Stories: The Path of Destinies PS4 Review
Publisher: Spearhead Games Developer: Spearhead Games Genre: Action RPG Players: 1
Age Rating: 12+ Other console/handheld formats: N/A
Wouldn’t it be great if whenever you feel like you have failed at life, you could go back to a certain point and try again? Well, that’s exactly what you can do in Action RPG Stories: The Path of Destinies, with failure not being an option for the protagonist Reynardo to rest upon. Reynardo himself is a cartoon fox who fits nicely into the rogue hero mould, and he leads a cast of very likeable characters, which includes a cartoon cat, a cartoon rabbit and an evil toad Emperor.
As you may have already gathered, Stories: The Path of Destinies is a game that gives you choices from time to time, allowing you to alter the course of the story. Reynardo is involved in a rebellion against the toad Emperor, and before you are able to view the ultimate ending, it’s up to you to discover four truths.
Before the ultimate ending though, you’ll be ending Reynardo’s story a number of times, with various things coming between the cartoon fox and a satisfying conclusion. I wanted the likeably roguish Reynardo to succeed eventually, I really did. You’ll play through five chapters (which takes around 45 minutes to an hour), watch an ending, and then start playing the game again, opening up different paths and choices through your decisions. It’s a fantastic structure, and certain players will want to uncover each and every story thread, which is fortunately very much a possibility, even after unlocking the main ending. There are 25 endings in all, which means there’s plenty of replay value if you do indeed want to see them all.
The story is told through amusing narration and lovely hand-drawn illustrations, which, along with the colourful visuals and wonderful music, adds a lot of personality to the game. The writing often made me laugh, and the dialogue delivery from the narrator is masterful. There’s fun lines of dialogue to be heard when you do such things as riding a floating lift, winning a fight, removing the contents of a chest, when taking your last breath after falling in a combat encounter, and, very amusingly, even if you spin Reynardo around in a circle. There’s also references to various other games as well as popular culture, and just plenty of amusement to be found in the witty writing.
As story driven as the game is, this focus on plot and decision making does come at a bit of a cost though, as the game does have repetition in the way in which you’ll have to revisit certain areas based on some of the choices you make. For some this may be a bit of a grind, but thanks to the sharp writing and wit as well as the fast and beautifully fluid combat, others won’t mind.
Moving away from the story, and Stories: The Path of Destinies has everything that you’d expect to find in such an action RPG. There’s combat, exploration, and you are able to enhance Reynardo with upgrades for both himself and his weapons, although, as RPG’s go, this certainly isn’t one of the deepest that you’ll find.
Whether you are exploring the beautiful environments or slicing enemies in half, the game is played from an isometric perspective. With its lovely cartoon art-style, fairy tale world, and detailed animation and environments, the game is undoubtedly a beautiful one, although frame-rate stutters from time to time are a disappointing occurrence, particularly as the game runs really smoothly otherwise. Well, that’s if you don’t get stopped by one of the number of bugs that are currently rearing their ugly heads in the game right now. Hopefully we’ll have a patch soon.
The combat is certainly very smooth for the most part, and perhaps owes its existence to the Batman Arkham games. Like those games, Stories’ combat system is built on building combos and countering enemy attacks when icons appear above their heads, and it really does flow like silk. The difference here is that attacks and counters work on a single button. Magical attacks from your sword, being able to grab and throw enemies, the ability to slow down time following successful attacks and counters, and a dash move are also added extras. It’s not the deepest RPG combat system in the world, but it’s as fun to watch it in motion as it is to be slicing and dicing through enemies with the controller actually in your hand.
With how beautiful and satisfying the combat is, it’s just a shame that there’s not too much challenge to be found in the battles, with fights often ending quickly. Difficulty levels would certainly have been welcome, and it’s a shame that they are absent. The lack of variation in enemy types will also prove to be irksome for some. The few enemy types make an already repetitive experience even more so, and the absence of any boss encounters is a huge miss in such a game.
Back on to better things, and upgrading Reynardo can be done at altars by using points that you earn each time you level up, although further upgrade tiers in the upgrade tree are only unlocked by discovering truths at the end of a story. As for weapons, these can be unlocked and upgraded at workbenches, and here Reynardo can also equip his gauntlet with various enhancing gems that you find in chests along the way. If you are wondering, yes, you do get to keep all your weapons and upgrades from one session to the next, meaning that you don’t annoyingly lose everything and have to start again following each conclusion to Reynardo’s ever changing but always amusing tale.
As good as Stories: The Path of Destinies is and as many good ideas that it has, this is one of those games that is also crying out for a sequel. While the bugs and performance issues will hopefully be patched, the lack of variety in the number of enemy types, the non-existent bosses, the lack of challenge, and the overall repetition are deeper problems. Don’t get me wrong, with excellent combat, witty writing, a clever structure, characterful visuals, and a personality-driven heart and soul, this is an action RPG with plenty going for it, but it’s also one that has a fair bit of unfulfilled potential, leaving plenty of room for an improved sequel to hopefully come along some time down the line.