds hours of replay value
- - Very few enemy types and no bosses
- - Stages repeat way too often
- - Cringeworthy sense of humour filled with obvious jokes and popular references