Stories: The Path of Destinies – Review
Every now and then a small indie developed game comes out of nowhere and blows you away. Thanks to a unique feature or new design idea the game just takes you by surprise and begins to consume your life. Bastion did it with its amazing narrator, Limbo did it with its striking art style and Hand of Fate did it with its unique mechanics. These are games that will be remembered for a long time as titles that truly surpassed the pack. Well, the good news is, in my mind at least, Stories: The Path of Destinies has just joined this illustrious crew.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is an action adventure game with light RPG trappings, something we have all seen many times before. But what separates this from the pack is the story. The game only takes about one hour or so to play through but the kicker is at the end of each chapter there was a choice to make and each choice led me down a different path. Once the run through was completed I learned new truths about the story and was sent back to the beginning to start again, this time to make different choices. Each time I played through I learned something new until I had discovered the meaning behind the evil Emperor and how to defeat him.
This concept would quickly get old if it meant I had to play the same levels over and over again but I didn’t. Each time I began a journey it was a fresh experience as new enemies were added, new locations selectable and fresh combat upgrades became available. Even when I visited areas I had previously completed it felt like a new level thanks to new pathways that open up with freshly acquired swords. So far I am on my 7th play through and each time it has been entertaining and original. The developers deserve the highest praise for getting this system right because anything less than perfect would have forced this game into tedious territory rather quickly.
Exploring the vibrant levels is a joy and getting around entertaining thanks to a grappling hook and a nifty dash maneuver. These two moves allowed me to avoid the nasty traps littered around the levels and gave me an edge in combat. Speaking of combat this is another star of the game. The developers have taken heavy cues from the Batman: Arkham series of games and it works well. It is a game of strike, dodge and parry and it became a beautiful flow of death once I had got my head around it. The game kept the challenge coming by adding a variety of enemies that forced a change in tactics and by giving me some exciting new combat abilities. In all this is a very robust combat system that is simple to use yet surprisingly deep and engaging.
The story for the game is told through a narrator as if he was reading a fairy tale and for the most part, it works. Comments were made throughout the game as I achieved certain goals, jokes came thick and fast regarding gaming troupes (“who keeps leaving these chests everywhere” he wondered) and key story moments were told in an entertaining manner. I think the best game, as far as the narration is concerned, to compare it to is Bastion though it isn’t quite as well done in this case. Sadly the writing does dip in quality on occasion and the jokes sometimes fall flat but generally, it is an entertaining way to tell the story and it suits the game perfectly.
The only other thing I can find wrong with this game is its lack of options to play around with. I began playing this on my (reasonably solid) laptop and while I could set the graphics to low there were still moments when the frame rate would stutter horribly. I think that could have been resolved with some more graphics options to tinker with in the menu, something that PC gamers are fairly accustomed to. But that really is nitpicking and on a decent PC (or on a PS4) the game looks great with a wonderfully whimsical art style that suits the style of game to a tee.
Stories: The Path of Destinies may have come out of nowhere but I am certainly not going to forget it anytime soon. The wonderfully unique way the game tells its story is backed up by some cracking combat, amazing level design and stunning vistas. Really the only thing that lets the game down at all is some occasionally groan-worthy dialogue but that is barely worth mentioning in comparison. If you ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure book as a child and wanted to be able to act it out then this is the game for you. Stories: The Path of Destinies is, without a doubt, a part of the indie elite and should make its way into every gamer’s library.